Yesterday, 27th August, 2018, many Nigerian news outlets carried a reportage on an insult allegedly sent in the direction of President Buhari by President Donald Trump after a meeting between the two leaders in April 2018. The Punch wrote that “”Financial Times, in the publication titled, ‘Africa looks for something new out of Donald Trump’, stated, “The first meeting, with Nigeria’s ailing 75-year-old Muhammadu Buhari in April ended with the US President telling aides he never wanted to meet someone so lifeless again, according to three people familiar with the matter.””
Since the publication made the headlines, as is usual with Nigerians, two opposing groups, one supporting Mr. Trump and the other against have emerged with each trying to outshout the other. The alleged Mr. Trump’s insult has provided fodder to the cannon of the opposition, with some calling for Mr. Buhari’s outright resignation. They are calling for Mr. Buhari’s head because a foreign leader insulted his carriage and cogitative style. At the other end of the divide, Mr. Buhari’s party in power will like everyone to remember the famous 800-metre Sallah walk as a sign of life in Mr. Buhari.
An interesting question that comes to mind is whether Mr. Buhari already had foreknowledge through his intelligence services that this claim of lifelessness was going to be published, so he walked or did he just walk for the fun of it? Or is it that the opposition seeks to debunk his walk through Trump’s claims of lifelessness? We will never know.
However, what both opposing political groups and the different non-partisan voices that have joined in the fray seem to be forgetting is that the Presidency is a national symbol currently being held by Mr. Buhari. It is like our flag, our currency, our constitution. It is not to be derided by anyone, particularly foreigners. And if it happens, as is the case under question, it is the collective responsibility of the entire citizenry irrespective of their political affiliations to jointly condemn such an insult.
Just to cite a few examples of responsible patriotism: at the height of the spat between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim Jong Un of North Korea, Mr. Un called Mr. Trump a ‘mentally deranged U.S. dotard’ who is “is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician.” We did not read of any American supporting this view. All Americans irrespective of their political leanings took side with their president. No American took the side of Kim Jong Un. No one asked Trump to resign because a foreign leader labelled him as being unfit to rule a country.
When Mr. Trump called Kim Jong Un “an obvious madman” in September 2017, we didn’t read anywhere that North or even South Koreans rolled out drums and sided with him.
After the G7 summit in June 2018, Mr. Trump insulted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling him “meek and mild.”….“very dishonest & weak.” We did not read or hear of any reports that the Canadian opposition demanded the resignation of Trudeau, just because Trump conflicted with him on views. All Canadians stood solidly behind their national symbol.
In November 2017, Donald Trump publicly challenged Theresa May tweeting “….don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom”
British citizens did not collectively appreciate this.
Mr. Trump’s insult of President Buhari has no intrinsic political worth to governance in Nigeria and should not be taken beyond being reported as another example of his unbridled tendency to demean others. So commonplace is this tendency that New York Times compiled a list (probably not exhaustive) of the people, places and things that this American President has insulted on Twitter. See (The 487 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List) https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/01/28/upshot/donald-trump-twitter-insults.html
The list has to be updated to include Mr. Buhari…..
Finally, Nigerian politicians need their heads examined. Using an unsolicited uncourteous comment by a foreign leader towards the Nigerian president as a campaign tool is a reckless abuse of democracy. Patriotism comes first.
Abimbola Lagunju is a writer and author of several books.