PARTISAN events of last Tuesday during the presidential election in the United States (U.S.) were watched live by billions of people worldwide but the most significant of the actions of the stakeholders was a drama at the Cleveland Airport, Ohio.
Ohio is one of the swing states and obviously, everything legal, constitutional and democratic was deployed to get the needed electoral votes from this state by President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Gov. Mitt Romney.
Even as millions of Americans cast their ballot, four jets landed at the Cleveland Airport, which if it had happened in Nigeria, was a recipe for unprecedented violence.
The jets landed within 45 minutes of each other in the morning and in them were Obama's deputy and running mate, the U.S, vice president, Joe Biden, some of Obama's supporters; Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan.
As a critical state, it was obvious that the stakeholders stormed Ohio to make a final push for votes.
After voting in Belmont, Massachusetts, Romney flew to Ohio to thank campaign volunteers. When his plane landed, it taxied to a corner of the tarmac and a few minutes later, a plane carrying Obama's supporters landed and rolled past that of Romney.
Twenty minutes later, Biden arrived in a U.S. jet (Air Force Two) and the plane parked several feet away.
As security agents swarmed round the jets, another plane with Ryan landed 18 minutes later.
Obama was in his home state, Illinois, monitoring events.
So, it happened that on the day of election, the second most powerful man in the U.S., Biden; Romney, the man who wanted to force Biden and his boss, Obama, out of the White House, Romney's running mate, Ryan and some of the president's supporters were not only in the same airport but the same tarmac.
Minutes later, Biden's entourage left first for a restaurant and a campaign centre. Ryan then left his plane to join Romney's plane and the duo later emerged into waiting Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and left for town. Obama's supporters left the airport after the exit of Biden, Romney and Ryan.
This happened on November 6 and we are talking of an election involving the most powerful office in the world.
As I was watching the scenario, my mind flashed back to a similar event that happened in Nigeria, less than three weeks before the Cleveland drama, precisely on October 20 during the governorship election in Ondo State.
While the Ohio drama was an example of the dynamics of a democratic process in a country as diverse, big, multi-cultural and multi-racial as the U.S., I just wondered what would have happened if Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) and Mr. Olusola Oke had met at the Akure Airport on October 20.
I am sure it would have taken all the soldiers in the 2 Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army to stop all their supporters and thugs from unleashing terror.
As I moved around Maryland, U.S. before and during the election, I just wondered when Nigeria, which deceives itself with the notion of practising democracy, will elevate its art of participatory democracy to the level in which the public good will override individual ambition.
As I watched Romney accepting defeat on Tuesday night and praying for Obama, I wondered when the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) will accept defeat in Ondo State and pray for Mimiko.
Throughout the voting period in the U.S., I didn't see a single policeman in any of the polling stations and voting was extended till 8pm in some of the centres.
Can you imagine what it portends for Nigerians to vote till 8pm?
Is that not a recipe for thugs of the losing party to storm the centres and take away ballot boxes?
What exactly are we practising in Nigeria? Democracy or civilian rule?
I remember visiting Ondo a few days to the October 20 election. The number of checkpoints on the highway was akin to a war situation.
And it was just because a governorship election was about to hold.
In the U.S., there is something called early voting. So, before last Tuesday, more than 30 million Americans had cast their ballots.
Do you know what that means in Nigeria? To allow some Nigerians cast their votes before the actual voting day when even on election day, all the parties involved – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and others – are strategising on how to rig?
In Nigeria, voters will stay in the sun for hours, but on Tuesday in Minneapolis, Minnesota, officials of a school used as polling station offered seats, free coffee and cookies to voters.
What I witnessed in the U.S. in 2008 when Obama was elected was the same that happened last Tuesday when he was re-elected. Americans left their offices to vote. In Nigeria, there will be a total shut down of the system and total restriction on movement, even during council election.
Issues also dominated the polity before and during the polls. For example, while addressing supporters, Romney said: “Do you want four more years like the last four years or do you want real change?”
And Obama replied: “I know what real change looks like and we've got more change to make.”
In Nigeria, irrelevant things would be on the front burner. I remember, years ago, when a candidate, during one of the elections in Nigeria, accused his challenger's father of contacting gonorrhea decades before.
With the type of importance attached to votes from Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia, if the three states were to be in Nigeria, thugs would have stormed there and guns would boom, leading to deaths.
Also, the situation in New Jersey and New York was a recipe for rigging, if the two states were to be in Nigeria, because voters were moved to other areas to cast ballots, using affidavit, fax and e-mail.
On Tuesday night, immediately Obama crossed the 270 votes needed for victory in the Electoral College, Romney was gracious in defeat.
Before Obama's victory, Romney had boasted that he would defeat the President.
Obviously, disappointment was etched clearly on the faces of Romney's sons and daughters-in-law, who joined him on the podium in a stunned convention centre ballroom after a five-minute concession speech but because the American system is greater than individual ambition, Romney said: "I so wish that I had been able to fulfil your hopes to lead the country in a different direction. But the nation chose another leader, and so Ann and I join you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation."
Once he realised that he had been defeated, the 65-year old former private equity Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and erstwhile Massachusetts governor did not even wait for the release of the remaining results.
He continued: "I ran for office because I'm concerned about America. This election is over but our principles endure. I believe that the principles upon which this nation was founded are the only sure guide to a resurgent economy, and renewed greatness."
If it were to be Nigeria, Romney would have briefed some Senior Advocates to proceed to court or the SANs would have forced him to challenge Obama's victory, even in Illinois, the President's home state.
Last Tuesday, Americans spoke with a loud voice that they wanted Obama to continue in office till January 20, 2017.
A friend sent an interesting piece to me on Wednesday on the type of headlines on page 1 of Nigerian newspapers were Obama and Romney to be Nigerians.
The imagined headlines include: “'20 killed as Obama, Romney supporters clash in Lagos'; 'Romney heads for tribunal'; 'How Arewa billionaires helped Obama to rig election'; 'Romney demands vote recount, else...'; 'I won't accept results, Romney tells Obama'; 'Any attempt to change election result 'll lead to bloodshed, says Obama'; 'Obama doesn't have WAEC certificate, insists South-South Coalition'; 'Yoruba group threatens to make Nigeria ungovernable if tribunal does not favour Romney'; 'South-East forces behind Obama's victory uncovered'; 'Even in victory, Obama's loyalists plot Third Term'; 'Obama's second wife, Risikat, attacks Michelle'; 'How Obama's committee stole $1 million while in Senate'”
In our march towards democratic perfection, when would Nigerians be able to kick against a partisan race, and the defeated party be humane enough to pray for the winner?