Buhari and the Trump’s call
At a time Donald Trump is grappling with an increasing low approval rating at home and abroad, Nigerians really made his day last Monday. That was the day that the United States (U.S.) president made a call to his Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari who is on a sick leave in London.
It is outside our remit here to probe whether the presidency grovelled to have that call made to Buhari, or whether the call was made at all. We limit ourselves to the notion that Nigerians were elated that their president was not vegetative after all; he was mentally alert to hold a conversation with Trump. Again, they were excited because this call indicated the high acceptability the president enjoys before the leader of the greatest nation on earth. If Trump who is incurably narcissistic could call Buhari, that means the latter has some value to add to the world, so goes the argument ad infinitum.
Yet we must not forget: the excitement that the call has generated harks back to the elation of a plebeian who was shown a little favour by a medieval potentate. For, there is an unequal relationship between the West and Africa. It is a relationship in which the West constructs Africa as its other. Thus when the West courts Africa, it is not for the good of the latter. It is either to keep the African in a subservient position or to remould him or her to be able to take the role of a less significant party. Remember, Shakespeare’s Prospero boasts that he endows Caliban with the power of language. But unlike Caliban, our leaders neither seek to explode this myth nor use whatever they have apparently got from the West to destabilise it to their own advantage. They rather internalise the myth of their benightedness and the notion that it is only through the West that African nations can become aware of their inherent potential and realise it. This is why they often seek developmental aid from Western institutions.
But the stark reality is that the interactions between Africa and the West do not produce any positive result for the former. Are we now saying that we should be isolationist in a globalised world? No! Rather, we should bring our own values to the table of globalisation. We should not allow the values of the West to define ours. For what the West wants to do is to make us to accept their values and keep us obligated. In most cases, these values are not useful to us. This was why the U.S. under President Barack Obama wanted Nigeria to ratify its misbegotten homosexuality. Even if Goodluck Jonathan is considered not to have achieved any other thing, it is to his eternal credit that he did not succumb to the pressure of Obama to legalise same sex marriage. After all, nobody needs to wait for a legislation to gratify their homosexual tastes.
From the ravages of colonialism to the perils of Western-style modernity, Africa has always come out bruised in its encounters with the West. Or did Jonathan and Nigeria gain significantly by being received in the White House by Obama? And when Buhari became president, he visited Obama in the White House. So what are the gains of that visit ? Did that visit translate to good governance that has improved the lot of Nigerians? Since that visit has failed abysmally to translate to any gain, it is inconceivable that Buhari’s visit to Trump in the White House would amount to anything. This is especially so as Trump has not disavowed his U.S.-centricity.
Instead of being excited at Trump calling Buhari, and the prospect of the latter going to the White House, we should consider the real issues. Nor should we be excited at the prospect of the U.S. giving us weapons to fight terrorists in Nigeria. When we direly needed weapons, the U.S. did not give them to us. It is not now that we have been able to considerably incapacitate insurgents in the North East that we need weapons from the U.S.
What we need are weapons to rout the conditions that breed terrorism and insurgency. But despite the giant strides of the U.S. in military technology, the White House cannot supply these weapons because they can only be sourced locally in Nigeria. For in the first place, the terrorism that we are confronted with here was caused by injustice and impunity. This was what led to the extra-judicial killing of Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram. But have we learnt any lesson? Far from it. Our government is still a source of injustice and impunity.
And what we are faced with now are worse cases of injustice and impunity. Or how does one explain Buhari’s appointments without regard for other parts of the country? How about the injustice and impunity of killing protesters in the South East without recourse to addressing their grievances or their cases being considered by appropriate law courts? How about economic injustice and impunity as shown in the Niger Delta whose oil resources are used to develop other parts of the country while the people from the region are pauperised? Now, the poor citizens are becoming poorer while our leaders are becoming richer. The money they steal while they are in government is not enough; they enjoy unimaginable pensions after their service in government. If these poor Nigerians now decide to fight for themselves, we do not need to be excited when the White House offers to give us weapons to squelch their revolt.
Instead of the U.S. promising to give Nigeria weapons, the best it can do for us is to put pressure on the Nigerian government to do the right things. Let the government overcome its inertia, ineptness, parochialism, bigotry, injustice, impunity and those weapons would not be necessary. More so, if a call from the White House is a big deal, then our government must do what makes the U.S. great. Just as Trump has become U.S.-centric, Buhari must also be Nigeria-centric. If Buhari is Nigeria-centric, he would not go to Britain and splurge the nation’s scarce foreign exchange at a London hospital. He would think of how to develop Nigeria’s health care system so that it would take care of all Nigerians.
Again, if Buhari is Nigeria-centric, his priority after recovery from the illness that took him away from the citizens would not be how to go to the White House. It should rather be how he would come to see the citizens who have been praying for him to get well. Indeed, his priority should be how to work with a great sense of urgency to bring his electioneering promises to reality and transform the lives of the citizens. In this regard, what Nigerians need from Trump is not for him to invite Buhari to the White House. He would rather do the Nigerian citizens a lot of good if he embargoes Buhari’s visit to the White House until their lot improves under his leadership. Buhari has much to do at home to clear the mess he left behind. And he does not need Trump’s military weapons nor a visit to the White House to do this.