I was quite amused that, for once, it is the United States of America that has been in the eye of the storm and global limelight, and extremely negatively so I might add, instead of Nigeria or some other African country! I was even more amused when I was watching an interview of Senator Bill Cassidy on CNN last Thursday night, and he stated that what happened on Capitol Hill last week, happens in Third World Countries, and not in the USA! “Well, Senator Cassidy, sorry to disappoint you; it happened in your own country, America, the hitherto ‘Bastion of Democracy’, the Inspector-General of Democracy Worldwide! And, you, like your fellow colleagues, had to run for dear life and be ferried away to safety, to avoid the wrath of the violent Demonstrators, who President-Elect Joe Biden referred to as, ‘Insurrectionists, White Supremacists and Thugs’, as they placed your Congress under siege.” I don’t remember that kind of violence ever being unleashed in Nigeria’s National Assembly, at least not in the last 22 years.
Who would have imagined that the President of the United States of America, a First World country and the ‘Number One Democracy’ in the World, would need to take lessons from the President of a third World country, former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR, on how to concede defeat graciously, and how to take the sanctity of lives of the people as sacrosanct and non-negotiable over and above self-interest, instead of hanging on to what has already been lost at all cost, based on a false premise – even at the cost of shedding the blood of others.
Invasion of Capitol Hill
President Donald Trump, in the Oath of Office which he took on January 20, 2017, swore inter alia, to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. The US Presidential Election, is covered by the 12th Amendment to that same Constitution. While I will not bother to regurgitate the entire process of the American Presidential Election, that which concerns us for the purpose of this discourse is that, after the election, Electors meet to vote for the President and Vice President in their respective States in December, a few weeks after the November election. They seal their Certificates of Vote which are forwarded to Congress, to certify the election of the President and Vice President in a joint session in January, a few days to the swearing in of the incoming President and Vice President.
Having failed to prove his wild allegations of election malpractice in any court of law, in a last ditch attempt to remain in office as President of USA ‘by fire or by force’ (as the Pentecostals like to pray), on his not-so-subtle instigation, some Pro-Trump supporters violently stormed Congress to disrupt the joint session on January 6, in order to disrupt the certification of the election of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect, Kamala Harris. This invasion and desecration of Capitol Hill not only resulted in the death of five persons including a Policeman, but caused Vice President Pence who also doubles as the President of the Senate, and all the members of Congress, to have to scuttle away to safety. Eventually, the session was held late that night, and Vice President Pence declared Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 Presidential Election, and similarly, announced Senator Kamala Harris as the winner of the Vice Presidency.
A Failed Coup Attempt?
I was disgusted when I heard President Trump’s address, following his failure to have his way, condemning the actions of the violent Demonstrators as heinous and a defilement of the seat of democracy. Naturally, he shamelessly tried to distance himself from the unfortunate incident, claiming that he deployed the National Guard and Federal Law Enforcement, to ‘secure the building and expel the intruders’. He did not protect or defend the American Constitution, he only protected and defended himself in his bid to retain his position as President by all means. In fact, he only half-heartedly asked the Demonstrators to go home after a flurry of condemnation; and even as he did so, he still continued to incite his supporters by saying that the election had been stolen from them. A blatant falsehood! Totally delusional. Many described it as a failed coup attempt, against the incoming administration.
The 25th Amendment of the American Constitution and Mental Incapacity
But, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, was having none of Donald Trump’s barefaced hypocrisy, lies and attempt to white-wash and redeem his image, which is already extremely battered. As it turns out, the same Trump who was calling for reconciliation, has stated that he will not attend Joe Biden’s inauguration – sour grapes of the highest order! Nancy Pelosi called on Vice President Pence to immediately remove Donald Trump for his seditious behaviour and attack on America’s Democracy, by invoking the 25th Amendment to the American Constitution against him, failing which they would weigh their options for impeachment in Congress. Many, including fellow Republicans, have accused Trump of wickedness, sedition, the desecration of American democracy and other similar offences.
The 25th Amendment covers Presidential Succession, as do Sections 143-145 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)(the Nigerian Constitution). Section 4 of the 25th Amendment provides inter alia, that the Vice President and majority of certain cabinet members (eight of them or so) may jointly declare that the President is unable to carry out his duties, and consequently, the Vice President will assume the position of President, immediately. However, Section 4 of the Amendment has never been used before, and just as a 2018 article by Elaine Kamarck said, “short of watching Donald Trump run naked and screaming down Pennsylvania Avenue on prime-time television, Mike Pence (or any Vice President) would never begin such proceedings” (that is, Section 4 25th Amendment proceedings).
We do not have a provision that is like that of Section 4 of the 25th Amendment in our Constitution, as the procedure for removal provided for in Sections 143 and 144 of the Nigerian Constitution for gross misconduct or inability to discharge functions for medical reasons respectively, are long and convoluted, and require the input of various people/groups. They are not as straightforward, as that of Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.
Following the January 6 incident, Vice President Pence refused to invoke Section 4 against President Trump for his removal, and consequently, Congress has set the wheels in motion for the impeachment of President Trump, the second time in his tenure. Since Article II Section 4 of the American Constitution does not clearly define the grounds for impeachment and conviction, but just leaves it at ‘treason, bribery, other high crimes and misdemeanours’, and Congress is not a court of law, the criminal burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt is inapplicable, as it is left to Congress to decide what constitutes these grounds. Can the accusations of sedition, coup plotting and incitement of insurrection which several high ranking Politicians and members of Congress have levelled against President Trump, amount to Treason or other high crimes? These accusations certainly qualify as more than ‘other misdemeanours’, since five precious lives were lost during the fracas. Let us wait and see the outcome.
Such comments like that of Kamarck, as far back as 2018, show that the issue of President Trump’s mental health is not new, but somehow it didn’t seem to be much of an issue until now. In the past few days, we have seen Politicians questioning his mental capacity and stability, on television. I still wonder how such a ‘loose canon’ as many refer to him, could have secured the Republican nomination. Unlike the Nigerian Constitution, the American Constitution does not seem to disqualify candidates from running on the basis of mental incapacity (correct me if I’m wrong). However, Section 137(1)(c) of the Nigerian Constitution disqualifies a person who has been adjudged to be a lunatic or otherwise declared to be of unsound mind, from vying for the office of President, though an appeal may be lodged in a court of law against such a decision. And, even if the American Constitution had that provision, it would probably not suffice for people to feel that a candidate is unhinged; there would probably have to be an accompanying declaration to that effect, as in the case of the Nigerian Constitution.
One of the concerns that has been raised about Trump, is that it is dangerous for the nuclear codes to remain in the hands of someone so mentally unstable as Trump, especially as he is in a such a bitter mood. In fact, the President-Elect didn’t mince words when he said in an interview last Friday, that he had been saying for over a year that President Trump is not fit to serve.
Even though anyone can take ill at anytime, as one’s state of health is mostly in the hands of God, should it be a prerequisite for all candidates, especially those running for the most important office of President of a country, to be medically certified as physically and mentally fit? Before Trump even secured the Republican nomination, it was evident during his campaign that he was a narcissist, unstable and prone to falsehood. How was something that was so obvious to the world, not obvious to the Republicans? Even though it may be that it was over the past four years that President Trump’s mental health deteriorated to this extent, the signs were definitely there; and results of the elections evince the fact that he didn’t strike majority of Americans who voted in either of the two elections in which he participated, as the best candidate for President, as it was Senator Clinton and subsequently, Joe Biden who won the popular votes, and not President Trump.
What can be more embarrassing and shameful, than the President of one of the most important countries in the world being barred from his Twitter account (social media), in order to stop him from spreading his vicious poison all over the place? As it is, many are speculating that because President Trump really has no boundaries, it would not be surprising if he tries to pardon himself for all his atrocities before he leaves office! However, an American President can only pardon Federal Crimes, and therefore, any of the Attorney-Generals of the 50 States where he may have issues pending like tax fraud, can still go after him. In any event, a pardon must be presented before a court of law to decide whether it will be accepted or not. I do not think that the issue of a President trying to pardon himself, has ever been tested in court before, as no President has ever tried to do so before in the history of America. Even President Nixon was pardoned by President Ford who succeeded him upon his resignation in 1974.
However, if President Trump is impeached for the second time, this may disqualify him from running for President in 2024, as some have speculated that he may want to do. If this is so, impeaching him even one day to the end of his tenure, would be worth it!
It will certainly take some time for America to redeem her image, which Trump has damaged to such a great extent. The incoming administration has its work cut out for it, in that regard. Do you remember Trump’s campaign slogan? “We’re Gonna Make America Great Again”. He has managed to do quite the opposite! Again, we congratulate President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris, on their well-deserved victory. We wish them a successful tenure.