Biden’s Victory Offers Hope to Africa

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha write that African-Americans and Africans generally should expect a good turn with the history-making Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris presidency in America

After four intense days of vote counting, Joseph R. Biden Jnr emerged winner of the groundbreaking United States 2020 presidential election according to US media reports, securing more than the required 270 votes from the electoral college needed for his presidency as well as over 74 million votes. He is now the oldest president to be elected at 77 years, while President Donald Trump is the most recent incumbent to lose reelection in more than a quarter-century. His win brings to an end aTrump era that has been riddled with tumult.

The win sealed Biden’s long goal of occupying the Oval Office at the White House. It was his third shot at the presidency having attempted in 1988 and 2008 with no success. It is also coming 48 years after he was elected Senator from Delaware.

Perhaps, the most significant win for Biden is the history-making election of Kamala Harris. For the first time in the 244 year-old country (after independence), a woman will be the Vice President resident. But not just a woman but a multiracial woman. Harris is the first black, South-Asian woman to occupy that office. She is also the first daughter of immigrants to occupy the position. Her late mother, Shyamala Harris was an Indian while her father Donald Jasper Harris is an Afro-Jamaican.

The significance of her win is not lost on her. In her first public speech after the results declaring Biden and she were announced, the former presidential candidate and senator from California warmed hearts when she said, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

Her speech instantly went viral, inspiring women across the globe not to give up on their dreams

As much as democrats expected a landslide victory, the election turned out to be the opposite. Seventy million American voters voted to keep President Donald Trump in office, showing how politically divided America has become. Nevertheless, it didn’t dampen the celebratory mood of many Americans who have longed for, prayed for and waited with bated breath to see Trump lose the presidency. To these ones, Biden’s win is a soothing balm, particularly in a year that has seen the country gravely battered by the novel coronavirus and systemic racism. They are not bothered by Trump’s claim that the election was rigged. The incumbent president always hinted that he would not concede defeat if he is not declared the winner of the election.

Analysts already said concession is not constitutional but a norm that has always been practised. They argue that Trump’s rejection of the election results has no impact on Biden’s presidency unless the Supreme Court rules overturn the election. The president had filed lawsuits in several states, contesting the outcome of votes.

Interestingly, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is not among those who immediately congratulated Biden after the media reported his success in the election, at least, at the time of filing this report. According to him, it is too early to congratulate him.

“With regard to the US election, we are going to wait until all the legal matters have been resolved,” he told journalists at a news conference.

President Muhammadu Buhari on the other hand was among those who reached out to Biden to congratulate him.

He sent his goodwill message to the president-elect via a tweet:

“Congratulations to US President-Elect Joe Biden on his election at a time of uncertainty and fear in world affairs. His election is a reminder that democracy is the best form of government because it offers the people the opportunity to change their government by peaceful means.”

Still, Biden’s got a lot of pruning and cleaning to do when he assumes office. As most political commentators have already asserted, Biden winning the election is the first step to recovery of America’s economy and redemption of its name. The president-elect still has a lot of cleaning to do when he finally assumes office in January 2021.

His first course of action will be to get rid of the pandemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives. He already has a team of experts waiting, ready to tackle the challenge of curtailing the spread of the virus as the hope of a vaccine continues to linger.

“What is our mandate?” he said to his supporters at Delaware where he made his first remarks after he was declared winner. “I believe it’s this: Americans have called upon us to marshal the forces of decency, the forces of fairness, to marshal the forces of science and the forces of hope in the great battles of our time.”

He also indicates his keenness on reversing some of the policies by Trump. For instance, he said the US will join the Paris Agreement and join the World Health Organisation. Trump removed the US from these two organisations because of his skewed perception about their roles.

To African-Americans and Africans generally, Biden and Harris history-making victory calls for more than a celebration. It is a bold statement of their acceptance in a country that for long, regarded them as second class. The percentage of blacks in America according to Wikipedia is 13.4 per cent (2019), making them the second largest race in the country.

For African nations, it is a redemption of a strained relationship under Trump’s administration. If one should subtract Trump’s reportedly calling of African nations as ‘shithole’ countries, there is nothing much savoury about the US-Africa relationship.

Under the incumbent president’s tenure, some African countries lacked access to the United States due to his anti-immigration policies which were expanded earlier in the year to include Nigeria, Sudan, Eritrea and Tanzania.

As analysed on these pages last week, the US fraught relationship with Nigeria is prominent not only in immigration but in the nomination of Nigerian personalities in key positions on the global stage. Thus, the Biden/Harris ticket is a welcome for Africa’s most populous nation, except some of those in the Christian circle — notably former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode — who for one reason or the other strongly believes that Biden’s victory spells doom, not only for Christians but the world at large.

In showing his staunch believe in Trump’s victory, Fani-Kayode tweeted that “The blue wave has reached its peak and zenith. The red shall rise, swallow it up and overwhelm it. Joe Biden’s dreams shall be dashed, his “victory” annulled and his celebrations short-lived. Donald Trump shall do a second term and the name of the Lord shall be glorified.”

The tweet was also contained in an article he wrote on his website where he gave reasons for picking Trump over Biden. They include Biden’s love for abortion, same-sex marriage and his aim to persecute Israel.

“Love him all you like but I choose to despise him because I consider these three things to be evil, ungodly and against core Christian values,” he wrote.

Many Christians who supported and still support Trump share similar sentiments. But there are several cogent points that they have not been able to counter. The LGBTQ community became stronger under the Trump administration. Besides moving the Merican embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Trump has done nothing of note to merit his much advertised love for Israel. The first country Trump visited after his swearing in was Saudi Arabia. In the public, Trump appears to have pitched America in a trade war against China, but in private, it was revealed during the presidential debates that he kept a secret account in China, a country that has a state policy against Christians. His surreptitious relations with Russia has been blown open, as well.

Trump abused women, people of colour and openly promoted the notion that white people are a superior race. He tells bare-gaved lies and treated his lieutenants like scum. He refused to disclose his tax reords. Plus tons of other scandal linked to him and members of his family These are not things that any Christian worth his name will be proud of.

But Biden is not the devil they think he is. In his public address yesterday, he cited Biblical verses and a hymn.

“And he will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, and make you just sigh like the sun and hold you in the palm of his hand. Now, together on eagle’s wings we embark on the work that God and history have called upon us to do with full hearts and steady hands. With faith in America and each other. With love of country, a thirst for justice. Let us be the nation that we know we can be. A nation united. A nation strengthened. A nation healed. The United States of America, ladies and gentlemen. There’s never, never been anything we’ve tried we’ve not been able to do.”

Notwithstanding their stance, many Nigerians are looking forward to having a good relationship with the US under Biden. Even Buhari acknowledges this in a series of tweets.

“President-Elect Biden’s remarkable track record gives us hope that he will add value to the presidency and world affairs. We look forward to greater cooperation between Nigeria and the United States, especially at economic, diplomatic, political and security levels,” he said urging “Mr. Biden to deploy his vast experience in tackling the negative consequences of nationalist politics on world affairs—which have created divisions and uncertainties—and to introduce greater engagement with Africa on the basis of reciprocal respect and shared interests.”

Described as someone who plays a level playing field, Biden may indeed restore good diplomatic relations between Nigeria and America. As chair of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden understands the importance of foreign relations between Africa and America as China’s presence in the continent continues to grow. It is one side of the coin that deeply angered President Trump in his attempt to clip China’s soaring wings.

According to a former Africa-based diplomat under the Obama administration, Judd Devermont in a Quartz Africa newsletter, “there are many on the Biden team considering a more humble foreign policy and restoring our norms of leadership.”

The Director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said, however, that he is not expecting an overnight reversal of foreign policies to pre-Trump era. He argued that what is needed is an incremental change in attitudes.

Moreover, Biden is familiar with the black race, having worked with the first black president of America, Barack Obama. It was Obama who bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction — an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavours — on him.

In 2017 when Obama surprised Biden with the award, he described the 47th vice-president of US as someone who has

“faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country and a lifetime of service that will endure through the generations.”

His victory was also delivered by young black voters particularly in South Carolina where he gained an overwhelmingly African-Americans vote.

A good indication that clearly showed that Nigeria will enjoy a good parley with America is the observation done by a former Administrator of the Small Business Administration under Obama’s regime, Maria Contreras-Sweet. She said that the first congratulatory call she received was from Nigeria.

Perhaps, the greatest solace can be found in the new president-elect’s remarks.

“When this campaign was at its lowest — the African-American community stood up for me. They always have my back, and I’ll have yours.”
Relationship between Nigeria and America can only get better in the coming years as the sub-natiional group called Nigerian-American become more entrenched in the politics of that country. It is true that Nigerian scholars, creatives and scientists have recorded landmark achievements that drew more than a passing attention to them. In the recent 2020 American election, an appreciable number of Nigerian-Americans were successful in their bid for various offices. These ones will fire the ambition of their compatriot to aim for the skies, in a country where opportunities are almost open to everyone who diligently seeks them.

QUOTE

Described as someone who plays a level playing field, Biden may indeed restore good diplomatic relations between Nigeria and America. As chair of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden understands the importance of foreign relations between Africa and America as China’s presence in the continent continues to grow. It is one side of the coin that deeply angered President Trump in his attempt to clip China’s soaring wings. According to a former Africa-based diplomat under the Obama administration, Judd Devermont in a Quartz Africa newsletter, there are many on the Biden team considering a more humble foreign policy and restoring our norms of leadership