Last week’s comment by unpredictable and irreverent American President, Donald Trump describing African countries and Haiti as shithole countries has generated and is still generating heated debates on social media and across the country.
Ripples generated by Trump’s remarks cut across other African countries and extend to the American societies. Many have picked quarrel with the American President on his uncomplimentary remarks which occurred when he was meeting some lawmakers in the Oval Office, as the office of the American President is called.
Quoting the Washington post, Trump reportedly said, “why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He was said to have suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met a day before. Giving more background information that led to the comment, the Washington Post reported that Trump’s remarks came after two Senators suggested ‘a potential bipartisan deal that would involve making cuts to the visa lottery programme and funding Trump’s long-sought border wall while restoring protections for people from countries that have been removed from the temporary protected status programme.’
What those who are agitated by Trump’s remarks did not know was that the American president was not making such disparaging remark that shows his disrespect for Africans, for the first time. He was said to have made more disrespectful and impertinent remarks in June 2017 when he read off a list of countries whose immigrants had received U.S. visas in 2017. He said of Haitians, “all have AIDS.” In that meeting, he reportedly singled out Nigeria and remarked that once Nigerians had seen America, they would never, ‘go back to their huts’, in Africa.
Expectedly, African countries have upbraided the US president for his remarks. During the week, the Presidency invited the American ambassador to express its displeasure over the remarks. It was the same with other African countries who took umbrage at the statement. In America too, there were opposition to Trump’s statement especially from Democrats.
In Nigeria, some have said Trump was not too far wrong in his assessment of African countries while others have also expressed opposition to the statement. I will cite the remarks from two of my friends who expressed two different views on Trump’s statement on their face book pages. Emeka Oparah, Vice President, Corporate Communications with Telecommunications giant, Airtel who had an encounter with an American who had been impressed by Emeka’s intellect after he delivered a lecture on Communications and Nation building and had also learnt of Emeka’s other side, as a tailor. In Response to Trump’s outburst, Emeka, in his remarks which he entitled, ‘My Nigeria is a haven in the making, trust me’, wrote, ‘I ‘m highly optimistic our best is ahead of us. Things cannot remain the way they are. They will not stay the same. I can see a bright future with the kind of patriotic, energetic, talented and visionary folks I see around. As for naysayers and those who buy the Trump analogy, I can only feel sorry for them, because only a bastard calls his fatherland a shithole”. My other friend, Linus Obogo has this to say on the same issue, “African leaders gave Donald Trump the impetus to rightly situate Africa as shithole. Mention one African leader without looted funds, ill-gotten assets outside the continent. Mention one African leader who has never and will never go on medical Tourism outside Africa, just mention one African who has not gone on holidays outside Africa. Mention one African leader (that) has travelled outside Africa and has not seen well paved roads good enough to replicate in his own country. It is endless. Our leaders made shitholes, slums and shanties of Africa and it is all clear for all, including Donald Trump to see. Are we pained because Trump was man enough to remind our leaders to use our wealth to develop our continent so that it can be livable? Truth is, Africa is a… shithole, no thanks to our kleptomaniac, roguish leaders.”
I have placed the comments by the two gentlemen together to buttress the argument from the two sides on President Trump’s comment. One disagrees with Trump while the other quite acknowledges what the American president said. But in the dissimilarities of the two statements lie the similarity. The response from Oparah could be seen from the patriotic prism. He fully acknowledged that Nigeria is not where it should be but it would get there, meaning that it is still an ongoing work. One can infer that he was opposed to such statement coming from Trump. On the other hand, Obogo is telling us that Trump is not off the mark and we deserve to be referred to as a shithole country because we have all the opportunities to make the country a better place, but our leaders have consistently failed us. They travel outside the country, they see the way those countries work, but they have not replicated such facilities in their country, rather they would prefer to corner the commonwealth for their kith and kin. They steal the money and take it to keep and develop the economies in those countries. The monies that could have been put to good use here.
Is Nigeria and some African countries not shithole countries? I agree with Trump in his description, though it hurts to be so described in that disparaging manner. But do we have anyone to blame? Thousands of our youths endanger their lives travelling outside the country to Europe for greener pasture, going through very dangerous routes to achieve their objective. Many of them die along the way. Some are sold into modern day slavery. If the conducive atmosphere to thrive had been provided, would these futures of our country embark on a journey in which the chances of survival are halved? If there had been jobs for this army of youths, would they travel through such dangerous routes?
The other day, herdsmen killed over 70 people in Benue, the killing is still ongoing in remote and far flung communities; does it bother our leaders? Not really, their sense of outrage has become blunt. They are inured to violence. Life is meaningless. If not a shithole country, where in the developed world would something like that happen? Even if it happened, the impressive response of the government would have assuaged the bereaved. In Nigeria life is cheap. On Tuesday, two foreigners were kidnapped- an American and a Canadian, their two police escorts were killed in the process. Is it not in a shithole country that security operatives are armed with nearly obsolete weapons? Most of our security operatives-police, army, etc, are still going about with AK47, a weapon manufactured in 1949, when those they are expected to confront have more sophisticated weapons. Is that not the characteristic of a shithole country? Even in Russia or more precisely the Soviet Union, AK47 was phased out in 1978, and that’s the country where the weapon was manufactured and first used.
The truth may be bitter, but Trump nails it so well. If we do not want to be so tagged, then we should start getting our acts together. 2019 is around the corner, we should resolve that leaders with blurred vision on account of old age or those without vision should not continue to rule.