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A Week of Turbulence, By Michael Ovienmhada

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Insights on Edo 2024, By Michael Ovienmhada

Number 10 Downing. Bang in. Liz Truss is sworn in as Prime Minister. Bang out. Six weeks, and it’s over.

In all my years, beginning as a High school kid, I have been involved in many hours of political discourse. I recall one in particular that we had with a group of over 10 people. They had come to my restaurant at the university: The O’meekey Rendezvous. They were regular customers. The year was 1980. The conversation dragged on into the midnight hours. It was one of those political discussions we are so used to having in Nigeria, and as Nigerians, a people in perpetual search for forms of government that would help to transform our country magically from zero to superpower status. What was so significant about that night was the fact that we did not rise until we arrived at a final conclusion, namely:

All forms of government, any form of government and its outcomes are determined not by the form of government but by the forms of men.

Since that beautiful night, I have cast a panoramic view around the world, from China to Japan; from Indonesia to Thailand; from Arabia to Egypt; from Nigeria to Ghana; from the United States to India; from South Africa to Israel, and everywhere in between. Every political system comes with stressors, and these stressors are not abstract. They are men, behaving badly.

The system will be tested. In the UK, even though they do not have a Written Constitution, they have been guided by basic rules of tradition, human decency, ethics, and logic in well rehearsed and properly presented arguments and counter-arguments. When you lose the debate, you step down, wish everyone well, and wish the country well. Then, you move on to another life.

Some other countries view the British system as unstable, but what it is really is—like the Jaguar XJ8L driving on a bad road. The exceptional car that it is, it travels the road as the road is built. It does not force the road to adapt itself. It moves with the contours of the road like they were made for each other. The system works.

A Party is elected into office. The Party then chooses a leader amongst peers. Hence, the leader who emerges is called First Amongst Equals, (Primus Inter Pares). He or she emerges on the strength of integrity, character, and ability to lead. When therefore, a Prime Minister chooses to do something grand, like a Brexit, or a major fiscal move, they are essentially rolling the dice in a high stakes drama. When you lose, you lose, and you must take a bow and make your exit.

Liz Truss exits.

By contrast, the Presidential system of government is like a Jet engine. It may experience some turbulence, but the show must go on. At the end of the term, the electorate gets the chance to make another decision.

However, unlike many countries where the election of Congress is tied to the presidential election, Congress has two sets of terms. Whilst the entire House is referred to as Congress, members of the House of Representatives are called Congressmen. They have no term limits but they serve for two years at a time, whilst Senators serve for 6 years, 2 more than the President. The system has withstood stress for 226 years, including a Civil War, in all that period, succumbing to only 27 Amendments to the Constitution. Again, between 2016, and 2020, the system was tested by extreme stress, (forms of men), but the guardrails of Checks and Balances as enunciated in Baron De La Montesquieu’s theory of Separation of Powers in, (The Spirit of Laws, 1748), held firm.

The US Congress operates at two levels—not in the sense of the Bicameral legislature, as a Lower House, and an Upper House but as equals.

The unprovoked war grinds on in Ukraine. This time, the aggressor has turned to a policy of total destruction, falling short of using a nuclear bomb. It has deployed thousands of drones to target the entire country of Ukraine. Time is of the essence. The United States must exert pressure on Israel to deploy the Iron dome. It is not fool-proof but it will go a long way.

The women are still on the move in Iran in a “Liberty or death” defiance. The Ayatollahs are in a bind. How much longer will the government endure if they continue to shoot young girls?

Voting in the US has begun as midterms—early voting kicked off on October 17th. Trump is on the stump for his coterie of election deniers. The Democrats have pulled in a retired quarterback to survey the field and deploy. Obama is an artist in the art of the English language. He knows how to make the argument.

In the face of high inflation numbers however, there is only so much argument that can be made. Inflation bites hard. The fight about abortion rights takes a backseat to pocketbook economics.

Traditionally, the electorate rebukes the president at the midterms. Time will tell if there are overriding concerns this time, such as preserving democracy, the Student loan forgiveness, and the promise to codify abortion laws if the Democrats take Congress.

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This past week, as the world had its focus on the UK, Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping’s predecessor was being escorted out of a meeting of the Politburo in the Great Hall of the people. His sin?—-objection to term extension by Xi, in which core loyalists have been elevated to pivotal positions. China is once again set for one man rule as Xi dismantles the Collegiate system that made his ascent to power possible—(forms of men).

China is on the rise as they establish police stations across the world. They have a laser-eye focus on Japan, (it is hard to forget the Nanjing massacre of 1938 in which over 400,000 Chinese men, women, and children were slaughtered by the Imperial Japanese Army). The US must now review its Japan policy, and allow Japanese rearmament as a counterforce to intensified Chinese belligerence.

As for the 2023 upcoming Presidential election in Nigeria, it appears that we would have to stand mathematics on its head to have a Southerner emerge in a 3-horse race that features two Southerners, and a veteran, tested Northern candidate. Going by our political tradition, Atiku should not be running after 8 years of Buhari.

Rules, traditions, agreements, and ethics be damned.

Stop me if you can.

As another new week begins, may Adonai, King of the heavens and the earth focus His gaze upon you, and direct your thoughts to keep you from falling.

Michael, (O’meekey) Ovienmhada.
Author, Poet, Playwright and Public Affairs Commentator.
[email protected]

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