“Africans seem to have a monopoly of corrupt leadership. I mean the scum of our race dominates us. I mean these pigs seek individual luxury in the midst of mass suffering of the suffering of the masses. So there’s no question here. We have the most corrupt leadership in the world.”—Kwame Ture.
The report by the Financial Times on the remarks of the US president, Donald Trump wherein he referred to Nigeria’s president as a lifeless individual has been a topic on the lips of virtually everyone both in the mainstream and social media. Like every other development, Trump’s statement has been met with both condemnation and praise by people on both sides of the pro-Buhari and anti-Buhari divide. The nation, being one wherein the people find it almost impossible to detach sentiments from core issues of governance, public policy and international relations makes it not surprising to find a number of them pat the voluble US president in the back for spewing such an irresponsible statement.
While the remark was allegedly made behind closed doors, still, it is deserving of condemnation by every national who sees President Buhari as the face of the country having been duly elected and sworn in to steer the nation for four years. Having said that, we cannot help but embark on a partial or complete detachment of the message from the messenger; after all, the black pot is known to produce white edibles, a reality Nigerians in particular are well conversant with. Politicians with morbid reputations are known to sermonize us on pristine virtues once they find themselves on the receiving end of the power play. Thus, it should not come as a surprise hearing a morally deficient man like Trump speak some bitter truths, the latest being directed towards our direction.
From time immemorial, African leaders have gained notoriety for coveting their foreign counterparts in ways suggesting kowtowing and inferiority complex. While they remain mostly unpopular back home due to a combination of alarming mediocrity, treasonous clannishness and wanting to maintain a larger-than-life posture at the expense of their people, they wallow in self-delusion, thinking should they be seen in the company of white men, the people back home may see their position as being synonymous with that of a proverbial nation who condemn her prophets only for outsiders to find them worthy of admiration and praise. This is why they greet, grovel and grin not only before leaders of foreign lands but their surrogates. African leaders do not have a monopoly of this sick mentality (Fela called it colo mentality) as their citizens also have a reputation to despise fellow blacks while giving free pass to foreigners.
Africa is renowned for its underdevelopment as the west is reputed for its massive development, one that cuts across every sphere of human endeavour from the arts through science, technology and education. Like the revolutionary thinker, Brother Walter Rodney wrote in his epic, How Europe underdeveloped Africa, “the moment that one group appears to be wealthier than others, some inquiry is bound to take place as to the reason for the difference”. This is why observers hinged this disparity in development on the twin pivot of freedom and respect western nations accord their citizens, qualities lacking in Africa without which the people would find it impossible to think beyond survival at the very base level. Trump, like his colleagues in the west has no modicum of respect for African leaders. We are criticising Trump because of his tactlessness. Other world leaders oiled in the rudiments of diplomacy nurse far worse bile against leaders of “the savage kingdom” which the Nigerian president (un)fortunately remains an integral member of. Until African leaders put their people first, they will not only remain ugly in the eyes of the people at home but amongst others outside of the region.
Nations are respected as they are feared by others not based on the fecundity of their propaganda machineries but on their standing in the world scene. As it stands, Nigeria is inconsequential even to serious nations like Ghana and Rwanda not to mention the United States whose economy trumps that of the entire continent by more than a factor of ten. Above and beyond Buhari’s laconic mien, health challenges and senility – realities that are only natural for a man of his parochial worldview and age (I believe the president is much older than he claims) – his colourless disposition coupled with his lack of grasp and understanding of the requirements of modern-day governance gave Trump the impression that occupying the same podium as his Nigerian counterpart pose no challenge to him nor his people. This is the lifelessness President Trump refers.
However, marginalizing such a remark strictly to the person of Muhammadu Buhari is an indication of a lack of grasp of the sorry situation the country and countrymen are in, one that makes them compete in open defecation with goats and pigs, drink unsafe water with fishes and shrimps, sleep in the open like earthworms and flies, and more blatantly, the lethargy amongst a population peopled by at least 120 million agile youths who have chosen to not take control of their collective destinies in the face of a hopelessly corrupt political class hell bent on sabotaging their future.
While Trump is known for his perennial misspeak and verbal diarrhoea against world leaders including those of developed nations like Britain and Canada, it is particularly not surprising that Africa has been most hit by his acerbic comments. A couple of months ago, he labelled Africa a shit hole littered with huts. Before that, he had made the deportation of immigrants – many of whom are Africans (Nigerians especially) – a focal point of his manifesto, with his electoral triumph affording him the opportunity to carry out his machinations against fellow men whom he and his supporters call usurpers and criminals.
Donald Trump had the effrontery to call Buhari a lifeless creature because he knows too well that such a damned rhetoric resonates well amongst a sizable number of Nigerians who have become lifeless through the vivid polarization, acute corruption and conniving insecurity that although made Nigeria home since independence, have become more entrenched since the ascension of Mr Buhari to the highest office. They see their president junket beyond the blue sea each time he has a migraine while they are left to die in hospitals lacking in infrastructure and equipment. They saw the president flash pictures of his children graduating from posh schools outside of Nigeria while citadels here struggle to maintain a consistent supply of chalks.
President Trump’s remark was not a consequence of ignorance. He sits atop a nation that has become the policeman of the world. We remember one of ex-president Jonathan’s salvo when pressed on the massive corruption in his administration, saying such a humongous sum could not have gone missing without the knowledge of the US. Trump knows too well the misery that afflicts us as a nation. With our president embodying such misery however posh his looks, it would not be out of sync to qualify him in ways that reflect the realities of our wretched condition: lifelessness.
While it’s true that President Buhari met the nation on life support, he has done very little to breathe some life into her. In many core areas of our national life, Buhari has further drawn life from them while in others, he removed them from life support only to inject some heavy doses of virus into them. Let’s consider insecurity. While making significant gains on the war on terror (Boko Haram), the president, via his clannishness and ethnocentrism allowed killings by herdsmen fester in significant portions of the country especially in the north central. His political naivety and mediocrity on economic issues led to the plummet of the naira, thus nurturing the economy his predecessors had planted on quicksand.
Since Buhari became president, he has neither shown the capacity nor discipline, not even the nationalistic drive to put life into Nigerians. Both policy-wise and through leading by example, the president has been lifeless in conducing the nation’s educational goals into achieving those set out for the nation; he has been lifeless in kick-starting a process that would get Nigerians affordable health care; he has been lifeless in putting food on the table of a significant portion of the populace; and most damningly, his life has been on leave on issues concerning governance, fairness and accountability, qualities lacking among all of his predecessors whose traces nationals found in him to have pricked them into putting him in office.
This is why the masses must condemn and commend President Trump at the same time. The former based on sovereignty and the latter for saying what we all as citizens and victims of the treachery of the Nigerian state ought to say. The reality is that with 87 million souls living below $2/day, Nigeria trouncing India to become the poverty capital of the world, maternal and infant mortality on the rise, the nation becoming a vast morgue in ways surpassing most war-torn countries, Nigeria under the leadership of Muhammadu Buhari has become a lifeless country, a space occupied by creatures who delude themselves with the thought of living while in the real sense, they are only existing.
The president is one of us. His, like ours, is not living but mere existence. Mr Trump got it right this time. Our president is lifeless.
Modiu can be reached on [email protected]