Nigeria, US Relations under Donald Trump: The Need for Greater Caution
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Donald Trump was elected President-designate of the United States, on Tuesday, 8th November, 2016. He will be sworn in on Friday, 20th January, 2017 as the 45th President of the United States. In the reported congratulatory message to Mr. Donald Trump, President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) extended ‘his good wishes to him on the onerous task of leading the world’s strongest economy’ and promised to ‘work with the president-elect.’
In the same vein, former President Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) assured Donald Trump that most African people ‘who believe in equitability in global affairs will work with you (Donald Trump) for a fairer world and, more so, those of us in Nigeria’ (Daily Sun, November 11, 2016, p.9). The messages of Presidents Buhari and Obasanjo are good, at least, diplomatically. But more important, both of them want to work with Trump. In this regard, it is possible to work for (positive sense) or work against (negative). The nature of the intended work by PMB is not made clear. OBJ made his own work conditional, that is, it is subject to the quest for a fairer world.
Without doubt, there is nothing wrong in seeking to work with a president-designate, especially that there is no way Nigeria and the US will not relate directly or indirectly. More so that, even when states strain their relations, a third party is still commonly agreed upon to manage the interests involved on either side. However, it is important to note that the new Cold War, which is staring the world leaders in the face, may not follow the old format of the old one. There is therefore the urgent need to first of all interpret the implications of Donald Trump as president, as distinct from Donald Trump as presidential candidate.
In this regard, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi struck the nail on the head when he said that the election of Donald Trump ‘brings uncertainty into international politics because the world now has to deal with a man who is inexperienced, does not understand the complexities of international politics and has no respect for anyone who is not White or American.’ Additionally, Professor Akinyemi has it that ‘there has always been an ugly side to the US just as there is with every country in the world, but the good side is that the US has always prevailed in tackling American problems. But this victory of Trump is a victory of the ugly side of the US.’ Professor Akinyemi cannot be more correct. This is why, again, PMB will need to make haste slowly in seeking to work with a president whose total personality and integrity is a direct negation of what Nigeria stands for internationally.
Donald Trump as Agent Provocateur The election of Donald Trump as the next president of the US raises doubts as to whether or not he was truly elected without rigging or on the basis of rigging. This is the first uncertainty. During the campaigns, Donald Trump was convinced that there was likely to be rigging and this was the only basis on which he would not win. He even said that he would accept the election result if he won and would not accept it if he did not. In fact, he even went to the court to ask for a court injunction on the election in Nevada, because of early voting. The court simply threw the case off. These points are to suggest that Donald Trump did not even expect his election. He was in a serious state of doubt. If he won, how do we explain it?
On Wednesday, 9th November, 2016 there were protests against his election in more than 20 cities. Why such protests if the majority, 60 million voters, are in favour of Donald Trump? Who are those protesting? Are they the supporters of Hilary Clinton or people angered because the election was most unexpected and therefore, are protesting to challenge the results of the election? A second uncertainty is related to the first: was Trump’s election an approval of what Donald Trump promised to do? For instance, most white Americans, who could not come into the open to say what Donald Trump did not have any shame in saying in the public, voted for him. Was he voted for because he spoke their minds and on their behalf?
Another uncertainty is the extent to which he can make his campaigns actionable. Trump promised to destroy the oil fields in Iraq and build a wall against Mexico, to be called ‘Trump Wall,’ for which the Mexicans will also pay. In the event Mexicans refuse to pay, the US will not only impound all remittances from their wages, cancel visas for Mexican businesses and increase visa fees. He intends to challenge China’s power in global affairs.
He wants to rebuild airports and bridges that look like as if they are in the Third World countries, move the capital of Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as well as realign US policy on Syria with that of Russia. Is Donald Trump dreaming? What will be the nature of the US-Russia policy realignment? Is it possible for the US to become subservient to Russia? To what extent will he be able to translate these policy aspirations into action?
A fourth uncertainty is that, if we also consider the transition briefing meeting between him and President Barack Obama on Thursday, 10th November at the White House, Donald trump avoided seeing the outgoing president eye-to-eye. He looked at him arrogantly and surprisingly, but his sitting was very submissive. As shown on the CNN screen, from the perspective of physiognomy, Donald Trump cannot be said to have any iota of respect for President Obama. His disposition was very contemptuous. His hand-shaking was not warm. His sitting was not à l’aise. This might explain in part why the scheduled meeting of 15 minutes lasted for 90 minutes. Consequently, the likelihood of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate being different from Donald Trump as US president, is remote.
Donald Trump has animosity for Black people. This was why he refused to allocate houses to African Americans in the 1990s and he was taken to court. It is not because he would have become an elected president that he would suddenly change in a chameleonic manner. This is the point that Nigeria’s policy makers must underscore. Donald Trump’s expected attitude towards Nigeria is manifest already.
In one of his campaign points, he suggested the re-colonisation of Africa because African examples are bad models. As he put it, ‘look at African countries like Nigeria or Kenya for instance, those people are stealing from their own government and do invest the money in foreign countries. From the government to opposition, they only qualify to be used as a case study whenever bad examples are required.’ There is little problem with this point as it has elements of truth. He raises the issue of trusting the African people when he asked: ‘how do you trust even those who have ran (sic) away to hide here at the United States, hiding behind education.’ The internet Nigerians are using to abuse him, Donald Trump said he ‘can decide to switch it off from this side.’ Again, there is nothing wrong if the government of Donald Trump cuts off Nigerians from the internet. However, all the internet stakeholders will also miss the Nigerian contents, especially in terms of economic benefits. Internet is not in any way free. Internet enables international security monitoring. If Nigerians are cut off, the monitoring of Nigerians will also be out of coverage.
What is wrong and offensive is when he said that ‘most of these African countries ought to be re-colonised again for another 100 years, because they know nothing about leadership and self-governance.’ If PMB is going to work with Donald Trump, it means he is going to be tutored on how to govern and how to provide leadership. It means that PMB and his generation, as well as their descendants until the next 100 years are not likely to be trainable until the end of a century. Trump has also implied that African people cannot learn fast. It also means that Trump is advocating the renewal of enslavement and savagery.
In fact, Donald Trump described Black people as ‘lazy fools.’ Nigerians are black people and their contributions to the growth and development of the US are noteworthy but Donald Trump is unable to see them for reasons of myopia. One truth is that White Americans are not comfortable with the rising profiles of non white-Americans. Interest is increasingly and indirectly placed on the protection of the interests of White America.
As a result, the loss of election by Hilary Hilton was nothing more than an expression of it. Explained differently, the population of white America is more than all others. Rural America is that of the conservative white Americans and they appeared to have voted in protest against Barack Obama and not Hilary Clinton. In this regard, Hilary Clinton is believed to be a continuation of Obamamania in another form. The implication is that the majority vote for Trump is to encourage him to make ‘America great again’ by underlining the white content to the detriment of all others. This is one of the bottom lines of the election.
Specifically at the level of Nigeria, PMB, in his eyes, is not ‘sensible.’ As Donald Trump put it: ‘no sensible president continuously travels round the globe while his country, Nigeria, is in terrible hardship and economic mess. It can only happen in Nigeria where all that matters to the President is the full introduction of Islam, annihilation of his political opponents and absolute extermination of the people of the old eastern Nigeria. Buhari, prior to his questionable victory at the polls, the president of Nigeria made lots of promises which he has obviously failed to keep and in most cases denied.’
There are many issues in Donald Trump’s indictment of PMB. First, his continuous travels are insensible. PMB’s major concerns are the full introduction of Islam and annihilation of easterners. Domestic complaints against PMB on possible Islamisation of Nigeria are growing in the country. With the addition of that of Donald Trump, beliefs that PMB has an Islamic agenda can only be strengthened. Donald Trump is an agent provocateur, a catalytic agent of destabilisation and a future obstacle to national unity and development in Nigeria.
And true enough, the allegation of annihilation of easterners appears to have prompted and encouraged those fighting for self-determination, especially the MASSOB, to show happiness about the election of Trump. The pro-Biafra autonomy has been advised to seek the support of Trump, who is expected to support the disintegration of Nigeria. Nigeria that was expected to disintegrate in 2014 or 2015 may eventually be dismantled under Donald Trump. In other words, Trump is dangerous. More disturbingly, Donald Trump has queried the legitimacy of the election of PMB. When he said ‘prior to his questionable victory,’ what does he mean? He is simply saying that his election was rigged. He does not have legitimacy even he is still presiding over the affairs of Nigeria.
President Goodluck Jonathan admitted defeat. All Nigerians also did accept the results of the elections. What does Trump want to imply by saying the victory of PMB is questionable? Most importantly, when Donald Trump accuses PMB of over-travelling when there are many pressing matters to be attended to at home, and more especially when he says PMB makes many promises which he never fulfils but also denies, he is saying directly that he intends to keep his own electoral promises back home.
Therefore, all those who believe that Donald Trump may change his skin when he assumes duty as President next year need a hard re-thinking. His concerns about unfulfilled promises are pointers to likely undue interferences and interventions in the domestic affairs of Nigeria. Will working with Donald Trump mean an endorsement of US interferences in what falls squarely within the exclusive competence of the elected Government of Nigeria? What type of working relationship does PMB want to engage with the US President-elect? Will the interferences not lead to indirect incitements to national disintegration? It is useful to learn from Donald Trump’s attitude towards Brexit.
Brexit is an interesting issue in Britain-US and EU-US relations for various reasons. Recent US archival sources have it that the making of the EU, as well as the coinage of the Euro was an American idea. In the selfish interests of the US, active support was lent by the US to the integration of Europe, and particularly to the establishment of the Union. Explained differently, a united, strong and vibrant Europe is believed to be in the long term interests of the US, hence the need to constantly foster a better understanding with EU countries.
However, Britain appears not to be interested in the unity of Europe any longer. In his presidential campaigns, Donald Trump actively joined the Russians to support Brexit, a development which shows a departure from current US policy posture. In other words, now that the paradigm has shifted from Donald Trump as a candidate to Donald Trump as President-designate, should it be assumed that Donald Trump would continue to support Brexit? If the US under Donald Trump supports dismemberment of the EU, what will the response of their leaders be, especially France and Germany? Thus, Brexit cannot but become an issue in EU-US relations.
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