By Charles Kumolu
A former Nigerian Ambassador to Mauritania, Ambassador Bala Sani, in this interview, speaks how Nigeria/US relations may fare under President Joe Biden, saying the prospects of a fruitful relationship are bright.
The new US President, Joe Biden, started with some immigration policies that favoured Nigeria. Does that mean Nigeria will benefit more from the Biden administration?
I think we will benefit far more than what we have seen. Nigeria didn’t benefit much from the Obama administration because of the claim that we are not protecting human rights in the fight against Boko Haram in the North East.
That was why President Obama stopped us from buying weapons from the United States, especially warships, but during the presidency of former President Trump, he did not take these things for granted. But he sold weapons of warfare to us. These are planes that we need in the fight against Boko Haram. They have not yet been delivered, the cost has been paid but it was said that they will be delivered in a year.
What Biden has started doing is good for us. That does not mean that he will not review the relationship with many countries. Having a good relationship with other countries promotes trade and economic development. But I don’t think we should expect gains for Nigeria in 100 days. It should take like a year.
President Biden is a politician, and he has been in the senate for a long time. In my opinion, he is a very patient person, and he is a very good public relations man. Biden will start to correct what people in the United States think of President Trump. Biden has signed off on more than a dozen executive orders including Trump’s visa ban on some countries including Nigeria. He also returned America to the Paris Treaty on global warming.
Surprises and changes
American politics at this time has come with some surprises and changes. I want to look at the success of President Biden. He won by a landslide. The defeat of former President Trump was not a bad thing. It showed that he tried and has the support of the people. But I don’t think the American people were satisfied with his style of governance. That was the reason for this change. We must remember that he is not a politician at the same time.
He is very successful in business, but his style and manners are also different. His tenure was different from previous presidents, which means he is not smart. He is calm at times but he is usually very quick to get angry, especially at journalists, and even at his employees. That was why he changed staff frequently. What people saw as xenophobia and racism in the United States during the time of Trump happened in previous administrations.
Do you think the ongoing impeachment of Trump is really necessary?
He has been impeached for the second time. One happened last year and another is being done this year for supporting protesters over the results of the last election. They just want to prevent him from running for office in the future.
What are the likely implications if Trump is eventually impeached?
It is not a crime to be disciplined. It is disgraceful for a president to invite people to revolt against the law. What they did could jeopardize national security because it was clear that Trump was supporting the rebellion. That wasn’t a small crime.
I think impeachment is enough they don’t have to add other penalties like stopping his benefits as a former president.
Do you see Biden turning against the Chinese in the area of trade the way Trump did?
Even if he does, he will not do it the way Trump did. Former President Trump sees China as the cause of COVID-19 virus. There are World Trade Organisation ,WTO, rules under the United Nations,UN, on how to trade between countries but competition between major countries is still going on. For example, Kano State is happy to have two of its sons, Dangote and Rabiu among the richest in Nigeria but there must be competition between them.
Therefore, diplomacy is very important for reconciliation between countries. China is always improving and also knows that the United States does not want it to have quick development, no matter who rules the United States. The United States is hoping to continue maintaining its capacity as the world’s largest economy. China has dominated African countries in terms of social development, infrastructure, and styles that are different from the United States, and African countries have already accepted China
Recently, China imposed sanctions on 28 former aides of Trump. Do you think this could lead to a new rift between China and the United States?
China was right because President Trump is responsible for the strained relationship. He pushed China hard and has clearly shown his dislike for the country. In my opinion, China is right and there is no reason for the United States to be upset about this problem between former President Trump and China.
On nuclear issue
President Biden will look into the matter because the nuclear issue is a big issue that should be addressed. No one wants the nuclear issue to escalate. The risk of escalation is very high. It is not just in the interest of the United States but also the entire world.
For example, the United States and Russia have more nuclear weapons than any other countries in the world, but everyone wants to be safe because of the dangers of nuclear weapons.
How best can Nigeria handle its relationship with China and US to attract investments to the country?
This is a very sensible and positive question because the United States was buying oil from Nigeria before China and India started buying from us. The United States is the largest buyer and also an oil-rich country, but it does not sell its oil. It buys and stores it for future use. Trade between Nigeria and the United States is more in the area of arms, agriculture, and healthcare equipment. There is no way the US can provide Nigeria with its science and technology. That tells you that we will continue to depend on them for military services.
Do you think Nigeria’s population will help it grow economically like China?
Nigeria does not have the technology to produce the same products as China. Nigeria has a large population without technology while China has a large population and has technology. That is why every government should give priority to science and technology for the benefit of the nation.