By Morak Babajide-Alabi
When Donald Trump, the president of the United States America last week used derogatory words to describe some countries, one cannot debate the fact that Nigeria was on his mind. Although he did not disclose this, no one should be in doubt on Trump’s real evaluation of the country.
Trump, who is under fire right now made the comments at the Oval Office, his official office in Washington. The world immediately rose in unison to condemn this man who is gradually turning himself into the greatest joke of the century. In a reaction, the spokesperson of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, Rupert Colville lashed at President Trump for referring to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole countries.” He said: “There’s no other word one can use but racist” to describe the remarks and not “just a story about vulgar language, it’s about opening the door to humanity’s worst side.”
The African Union (AU) mission to the UN on Friday also called for an apology from Trump. In a statement, the union expressed it’s “infuriation, disappointment and outrage over the unfortunate comment” and demanded “a retraction” as well “as an apology, not only to the Africans, to all people of African descent around the globe.”
While Trump had not mentioned Nigeria by name in his latest comments, he has a history of derogative comments against the country and the citizens. During his campaign for the office, he was reported many times to have singled out Nigerians as part of the group of immigrants he would turn his searchlights on. As recent as some months ago, he was also reported to have made the comment that Nigerians, in their thousands would never “go back to their huts” once they saw his country. This was denied by the White House at the time; however, his recent remarks seem to have confirmed this trail of thoughts.
But who will blame Donald Trump if he had actually made the comments about Nigerians? Despite the various positive contributions of many Nigerians in the US and all over the world, recent events back at home can propel any man or woman to make untoward comments on the country. And unfortunately, the opinion of other world leaders on Nigeria does not seem any much different from the eccentric Trump’s.
There is no worse (or better) time to further tarnish the image of the supposedly “giant” of Africa than now. The news coming out of the country is not good at all. To be honest, it’s been a while any good news or development that has cheered the world come out from there. It is as if this naturally blessed populated country is wired to move from one image disaster to another. Can we, therefore, blame Trump, based on happenings in the country?
The magnitude of violence reported in the latest Benue/Taraba farmers and nomadic herdsmen clash is a good reason to think our country actually exist in the past century. The scale of the killings by the herdsmen has been on the rise for some time and it is not abating. The images of herdsmen with AK47 grazing cows have become part of our national identity now. Gone are the days when they are identified with their bows and arrows. Nowadays, they are armed to the teeth as they shepherd their flock from the dry lands of the north through the middle belt to the green southern fields.
We cannot play ignorance to the rate at which these herdsmen have been killing innocent citizens that resist their cows damaging their crops. The world’s attention once again was turned to this region as the clash in the death of eighty people. This figure, I hasten to say, should be taken with a “pinch of salt”. There is the likelihood that the fatalities experienced were more than the official numbers reported.
I am not unnecessarily being mean here, but it is a fact we all know – official figures are not usually correct in Nigeria. Ask the staff at the National Office of Statistics, the population figures for each state of the federation and you will be shocked that what they have are either estimates or conjured up figures.
On Thursday our eyes welled up with tears once again, when seventy-three of the causalities were committed to mother earth. It was such a sight to see the coffin lined up and conveyed to their final resting places. This, once again, has reminded us all of the dangers and insecurity that Nigerians live with every day. It is unfortunate that these avoidable deaths have now become part of us.
These are the types of images that come up in the heads of world leaders, such as Trump. He, like others, would wonder what is going on in a country with constituted army, police, and other security apparatus. Yet these killings go on daily with no arrests or prosecutions. What image do you think a leader such as Trump would have of our country?
It was not long ago that the image of the Boko Haram group leader, Abubakar Shekau became synonymous with the highest authority in the country. At that time foreign media were routinely using Shekau’s image to illustrate Nigeria. As funny as this may seem, it was the reality when our security agencies struggled for so many years to “conquer” the ragtag “army” called Boko Haram. And you expect Trump to rate us highly. Do you?
Where else on earth have we heard hundreds of sleeping students kidnapped in a school hostel? No other country has reported such a large scale kidnapping of innocent citizens. Where else on this earth do people start counting the number of days in captivity, rather than make efforts to free them? It only happened in Nigeria. Where else, apart from Nigeria, are funds meant for the fight against terrorism mismanaged while individuals corruptly enriched themselves?
Yet, we expect Trump to respect us as a country when we cannot even manage our refineries because of corruption? Long fuel queues are routine in the country that rank as one of the leading producers of crude oil, and we still have the temerity to blame Trump for his comments. It is a country where workers go many months without being paid their wages. Where people die because the government rather than provide basic health facilities would commission elephant projects to compensate individuals for political patronage.
Yet we all blame Trump for his comments. Now we can guess why the government may not find words to condemn Trump. The citizens are angry, but not for how Trump has described their country. They are angry because Trump took the words from their mouths and said it to the whole world. They describe Nigeria with more harsh words than Trump had used.
Don’t blame Trump. Blame our vison-less leaders.
As published in the Sunday Vanguard of January 14, 2018.