THE HORIZON BY KAYODE KOMOLAFE
President Donald Trump of the United States was as active as ever on Twitter yesterday as he continued the rhetorical assaults on his angry fellow citizens protesting racism.
The American president elected to do that on the day of the funeral of George Floyd rather than douse the fire on the streets with a unifying speech expected of a leader in such a crisis situation.
Such a posture was, of course, consistent with the tear-gassing peaceful protesters within the vicinity of the White House and threatening to deploy troops to end the protests.
For 15 days now American cities and other places in the world have been engulfed by anti-racist protests triggered by the horrific police murder of Floyd, an African-American. The other day, the statute of a slave trader, Edward Colston, was pulled down in Bristol, United Kingdom, as part of the protests.
A few days ago, a Nigerian living in Germany called this reporter to find out if there were protest marches in Nigeria in response to the American situation.
No such protests have taken place here; the attention of the caller was instead drawn to the shallow appreciation of the tragedy in the United States by some Nigerian observers on the social media. Some of the social media gurus and activists have even questioned the relevance of what is happening in the United States to Nigeria in the light of “our own many problems here at home.”
Trump and racism in America are not topical here, according to some of the positions stated in the public sphere.
If President Muhammadu Buhari threatened to deploy troops so as to put an end to street protests in Abuja after the police had dispersed with tear gas some protesters close to Aso Rock, there would be torrents of lessons on “democracy” and “human rights” from Washington. In fact, almost immediately diplomats in the America embassy in Abuja would have swung into action to let the Buhari administration know that such oppressive actions were unacceptable.
Now, imagine turning the table today. It would sound so outrageous (and, in fact, reckless) to some Nigerians, if Nigeria and other African countries were to issue statements in solidarity with the black people in America who are subjected to murderous treatment by the police. It would be deemed a diplomatic faux pas of monumental proportions.
Such is the ideologically crippling influence of imperialism and neo-liberalism in Africa at present.
In retrospect, you wonder if this was the same continent in which General Murtala Mohammed made his famous “Africa Has Come of Age” speech in the golden age of Nigerian foreign policy. In 1976, Murtala, unhindered by inferiority complex now noticeable in African diplomacy, told the United States in plain terms not dictate to Africa in matters of decolonisation on the continent.
Before Murtala, a generation of pan -Africanists including Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Moddibo Keita etc. intellectually drew a link between the interests of Africa and those of the people of African descent all over the world. The elite who fought the anti-colonial struggle were more conscious of history than the elite of this neo-liberal era.
Intriguingly, Trump’s admirers in Africa have always viewed the American leader’s actions as beyond reproach. His extreme right-wing supporters, who mistakenly see in the appallingly immoral political figure a “spiritual warrior against the Anti-Christ foisted on America by the Democrats,” have rationalised his statements and actions.
The most absurd of this rationalisation came when Trump called African countries “shitholes.” In a moment of pitiable self-flagellation, some Africans saw some “bitter truths” in this purely insane statement. According to them, bad leadership in Africa justified the vicious hate speech.
On November 16, 2016, this column questioned the moral content of American politics in the aftermath of the election of Trump.
Wondering if the United States was “still a moral leader,” the following observation was made in the piece entitled “America’s Different Election,” :
“In no way could the last week election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States of America be called a tribute to liberal democracy. The months of campaigns preceding the unusual election witnessed an egregious debasement of the much-advertised liberal democratic ethos of the West. And let no one say that the shocking outcome of the election is only the business of the U.S.
“ America has not been minding its own business alone. With the emergence of Trump, America has lost his claims to moral leadership of the world.
“A nation having as its Commander-in-Chief a racist, religious bigot and misogynist, at once, cannot be universally accepted as a moral and political leader. America’s unsolicited lectures about liberal democratic values, decent elections, freedom, globalisation, civility, humanity etc. will henceforth loose some audience around the world. After all, if you ask the American troops deployed in parts of the world what their business is at their posts, they would readily tell you they are there to promote “democracy and freedom.” As the African Legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, would put it, the rest of the world (especially the emerging liberal democracies) might soon be telling America that ‘teacher, don’t teach me nonsense.’
“Not Yet the End of History.
“Perhaps the huge decline in American politics would be better appreciated if this uncertain moment in U.S. history is contrasted with the triumphalist mood in the West 24 years ago when Francis Fukuyama published his famous book, The End of History and the Last Man. In a moment of intellectual hubris, Fukuyama declared victory for liberalism in the great ideological battles of the last century which came to a climax post – World War II.
“According to him, the apogee of political culture had been reached in liberal capitalist democracy. The book came out of the press amidst the ferment of “democratisation” across the globe. The Berlin Wall had fallen to the shock of communists. Soviet Union had become history. The bloody event of Tiananmen Square had happened in China three years earlier. American experts and consultants flooded Eastern Europe and even Russia itself marketing their model of liberal democracy.
“In this age of Trumpism, it could be safely said that it is not yet the end of history. And this is certainly not the best of times for liberalism. For a long time thinkers would continue to ponder the import of what has happened to the U.S.
“To be sure, thoughts would be generated on an American electoral season at the end of which street protests erupted in an unprecedented fashion…
“Incidentally, the same celebrated American political scientist, Fukuyama, who has been proved wrong on his projection of liberal capitalist democracy by history, almost predicted what happened in America last week.
“In his 2014 book, Political Order and Political Decay, Fukuyama identified the decay of the American political system: ‘Decay by definition is occurring in the United States today, and is the result of the intersection of two forces. On the one hand, American society has changed. It has become more polarized and class-ridden; Americans are sorting themselves out residentially in ways that make it easier for politicians to appeal to ideologically pure positions on the left and right. At the same time, there has been a huge increase in the number and sophistication of interest groups, which have been liberated from constraints on their rights to spend money on political campaigns by a series of Supreme Court decisions.’
“All told, a different question to ponder is this: has globalisation come to a dead end with the Trumps of this world?”
The above excerpts appeared on this page four years ago.
Incidentally, only last Friday, the London Financial Times also questioned the morality of the Trumpist politics in America.
In an editorial entitled “America’s battered moral standing,” the newspaper said among other things:
“America’s state department last weekend called on “freedom-loving people” to hold China to account for its vow to impose a national security law on Hong Kong. A Chinese official instantly tweeted: “I can’t breathe”. The riposte was no less stinging for its sarcasm.
Images of US law enforcement breaking up demonstrations after the suffocation of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American, already harm US moral standing. The fact that President Donald Trump describes the mostly peaceful protesters as “thugs”, “killers”, and “domestic terrorists” makes the damage incalculably greater. Previous presidents have been accused of hypocrisy after similar tragedies. The world is well-versed in US racial inequities. Yet never before has a US president demonised in blanket terms those protesting against injustice.”
The foregoing quotes are just to demonstrate the point that it is a misplaced reading of history to say that issues of racial injustice in the United States should not be of concern in Nigeria. The contemporary material reality and the sheer weight of history belie such a proposition. Pondering American racial injustice doesn’t amount to Afghanistanism, that’s focusing on foreign topics as an escape from discussing local problems.
In a video circulating in the social media, a white female speaker posed a challenge to her largely white American audience: let any white person who would like be treated the way blacks are treated in America raise up his or her hand. Nobody responded. So, the problem is real.
During the American campaigns in 2016, Trump’s Democrat opponent, Hillary Clinton, warned America about Trump’s “dangerously incoherent ideas.” Her admonition went unheeded with Trump’s victory. America is already reaping the fruits of the seeds of these toxic ideas of hate, prejudice and division wildly sown into the American political and societal landscape.
Trump’s impetuous tweets, venomous rhetoric and unjust anti-immigrant policies have combined to nourish an ideological ecosystem in which racism and other forms injustice flourish.
Nigerians resident in the U.S. and Americans of African descents live in this pervasive climate of racism and injustice.
The Nigerians among the blacks living with this American tragic reality constitute a significant percentage of the Nigerian diaspora making remittances for the sustenance of their family members and friends here at home.
It has been estimated that such remittances from Nigerians abroad could be as much as over $20 billion a year. It’s doubtful if Nigeria would receive up to that amount this year from royalties on crude oil sales.
Some experts have even suggested that the immense material, intellectual and moral resources from Nigerians abroad should be better structured to enrich and energise the political economy as it is done in India, Pakistan and Israel. It took Fareed Zakaria to showcase on CNN last year the highly significant contributions that Nigerian professionals and others are making into the American economy and society. It was a brilliantly scripted counter-poise to Trump’s anti-immigrant moves targeting some Nigerians among other aliens in the United States.
It is, therefore, another symptom of the impoverishment of the public sphere to suggest that what happens to fellow Nigerians in the United States, who remit billions of dollars yearly into the economy, is not relevant here for discussion.
The poverty plaguing the land should not only to be measured by the number of those living on less than $2 a day.
There is also the prevalent moral and ideological poverty in the land. This could be gauged, for instance, by the response to the racism which threatens the well-being of over 40 million blacks in America.
Out of the 54 countries in Africa, only 10 have populations higher than the population of blacks in the United States.
The failure to draw a historical link between the fate of the black victims of injustice in Trump’s America and the strategic interests of Africa is in itself a tragedy.
“The failure to draw a historical link between the fate of the black victims of injustice in Trump’s America and the strategic interests of Africa is in itself a tragedy”