By Yinka Ajayi
Hopeful of Hillary Clinton emerging as the first American woman President, yet peeved at Nigeria’s neutral stand on the Tuesday, Nov. 8, US election, Professor Ralph Akinterinwa, a renown scholar of international affairs, in this interview, says America may lose its status as the world only superpower if Mr. Donald Trump emerges as the next US President.
Amid the scandals that sometimes dog electoral campaigns, how do you describe the coming US presidential election?
It is an election the global community has shown interest, for obvious reasons. It is the first time that an American woman wins the nomination of a major political party in the U.S. Secondly, it’s a time the world expects a woman to preside over American affairs. America recorded its first by electing Barack Obama as the first African, American to emerge as US President. So, it is very likely that Mrs. Clinton would be elected the first woman President in U.S. history.
The polls show a tight race. What do you think?
Mr. Trump is ahead in some states, but, overall, no one is certain so far. The truth is that the skeleton in the cupboard of Hillary Clinton is e-mails, while the skeleton in the cupboard of Donald Trump is not just taxes but also women. When you consider the percentage of uncommitted voters, it is likely that the issue of e-mails would not count much. The Director of FBI who is making an issue of that has already been indicted. There was another report by the FBI that the e-mails issue is not to be addressed immediately. Moreover, US laws do not allow public servants to abuse their office by revealing official and unofficial information. At the end of it, the opinion of the people will justify if the issue of e-mails would stand against Clinton.
But how does the emergence of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump benefit Africa and Nigeria in particular?
We can consider this from two perspectives: first, the attitude of the Nigerian government in not being partisan is not encouraging. In international politics, if you do not sow, you will not reap. But to reap, you cannot reap where you have not sown. Since the Nigerian government appears to have adopted a neutral approach, who ever is elected, we will relate with. Our position thus has merits and demerits. For instance, the United States and Russian relations is a critical issue in the campaign.
Meanwhile, Trump is a major supporter of the Russian government and Russia has made it clear that Americans should not make the mistake of electing Hillary Clinton, saying there would be consequences. In other words, Russia already taken a partisan approach. It means that if Clinton is elected, it will have a great impact either positively or negatively on Russia.
Also, the United Kingdom is a permanent supporter of the United States. If any one emerges the President, the UK would always go along because neutral policies are good for them. But at the level of Africa and Nigeria in particular, if I were in the position, in the state of our nation, neutrality is a very bad approach. There is need to identify with the politics of a nation like the United States. Knowing who to support and what we intend to achieve at the end of it. But when you adopt a neutral position, your foreign policies would be, at best, on a routine basis.
For instance, why is the US always ready to protect Israel in any circumstance. It is simply because we know where Israel stands in international politics. In this case, Nigeria is neither a friend or an enemy of the US. Nigeria would be treated on merit depending on the national interest at stake. We are in a world of real politics. We can only adopt a neutral stand if we are strong enough. We can misinterpret this as being subordinate to the world powers. The issue is that Nigeria is strong enough to make herself relevant in global politics.
When Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi came up with the idea of Concert of Middle Powers, the rationale then was to make Nigeria relevant by contributing ideas. That was why he brought middle power countries to meet in Nigeria. That body later became the Lagos Forum. But observers did not understand the strategic calculations involved. What Nigeria ought to do now, because there is no reason citizen-diplomacy would not be factored in the likes of Aliko Dangote can provide funds for civil society organizations to support a candidate like Clinton for obvious reasons because Republicans are generally against Africa and Africa is the center piece of Nigeria’s foreign policy. In the capital city of Abuja, we have a street named Bill Clinton,
Omowale Street was named after Bill Clinton by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. That’s to let you know that the Clintonian legacy has already been built in Nigeria as part of us. Just as we have Jimmy Carter as part of us in Nigeria, the Clintons also have their footprints in Nigeria. Democrats are generally more favourable. If you study the critical issues in the campaign, Donald Trump is anti-migration in his campaign. There are Nigerians in the US who have not legalised their stay. If you consider US foreign policy under Trump, it negates Nigeria’s foreign policy worldwide.
So, you think bilateral relations between the US and Nigeria will suffer if Donald Trump emerges President?
Ofcourse yes. The French say, order counter-order amount to disorder. The policy that Trump is likely to put in place is the re-constitution and the re-organisation of the current political order. He is going to be against international migration, he is going to support Russia and he is going to put military power as the thrust of United States foreign attitude. If, by whatever design, contrary to the Russian position, American makes the mistake of electing Trump, it is very likely that God will punish Americans by ensuring a catalytic decline in their status worldwide.
But the fact is that the American political institutions are too solid for an individual to disrupt the whole system.
The strong institutions you are talking about are manned by individuals. People always make the mistake that when you have the rule of law well defined you cannot change it. It is largely a function of the capacity of the individual to interpret the rule of law. In this case, the legal maxim says. It is better to have nine suspects go free than to allow one innocent person to suffer injustice.
When an evidence is not good enough to convict, the best is to allow them to go free than to allow an innocent person to suffer. The interpretation of the rule of law itself is largely a function of the capacity to interpret it and also a political will. Consider the e-mail saga: How do you explain the FBI Director, at the last minute, trying to use the e-mail as an issue to influence voting against Hillary Clinton? Is the institution not there? The issue is that they have created more doubts among voters.
Observers are of the view that if Trump emerges as US President, it could lead to the fall of America as a superpower. What is your take?
Absolutely! That was my reason for saying God will punish America by ensuring a catalytic decline in their status globally. Because, at the end of the day, the managers of Trump are myopic, thinking America is an Island. America is strong because other countries of the world are weak. If other countries of the world are equally strong, how will you describe the strength of America? Secondly, Americans import what they need from other countries. If the world does not export to America, they would have nothing to show, because they keep what they have for strategic purposes.
The Africa Growth and Opportunities Act’s purpose was to look out for what they want to provide. So, leadership is meaningless when there is no followership. If Trump has vowed to make America great again, does that statement justify that America has fallen before?
The truth is that the Obama administration laid a foundation that America’s leadership of the world could sustain till 2030. While the Chinese are working hard to take over the leadership of the world, they are not ready to wait till 2030. If Trump says he is going to make America great again, since the end of World War II, has America stopped being great? With the dismantled Soviet Union in 1989, America remains the only superpower in the world. While other centres of power were being created, America remained the only surviving superpower.
What would be your advice to the American electorate as the election draws near?
There will never be peace if Trump is elected President. I will urge the American people to follow the path of peace by simply voting Hillary Clinton. Because if you are given an option to choose between two bad evils, logic and common sense will require you to choose the lesser evil.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will always defend America’s interest but it is the approach that will be different. In protecting America’s interest, it is likely Clinton would be more humane than Trump because of her husband’s close ties with Nigeria and because she is going to be the first woman President in American history, and as Democrats usually defend Africa’s interest than Republicans. It is not only the American people that will vote in Clinton, the spirit of Africa will also seek support for her victory in our own interest. It is by so doing that African foreign policy can be meaningful to Nigeria.