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Double Standards in Perception of Incumbency: Developing Countries vs Developed Countries – Dr. Philip Ikomi

By Dr. Philip Ikomi | NNP | April 5, 2014 – Not too long ago, the world witnessed an open campaign to dislodge Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, from office following the dissatisfaction felt by the “international community” with his handling the matter concerning the agreement regarding his fellow fighters earlier signed with the UK government under Margaret Thatcher. The main argument for wanting him out of office centered around the length of his incumbency. The international community wanted everyone who listened to the news coming out of the main media in the West to know that Mugabe was too old and had ruled for too long and hence it was time for him to step aside for someone else.

They hammered on this theme all through the campaign until they were silenced when Thabo Umbeki, the former president of South Africa worked a solution which gave a position in the ruling Zanu (PF) to the head of the opposition. The international community decides to make the length of incumbency a problem even though she recognizes that Mugabe was democratically elected and has been elected repeatedly each time there was an election to which he submitted himself. It is on record that the international community did not in fact agree that Mugabe was democratically elected. They call him a despot who imposed himself on the people.

Long before this debacle with Mugabe however, we witnessed the vitriolic campaign on the same lines against the continuation in office of the mother of all rulers, Saddam Hussein, whom the United States government labeled a killer and long overdue for exit from office considering that he had ruled for too long. Eventually the United States had to illegally invade the country of Iraq and overthrow his government. The ravages of that invasion and occupation are still very much with Iraq till this day. Millions lost their homes and were dispersed around the globe while as of 2006 it was reported that over a million Iraqis had lost their lives as a direct consequence of the invasion and occupation.

Today, the ravages of that war, the destruction and carnage from it are still being played out in an endless spate of bombs and suicide bombers unleashed in homes, markets, shopping malls, roads, places of worship and entertainment centers. Again Saddam Hussein was legally elected by his people at each election conducted in Iraq after he came to power years earlier. Again, on record, the West never accepted that he was democratically elected by his people. This was the same way they felt about elections that brought Hamas to power in the Palestinian territories. In that case they decided to not recognize the government of Hamas even though Hamas won the election that was clearly supervised by members of the international community.

Similarly, the elections that gave Gaddafi repeated mandates to rule Libya in the years that he ruled were legal by the laws of his land although the international community had always insisted that the elections were unreliable and that the people went to vote for him because otherwise they would face sanctions.They cried that he stayed for forty-two years and was a dictator who forced his people to have him rule them and thus he had to go. While the so called demonstrations against Qaddafi’s government were on, the clarion call by Western media was that he had stayed for forty-two years. This was repeated adnauseam, the implication being that having stayed that long, it was time for him to leave. Thus they helped the so called rebels to topple his government with direct attacks by NATO aircraft and Gaddafi was eventually killed by NATO’s bombs.

Since early in 2011, the battle to remove the leader of Syria, has been raging with the first salvos being that his dynasty had ruled Syria for over forty years and thus he had to leave. Both president Obama and his former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton lead the battle cry for his removal by always preceding their speech about Syria with “Assad must go.” The fact that Assad had only ruled since his father passed away a few years ago is never mentioned. The emphasis is always on his having been in power for a long time and therefore he has to be removed. And the Western media, including the BBC, (the one whose correspondent was announcing the fall of World Trade Center Building 7 in New York, on September 11, 2011 about twenty minutes before it fell, demolition style), follow suit and chorus along, “Assad must go.”

There is a long list of leaders who have spent a very long time as leaders and representatives of their people. Many were or are obviously bad leaders but the mere fact that they spent a long time in office should not be cause for forceful removal if they were properly elected by their people. We should not just accept what our leaders tell us about distant governments and their way of life because our leaders may just have their own agenda. The particular argument that someone has spent a long time in office is not a reason to want to change the person because even in the US where people pride themselves with having a democratic form of government, there are incumbents who have been in Congress for as long as over fifty years! About two weeks ago, one US Congress man who had spent the last forty years in Congress said he was not going to submit himself for re-election once his last two-year term ends.

This week, another Congressman said he would not submit himself for re-election following the end of his current tenure. Senator Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan had spent, believe it or not, fifty-eight years in Congress. He took over from his father who died in Congress after serving for 22 years, bringing the total by that father and son pair to 80 years according to Wikipedia! Much less than Assad and his father spent, a mere forty something years before the US and its allies jumped to singing about how his Alawite “regime” has stayed so long in office dictating to the innocent people of Syria, that he must now go. Notice though that another US Senator, Robert Byrd of WV was 92 years old when he died the longest serving Senator in US history after 51 years as a Senator.

There are at least ten Senators who served over 40 years in the Senate. Now, does it mean that these Senators (and I know there are several representatives who have served almost as long if not longer than these Senators in the House) are so good that they could not be replaced by other candidates all through the over forty years that they have represented their constituents? Did they carry out some corrupt practices to enable their constituents to always vote for them for so long? Did anybody worry that they were too long in Congress when there were other equally or better qualified candidates for the positions they held? Well, the reason for their longevity probably has to do with the power of incumbency and name recognition if we assume no foul play.

However we cannot totally accept the absence of foul play when the US government believes so strongly that other countries could not elect a leader repeatedly without corruption playing a part in such repeated elections over such long periods. We must therefore leave room for corruption to be in the equation as we hazard a guess for the reason these Congressmen served so long. The main reason for the longevity I would imagine however, is the power of incumbency and name recognition.

This is true here and I have heard it repeated by experts and if it exists here, it cannot be absent in less democratic environments. In fact, the power of incumbency and its sister, name recognition are bound to be much stronger in less developed democracies than they are in advanced countries with all the education in the latter countries compared with inadequate education in the former. So, the next time you hear the Western media telling you some ruler in some far flung nation has rulled for too long, tell them that it is not their business because the UK and US governments are supposed to be looking after the interests of their people, and not prying into the activities and length of service of foreign government leaders with their nations’ tax money. Above, all, be very critical of what you hear or see in the media. Stop thinking that the BBC is your uninterested objective news source and start believing more what your Radio Nigeria and NTA provide you but you cannot imbibe these hook, line, and sinker,either. You must be skeptical about any news you hear or see.

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Posted by on Apr 5 2014. Filed under Articles, Columnists, NNP Columnists, Philip Ikomi. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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