By Adewale Sanyaolu Despite being a country with the second largest deposit of bitumen in the world, Nigeria, according to Foraminifera, a marketing and research firm, spends about N2 billion yearly on importation of asphalt, a derivative of bitumen. The occurrence of bitumen deposits in Nigeria is twice the amount of existing reserves of crude…
Two significant events that shook the world happened last week. Mr. Donald John Trump, the maverick businessman and real estate mogul, took the oath of office to become the 45th president of the United States of America, unarguably the most powerful nation on earth.
Then, somewhere, in the tiny West African country of The Gambia, the dictator who had held his people by the jugular, for 22 unbroken years, finally fled with his tails between his legs, as coalition forces of West African nations, popular resentment from his people and the international community, forced him into exile in Guinea. From Guinea, former President Yahya Jammeh, is expected to plot his permanent abode, where he will live the rest of his life, as a discredited, sit-tight, greedy and inordinately ambitious ex-president.
Reactions to President Trump and ex-President Jammeh by the world are at once similar and dissimilar. While the ascendance of Trump to power provoked widespread protests, disenchantment and disapproval, Jammeh’s exit was unanimously greeted with euphoria and celebration around the world: Another African dictator had bitten the dust, kicked into the cold to resume life as an ex-president.
The similarity could be gleaned from the fact that both men provoked extreme reactions of resentment from their peoples. In the case of Trump, never has a new president in American history got such disapproval rating, as high as over 60 per cent of the population. Never has the United States witnessed such global protests, women disclaimers in major cities of the country, including the capital city of Washington, clutching placards and denouncing the new president. The rowdy protests recorded casualties. Many were killed, several injured. What was supposed to be Trump and his supporters’ best moments turned out to be the worst for a man who proved bookmakers wrong, to clinch the Republican ticket and eventually the November 9, presidential poll.
But, Trump is luckier than Jammeh. While the new American leader has four years to prove his critics wrong, that he is not what his countrymen and women, as well as the world, think he is, Jammeh has lost that chance forever. He enrolls in Africa’s hall of shame, for leaders booted out of office, because they didn’t know when and how to say goodbye.
When Trump won the presidential election, I did a piece titled: TRUMP: A WAKEUP CALL FOR AFRICA, in which I asked Africa to brace up for a bumpy ride with the new administration, to see the coming of Trump as a blessing in disguise, for it to get its acts together, because there would be little or no more free lunches for the impoverished and almost permanently beggarly nations of Africa.
Trump, during his campaigns, said he would turn back immigrants, and all those who seek refuge, especially economic refuge, in God’s own country. In my piece, published, November 14, 2016, I asked: “ Is there basis for the trepidation expressed over the Trump presidency? Of course, yes. For Africa generally, and for Nigeria, in particular. Trump’s message should be a wakeup call, for our leaders to get their acts together and brace up for a bumpy ride. Trump says he will send back our people. We should take that serious. Even if he’s kidding, let’s not kid over the matter. Nigeria has over one million, if not more, of her citizens in the United States. We have accomplished professionals in almost every field: Scientists, doctors, engineers, nurses and computer gurus, among others. If they all decide to return home or are forced out by President Trump’s policies, where would they fit in? Where would they start?
“In a country still battling with rising unemployment index; social and infrastructural decay, we would face more difficult times if we don’t quickly roll our sleeves for the incoming Trump administration. The economy needs a jab. The broken down infrastructure needs urgent fix. We must begin to look inwards rather than the West for a bailout, which hasn’t quite alleviated our situation. We have to more aggressively go back to the land. Agriculture, agriculture, agriculture. Luckily, a few states like Abia, Kebbi, Akwa Ibom and Lagos are taking this sector seriously. Other states have to follow if we must survive.
“Trump is no bad news if Nigeria, indeed Africa, will see the blessing in disguise, which his emergence offers the country and continent. To be more self-reliant; to look more inwards for solutions to its many problems. Trump has made it clear: Everyman for himself, God for us all. America may be God’s own country, but the blessings of the land are not for all God’s children. “
Watching President Trump January 20, and reading through his inaugural address, my prophetic piece of last year has more or less come true. It has become even more convincing, that Trump would have no business pandering to the needs of ‘dependent ‘ nations of the world. He says it loud and clear: It’s America first. What this means is that the era of ‘Big Brother America’ could well be past tense, from the day Trump took over!
Hear him: “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidised the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. We’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own. And spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas, while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We’ve made other countries rich, while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country have dissipated over the horizon.
“One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world. But, that is the past. And now, we are looking only to the future. We assembled here today are issuing a new decree, to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries milking our products, stealing our products and destroying our jobs.”
Isn’t President Trump declaring ‘war’ on non-American citizens already? Even the blacks, coloured and other races are already trembling at an uncertain future staring them in the face, in the new Trump administration. But, then a miracle could still happen and God touches the heart of Trump to treat all equally, without fear or favour, affection or ill will. But, from his inaugural address, that appears a tall order!
However, for this writer, there are positive takeaways for our leaders in Trump’s address. First, he says: America first. For the average Nigerian leader, it’s their family first. When they truly begin to put Nigeria first, then we can hope for a better and progressive nation. Trump says in all aspects: trade, immigration, foreign affairs, only American interest will count. Can those who govern us truly say that’s what has been happening over the years? How many of those who have had the privilege of leading, ever put Nigeria first in their dealings? Isn’t that the reason we are where we are: Near bottom?
Let’s borrow Trump’s words, even if we are not enamoured of the man’s methods. Even if Africa, including Nigeria, will be at the receiving end of his harsh economic and political policies, his pledge on placing his nation first resonates with me, even if it irritates many across the world. It’s a call on leaders of other countries, especially those always looking up to Uncle Sam, to be responsible and creative in their leadership of their people.
As for Jammeh, the lesson of his rise and fall is eloquent: Power ultimately belongs to the people. Every dictator has his day with destiny. No dictator ever has the last laugh. One can only hope other African despots would learn from Jammeh’s disgraceful exit. But do they ever learn until it’s too late?