By Ochereome Nnanna
WHEN the news came that the newbie US President, Donald Trump, would call his ailing Nigerian counterpart, President Muhammadu Buhari, at exactly 3.45pm on Monday 13th February 2017, I was very expectant for several reasons.
If the conversation took place, then it meant our President was not on a life support machine as rumoured. Well, you could not blame the rumour mongers because Buhari himself and his handlers fed the mill with adequate fuel by refusing to provide concrete and reliable information on the state of his health. Since Trump called Buhari, speculations about his health have died down, leaving us to look at the more helpful, concrete issues of what they discussed and their implications for our country.
The call also put paid to the rumoured icy disposition of President Trump to President Buhari which, some alleged, was responsible for Buhari’s non-invitation to the Trump inauguration. Trump has demonstrated a proactive commitment to make America safer by tackling radical Islamic terrorism across the globe. That was what informed his so-called Muslim travel ban, and that is the main motivator for his early phone call to President Buhari.
After commending our President for the progress made in eliminating Boko Haram and rescuing the Chibok Girls, Trump promised to sell military equipment to Nigeria to boost our anti-terror war. He then invited Buhari to Washington, which means he, too, may visit us to revive the strategic partnership with Nigeria.
Indeed, the Nigeria – US alliance suffered mortal blows under the Barack Obama presidency, despite the unquantifiable emotional investment Nigerians, as with the rest of the global Black community, wasted on the first ever Black American president. Obama visited Africa twice and refused to come to Nigeria. Unlike his two immediate White predecessors: Bill Clinton and George HW Bush, who reciprocated Nigerian presidents’ state visits to America, Obama played us the “don’t dirty” card.
Apart from that, it was during Obama’s tenure that America, our biggest crude oil customer, stopped buying Nigerian oil, which helped in plunging our economy into the current recession. Granted, Obama was pursuing his American energy independence policy which yielded fruit in the shale oil and other techy breakthroughs in oil production, still America bought oil from Saudi Arabia but boycotted us.
Obama’s America also not only refused to sell crucial military equipment to enable us defeat Boko Haram when it became a monster of global proportions, America actually covertly and overtly sabotaged Nigeria and frustrated our efforts to procure arms from alternative sources. This was what led us to turn to Russia to buy the arms which were used for the six-week surge to confine Boko Haram to Sambisa Forest. President Buhari later inherited these arms to remove the terrorists from the Forest.
Most Nigerians were at a loss why our supposed “Black brother” President of the United States would take such hostile steps against the largest Black nation on earth and a stabilising military force on the African continent. The only obvious explanation was the fact that Nigeria’s President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, signed the bill outlawing homosexuality on 14th January 2014; a measure for which Obama’s America and other Western countries openly threatened our country with dire consequences.
The then American Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, who had just been reposted from the Congo in October 2013, became an unabashed stumbling block in our anti-terror war. America foot-dragged in classifying Boko Haram as a terrorist group, ignored the fact that they were slaughtering Nigerians like chickens and instead demonised Nigerian troops for alleged human rights violations. This helped to dampen the morale of our fighting forces.
To top it all, Obama dredged up the Leahy Law, which forbids the sale of crucial military equipment to countries that, but his judgement, allegedly violated human rights. Nigeria thus became one of eleven countries so affected by this controversial Law.
Ambassador Entwistle ended his ignominious service in Nigeria with false accusation of our lawmakers who participated in a leadership programme in America, for which America has been slapped with a billion Dollar lawsuit by the aggrieved members of our House of Representatives, Hons. Samuel Ikon, Mark Gbillah and Mohammed Gololo.
Many Nigerians are strongly convinced that Obama, who also dethroned President Muammar Ghadaffi (and thus potentiated the military might of the Boko Haram Islamists), sabotaged and weakened Jonathan as a reprisal for the anti-gay law. Some even accused Obama of playing other under-the-table roles for the change of government in 2015.
The next question now is: how will President Trump supply arms to Nigeria to contain our Boko Haram terror challenges, since the Leahy Law is still very much operational? The answer is not farfetched. Every regime in America pursues its agenda in line with its campaign promises to the people. Obama pursued an extreme, everything-goes libertarian agenda.
Trump is not just a conservative president; he is also a nationalist who has postulated that every country has the right to protect its core interests just as he would push an “America first” agenda. This will surely reflect in his ideological disposition to laws and rules, such as the Leahy Law. He may decide that the Nigerian Army is not violating human rights by protecting its citizens against Islamic terrorists like Boko Haram, or that such alleged abuses have been stopped.
What we need from our foreign friends and partners is not the foisting of odious and abominable foreign values on us. I don’t even care if America severely cuts down the number of our people streaming there. I strongly believe that America will be safer if it supports terror-prone foreign countries to fight their own battles. That is all we need. We can handle the rest.
President Trump is a leader after my heart. If he continues to play the Trump Card with Nigeria and repair the broken links of the Obama years, then it will be good riddance to the Obama rubbish!