By Kennedy Emetulu
MC: Welcome to the Nigerian Ignoramuses Olympics! This is a “Marathon ‘Leap in Logic’ Open Competition”. There are three Citizens in the arena, but the rest of you can join by just reading and later commenting. Please, please, please, you shouldn’t bother putting on your sportswear if you have a light brain, if you complain of long posts and if your attention span is only as good as that of a chicken. This is a long, long read that may bore you to ignominious death. There are no ambulances for people whose medullas pack up midway or who simply cannot keep up with the mental challenge. While there is nothing intimidatingly intellectual in this competition, it needs competitors to come to the reading field with their brains intact. So, please, don’t leave parts of your brain in Mushin and the other in Banana Island or inside Iya Sikira’s Amala joint. All views are welcome. No fighting!
(Abeg, make una give the gold to who jump pass O! No ojoro!)
Citizen A: Trump is silly to call El Salvador, Haiti and African countries “shithole countries”
Citizen B: Yeah, I’m no fan of Trump; but, let’s be honest with ourselves, he’s saying the truth. At least, I know that for a fact with regard to Nigeria. The truth is the truth, no matter who says it!
Citizen A: What truth?
Citizen B: That our country is a shithole. I mean, why are we complaining every day, writing theses against bad governance every day and marching up and down the streets if our country is a paradise?
Citizen A: But they are also writing long theses in America and marching from Washington to Honolulu complaining everyday na! Or is that how they do it too in Paradise?
Citizen C: Their own is different, but our own is because of pure suffering!
Citizen A: Not sure if people having a great time in Paradise have time to march from Washington to Honolulu, but our country need not be a shithole before we write long essays to complain about one thing or the other or march in the streets for the same purpose. Social and political actions are not determined by extremities of conditions, everything is relative.
Citizen B: You don start with your big grammar O! Wetin I talk na wey dey make you talk of social action this, political extremities that?
Citizen A: Okay, what I am saying is that I agree that we write long theses against bad governance every day and march in the streets as well. Yes, we are against bad governance and people perpetrating it precisely because we do not want our country to be so governed, precisely because we believe we deserve better than they are giving us. The fact that we have shitheads as leaders does not make our country a shithole, does it?
Citizen C: But can’t you see all the bad things happening? Some of them are not even caused by the leaders and politicians! Look at the Fulani killing people in Benue, for instance. These are ordinary Nigerians against Nigerians O! Look at Boko Haram!
Citizens A: So, you think these Fulani killings aren’t caused by politicians? You think Boko Haram has nothing to do with politics? Well, both are political campaigns sponsored and engineered by persons who stand to gain and who have an agenda of domination. Both wouldn’t be successful without political support or inaction from those who should act to stop them. And don’t think things like these don’t happen in America. For one, America was built on massacres and the society is still very much controlled through really, really bad work by the secret service. The black community, for instance, has been put in check through targeted killings. You need not look beyond how they took out the Black Panther, for instance. Of course, a state must defend itself against those it feels pose a threat to it, but you don’t do that without addressing the constellation of social problems that raise the core problem you have chosen to immediately address in the first place. So, if we really want to go that way, no matter the criteria adopted to categorise or identify shitholes, America will feature bigly.
Citizen C: I’m not convinced.
Citizen A: Okay, tell us what other bad thing that qualifies Nigeria as a shithole that is not happening in America.
Citizen C: Look at our president…..
Citizen A: How is Trump better?
Citizen C: But, at least Trump is doing something, he’s active, he’s not running off to some hospital or High Commissioner’s Quarters in London to hide for months.
Citizen A: True, but that is neither here nor there. Buhari is doing something too, like Trump; but the issue is what exactly are they doing and how beneficial are the things they are doing to their citizens?
Citizen B: Trump’s actions are benefitting America. He said America First, didn’t he?
Citizen A: Not according to the polls.
Citizen C: It’s all politics, jor! His base is still with him!
Citizen A: Buhari’s base is still with him too, but they weren’t elected to be presidents of their bases, were they?
Citizen B: Okay, see our National Assembly….
Citizen A: Have you checked the polling figures for US Congress in the past 10 years?
Citizen B: But whatever we say, we cannot compare American leaders with our leaders na!
Citizen A: Well, you brought leaders into this, but when we look at it clearly, Trump wasn’t talking ‘shithole’ with reference to leaders for the obvious reason that a shithole only refers to a place and not to a person. I mean, if there are ‘shithole leaders’, Trump will be at the top of the list! The point is his reference is to ‘shithole countries’ and that’s the real problem with those who wholly or partly agree with him, people who think their countries are truly shitholes because Trump says so or because they think there’s some truth in it.
Citizen B: But our leaders steal our money and hide them in other countries!
Citizen A: Okay, so where do they hide the money? Do they hide them in countries you and Trump regard as “shithole countries”? What is the general rule about someone who receives stolen goods? Trump is happy for this money to be brought into American banks, to be spent on his hotels, resorts and golf courses, so what does that say?
Citizen C: Our children can’t find jobs; they are crossing the deserts, drowning in seas in a desperate quest for a better life!
Citizen A: Many people can’t find jobs in America too, but they live in hope. Those who emigrate from America to seek greener pastures outside do not have the disadvantage of your children only because they are Americans. It’s a power equation skewed against you and your people and some people made it that way and they are not Africans, Haitians or Salvadorians. There is a reason an ordinary technician from Europe and America comes over here and becomes a specialist or chief engineer and then gets paid an arm and a leg to just walk around and be taught by local technicians. He’s an expatriate, isn’t he?
Citizen C: What about SARS? They are not leaders; they are just police killing people anyhow!
Citizen A: Do you know what’s driving Black Lives Matter in the US?
Citizen B: How about the kidnappings and murders?
Citizen A: Do you really want to compare the murder and kidnapping rates in America and Nigeria? I don’t think you will like the result….
Citizen C: Okay, I understand, but we shouldn’t just dismiss what Trump has said, it should be a wake-up call.
Citizen A: Wake up call for who?
Citizen B: Wake up call for us now!
Citizen A: For us? Who are the “us”? So, Trump is the one that’s woken you up? You never knew how bad things were until the racist Trump called your country a shithole, right? And now that he has done so, you are so touched, so moved, so inspired, you want to change things? Well, Trump is not the philosophical guide for Africans; he is not the one to wake us up from some imaginary slumber because we are very much awake and that is why he got a mouthful from Botswana and the African Union and that is why some of us are giving it to him with our small voices! Of course, we are the people responsible for ourselves. If we want good governance, we have to establish it through the democracy we have, no matter how imperfect. It is not the business of anyone in the West to insult us to action, certainly not a thoroughgoing racist like Trump! It is our duty to check the excesses of our leaders or those we have elected. No matter how long it takes us to learn the ropes of our democracy, we must independently commit to it and anyone who wants to lend a helping hand from the outside must do so respectfully, not insultingly. The days of colonialism are long gone! We know democracy is not a tea party. We, the people, have to rise to the challenge of defending our rights; we have to do the dirty work, not depend on Trump to kickstart our tired brains with his brand of idiocy. We have nothing to prove to Orange Hitler!
Citizen C: But you cannot deny things are very bad here na, can you?
Citizen A: Things are bad is different from calling a place a shithole and it’s quite different when this is delivered as an insult by a racist. Or, are you Citizen B living in a shithole? Are you Citizen C living in a shithole country?
Citizen C: Err….That’s not what I’m saying. In fact, yes, we are all living in a shithole country!
Citizen A: I am not living in a shithole country. My husband, son, daughter, mother, sister, father and my extended family are not living in a shithole.
Citizen B: Look at you, is it not obvious you are playing the ostrich, burying your head in the sand?
Citizen A: No, I am raising my head high proudly, like a daughter of Africa, a citizen of Nigeria because I know where the rain started beating us. People like me are not citizens who will lead foreigners to our ancestral treasures just because we hold their passports, we will not point to our family home with our left hand and walk by. Even if we endure difficult conditions, we are not cursed.
Citizen B: Oh, so you are now telling me that none of you in your family has ever paid bribe to a policeman, been turned back from a hospital, suffered electricity blackout, suffered from armed-robbery attacks, kidnappings, murders, etc?
Citizen A: So, none of these things are happening in America?
Citizen B: Err….Yes, they may be happening, but not as bad. However, one thing I know is not happening is electricity blackout, that one I know for sure!
Citizen A: Really? So, what is happening in Puerto Rico where the lights have been out for almost four months now? About half of the population is still without electricity as we speak.
Citizen B: Ehn?
Citizen A: Yes, Puerto Rico, no light.
Citizen B: That one no be America na.
Citizen A: Says who?
Citizen B: Ehn, but that is an exception. Natural disaster caused it.
Citizen A: Are natural disasters different from human disasters? Okay, Puerto Rico’s disaster is only about four months old, how about centuries old or decades old human disasters that have done more damage to people and communities in Africa than what’s happened in Puerto Rico?
Citizen B: Not sure what you’re talking about.
Citizen A: Have you visited Ogoniland? Have you visited the heart of oil exploration in the Niger-Delta?
Citizen B: Of course, I have. I come from the Niger-Delta.
Citizen A: Oh, so you are from the Niger-Delta?
Citizen B: Actually, I’m partly from the Niger-Delta and the North
Citizen A: Okay, what do you know about the oil-producing areas of the Niger-Delta?
Citizen B: Are you talking of the environmental degradation?
Citizen A: No, you just tell me what you like about the area. Assume I am an alien who just landed, and I want to know about this place. Tell me about the place and the people in the context of Nigeria and the world.
Citizen B: Well, they are lovely people, but their land can no longer produce fish or food crops because of the damage the oil production has caused to the land; however, Nigeria as a nation has made a lot of money from it. Basically, it’s the goose that lays the golden egg for the nation.
Citizen A: So, what’s happening to the goose now?
Citizen B: Look, this woman, let’s not get distracted! We are talking Donald Trump, not the Niger Delta oil spillage, abeg!
Citizen A: Who says we are distracted? Who says oil spillage, the Ogoni, Shell, the other oil majors and Donald Trump’s shitholes are not connected?
Citizen B: How are they connected?
Citizen A: Okay, answer me, do you know anywhere else in the world where Shell and these other Western oil companies drill oil the way they destructively do it in Nigeria? Have you seen this in Scotland, Norway or the Gulf, for instance?
Citizen B: Ah, don’t say that! There was a BP spillage in America!
Citizen A: Yeah, and what happened?
Citizen B: Obama made them do a thorough clean-up immediately and made them pay through their nose! But, hey, isn’t it the fault of our leaders who cannot hold the oil companies responsible? Didn’t they say recently that they were going to do some clean-up in Ogoni, what happened?
Citizen A: Nothing happened.
Citizen B: See? Nothing happened because this place is a shithole run by people who can just do anyhow and get away with it!
Citizen A: Perhaps, but do you really know why nothing can happen here? Do you know why the oil companies and the government pay no price?
Citizen B: I don’t know, but I know that this is why people take the risk to go to any length to leave this country! They queue morning till night at all embassies, find their way through the desert to Libya with many dying just like that, while those who get to the Libya end up as slaves, beaten, raped and thoroughly brutalised. If they escape, they get drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach Italy! Where else would these people be possibly running from but a shithole like this?
Citizen A: So, this soul-killing journey to Europe, why are they going there?
Citizen B: Isn’t that what we have been talking about? They are streaming out to these places to escape the shithole Trump talked about! Trump knows their condition here, which is why he worries about them transferring those conditions and bad culture to America!
Citizen A: Bad culture?
Citizen B: Yes. They will come with all sorts of criminal backgrounds acquired through serious suffering and once they get to a society that operates largely on trust, they would easily abuse the trust, thinking those people are mugu and so on.
Citizen A: Have you ever heard of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade?
Citizen B: What type of question is that? Of course, I’ve heard of the slave trade. But if you want to start preaching to me how they took our ancestors as slaves against their will, please, spare me! Africans sold themselves to white men, didn’t they? But today the reluctant African, shackled and gagged is no more; in his place is the African who would face death eyeball to eyeball to go do slavery work in Europe and America; Africans being rejected, but who will not stay home!
Citizen A: Have you heard of colonialism?
Citizen B: Hahahahahahaha! This woman go kill person! Na which kind yeye questions dem be this na? We dey elementary school? Okay, I don hear of colonialism, so wetin else? You want ask me whether I don hear of Mansa Musa, Jaja of Opobo and Mungo Park, abi? Ask!
Citizen A: I know you’ve heard of these and possibly have read a lot about them, but you seem not to appreciate their impact on the Nigerian society and how these still govern our relationship with the West. You still do not understand how much they contribute in creating the shithole you and Donald Trump say we are.
Citizen C: Oh, so you agree they’re shitholes?
Citizen A: No, I’m saying it’s what you call them, but whatever they are that made you call them so has only been made so by people like Trump and their relationship with the people and the land he calls shitholes – a relationship dating centuries.
Citizen B: Oh, you want to start blaming Donald Trump for all our troubles, abi? Donald Trump who came yesterday turned Nigeria into a shithole, right?
Citizen B: So, what about him?
Citizen A: Have you heard of the Bretton Woods institutions?
Citizen B: The World Bank, the IMF and all that, right?
Citizen A: Who permanently controls those institutions and why?
Citizen B: I don’t know why, but I know the US controls the World Bank and Europe controls the IMF.
Citizen A: Can you give me one example of any African country they have ever helped out of its economic woes?
Citizen B: Err….No, but is it their fault if our leaders are thieves and incompetents?
Citizen A: Maybe not, but supposing they are collaborators?
Citizen B: Well, that would be a different matter….
Citizen A: Do you know how much damage Western transnational companies do in Africa in the name of seeking raw materials or resources?
Citizen C: Yeah, we know that the economic relationship is skewed against us, but isn’t it time we begin to do something about it on our own; after all, we own the natural resources?
Citizen A: I agree, but the reality today is we are not doing anything about it.
Citizen C: So, why?
Citizen A: Well, it’s a matter of power. The power relation determines what one party can do. The West is not interested in us getting our act together and therefore they do everything to sabotage that possibility, including propping up bad leaders that will protect their interests against ours.
Citizen C: But isn’t that why we need to ally with someone like Trump who is not a western politician of the traditional mode?
Citizen A: Tell me, if Nigeria and Shell were tottering on the edge of a cliff about to fall off and Donald Trump has the opportunity if saving one, which do you think he would save?
Citizen B: Honestly, knowing Trump the businessman, I think he would rather save Shell O! Hehe!
Citizen A: And you are quite happy to say that, right?
Citizen B: No, I’m not. I’m just telling the truth as I see it. Trump will go for the money; Nigeria offers him nothing. Maybe if he had some business in Nigeria that will be different. That was why I was actually wishing that we get some of Trump’s brands into Nigeria. It will give us some leverage in the White House and create employment for our people, including creating training opportunities for the young and ambitious. People will learn the Trump way and progress in life.
Citizen C: So, which of the ways are we talking about? The pussy-grabbing way, the shithole way, the multiple bankruptcy way, the fake university way, the racist way or the misogynist way?
Citizen B: We Nigerians must prove to him that our countries are not shitholes!
Citizen A: Why do we have to prove this to a racist and a misogynist who is an embarrassment to his nation and the world? If we have to do things for our nation, do we have to take our cues from him? Was Trump around when we were fighting against military rule and bad governance in the sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and now? Where was Trump when our founding fathers were fighting for independence from colonialists? Why should Trump’s insult be the basis for action? Was there any time Nigerians stopped demanding for good governance that they now need Trump to insultingly remind them? Does the fact that we don’t have it yet mean we cannot get it?
Citizen C: But Trump is shaming these countries, so their leaders can perform!
Citizen A: You think Trump cares about you and your government? Have you heard him say anything meaningful about Africa by way of policy? Have you heard him say anything not insulting about Africa? You think Trump has a problem with Buhari massacring you or you all going extinct?
Citizen C: Okay, I get it that you do not like Trump, but he is not the President of Nigeria, El Salvador, Haiti or Nigeria. He’s the President of the United States and is doing things to protect America’s interest; who is stopping our leaders from doing things to protect us?
Citizen A: President Donald Trump and the political and economic institutions that sustain white supremacy.
Citizen B: How do you mean?
Citizen A: I’m saying neo-colonialism is the reason for the state we are in and until we Africans begin to move away from that psychological dependence on others who have directly or indirectly been historically in a position of power over us to chart our own course confidently, we wouldn’t be going anywhere fast.
Citizen C: Who is stopping us?
Citizen A: I told you, President Donald Trump and the political and economic institutions that sustain white supremacy.
Citizen B: How?
Citizen A: Well, the answer lies in historical conditioning. Let’s go back to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Do you know what 400 years of slavery takes from a society providing the slaves under the conditions these slaves were provided? Do you know what that contributed to the society receiving those slaves? For four hundred years, young people, men and women, the economic power of the region were carted into slave ships and taken away to the Americas where they were put to work to build the wealth of the United States and Europe. Meanwhile, their own homes economies dependent on agriculture died because the potential human resource and workforce were the ones being shipped away. Then there were the effects of declining population growth as a result of slavery and the psychological impact of the trade, which is insecurity. Those left behind for four hundred years weren’t able to go out to confidently farm because of fear of slave raiders and so on. You see, all I want to let you see here is the basic effect of four hundred years of slavery on a society. I’m not talking who is responsible, who is guilty or not guilty or whether Africans sold themselves to the white man or not and so on and so forth, I’m just interested in you seeing the effect economically for both sides. Basically, the Europeans and Americans gained and we Africans lost in those four hundred years. You can imagine the quantum of that loss.
Citizen B: But this is a long time ago now. How does that affect today?
Citizen A: It does affect us today because it’s a long chain whose effects are still tying us down in one form or the other. The slave trade is the beginning of the creation of the so-called shitholes you and Trump are talking about today. For instance, even though the slave trade ended principally because of the Industrial Revolution, another kind of burden replaced it in the form of “Legitimate Trade”. After that we had colonialism before our flag independence. What I am saying is that for about 600 years before our independence, Africans and their leaders everywhere were agents of Western designs first for their human resource in form of slaves and then for their raw materials for Western industries, because Africa did not have the army or the technology to successfully challenge the white man. This needs to be understood in this discourse, not glossed over.
Citizen C: Yeah, we are always regaled with this type of history, but I just don’t get how that helps now. Look at us, the whole of Africa, you cannot see one country that’s competing at the top. Of course, I know the white man did so much damage, but one would have thought a naturally blessed country like Nigeria, half a century after colonialism shouldn’t have any excuse.
Citizen A: In a sense, you are right. When the Europeans sat down in Berlin, London and Paris to divide up Africa, they knew very little about the African hinterlands, as their presence had been mostly limited to certain portions of the coast. In the vast African land, the only portions with some kind of substantial white settlements were Algeria and Southern Africa. Complete with their inaccurate maps, European negotiators simply went about drawing straight lines, geometric lines, lines of latitudes and longitudes, circles of arcs, taking no cognizance of cultures or existing national boundaries or territorial arrangements between peoples or whatever it was that was on the ground. For instance, the Bakongo were divided between Portuguese Angola, Belgian Congo and French Congo, Somaliland was partitioned between Britain, France and Italy. The new boundaries cut through more than 190 cultures and by the time the Scramble for Africa was concluded more than 10,000 African polities have been amalgamated into forty European colonies and protectorates. On the ground, the rule was enforced by treaties and conquests. While fearful rulers of some territories called for the Queen’s protection, scores of those who resisted were systematically conquered. Africa had no answer to the onslaught of the Europeans. Yet, in all this, Nigeria came out relatively better than every country. Its boundaries did not suffer much of the arbitrary demarcation that others witnessed and while it was comprised of more than 400 ethnic groups, it seemed to have been preserved as some sort of future black power, a beacon to conquered Africans. It was a very rich land, the jewel in the British African crown.
Citizen C: That’s the point I’m making; Nigeria should by now have been pulling its weight. It went through colonialism and came out of it peacefully without fighting a nationalist war, so what is her excuse?
Citizen A: I told you earlier – neo-colonialism. It is not exactly an excuse because it shouldn’t be, but it explains why things are the way they are.
Citizen B: How?
Citizen A: Yes, Nigerian nationalism granted us independence, but we didn’t have control. The white man still controlled things, which is why I like describing the independence as “flag independence”. Apart from leaving many colonial officers behind as technical advisers, the colonial overlords ensured that they left a political system they felt would be favourable to them and dependent on their advice and interference to “succeed”. They left us with a British-style parliamentary system but rigged the process to favour the North because they believed Northern leaders are more malleable. This is not a criticism of the North; it’s a fact. Our currency was tied to the British pounds and we were made import-dependent on them. Even our export economy was dependent on them to the extent that primary products exported returned to us in form of finished goods which meant we end up paying more in the exchange. And we are not talking worthy goods, but mere consumer items. Rather than invest in the indigenous economy, British-controlled trading concerns like UAC, Nestle and John Holt were the big businesses exploiting our massive market. Politically, we couldn’t do anything without the approval of London. Our top military men were trained in the UK and the British still controlled its affairs. In fact, in 1961 they even had the audacity to conceive an Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact, which would have had the British establish military bases in Kano. It took the activism of Nigerian students to see off the plan.
Citizen C: But the military came and upturned all their plans, didn’t they?
Citizen A: Not exactly because the military was also British-controlled and after Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi short stint at the head, the next nine years were under the leadership of then Lt Colonel (later General) Yakubu ‘Jack’ Gowon who emerged as the leader after the turbulence of the July 1966 Countercoup. Gowon later became a favourite of the British and the West who helped him against the Biafran secessionists and who continued to back him after the war. Though Gowon had the services of great nationalists like Obafemi Awolowo, Aminu Kano, Anthony Enahoro, Shehu Shagari, etc within his government, it was basically a pro-Western regime in an era of the Cold War. To have some kind of control of the national economy, Gowon introduced the Indigenization Decree, but still the fundamentals didn’t change.
Citizen B: But we became members of the Non-Aligned Movement and OPEC against Western interest
Citizen A: Yes, but these didn’t change much. The oil boom gave us a lot of wealth, but this was largely mismanaged. A lot of the stolen money ended up in Western banks and Westminster and Washington gave our political leaders cover in the West as they controlled the top range of the economy. Transnational companies like Shell and the other oil majors became law unto themselves as they dictated policy for our government. Indeed, what we see today as environmental degradation of the Niger-Delta through oil exploration is a direct result of the lack of control by our government over how the oil companies operate. This also explains their lack of investment in the downstream sector.
Citizen C: But the Murtala-Obasanjo military government confronted the West and Obasanjo nationalised Shell-BP.
Citizen A: Yes, apart from his bad reputation during the Countercoup of July 1966 and the Civil War, Murtala turned out to be a nationalist leader who really wanted to place Nigeria on a great pedestal, but for his confrontational foreign policy, especially as it concerns Western interest in Africa, he was killed in a coup widely suspected to have been sponsored by the West. This is in line with Western policy of eliminating or removing leaders who do not toe the neocolonialist line. This was the fate of people like Patrice Lumumba and Thomas Sankara who were killed and Kwame Nkrumah who was removed. The 1978 Obasanjo nationalisation was only in relation to the British interest in Shell-BP and also only with regard to investments in the downstream sector, which weren’t much. He said this was in protest against British policies in the then Rhodesia and Apartheid South Africa, but the same Obasanjo became CIA and America’s Man Friday in Africa, a position he still holds till today.
Citizen B: Okay, but we had the opportunity of a clean slate with the Second Republic, didn’t we?
Citizen A: You could say that, but the facts were that nothing really changed in terms of foreign policy. The Shehu Shagari government was a pro-Western government and the West still gave cover to our thieving politicians because their interests in Nigeria were protected.
Citizen C: The Buhari-Idiagbon government was certainly not pro-West.
Citizen A: The government was not, but it was also not pro-anything. It was totally clueless in foreign and domestic policy. It would seem its only focus was to abuse its own citizens through draconian policies. It was therefore easy for the government to be overthrown 20 months later because by then it had become an embarrassment to everyone, home and abroad.
Citizen B: How would you describe the Babangida government?
Citizen A: That was one of the most pro-Western governments Nigeria has ever had. Babangida understood he needed to court the West after the overthrow of Buhari, especially with its early policies relating to human rights. But it then fell into the Western orbit more deeply when it began to swallow hook, line and sinker some of the most anti-people economic policies proposed by the Bretton Woods institutions that championed the nation-stripping Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) that killed off the naira, crippled the manufacturing sector, bastardized education and crushed agriculture. British oil concerns led by Shell were also seen as being in cahoots with corrupt government agents, especially as the oil windfall of that period was never accounted for.
Citizen C: But no one will say Abacha’s regime was pro-West.
Citizen A: The rogue regime of General Sani Abacha was certainly a problem for the West, but their relationship also revealed Western hypocrisy with regard to Nigeria. For reasons purely selfish, having resolved to hang on to power at all cost after the debacle of the annulled June 12, 1993 elections, Abacha began to antagonize the West for what he considered to be their support for the pro-democracy movement in Nigeria, including opening their doors to political opponents of his government. But the irony is that on the matter of oil, the British government, the West and Shell seemed to see eye to eye with Abacha and his tough stance to eliminate every opposition that stood in the way of the environmentally-destructive exploitation of the resource. Shell was actually buying arms for and channeling money to elements of the Nigerian Army used to quell protests in the Niger-Delta. It is instructive that when Abacha ordered the judicial murder of the Ogoni writer and environmental activist, Kenule Saro-Wiwa along with eight others in 1995, it took an uproar of worldwide proportions to suspend Nigeria from the Commonwealth. Another irony is that Western banks became some of the most important havens for Abacha’s stolen stash. Till this day, these monies are still being traced.
Citizen C: We’ve had four governments since the 4th Republic, are you saying they all too are pro-West?
Citizen A: Okay, let’s be clear about this whole idea of being pro-West. There’s nothing wrong with a government being pro-West. You can be a pro-Western government and still be progressive and do the right things for your people. The problem with our governments is in the tendency to be neocolonial, that is they allow themselves to be dictated to in every important respect and most times because elements of the governments want some selfish things in return, for instance protection from the West and a place to hide the money they’re stealing. So, to that extent, they do not mind collaborating with the West to turn their countries into the so-called shitholes. Our experience in this 4th Republic is painful. Obasanjo and Yar’Adua certainly ran pro-Western governments. Obasanjo simply continued where he stopped as a military leader, but Yar’Adua was a little more circumspect. Nevertheless, before he could fully define his foreign policy, death claimed him. Jonathan’s government was not pro-West neither was it anti-West. But it fell prey to internal and external conspiracy.
Citizen C: How?
Citizen A: I believe Jonathan had the right ideological approach to dealing with the West and the US, but he did not have the right personnel to pursue it logically in London, Washington and at home, quite apart from the fact that he had an opposition at home that was more focused on taking power from him by all means and who were doing everything to achieve this, even where some of the things they did were clearly against our national interest. For instance, he never had the support of the opposition on national security as the opposition sold Washington lies about what was actually going on, while the Jonathan government stayed back or got conflicted in its own message. We saw this with the politics of the declaration of Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The administration sent out the then National Security Adviser, General Azazi to make the case in the US, but while he was at it, the same administration sent out its ambassador, Prof Adefuye to stop him. Meanwhile, no Nigerian official was making the case to Congress. They left that to Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor while the opposition was constantly briefing Congressmen with false information about Boko Haram being sponsored by Jonathan to perpetuate ethnic cleansing in the North and how the original militancy was as a result of poverty and lack of development and not terrorism. All these were lies, but no counter from the Jonathan government. It was therefore easy for Washington to begin to see Jonathan as an opposition, especially as he was doing more with the Chinese while opposing the US’s attempt to have a hold in the Gulf of Guinea with the US African Command, including actually getting the Liberian leadership to rescind an agreement to give the US space in Monrovia. Of course, considering the US relationship with Liberia, their pride was deeply hurt and they simply felt they now have a good reason to oppose the Jonathan government. However, the work of David Axelrod and his AKPD with the APC is simply business. We can say Axelrod’s relationship as a former staffer in Obama’s White House helped them, but that would be speculation, even if we can call it reasonable speculation.
Citizen C: So, how about the present Buhari government?
Citizen A: Hahahahaha! Isn’t it obvious? This government is beholden to the West in more ways than one. Haven’t you noticed how close Buhari is to the UK? Didn’t you notice how many times he was going and coming to the UK before the election, after the election before he was sworn in and after he was sworn in? You think Buhari will go and relax in the UK for months taking care of his health if he feels threatened by them? The truth is they helped whitewash his old image as a dictator who tried to kidnap Umaru Dikko and worked closely with US elements to install him. It was therefore no surprise to hear Buhari openly tell President Barack Obama how grateful he was that they made it possible for him to be president. Elements of the government are still massively stealing money and hiding it in the West and Trump is fine with the idea of a ‘strongman’ being president in Nigeria because he himself is an autocrat. Trump has no interest in good governance in Nigeria because he is not even trying to establish one in the US.
Citizen B: So, if Trump is friendly with people like Buhari why is he calling our country and others “shithole countries”?
Citizen A: He wasn’t attacking the leaders; he was attacking the people, those trying to seek greener pastures abroad. Remember the context of the comment. He was meeting with US Senators to try fashioning out an immigration policy and Senator Dick Durbin was explaining to him long-standing US commitments to certain class of vulnerable people from certain countries. That was when he blurted out that why is the US having people from those “shithole countries” wanting to come because he prefers that the US should rather be welcoming immigrants from a place like Norway.
Citizen B: Okay, why then are you guys worried this much about what he said about your country if he really does not care about Africa?
Citizen A: This is the most intelligent question you have asked since this discussion started. Here is the reason. Look back to Hitler. The mind of a racist and supremacist works systematically towards the annihilation of that which he does not like. First, a supremacist has no regard for a life that it thinks inferior. A supremacist in power will have to first establish that “inferiority” as a matter of law or something socially acceptable, so when he begins to eliminate you, it would look like him and his ilk doing society great good. Think Hitler and the Jews again. Note that there are Nigerians everywhere in America. They are in academia and in the highest level of industry and government. But once Trump begins to divide Americans on the basis of real Americans and those who come from “shithole countries”, what do you think will happen to these Nigerians, even those established as citizens? Remember that citizenship is not saving black America, just like it didn’t save Jews in Germany. This is the guy who tried to delegitimise a black American president by declaring he was Kenyan and not American. This was the singular basis of his rise to the highest office, not the win against Hillary Clinton.
Barack Obama’s election struck fear into the heart of American racists and after him they had to work to elect a racist to return to the basis of their power over America. They needed the reassurance. Or, what do you think is driving such movements as the Tea Party or the Alt-Right? You think it’s winning by the ballot? No, it’s domination through fear. Trump by talking “shithole countries” is actually using a dogwhistle; his racist base understands him, just as they understood when he legitimised them with his comment over Charlottesville. Trump is preparing the grounds for another culture war based on racism with his opponents. He’s preparing his campaign for 2018 midterm and his 2020 reelection bid and he wants them to be based on immigration because that is what will energise his racist base and white America. In 2016 he used racism and misogyny to divide the country and take the electoral college vote that matters; this time, he is aiming for another version of “we” versus “them”.
He deliberately made the comment because he knew a liberal Senator like Dick Durbin would run to the public with it. That’s exactly his intention – Durbin says it and he denies it unconvincingly, but making sure his base gets the message. He knows the liberals will always defend liberal values of universal brotherhood and the openness of American society, so they would easily be tied to the people from the “shitholes”.
That way, he collars them with a burden in the midterm elections because it’s easy to stigmatise a liberal running for office by saying he supports people from “shithole countries” overrunning America and destroying their way of life. Once he gets the rest of America “defending” America First, the liberals lose, but this time through the employment of a more dangerous version of racism. The world knows this and that is why there is this massive uproar against him. He is laying a vile foundation and people like you, Citizen B and Citizen C are helping him by saying he’s saying the truth about your countries because you are losing sight of the big picture. It’s not about good governance in your country, it’s about culturally dividing America further in order to retain Congress and the White House. This is Demagoguery 101, but the effect would be really bad for America and the world.
Trump is an evil racist and should be rejected in totality; but what you are doing by thinking there is some truth in what he’s said is actually enabling him. He did not call your country shithole because he wants to do something about the conditions there; he called it shithole because he despises you while he hobnobs with your leaders who are his collaborators.