I lived through coups in Nigeria. A similarly dangerous path could be developing here.

I Lived Through Coups in Nigeria. A Similarly Dangerous Path Could be Developing Here: Opinion

 

As seen published on Cleveland.com.

 

Until I came to the United States 23 years ago, I grew up mostly under a series of authoritarian regimes in Nigeria. Of the first 20 years of my life, only four involved a democratic government, from 1979 to 1983, when I was too young to understand political systems.

 

I witnessed my first coup d’etat at the age of 6. We woke up to the sound of martial music on the radio, then a military leader came on the radio and the television screen to announce that the democratic government had been suspended along with the constitution. He announced that they would instead rule by decrees and he delineated a set of new decrees which became effective immediately, including a national curfew..

 

The whole country was paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. There were speculations about counter coups, battles raging between military factions, rumors and gloomy surmises about the plight of the civilians the military just ousted.

 

Before I emigrated from Nigeria to the United States in 1997, I witnessed two more unsuccessful coup plots and two successful coups; numerous election postponements; and two election annulments after the voters had cast their votes..

 

The most notable of the annulled elections was the 1993 presidential election in which a philanthropist, Moshood Abiola, was a presidential candidate. According to international observers, it was the fairest and freest election in Nigerian history. Mr. Abiola won the election, only for Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, the military dictator, to annul the election after making promises for eight years to hand over to a democratic government. Mr. Abiola died in prison five years later under a military dictatorship. He was imprisoned without a trial because he refused to renounce his claim to the presidency.

 

The most notable of the annulled elections was the 1993 presidential election in which a philanthropist, Moshood Abiola, was a presidential candidate. According to international observers, it was the fairest and freest election in Nigerian history. Mr. Abiola won the election, only for Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, the military dictator, to annul the election after making promises for eight years to hand over to a democratic government. Mr. Abiola died in prison five years later under a military dictatorship. He was imprisoned without a trial because he refused to renounce his claim to the presidency.

 

The average American reading this prologue might wonder what this has to do with their lives or with the United States.

 

It has everything to do with you and this nation if you cherish the democratic ideal and respect for the rule of law — the virtues of America’s brand of global leadership.

 

You are at the cusp of losing the freedom and democracy you enjoy, if not totally, then to a great degree. The American democratic tradition of honor is being daily desecrated with a concentric cycle of chaos and with reckless disregard for truth.

 

People like me fled dictatorial regimes in search of democratic freedom in the United States. However, every symptom of dictatorship and authoritarianism we fled from has now become manifest in the current administration:

 

* The lack of respect for the rule of law.

* The politicization of the Justice Department, where the president’s foes are investigated and punished, while friends are rewarded with pardons after convictions and a conviction is quashed arbitrarily.

 

* The administration’s arbitrary and capricious manner of churning out executive orders targeting particular groups of people, without any rational governmental basis, and their fiendish enforcement, are synonymous with military dictatorships’ rollout of decrees.

 

This frontal assault on the rule of law, the lack of respect for congressional oversight and contempt for the courts when they rule against the administration are precursors of what is to come in the event President Donald Trump loses in the November elections.

 

If Trump loses, he is likely to use every power within his arsenal to reject the results and prolong his presidency without regard for the constitutional authority of the other arms of government. This nation could be plunged into a constitutional crisis of unimaginable proportions, a first in the history of the republic, one that could upend a peaceful transition of government for the first time since 1776.

 

Hence, the U.S. House and Senate need to draw up a bipartisan contingency plan for such a situation, to ensure the preservation of the integrity of the upcoming presidential election and a smooth transition of power if the incumbent loses.