GUEST COLUMNIST By Magnus Onyibe
The first thing that springs forth from the mind of some Africans as soon as the 45th president of the United States of America, USA, Donald J Trump is mentioned is the impression that he does not like Africans, which is so untrue.
And that wrong notion of president Trump disliking Africans stems from the fake news planted by his political opponents in the media and attributed to him such as: “Africa is a shit hole country.”
Although the statement is flawed in a fundamental way, most people who believe and therefore are not enamored by president Trump have not bothered to critically identify and examine the flaw.
And that is the reason emotions seem to have beclouded their judgement and why they have swallowed the falsehood hook line-and-sinker.
As we all know, Africa is a continent of 54 countries and not just one country.
So how could president Trump have made the comment attributed to him by his traducers: “Africa is a shit hole country”?
Since most Africans failed to critically scrutinize the comment because they were eager to believe all the vile things that the so called Never Trumps had to say, the flaw or illogicality of referring to Africa as shit hole country, whereas it is indeed a continent, has unfortunately been lost on some of them.
Apparently, those who are hell bent on generating friction between Africans and the 45th president of the US, had done a ‘good’ job as most people of black race have remained trapped in that mind-bending spell which l intend to dispel with this intervention.
Hopefully, by debunking the myths with how Mr Trump really feels about Africans and what he had done to elevate Black Americans and those residing in the continent during his tenure as president of the US, there would be a rethinking and resetting of Africa/Trump relationship that would position the continent to benefit more from Mr Trump’s presidency of the US, if he returns to the White House as he plans to in 2024.
Not only because Nigeria has the largest population of black people on earth or by virtue of its being the biggest economy in Africa by GDP, but based on my personal experience as a Nigerian who has met president Trump one-on-one, I would like to use Nigeria as a reference point for assessing Trump-Africa relationship which is apparently currently foggy owing to calculated misinformation.
To put things in perspective, it may be recalled that it is in the first two years of Mr Trump’s presidency, that Nigeria’s president Mohammadu Buhari and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, notable African leaders were his guests in the White House.
In my reckoning that is a reflection of not just passing, but keen interest in the continent as opposed to disdain for Africa as some detractors have tried to portray the former US president’s disposition to Africa.
Adjunct to that, and very significant to Nigerians, it must not be forgotten that it was under Mr Trump’s presidency that the US agreed to sell to Nigeria critical military hardware such as the super Tucano jets and other military armaments that were needed to combat the terrorists that were gaining the upper hand in the northern parts of our country.
It is worth recalling that for too long, Nigeria was denied access to the needed military hardware to fight terrorism owing to the Leahy Doctrine which prohibits the sale of US military hardwares to countries that are deemed to lack the discipline not to use them indiscriminately.
That condition which is nebulous had compelled Nigeria under the watch of president Goodluck Jonathan to attempt to procure arms and ammunition from the black market which resulted in a private jet from Nigeria full of cash being intercepted in South Africa with consequential scandal that portrayed Nigeria in negative light.
Now, is it not striking and heartening that it was under Mr Trump’s presidency of the US that Nigeria on president Buhari’s watch was allowed to legitimately acquire the attack aircrafts that have today proven to be highly useful in the prosecution of the war against terrorists in Nigeria?
There are more positive actions taken by president Trump to support Nigeria and indeed Africa during his four (4) years reign, but for now, it is in the light of the above, that l would like to implore and urge Africans to appraise Mr Trump by what he did for the continent as the 45th president of the US from 2016 to 2020,which is legion, and not by what he is alleged to have said about Africans via pranks planted in the mass media by his political opponents.
The above admonition is underscored by my belief that as the 45th president of the US, Mr Donald Trump prepares to return as the 47th president in 2024,l fervently believe that it is high time that we all got to the brass tacts about the real Donald Trump that Africans don’t know, so that we can all work out a more positive way to relate to him.
And I am of the conviction that if Mr Donald Trump returns to the White House one more time to complete the good work that he started in 2016 before he was derailed by the devastating COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged the world and particularly resulted in the untimely loss of over one million American lives which is largely responsible for his not being re-elected, Africa and Africans would receive more than a passing interest particularly now that he is getting to understand the continent better with the marriage on November 12,2022 of his adorable Daughter Tiffany to Micheal Boulos, the hardworking son of Massad and Sarah Boulos who have had long association and huge footprints in Africa through their business conglomerate SCOA plc that has business interests throughout the continent of Africa, especially west and French speaking parts of the continent.
And l would like to commence the journey of discovery or excursion into who Mr Trump essentially is with respect to his relationship with Africans with my personal experience when l first met with the great American president and indeed one of the most consequential world leaders of all times who has been largely misunderstood by those who do not know him.
It was at the Trump Golf course in West Palm Beach, Florida USA that we met for the first time.
And the first thing he said to me when l was introduced by my friend Dr Massad Boulos to him as a friend from Nigeria was: your country has a lot of oil under the soil”.
And l spontaneously responded in the affirmative.
In my view, his comment indicates that he easily identifies opportunities wherever they are and it is a reflection of the fecundity of Mr Trump’s mind.
And it also reflects the fact that the former US president Trump has set high standards for himself and others which is that all opportunities should be optimally harnessed for the good of all.
President Trump is likely miffed that with the amount of oil under Nigerian soil, the citizens have no business being poor and no need to be migrating in droves to other countries particularly via risky routes that often end up in the death of a multitude of Africans in the Sahara desert or in the Mediterranean Sea through which they try to illegally get into European countries ,the US and other North American wealthy countries to eke out a living as refugees.
It is perhaps such perspicuity of Mr Trump that makes some Africans misunderstand him because going by the sympathetic look that l could spot in his face when we first met, the 45th president of the US and accomplished business Titan, is disappointed that despite Nigeria’s huge oil reserve(6th largest crude oil producer in OPEC) and abundant Human Resources in Nigeria,(in excess of 200 million people with 60% as youths) the country’s leaders have failed to capitalize on those critically important assets that the country is endowed with, hence Nigeria has degenerated to the extent that she has earned the odious title of being the poverty capital of the world( formerly held by India)with majority of her citizens wallowing in abject poverty and misery.
Which wealth creator and someone often associated with progress and success, that ex-president Trump personifies and embodies would not express indignation about the leaders and people from a country like Nigeria with abundant natural and human resources, yet mired in the bottom rung of socioeconomic development?
Arising from the circumstances described above, Mr Trump’s feeling of empathy and sympathy for Nigerians and indeed Africans May be justified. But owing to ignorance foisted by mischief makers, Mr Trump’s capitalist disposition or stimuli is being misinterpreted as racism.
Incidentally, that feeling of Mr Trump that the African continent is punching below its weight is validated by the latest National Bureau of Statistics, NBS survey report which has revealed that 63% which is one hundred and thirty three million (133m) Nigerians are living in poverty.
Given that an estimated four (4) of every African and five (5) black people of African origin are Nigerians, one can extrapolate the level of poverty in Africa and what might be driving what appears to the uninformed observers conclusion about Mr Trump’s palpable impatience with failure, transformed into frustrations with Africans which have been misunderstood as racist attitude by some of my compatriots in Africa and blacks in the diaspora.
As opposed to the orthodox approach of the so called prim and proper manners that technocrats in Washington DC which Mr Trump refers to as swamp would prefer, the hopeful 47th president of the US, rather talks straight from the heart which is evidential of the fact he has a profound mind with progress ,success and prosperity as fulcrum.
And it is from that prism that the actions and attitude of the 45th president of the US, (2016-2020) Donald Trump towards lazy or unproductive people, irrespective of their color of skin-black, Brown or white should be situated.
My reality is that contrary to being a racist as Mr Trump has been portrayed to some Africans, he likes to without exception, see and associate with success in all humans worldwide.
And he denounces failures equally, whether they are in the US, Europe, Africa or Asia, Christians or Muslims, Hindus or Sikhs or Buddhists.
Put succinctly, Mr Donald Trump simply can not stand failure hence under his watch he resisted the influx into the US those he termed dredges of society who he accused of being rapists, murderers and criminals of all hues and illegal immigrants and on which basis those that he denounced tagged him a racist.
Definitely, Trump is not referring to nation builders likes Wally Adeyemo, the deputy Treasury Secretary of the US and the eight (8) legislators-Adeoye Owolewa, Carol Kazeem, Esther Agbaje, and Gabe Okoye as well as Solomon Adesanya, Phil Olaleye, not forgetting Tish Naghise all of whom are of Nigerian origin that just won their contests into legislative posts in the US during the recent mid term elections.
But being that there is a preponderance of failures amongst the Africans on the continent owing to prolonged colonization and forceful extraction of her rich natural resources in the past and the current neo-colonialist practices against the Africans on the continent on one hand, coupled with the systemic injustice perpetrated against the blacks in the US in the past several millenniums, till date; there is high tendency to believe that Trump is against blacks which constitute about 13.2 of US population, and represent a high proportion of about 23.8%of the poverty group in that country which is almost twice higher than the proportion of the general population, hence Mr Trump is wrongly deemed to be a racist.
As a reflection of his openness to welcoming immigrants which is as opposed to being a racist, in august 2020, Mr Trump held a naturalization ceremony in the White House for immigrants including black and brown people.
Although a symbolic gesture, it is evidential of the fact that Mr Trump is welcoming to those that can be productive and who wish emigrate to the US via proper immigration processes.
As a capitalist, it is typical that Mr Trump may not stomach or accommodate indolence of Africans and poor leadership defined by corruption which unfortunately is the hallmark of African governments resulting in Africans migrating to the US and other climes where the grass is believed to be greener and which in turn leads to resentment from the citizens of the host countries where the migrating Africans take refuge.
A good reference point is the recent xenophobic attacks against other Africans in South Africa and Ghana, particularly against Nigerians in those countries.
But if such happens in the US and Europe, it would be tagged racism, right?
The truth is that most folks irrespective of color of skin or creed are xenophobic or racist against people that they don’t know or understand.
Consider how Ghana repatriated Nigerians from their country in 1969 and Nigeria in turn expelled Ghanaians from Nigeria in 1983-a phenomenon tagged: ‘Ghana must go’.
In what appears to be poetic justice, and tit for tat manner, Ghana also recently sent packing Nigerians seeking greener pastures in their country, one more time.
Had all these inhumanities happened in Europe or the US to Africans, they could have been termed racism.
But since it happened within Africa between fellow Africans, it is termed xenophobia.
The goal here is that through our efforts at helping Mr Trump understand Africa better, and vice versa for Africans, the US under Trump’s watch in 2024 would help Africa become better.
My second take away about former US president, Donald Trump after we met is that his desire is to be associated with hardworking and high-performance driven people.
That character trait is apparent in his television game show- ‘The Apprentice’ where he would without mercy say to an intern pitching to him, but lack the correct energy and idea “you are fired”
In my personal assessment, Mr Trump has a fetish for seeking the very best in human beings.
If possible, he would like all members of the human race not to be in poverty or be experiencing misery.
Based on the above premise, it is not surprising that he expects and maybe demands high performance qualities from his children.
As such it is not unexpected that he similarly has high expectations of his sons or daughters in-laws who are by marriage rule, his adopted sons and daughters.
In that respect, typical of his competitive approach to life, the former president did not hesitate in extracting from me, a sort of character testimony on Micheal, his new son-Inlaw.
He was impressed that l traveled all the way from Nigeria/Africa to attend the wedding and sought to know how well l knew Micheal and whether he is hardworking.
Incidentally, l have seen Micheal at work on numerous occasions that he was in Nigeria, so l affirmed to the father of the bride that Micheal had been manifesting leadership qualities as a teenager.
That independent validation from
me, to say the least, presumably lifted up Mr Trump’s spirit about the marriage of Micheal to his daughter Tiffany.
Thereafter, the unvarnished respect and priority that he accords hard work and ability to get ahead in life by being focused on goals and targets which are values that in my estimation reigns supreme in Mr Trump’s universe, were on parade during the banquet as he extolled Tiffany for her hardworking attributes or characteristics, having evolved from her childhood into adulthood after passing through Duke university law school.
And he credited Tiffany’s mum, Marla Maples with the incredible job of imbuing Tiffany with good character and chutzpah.
So much about my newly formed opinion about Mr Trump based on my personal experience which l hope would help Africans better understand one of the consequential leaders on planet earth.
As, l have also learnt, as president of the US between 2016 and 2020,mr Trump also positively imparted the lives of blacks in the US, but most of the good deeds remain unsung.
For instance, how many know that under president Trump’s watch, a groundbreaking justice reform policy was introduced to give blacks better breathing space.
In December 2018, president Trump signed the First Step Act.
The law is generally believed to be: “the most substantial changes in a generation” to “tough on crime” laws that increased the federal prison population by 700 percent since 1970.
To address the thirsty and soured relationship between police and citizens, especially blacks, as president Mr Trump signed an executive order that promoted training for men and women of the police force and the setting up of a national database to keep track of misconduct by police officers.
Stemming from the above, it is believed that crime rates dropped in the US.
Also, during president Trump’s time in office, he funded historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) which were hitherto starved of public funds. And he also created Opportunity Zones which was aimed at empowering blacks by boosting jobs/ employment opportunities in their communities.
As a result, before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, black unemployment and poverty rate are also believed to have been at all time low of 5.9% in 2018.
Another evidence of poverty reduction in the black and brown communities attributed to Mr Trump’s policy is that an estimated seven (7) million that were on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program got off of it.
Very significantly, just before he left office, president Trump unfurled his “Platinum Plan” for black Americans which includes designating the infamous KuKlux Klan, KKk and ANTIFA as terrorist organizations. It also include proposals to make lynching a hate crime, increase investments in black communities, support black homeownership and recognize Juneteeth as a federal holiday.
Although critics may argue that some of the lofty ideas in former president Trump’s development agenda for blacks were not far reaching enough, it is incontestable and doubtless that some of the policies were implemented and they had significant impact on the lives of folks in poorly resourced communities as already noted.
Following the wedding and our interactions, Mr Trump is understanding Africa better. As such he would be better guided and equipped with knowledge about Africa and indeed Nigeria, if he becomes the 47th president of the US next year.
It is from the above prism that l would like to crave the indulgence of readers to recall the critical role played by Mr Jared Kushner, the Jewish American husband of Ivanka, (Mr Trump’s daughter) in the dexterous management of the frosty relationship between the Jews and Arabs in the Middle East which thawed during Mr Trump’s presidency.
It was Kushner as president Trump’s Advisor that helped Trump package US-middle east policy that produced the lbrahimic Accord which has facilitated interaction between United Arab Emirates, UAE and Isreal resulting in resumption of air travel between both countries and Isreali High Technology firms locating and operating in Jebel Ali port and industrial zone.
Such salutary development can be replicated in Africa if Mr Trump becomes the 47th president of the US next year.
Perhaps, arising from his leaning towards the evangelicals in the US, it is on record that it is during president Trump’s reign as president of the US that African Pentecostal faith leaders and evangelists were given the most access to interact with their American counterparts.
So, under proper scrutiny, and after putting into the crucible the policies and programs of president Trump, it would be clear that he significantly positively impacted the lives of blacks in the US and Africans on the continent.
But the reason he is wrongly tagged as racist is because he has not made efforts to correct the wrong impression by putting in array or cataloguing his policies and programs geared towards helping blacks and Africans.
It is trite to point out that should president Trump return to the White House next year, Africa stands to be the beneficiary of a reincarnated president Trump as he would be finishing what he started.
In conclusion, l am saying to all the Africans and African Americans who are thinking that president Trump is a racist: allow me be your mirror.
In light of how l was warmly welcomed and accepted by president Trump, it is clear to me that he does not have any personal tiff against Africans that are dynamic and progressive.
But he takes exception to indolence and laziness, be it by white, brown or black people.
And my frank assessment is that it is a reflection of the fact that Mr Trump is a capitalist who loathes seeing people in the midst of opportunities to become wealthy and self-reliant, wallowing in poverty and needing aid to survive.
Arising from the above, it should be clear that it is Mr Trump’s capitalist instincts that are being misconstrued as racist tendencies.
And l hope that such negative perception would change after this invigorating narrative about my personal encounters with him.
For the sake of emphasis, my reality is that Mr Trump actually belongs to the capitalist tribe which as we all know remains the best system for organizing a society for inclusive prosperity.
And the assertion above is underscored by the fact that capitalism which is an economic system in which private sectors own and control property in accord with their interests and demand and supply freely set prices in markets in a way that can serve the best interest of society has been proven to be the rational self-interest that can lead to economic prosperity.
If l were to be asked to summarize my impression of president Trump, l would draw from the wisdom of the Chinese philosopher, Confucius as l am of the conviction that his quote below captures the driving principle or motivation in all that he does:
“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence”
As I now know Mr Trump better, l hope that blacks in the US and the Africans on the continent would by the same token understand Mr Trump better as a race- neutral leader that is very committed to the progress and development of all human kind, and who has zero tolerance for laggards that fail to push themselves hard enough to succeed.
*Magnus Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos.
To continue with this conversation, please visit www.magnum.ng