Many analysts are busy searching for the real motive behind invitation by the US President, Donald Trump, to President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria. The real reasons however began to unfold on April 30, 2018, when Buhari and Trump held the meetings and addressed the world press.
Shithole clean up:
First, Trump denied calling Nigeria, African and some Asian countries ‘Shitholes’. The word is a derogatory term for a no-good place, a country that did not have much to warrant investing any serious diplomatic effort.
The name-calling provoked many reactions and portrayed Trump in weak personality lights. Some other world leaders may habour same opinion but they usually kept it deeply locked in their minds. Not Trump. The scandal forced many third world leaders to keep away to avoid showing warmth to a man that hated their people.
Trump therefore needed an opportunity to deny the charge in a functional way. Since he had verbally denied and nobody seemed to take his denial seriously, he needed something big to speak non-verbally. He invited the president of the biggest country in the ‘Shithole’ category to begin to whitewashing, hence Buhari.
2026 World Cup lobby
Most sections of the American press believe Trump is fighting to mobilize world support for the US bid to host the World Cup with Canada and Mexico in 2026. He seems to realize that the victory is about votes, not power of nations. Africa has about 55 votes in FIFA and this is a strong bloc. Also, Morocco from Africa is a top contender. South Africa played host in 2010 as the first country in Africa to so do. Now, with Africa increasing its teams to the World Cup, there is global feeling to allow more countries to play host. Also, As SA did, North Africa is overdue and West Africa would follow. It is expected that if CAF throws its whole 55 votes in for Moroco, the US would suffer. Should the US lose, it would be a big blow to Trump and the invincibility image of the US. It would be loss of face and loss of global force. So, there was need to bring in the class monitor (Nigeria) for some romance.
Trump put in the demand forcelly, saying the US would monitor how countries would vote in June for the 2016 WC. Some sections of the American press think it amounted to bullying and intimidation, and warned it may rather cost the US.
So, the second most important reason for the invitation was for 2016 Corld Cup.
UN politics and global influence
Trump’s style of antagonizing the Muslim world, the smaller Americas (esp Mexico) and bullying China while snubbing Germany and UK has whittled down the global diplomatic influence of the US under Trump, but that is Trump’s way. In fact, the US is now called the Small America.
The test came when the US faced a vote in the UN few months ago in a resolution to condemn the US on Jerusalem issue. The successful vote against Trump’s US was telling. Nigeria led Africa to vote in support of the UN. Many US close allies had to abstain from voting.
Trump did not take it kindly and retaliated by canceling one quarter of its funding to UN programmes around the world. That too did not win love for them but further alienated them from the mainstream global politics.
Now, America used to represent the voice of the small world and non-allinged bloc. Now, it is not any more.
When Trump tried to show that North Korea should not be allowed into dialogue, Russia, China and South Korea appealed for dialogue. At the UN General Assembly, Buhari joined in calling for dialogue. It was a big blow. The voice of Africa and a strong voice in the Commonwealth and in the former non-Alligned Nations bloc has spoken, supporting China and co. This must have pointed Nigeria and Buhari out as a nation not to push away, hence the need to bring Buhari closer.
There seems to be the need to repair the injury in America’s global influence, thus, the need to bring Nigeria close. It was in bad taste for Trump to sack Rex Tillerson while in Africa, just after leaving Buhari’s Nigeria. Now, Trump needed to tone down and change the negative flow. He began by getting back to the king of ‘Shithole’, Nigeria.
To get these benefits for Trump and to smoothen things up, the US president had to look for what would interest Buhari and Nigeria. He thus chose terrorism, insecurity, and corruption as topics. He commended Buhari in the fight against corruption and against terrorism and offered help. If he truly was keen on corruption, Trump would have offered help in getting Nigeria’s lost loot in US and other western vaults.
Did people not say Trump got list of bank accounts where Buhari’s ministers hid money? It would have been time for Trump to hand over such list to Buhari. Many said there was no such list with Trump. It must be the same ‘list’ they said was obtained by Christie Amanpour of CNN and she had denied it.
Trump knew that the latest issue in Nigeria is the killing of Cathloic priests (and worshippers) in Benue and he made casual appeal for stop of killing of Christians. It could not have been his reason for inviting Buhari.
Trump’s mention of the abducted girls was too casual; there was no passion behind it. He also did not seem updated. He may simply have known that some school girls were being abducted in Northern Nogeria. He just asked; “And the girls that were abducted, how did you do on that?” It was Buhari who mentioned what has been done. Trump should have asked; What is your Government doing to rescue the remaining girls and what plans are on ground to prevent any further incident; and what can the US do to help? It was clear that Trump knew that Nigeria was fighting terrorism and needed weapons from the US and it has been approved. He did not seem to know more, but probably to sound updated, he mentioned killing of Christians.
The Muslim students in Nigeria (NSSN) have taken Trump up on that, saying there was no targeting Christians. They may be right but Christians have had to bear bigger brunt. Also, if US intervention helps to stop the terror, Muslims would benefit too. The war against Boko Haram and against terror is for the befeit of all Nigerians.
Trump had his tiumph in the ‘Shithole’ issue by using body language to show he did not mean it. He now calls Nigeria amazing and beautiful an even wants to visit the former ‘Shithole’. For 2026 World Cup, he has been told by the American press that presidents do not vote but Football Associations do. He ought to do it silently. But, would anybody expect Nigeria to lead a vote against an African country?
For global influence, Buhari has already commended him for degrading ISIS. Let Trump return to his NATO platform and return to dialogue so the US can once again carry weaker countries along. Bullying does always pay.