November 03, 2008

Global Gab on the Prospective President: South Africans and Nigerians Voice their Vote

With a national debt of more than 10.5 trillion dollars, the United States currently has little fiscal allowance to spare. Our next president, to be declared after tomorrow’s election, will hopefully execute a viable plan of cutting costs and reorganizing American spenditures, concentrating on domestic policy in terms of feasible solutions to the financial crisis, in addition to foreign policy regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, it is not solely our grave financial debt that has fostered international intrigue for this particular presidential election. The global hype and concern derives largely from two factors that should be immaterial: race and gender, which, regardless of the outcome, will result in a historical milestone for the United States. The African community is particular energized about the candidates in contention and how their leadership will generate changes for Africa, despite sparse U.S. resources to spare and the urgency of our own domestic economy, along with prior foreign engagements in the Middle East. While rather obvious familial ties exist between Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Kenya thus welding a strong voucher of support from its citizens, I consciously chose to explore the responses of citizens from other African nations regarding the U.S. presidential elections. Fortunately, there were two recent posts in the blogosphere that highlighted Nigerian and South African opinions of the two main American candidates in contention, the aforementioned Barack Obama, as well as the Republican nominee, John McCain.

Both Nigeria and South Africa are prominent African countries and recent democracies, and are frequently sought out by the United States as cordial allies to secure oil reserves and fiscal relations, as well as to improve U.S. eminence on the continent. Additionally, both nations have historical ties to one another, particularly Nigeria’s overwhelming support for South Africa and the ANC in the abolition of apartheid. Today, both countries maintain amicable relations with the West, and its respective citizens have shown particular interest in our own upcoming election, demonstrated by the two blog posts I discovered this week: “Black and White South Africans Weigh in on U.S. Election” and “U.S. presidential elections: Nigerians are anxious”. Both posts explore generalized national perspectives on which candidate would best serve the presidency. The former, written by Hamilton Wende, is part of MSNBC’s World Blog, and provides a commentary on which American candidate is favored among South Africans. Wende discusses the opinions of three different South African men on the candidates and the issues, and tries to define the reasons behind their choices, impressing race, change, and African foreign policy as conventional deductions. The second post derives from The Takeaway, a news and analysis program with global partnerships and contributors, and was written by Adeola Aderounmu, a Nigerian blogger who offers a personal testimony regarding the overwhelming Nigerian support for Obama. My commentary on both posts is on each individual blog as well as provided below.

Black and White South Africans Weigh in on U.S. Election
Mr. Wende, thank you for your informative post and providing a global perspective on the U.S. elections. It is important for Americans to comprehend the investiture of non-U.S. citizens in this election, and how the choices we make have profound worldwide effects. South Africa is a particularly impressionable democracy, and it is nevertheless self-evident why they have such a vested interest in the processes surrounding our well-established system of government. Additionally, the historical evidence you provided concerning the South African apartheid and the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960s additionally contextualizes and strengthens the ties between the two countries and its citizens. I found your inclusion of Lucky Mathye’s commentary on Barack Obama and the racial issue particularly interesting. While I had previously heard the issue of race discussed in terms of societal significance, I had yet to hear Lucky’s particular argument for Obama, which contended that the color of his skin might enable him to negotiate settlements among African presidents like Robert Mugabe better than John McCain.

While I appreciate the insight this post provided on the responses to the US elections by both black and white South Africans, the argument your post embodies in its nature is devoid of both female and elderly perspective. Especially with the prevalent issues concerning women’s health and the controversy surrounding Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, I feel your post would have benefited from a woman’s point of view. Additionally, while each of the South Africans interviewed expressed their concerns over which candidate would best benefit Africa, not a single one mentioned any evidential support for their reasoning. If these individuals cannot point to a particular policy or stances that would differentiate Obama from McCain in his ability to better serve Africa in foreign policy, does that not simply reinforce the racial concern? If there is a particular motive for these individual’s support for Barack Obama, the lack of its inclusion is a disservice to the South Africans interviewed, for it illustrates them as less educated on the pertinent foreign policy issues then they might be. Either way, I think your post could benefit from a follow up investigation as to why these three particular men promote Barack Obama for the U.S. presidency, in addition to his overwhelming global endorsement.

U.S. presidential elections: Nigerians are anxious
Adeola Aderounmu, thank you for revealing such an articulate and thoughtful argument concerning Nigerian support of Barack Obama. I appreciated such a personal account in regards to Nigerian mentality, and many of the issues you touched on were ones that I had yet to consider. I was particularly struck by the more tangible evidence you offered in your post, such as your discussion of visa application policy in regards to U.S. immigration laws, which Nigerians feel Barack Obama will reduce their selectivity if elected. The Nigerian criticism and objection to the continuation of the Iraq War is yet another valid point in their endorsement of Barack Obama, who initially stated a timeline of 16 months for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq and sees the war as a strategic error. Additionally, I found your concluding statements in regards to the motivation of Nigerians to avidly follow the U.S. elections moving and very poignant. The United States is one of the oldest and most well-established democracies, providing a stark contrast to the Nigerian regime, whose failed attempt for a democratic election in 2007 has left the country in its perpetual slump of poverty and corruption. I hope that whomever is elected on November 4th has a positive impact on the Nigerian system of government.

While I respect and understand your perspective and the majority Nigerian supportive response to candidate Barack Obama, there are a few points that I would like you to consider. First of all, you seem to point towards your own government and poorly executed regime as the main source of wealth discrepancy. Do you think that expanding the role of government is the best solution for Nigerian prosperity, or should more control be left in the hands of the people? In regards to the Iraq war, what do you think will happen to the Iraqi citizens who support the United State’s mission in Iraq if we remove U.S. troops? Additionally, what type of relationship do you feel would best suit the United States and South Africa, and how could each nation foster more mutually beneficial ties? These are a few issues that I would appreciate if you considered in a follow-up post.


Katie Webb said...

Given the events that have transpired in the days since you wrote this post, I especially appreciate the relevance of your chosen topic. Now that the United States has made history by electing Barack Obama to the presidency, the issues you address concerning various African nations are likely to achieve national prominence in the coming four years. Besides being well-written and organized, I enjoyed your application of an American phenomenon (the election) to the fate of those countries around the world that are so strongly affected by our political decisions. I, for one, often forget the global implications of our nation’s choices.

I was particularly impressed with your selection of countries in evaluating African sentiment concerning Obama, and agreed with your decision to bypass his home country of Kenya in favor of perhaps more substantive opinions. The subject of Nigerian immigration laws, and why Nigerians feel Obama might be more sympathetic to their pleas, was a wonderfully concrete example of why this election was so significant to African citizens. I applaud you for encouraging Mr. Wende of the first post to cite similar examples of why he feels Obama would be the best choice on a global scale. Finally, I think the critiques and follow-up questions you offer to both bloggers are thoughtful and intriguing, especially those dealing with the perspectives of women and the further considerations necessary for improving the fragile Nigerian government.

I am curious to know your opinion of what an Obama presidency will mean for African countries, including but not limited to South Africa and Nigeria. Do you think his policy decisions will be more sympathetic to the continent that is home to his roots? Will the leaders of these often volatile nations be more willing to compromise and negotiate with him? It will definitely be interesting to see if Obama can live up to the lofty expectations bestowed onto him from around the world. On a final note, I love the second graphic you use, a powerful image of the global gravity this election has been awarded!

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