By Hamilton Odunze
When Joseph R. Biden, the president-elect of the United States, announced that he would be running for office, he told the world that the battle would be for the soul of America. On November 3, the world watched as the American people brought that battle to its climax. They elected Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. Just like the rest of the world, Nigerians watched keenly. However, unlike the rest of the world, Nigeria has a significant stake in American democracy and the outcome of the American election. While other countries are looking for an outcome that will guarantee favorable strategic military and trade alliances, many assumed Nigeria would be looking for a cue on how to restructure its failed democracy.
The appeal of the American system to Nigeria’s failed democracy is a classic example of the big brother syndrome. This admiration is rooted in the perceived idea of freedom and prosperity that the US has enjoyed over the past two-and-a-half centuries. It is further rooted in the belief that the US has built strong democratic infrastructures that have stood the test of time and have ensured quality governance for more than two hundred and forty-four years.
How can Nigeria ensure quality governance rooted in strong democratic values just as the United States? This is what many anticipated was the reason for the increased Nigerian interest in the American election. We were wrong. The strong interest was because Nigerians have developed the propensity to be more interested in other people’s affairs than in their own environment. Whether it is with soccer in Europe or politics in the United States, Nigerians are increasingly becoming more fanatical than local citizens.
It is easier to ignore this collective drift into fanaticism when it is isolated to sports. However, when Nigerian people march in the streets in support of a political candidate in the United States, it is time to give more attention to this fanaticism. This also deserves attention because of the narrative pushed on Nigerians by white evangelicals. Following the election, Nigerians have set social media ablaze with opinions based on half-truths, propaganda, and outright lies.
Consider, for example, the narrative that Christian evangelicals should support Donald Trump because he is the anti-abortion and anti-gay rights candidate. The basic premise of evangelical support for Trump is that he is a sinner who hates other people’s sins. Otherwise, how does anyone explain evangelical support for a man who has told a record 20,000 lies as President of the United States? The opposing side of the evangelical argument is that Joe Biden and the Democrats support abortion and gay rights, and thus must be condemned and not voted in. Joe Biden is a better man, but he does not hate other people’s sins as much as Donald Trump does. Abortion and gay rights are perennial arguments in American politics. When explained thoroughly, there are grey areas and holes on both sides of the arguments that could make anyone switch positions. However, white evangelicals have shaped the narrative to seem as if the only thing that qualifies a good Christian is being against abortion and gay rights. This is what they have sold to Nigerians.
It begs the question: to what extent have the narratives from white evangelicals shaped the beliefs of Christians in Nigeria? I raise this question because, in a country such as Nigeria, where young girls and women do not have legitimate means of livelihood, a focus on what they do with their own bodies is wrong and hypocritical. It is a shallow approach to a deeper problem. When I made this point in a gathering of die-hard Trump supporters, they argued that providing employment is not a religious obligation. This is true.
The Nigerian government has failed. However, the church not should assume the responsibility of condemnation. The church can do more in Nigeria. For example, it can discourage abortion by building and supporting homes for motherless babies where these young girls can place their children without disparagement. This is not only a spiritual gesture, but is also rehabilitative. The efforts of white evangelicals to push against abortion in a country such as Nigeria makes it evident that they do not understand the prevailing circumstances and hardship. On the other hand, Nigerians who are supporting Trump based on abortion or other white evangelical values do not understand the true dynamics of American politics.
Make no mistake about it; the aggressive support for Donald Trump from white evangelicals in this past election had nothing to do with Christian values, but rather with white fragility. This is why the Proud Boys and other white supremacist groups supported Trump. Unlike Joe Biden, Donald Trump used phrases and words that captured their fears about a changing American demography. White America went into an extinction burst because the minorities refused to continue reinforcing their idea of white supremacy. This started with the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.
It is depressing; the narrative white evangelicals sold to Nigerians is that support for Donald Trump is based on Christian values. While Nigerians in the United States overwhelmingly support Joe Biden, calls were coming from Nigeria in support of Donald Trump—a man who, in many occasions, used ugly terms to deride Nigerians. Now that the election is over, the lesson to be learned is that the divide-and-conquer strategy used on Africans many decades ago is still effective today.
Hamilton Odunze is founder and editor-in-chief, Nigerian Parents Magazine
He can be reached at www.nigerianparents.com