✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters

Trump’s trial: Lessons for Nigeria’s democracy

The arraignment of former a president of the United States, Donald Trump, has stirred interests across the globe including Nigeria which has a fledgling democracy. …

The arraignment of former a president of the United States, Donald Trump, has stirred interests across the globe including Nigeria which has a fledgling democracy. 

Trump was on Tuesday arraigned in a Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on allegations of covering up hush money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election.

Before the charges were filed before the court, a 23-member grand jury heard evidence of the former president’s role in the hush money scheme, including testimonies from Daniels and Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, leading to his indictment.

Trump, a front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, pleaded not guilty to the 34-count charges preferred against him by the authorities describing them as politically motivated.

The presiding judge, Juan Merchan, has permitted Trump’s legal team until August 8 to file any motion and the prosecution will respond by September 19 after which the judge will rule on the motions. The next hearing has been fixed for December 4.

The hush money scheme were payments made to women who claimed they had extramarital affairs with Trump, to the tune of $130,000, not to make disclosures of about such information that would undermine his electoral chances. He has denied the affairs.

Before the Trump arraignment, America, which has a democracy that is 247 years old, has witnessed many political controversies at the presidential level. But none has resulted in indictment and arraignment of either a sitting or a former president.

Richard Nixon, who was indicted and forced to resign to avoid impeachment over the Watergate scandal in 1972 over the breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters and the controversial tape incident at the Oval Office, was pardoned, out of office, by his successor, Gerard Ford.

In Nigeria, no former president or ex-head of state has ever been put through trial despite allegations of corruption and mismanagement that dogged some of them.

Former President Shehu Shagari, who was toppled by the military in 1984 led by Major General Muhammadu Buhari over allegations of corruption, faced house arrest but was not charged after investigations.

Similarly, the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo, which was replaced by that of Umar Yar’Adua in 1999, was not charged or arraigned despite allegations of corruption and election rigging.

When Buhari took over in 2015, he alleged that the administration of Goodluck Jonathan was corrupt and indicted several officials under the administration of several illicit activities, especially the alleged diversion of $2.1 billion in arms funds. The ex-president was never arraigned for the allegations.

While many consider Tuesday’s arraignment of Trump as major sign of the advancement of US democracy, others point to it as a sign of how long the democratic journey could take in a country like Nigeria before it matures. Nigeria borrowed many features of its democracy from the American system.

Reacting on the event, the Associate Professor and Acting Director of Research and Studies Department of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Dr Efem Ubi, said the arraignment of Trump has shown that the law in the USA views him as any other American citizen and not as a former president.

He said, “It shows that the system is a working and an accountable one, which is built on ownership and rule of law.

“Democracy is about inclusivity and ownership such that everybody would be given room to be part and parcel of governance.”

He said the lesson for Nigeria is to begin to build a system that is not only working but accountable and responsive to the concerns of the citizenry.

“Elections are periodic and not the only thing that achieve democracy but the rule of law, and that is why Trump was called to account over his alleged past wrongdoing.”

Similarly, the Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of the Academic Staff Union for Research Institutions, Prof. Theophilus Ndubuaku, said Trump’s presidency was marred by all sorts of scandals, adding that it was good that America has a system to checkmate such conduct.

“This arraignment shows victory for rule of law and that nobody can be above the law; yes, you might have the immunity, it has a timeline, you cannot leave office and remain above the law,” he said.

He said investigators are still probing into Trump’s past dealings with a view to bringing more charges against him, which shows a working system.

In his view, Barr E. M. D. Umukoro said the arraignment of Trump shows that nobody is above the law of the land in the US and every democracy.

He said the US has exemplified that the rich and those who are close to the corridors of power are not favoured to pervert justice.

“Where there is perversion of justice the nation suffers retrogression and other vices, for the land abhors injustice.

“Furthermore, where there is injustice, the blood and or cries of the innocent/the oppressed ones will go up to God against the nation,” he said.

Also reacting, another legal practitioner, Barr Buhari Yusuf said a major lesson to be learnt from the Trump experience is the appreciation of the relevance of building institutions that will guarantee the growth and sustainability of the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.

He said, “We must equally understand that we are all equal before the law.

“Again, individuals’ rights and freedoms are circumscribed under the state as encapsulated in our ground norm.

“This development should open up a debate about the utility definition and function of the immunity clause under Section 308 of the Nigerian Constitution.

“We should begin to interrogate it as it relates to what it seeks to cure in relation to its organic applications in the practice of liberal democracy which is rule of law based.

“Again, in this stage of our democratic growth, aren’t we supposed to start the process of moralising our political conversation with legalistic ethos and precepts?

“I think we should go back to the drawing board and examine the scope and the intendment of the immunity clause against the backdrop of its applicability as to whether it is the qualified or unqualified clause.”

Are you currently earning in Naira but need salary/earnings in Dollars? You have an opportunity to earn as much as $10,000 (₦9.2 million naira) monthly. Click here to get evidence.

%d bloggers like this: