By Abimbola Lagunju
The US Government has been in partial shut down for about 30 days now because Mr. Trump wants the Congress to include 5.7 billion US$ for his wall on the Southern border of the United States in the budget and the congress doesn’t think there is a need to build another structure visible from space and very likely to be named after Trump in years to come. The Congress prefers software reinforcement of the border which cannot be named after anybody. In his “compromise” speech yesterday, Mr. Trump offered the democrats some of the medicine which he himself had refused in 2018 in exchange for money for his wall in order to reopen the paralyzed arms of US government. Mr. Trump wants his hardware – concrete or steel.
Just a few days earlier, I also watched how the House of Commons of Britain shot down Theresa May’s Brexit Plan. They rejected the plan with a big majority and gave her three days to present a new plan. They humbled her and she almost also lost her government too. She’s not out of the woods yet as her Plan B may also be rejected by the British Parliament and this time, maybe her government will be shown out the door of No. 10 Downing Street.
As I watched Mr. Trump’s speech and the vote on Brexit, I could not help but think of Nigerian politics and leaders. I watched the helplessness of Mr. Trump and realized that he has met his match in Nancy Pelosi. And neither could Mrs. May do anything about members of her own party that voted against her Brexit Plan. The question that came to my mind was “how would a Nigerian leader, president or governor or even a district (local government) chairman handle a situation like Trump’s or May’s?” And secondly, how can Nigerian democratic and elective leadership experience help out Mr. Trump from his “logjam” and help bring Mrs. May’s party members to toe the line traced by their leader?
In Nigeria, the solution would be a multi-pronged strategy to convince the dissidents to abandon their opposition to the leader’s pet project. Cash inducements of the recalcitrant legislators would probably come first. Suitcases of money would find their way to the lockers of the dissidents in the parliament to help them recalibrate their thinking. Many would quickly see the need for the wall and under this inducement might even propose to the president not to limit the wall to the borders of the country, but to also fence the entire borders of the offending country.
If cash fails, then the Police would be called in to remember an offence committed sometime by the staunchest opposing legislators. Their offence would be published in the press; then they would be invited to the Police Station where they could be detained for a few days before being sent to court. Senior Advocates of Nigeria, young and old in large numbers would then turn up at the court proceedings. If the legislators suddenly see reason for the construction of the wall, then the case fizzles out. The Nigerian press also fizzles out with the case. Very often the defendant feigns some terminal illness and asks the court for permission to travel abroad. He disappears abroad for some time and later sneaks back into the country. On his return, he becomes an advocate for the leader’s pet project.
Sometimes, the Police is boycotted for a more rapid and equally effective strategy. The fearful EFCC (Nigeria’s Financial Crimes Agency) would be called in to dust up long-dormant files of the dissident legislators. Here in Nigeria, it is generally assumed that most of our leaders have committed one economic crime or the other in their previous lives in other elective capacities before reaching the parliament. The dissidents would be invited by the EFCC Office with a good press coverage. The fear of EFCC and the public knowledge of their hither-to hidden financial and corruption crimes invariably would change the mind of the legislators about the construction of the wall. They would vote “Aye” by text message while still in EFCC custody and after a few days, “their sins would be forgiven”.
In Nigeria, each politician worth his salt has his army of thugs, composed of disenchanted youth, transport workers and professional thugs. The bigger the army, the more likely you would win an elective position; and the leader’s army of thugs is supposed to be the biggest and the most violent. The dissident legislators could get a home-visit, or their vehicles waylaid by thugs often with life-threatening intentions.
In the end, opposition is swept aside, and the leader gets his pet project approved. These strategies do not follow a particular order. They may all be deployed simultaneously or in any order. It is the result that matters – a leader’s pet project cannot be opposed by the parliament. It does not matter if the project never gets executed after disbursement of funds – that is another potential dormant file to be visited another day by EFCC.
If Mr. Trump really wants his wall, and Theresa May really wants her Brexit Plan approved, a short training by Nigerian politicians in Abuja would do them a lot of good. After all, that is what friends are for.