‘Buhari’s claim in December 2015 that “technically we have won the war” against Boko Haram has repeatedly come back to haunt him. The meeting with Trump, and the United States’ decision to sell Super Tucano fighter jets to Nigeria, allows Buhari to show voters at home that he has repaired a broken relationship’ – Max Siollun in Foreign Policy edition of 11 May 2018
In this piece, Joe Illoh attempts to unravel why Nigerians would like President Trump but hate President Buhari. His central question is whether a parallel could be drawn between the core political ideologies of both presidents.
Recently the campaign mission embarked on by some of those Nigerians who claim to be staunch supporters of Donald Trump, have caused some raised eyebrows. And the reason is not far-fetched. While they feel very comfortable and proud of Donald Trump’s extremist and divisive policies in the US, they are strong critics of Buhari’s extremism and divisive policies in Nigeria, thereby failing to draw a parallel between the two presidents.
First and foremost, let it be known that I am an avid believer in the right of a person or persons to support or vote for whoever or whatever ideology that suits or represents their beliefs and innate character. In fact, not only do I accept this democratic precept but also I live within it and work with it. That said, I know that there is more to saying you support someone than meets the eye. Based on what is known of them, taking Dr. Stella Immanuel, as a case study, they are described as consistent followers who are struggling to spot their way in any terrain that they can benefit from. And show inconsistencies (to the contrary) where their target socio-political and economic interests are at stake. They are patriotic to a large extent but fail to realize that sometimes when an act of patriotism leads to a reactionary act, it becomes a burden and worrisome because it can involuntarily contravene and erode certain democratic principles and dispensations. And this is the crux of the matter in review.
I admit that I and, most probably, some of those that are not admirers of neither president Trump nor president Buhari, may not be so different from them when defending our political views. But then, while I consider myself as one who pays loyalty to broad-minded ideas in a global highway in order to show an allegiance to socio-political and economic experience to a large extent and character traits to a lesser extent, they seem to hold on to a double edge political view, sometimes in a broad minded manner and then in an awkward narrow minded manner, depending on the direction of the personal interests being pursued. Their views on the world’s social, economic and political trajectories, is another case-study. They embrace global commerce with Nigeria and the entire Africa as players. And they want to live in a global village in which everyone is free to travel to any part of the world without any restrictions based on race, religion or financial disposition. Paradoxically, they applaud and accept as an act of patriotism, all the trade protectionism, import tariffs war, travel and immigration restrictions targeting mainly people from poor nations, overt encouragement to the KKK and NRA and denigrations of civil rights movements such as Black-Lives-Matter, and many other adverse policies that have been made and implemented by Donald Trump. Unfortunately these attacks have not only erode the spirit behind globalization but also threatens the world’s economic and political order.
To me, this is quite striking taking into account that a good proportion of these Nigerians for Trump migrated to the USA in search of greener pastures, as they were not born with a spoonful in the mouth in Nigeria and definitely, not products of the US Ivy League institutions. They took advantage or are still taking advantage of the US social, economic, cultural and political privileges (US social security-welfare system) mostly fought for and implemented by the defenders of social justice in the US and Europe, especially the social democrats. But they took arms against the US Democratic Party with vague extreme right arguments.
Actually, I am somewhat taken aback by the ill-formulated reasons for their pro-Trump stance. They talk of social democrats, who are depicted as socialists for constantly advocating for the dispensation of social welfare and many other extreme right tirades. But at the same time, they decry the inactive Buhari’s administration for none provision of social welfare for the grand majority of Nigerians who can barely afford one square meal per day. I felt sorry for some of them when I realized their short-sighted views of political issues in Nigeria, the US and the world at large. I mean, if one is a bigot, a separatist or a secessionist, one should endeavor to be consistent and apply it in all political decisions and utterances. This is not the case with these folks, who are motivated by expected benefits that make them to dangle between Confucianism and fascism. Suffice it to say that any discerning mind out there would see the crystal correlation between Buhari’s extremism and divisive policies in Nigeria and Donald Trump’s in the US. Please be assured that I am not a Buharist. Yes, I was an admirer of Buhari as a military personel but not Buhari as a politician. And I am definitely, as you can imagine, not a Trumpist for a number of reasons.
To put it bluntly, based on Donald Trump’s utterances, which are more often than not, extremist and divisive, there is no doubt he is a color blind racist who is basically interested in those that vote for him and president Buhari is basically interested in protecting his Islamic faith (no worries), Igbo-phobic, very divisive in his political appointment policies and mainly governs for those states that vote for him. Therefore, the question is; why should Trump be seen as a hero whereas Buhari is considered to be the contrary?
I am also concerned about their lack of clear knowledge of political theories. They are, unfortunately, among the minority groups who have been checkmated by institutional racial policies yet they fail to see the dichotomy between descriptive political representation and symbolic political representation. They repeatedly show their lack of profound knowledge of the American history and the purview of the social divisions in that country. Let me reiterate, they have a right to their ideological inclinations. But the logic is that those in the minority group, socio-politically speaking, would take side with David rather than with Goliath. It is said that those who do not know where they are coming from, will not know where they are going to. And I say to you folks, if you turn your back to the realities of yesterday, you will surely have little argument to face tomorrow’s realities. Let’s not jump to the satirical conclusion that “everyone is a communist until he becomes rich, everyone is a feminist until he gets married and everyone is an atheist until the plane begins to crash”. It is better to learn before one becomes a victim, and this can be a reality if we pay less attention and adoration to deep pockets. We should begin to tear down the walls of segregations, ignorance and narrow mindedness that fuel nationalism.
I am anxious to know if this so-called “love Trump, hate Buhari group” (if ever any such groups exist outside the social media forums) talk about politics because they like it and understand its tenet or they talk about it because it enables them to stay alive in the social media and hoping to hook on some people who will bring them on board to strengthen their cravings for recognition in the society. Likewise, I do not know what they must have been through in the USA, Europe and elsewhere. But I do know that their misinterpreted Confucian idea is not what Nigerians need. Our home based folks who support Donald Trump, do so on the assumption that he is a Christian. I do not blame them because most of them are quite rooted in calling the name of God in vain, worship the God that grants prosperity and wards off evils that can stop them from acquiring their prosperity. So it makes no difference to them if Donald Trump is a racist or a narcissist as long as he calls the name of God in vain and proclaims he is God’s advocate on earth. They do not care to know whether he is doing so in order to guarantee himself the votes of the 70% white American voters.
I admit that one cannot be too particular about what I call “socioeconomic and cultural color blind racism” in the US and elsewhere. And this is because there is the prevalence of social stratifications in every nation in this world. And social stratifications begets economic, social, cultural and political discrimination or practice racism. Even in the homo-sapiens age, the strong men and women were treated as superior being and the weak ones dehumanized as inferior beings. The Roman Empire dominated and treated the rest of the Europeans and the Middle East as slaves. So racism and xenophobia have been part of the human evolution.
With this, I want to say that Trump did not create racism, obviously, and will not end it, even when willing, because this is a vice that has plagued the US for over 400 years now. But which is being fought against assiduously through political struggles and advocacy by the social democrats, the United Nations and other broad minded groups worldwide in order to abridge its impact. It is, therefore, wrong and unacceptable for someone or group of people like Trump and his associates, to drive this lengthy struggle back to the beginning through high voltage institutional utterances and divergent political policies. Any mind free from diversity bias, would easily identify where his institutional policies and utterances will ultimately lead to, if not hijacked now through the public out-burst. So if you believe in social peace and justice, you are color blind (what you see is human being and not the color of the skin), you believe in convergence against alienation and even if you believe in distributive justice, Donald Trump should not be your choice of a president for any country.
History of the world has shown us that from the Roman empire and beyond, the Christian crusade, the Moorish invasion of Spain, the Spanish Inquisition against the Jews and Arabs, the absolute kings, the colonization of America and annihilation of the native Indians, the imperial Muslim trans-Saharan slave trade, the imperial Christian trans-Atlantic slave trade, colonization of Sub-Saharan Africa down to today’s contemporary history, one form or the other of the three major types of racism; institutional racism, cultural racism and scientific racism, has been practiced and adopted to dehumanize one segment of the human race based on the color of their skin, gender, religion, ethnicity, geographic location, social status or physical features.
Scientific racism is honored by deluded leaders and pseudoscientists who associate intelligence, personality and behavior with race. The big acclaimed word for the Europeans was “superior race”, which they said they had over any other race in religion, education, culture, economy and in anything else. This was the major socio-cultural and political reason that empowered the transatlantic slave traders that dehumanized black Africans in the 16th century and in which philosophers like John Locke or fascists like Hitler and Mussolini based their arguments for the dehumanization of the black race.
Cultural racism, which has supplanted scientific or biological racism, may manifest in a three dimensional way; racism based on the assumption that one part of a given society is socio-linguistically or culturally superior to the other society within the same country or far away country. Socio-academic racism is based on the feeling of superiority over a certain segment within a country or over one race due to the high illiteracy rate among the members of the target race or segment. And the socioeconomic racism is based on the low purchasing power of the members of a given society who are singled out for high crime rate. The fact is that almost nobody considers himself or herself a racist; it is very offensive people like Trump would say. So we live in societies infested with racism but very few racists……..paradox. Racism is now being sugar-coated, president Trump and his folks would no longer say “superior race or culture but “European or western culture, which means the superior culture but milder and nicer to sound color blind”.
Institutional racism: most often institutional racism are those covert practices embedded in normal practices in a society. Some of these institutional racism are served on long history of racially distributed resources and ideas that come with qualitative policies that sustain discrimination in justice, quality education, healthcare, employment, equal opportunity (eg. the redline rules in the USA that set up ghettos). Some of these bad incentives are democratically dispensed through political ideology that honors scientific and cultural racism.
Contextualizing: the facts herein are encapsulated in the following ideas.
“All political systems are bad but some are better than the others, the renowned professor Giovanni Sartori said”. Without mincing words, both president Buhari and president Trump lack the four political leadership 101 qualities (abilities to direct, coach, support and delegate) that are essential to lead a nation. They may have excelled as cattle rancher or hotelier but not as nation building or sustainability leaders. So putting this on scale shows that in politics stupidity is not a handicap.
As George Soros noted, “we live in an imperfect democracy, our aim is to continue to reduce its imperfection”. Unfortunately, the two presidents living across the Atlantic Ocean are rooted in the imperfection of democracy.
In his defense of a pluralistic society, a former Spanish Prime Minister noted that “politics is the art of sharing the public space that we all live in”. Neither of the two presidents lives within the perimeter of the above message. One uses Christianity to stay alive in politics while the other is serving to protect the interests of his ethnic group in a multi-ethnic nation. While president Trump constantly looks for trouble, finds it everywhere but diagnoses it incorrectly and applies the wrong remedy, president Buhari is most often in silence mode, which justifies the saying that an empty stomach or an empty brain cannot be a good political adviser.
So considering the fact that some political systems are less fallible, that democracy’s imperfection can be curtailed and that diversity should be encouraged in any democratic society, the love Trump and hate Buhari Nigerians should know that “what is good for the goose is good for the gander or what is bad for the gander is bad for the goose”.
If they conscientiously analyze the alienating power of amoral presidents in history and its negative impact on the lives of the grand majority at the base of the pyramid today, they will come to realize that “no drugs, not even cocaine, causes the fundamental ills of our society”. They would have to tell the conservative politicians that if they are looking for the source of the society’s troubles, they should not test those at the base of the pyramid for drugs. They should test bad presidents and politicians for greed, stupidity, ignorance and the love of power.
Being a people oriented leader and believe in dispensation of social peace, is a clear demonstration of respect for mankind. As Mahatma Gandi said, “The earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs but not every man’s greed”.
Thomas Fuller said, “let him who expects one class of the society to prosper into the highest degree, while the other class is in distress, try whether one side of his face can smile while the other is pinched”.
Joe Illoh is a Nigerian-Spanish Diaspora and socio-political commentator with a Left progressive leaning. He is also of the global academics. Joe writes from Madrid, Spain.