When Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote a book in 1999 entitled: “This Animal Called Man”, there was no way he would have had recent events unfolding in America in mind. He was not a clairvoyant. Yet the anger, bitterness, double-standard and self-centeredness displayed by various parties in a conflict happening in 2021 were reflected virtually on every page of a book published about 20 years ago.
The principal protagonist in this drama that took place at Capitol Hill has always performed like a lone ranger in the zoo. Indeed, America and the world have never seen this kind of president in the White House before. He started with an aggressive and biting campaign four years ago and went on to govern the country with brash audacity of a fierce matriarch leading a pack of hyenas.
He hired and fired with reckless abandon. He dragged America in or out of international and multilateral organisations with limited compunction, never bothering about the usual diplomatic niceties the global community has known for years.
As he pursued his re-election bid, President Donald Trump felt he was unconquerable. He never contemplated defeat let alone the thought of conceding it. When he was hit by the reality of the last American Presidential election results, the President and his supporters shouted repeated claims that they were robbed.
As he serially lost all the cases he filed due to lack of evidence, his supporters made a last ditch desperate and shocking attempt to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College votes at the Capitol, a constitutional requirement in which the Congress approves the results to pave way for a smooth transfer of power.
Nobody ever imagined that a time would come when a mob of brainwashed hoodlums would descend on the US to desecrate the Congress, encountering very little resistance. The invasion will be remembered as a time the universe witnessed the frailties of the world’s biggest democracy in her most vulnerable period.
Little wonder so many institutions and organisations in the country did not have that luxury and space to bake those regular necessities to cover up the systemic errors threatening to expose a country that sets itself as the global bastion of democracy.
Some institutions reacted very swiftly with “undemocratic inclinations” that could have been described by some world leaders as threats to freedom of expression and fundamental human rights, if America was not involved.
The Police, with support of the National Guard regained control and arrested many protesters. They also used videos and images from the social media to arrest over 52 people in connection with the Capitol mayhem. If this was done in any Third World country, America would have termed it a “crackdown” on harmless, unarmed flag- carrying protesters.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter promptly suspended the social media accounts of President rump over fears that he might use them to further inspire the rioters.
These three leading social media platforms went ahead to block virtually all content posted to the #StormTheCapitol hashtag. They equally began the process of removing any content praising the Trump supporters who infiltrated the U.S. Capitol as well as any other “incitement or encouragement” of Wednesday’s events, including photos and videos from the individuals’ perspectives.
Facebook VP of Integrity Guy Rosen and VP of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert issued a statement calling their action an “emergency”.
Part of the statement reads “Let us speak for the leadership team in saying what so many of us are feeling. We are appalled by the violence at the Capitol today. We are treating these events as an emergency…and we are monitoring activities on our platform in real time.”
The company also declared that they would also digitally crack down on anyone organizing any kind of protest that violates Washington D.C.’s newly implemented curfew, even peaceful gatherings.
Pro-Trump Groups such as Proud Boys and QAnon Conspiracy were promptly booted out from the platforms.
Just to ensure that they don’t give even an inch to any threat in their home country, the three top social media platforms boldly agreed that they would not mind sacrificing peaceful meetings on their platforms within the period. Issues of free speech and freedom of association suddenly lost their relevance. Would they have gone the whole hog for another country, probably in Africa if that country was faced with a similar challenge? Most Unlikely.
The first law of the Jungle is self- preservation. Even for the animal called man it seems not too different. The measure man uses for himself will always be different from the one he uses for others.
Let’s imagine what the actions of the US government and some American-based organizations would have been towards another country if they were in a reverse situation. They will first declare their readiness not to stand by and watch the rights of peaceful protesters being violated. They would scream that the use of the riot police and troopers are “grave violations” of the protesters’ human rights.
Security and public officials who “trample” on the rights of the protesters would be sanctioned. They will cancel the visas of senior police, military and selected government officials involved as well as their families. The list would be endless.
Nigeria’s experience during the #EndSARS protest is still pretty fresh. The same Twitter that graciously provided the platform for all kinds of protesters to burn down the country, promptly created emergency powers to suspended the account of the American President and thousands of his supporters within minutes as soon as they noticed the riot at capitol Hill.
The same Jack Dorsey that encouraged violence in another country by facilitating bitcoin donations to finance the #EndSARS protest in Nigeria is the same personality that promptly suspended the account of Donald Trump, when he sensed the need to salvage the American state from the chaotic misdemeanor that was threatening the country’s democracy.
The same CNN that that gave space generously for the broadcast of an unverified and spurious documentary on the so-called “Lekki Massacre” has been effectively playing down the loss of five valuable lives during the brief Capitol protest.
The same Amnesty International that projects itself as the global protector of human rights has not said anything about the needless deaths in America, but is always quick to release statements indicting Nigeria of high-handedness and killing Boko Haram suspects and #EndSARS protesters.
The big question now is: Can Africans, especially Nigerians who relish in liaising with external interests to supplant their countries and governments learn some lessons here? Can they see from this American experience that there is no absolute freedom everywhere in the world? And that fake news and media bias have the capacity to ruin any country, even a developed one?
Can they see that leaders, whether political, traditional or religious, must always make guarded utterances or get ready to face the consequences when they inspire their hearers and admirers to negative actions?
Can they also see that when you invite an outsider to help you set your house on fire, only you and your fellow occupants will be left to bear the brunt?
For those who always think that the grass is always greener on the other side, or feel that the United States or Europe is a perfect society, this should be seen as a rude awakening. Africans must refuse to be hoodwinked by Hollywood’s facade. This invasion should be a pointer to the presence of some less-than-sterling pasts of the American dream. This includes slavery, racism, ill-conceived interventions in many countries in the name of fighting the terrorism and many other deficiencies.
As a country, America must be learning a lot of lessons from this experience. With time, the country should strengthen its democratic institutions to ensure that no single person will have so much capacity to take the country for a ride again.
They will always ensure that they overcome this menace through what they call “the collective power of the American spirit”. A lesson Nigeria and other developing countries should learn from is the need to learn how to tackle our challenges collectively without always looking for outsiders or foreign sympathy. This is why the lion and its pride succeeded in 70 percent of their hunt.
But if one section is always striving to supplant the other, it will only be a matter of time before we all become refugees in another man’s country. That should not be Nigeria’s portion!