State of our union

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The defining point for many as President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address came at the end when Speaker Nancy Pelosi took three different batches of the speech and tore them into two! For Nigerians, the comparison could have been the case of Senator Bukola Saraki a few months ago sitting as Senate President tearing the budget speech of the president at the end of the budget presentation.

Speaker Pelosi, the third-ranking official in the United States government, and the second in the presidential order of succession had undoubtedly had enough! She had endured about 90 minutes of the presidential address that is required of the president to deliver to the lawmakers every year. If she had her way as the most powerful person in congress, she undoubtedly would have barred Trump from presenting the speech. Indeed, she had moved in that direction with the impeachment moves that were directed against the president. But she failed. Given that Nigeria’s presidential system of government was copied from what obtains in the United States, it is as such worthwhile to make comparisons on how similar epochal developments could have played out in this country. First, the United States, with an abundance of political parties, is dominated by two major political parties, just like Nigeria. The difference between the two countries is that on account of political dynamics control of the executive and legislative branches of government is often held by opposing political parties. It has especially been so since 1980, when the Republican Party upon the Ronald Reagan wave took control of the Senate. That was the first time that the Republican Party would control either chamber of Congress despite the swinging control of the White House between the two major parties in 50 years. Even if the politicians in America thrive on blame game with the party in control of the White House and that in control of either or the two houses of Congress trading blames, it is, however, not seen as an abomination that a different party from that in the executive branch controls the legislative branch of government. Indeed, the arrant nonsense that recently happened in the Imo State House of Assembly where the Speaker and the majority of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP members defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC because of the court victory by the APC in the governorship would not happen in America of today. When Senator Ike Ekweremadu emerged as the Deputy President of the Senate in 2015 following President Muhammadu Buhari’s first inauguration, the buzz word around the corridor of power was that Ekweremadu had tainted Buhari’s remarkable victory. It was further shocking that huge resources and precious time of government were apportioned to remove Ekweremadu from office. The American system, however, has no such provision for deploying government time and resources to torment political rivals to submission or irrelevance. At least not until now that some Republicans protested that Speaker Pelosi was trying to use her position to rob President Trump of his mandate by forcing a man elected by Americans out of office through a politically jaundiced impeachment. Even after the drama at the State Of The Union on Tuesday night, by Thursday morning, President Trump and Speaker Pelosi were again sharing the same platform as demanded by tradition at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Again, President Trump jabbed at the Speaker, but it remained that—jabbing. However, in Nigeria, political rivals hardly share platforms. Following his squabble with the House of Representatives and fears that he would be booed, President Goodluck Jonathan opted not to follow tradition by laying the Federal Government budget before the National Assembly in his last years in office. President Buhari on his part, took his beef against the National Assembly in 2015 to another extent when he became the first president not to receive the new leadership of the National Assembly after its emergence. As President Trump drummed his achievements in office and Speaker Pelosi sat grim -faced absorbing what she subsequently said were lies, it was also observed that she sometimes joined in applauding the president when it came to issues touching on foreign affairs. So when the president cited the killing of America’s enemies, Speaker Pelosi actually joined in giving applause as she recognized that she could not be seen as seemingly opposed to the collective interest of the people. The following day after the address, President Trump was acquitted of all charges filed against him in the Senate by the House of Representatives. The vote of the senators with the exception of Mitt Romney followed strict party lines. Religion, ethnic stock or whatever did not becloud the judgment of the senators. That is because unlike here where lawmakers are driven by personal or religious sentiments, the US senators were simply guided by political ideology. That is because ideology has over time taken a place in political permutations and placement of policies and programmes.

Vanguard