By Femi Fani Kayode
“Nigerian herdsmen don’t carry AK 47’s. They only use sticks”- President Buhari to President Donald Trump, The White House, 30th April 2018.
“We’ve had serious problems with Christians who have been murdered, killed in Nigeria. We’re going to work on that problem and work on that problem very, very hard, because we can’t allow that to happen.”- President Donald Trump to President Muhammadu Buhari, The White House, 30th April 2018.
Despite all the smiles, banter, pretensions, diplomatic niceties, doublespeak and pleasing words these two assertions, from the bully and the big man respectively, remain the most relevant in yesterday’s historic meeting between President Muhammadu Buhari and President Donald Trump at the White House.
The fact that Buhari, like a naughty little schoolboy standing before his intimidating headmaster, had to tell a pernicious and specious lie about the weaponry (or lack of it) of the Fulani herdsmen and attempt to absolve them of any blame for the horrendous genocide that is being perpetrated against Christians in our nation in order to escape being spanked speaks volumes.
And the fact that Trump, not fooled by the lie, like a wise old headmaster, had to issue a stern warning to the schoolyard bully about the killing of Christians says even more.
That, to me, was the meat of the historic meeting. All the rest that was said was nothing but diplomatic doublespeak, fake smiles, meaningless platitudes and dross.
Particularly nauseating were the servile and downright embarrasing questions that the Nigerian journalists that accompanied Buhari asked President Trump.
In my entire life I have never seen a journalist ask a President when he intends to visit his or her country at a major world press conference where the questions and the number of questioners are limited or ask whether he can release “just two helicopters” to help Nigeria out. This is shameless and unprofessional. It is for the Nigerian President to ask his American counterpart such questions, albeit privately, and not a member of the Villa press corps.
I see Shehu Garba, Buhari’s media assistant’s magic hand in all this. He sat directly behind the Nigerian correspondents like a bulldog, breathing down their necks and quietly warning them not to ask any difficult questions about their own country at the White House and in a foreign land.
The whole scenario was sickening. The Nigerian journalists were completely cowered. One of them called me afterwards and said it was hell and that they had been well-schooled and warned to behave themselves and mind their manners and words.
I bet the seasoned, hard-nosed and experienced American White House correspondents who also covered the event and members of the White House Press Corps shook their heads in pity and whispered to themselves, “what a country, what a people!”
Yet for the sake of posterity more needs to be said about the meeting itself. Permit me to add the following.
The truth is that the progressive forces, the official opposition and leaders of the resistance in Nigeria failed to put out the correct narrative about Buhari to the international community and international media over the last 3 years.
Consequently Buhari escaped thorough international scrutiny. Apart from that Trump failed us. He chose economic gain and the juicy prospect of a massive Nigerian market for American goods, products and commodities over human rights and decency.
Yet who can blame him for that given his “America first” mantra and the fact that the Nigerian people themselves appear to be very comfortable with their hazardous plight and murderous leader and do not appear ready to resist his corruption, tyranny, evil, ethnic cleansing, mass murder and genocide.
The good news is that Trump may be the biblical Cyrus (and I really do believe that he is) but he is not God. We never looked to him. We look to God. And God will deliver us despite our inherent weaknesses, accursed fears, petty divisions and monumental cowardice.
Finally hear this. If the opposition does not roll out its best guns, get its act togther, unite, stop playing childish games, stop the petty bickering and present one credible and acceptable candidate in 2019, Buhari will be back for another four years. The choice is ours.
Permit me to end this contribution with a final word about the meeting between the bully and the headmaster at the White House.
My younger brother, Babatunde Gbadamosi, wrote
“Buhari went and got NOTHING. We must now buy two helicopters and agricultural produce from them. This is beyond incompetent”.
Tunde, as always, is absolutely right.
Finally as Pastor Bayo Oladeji pointed out,
“Mr Buhari was asked during Monday’s joint press conference about a report in January that Mr Trump had complained about immigrants coming to the US from “shithole countries”, specifically referring to Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations. His diplomatic resoonse was: “I’m not sure about, you know, the validity of whether that allegation against the president is true or not. So the best thing for me is to keep quiet.”
This was a golden opportunity to tell the world, in the prescence of its most powerful man, that, whether Trump had said so or not, Nigeria is not a “shithole country”.
Yet sadly Buhari, the quintessential erring, self-hating and self-denigrating African leader with very low self-esteem, refused to take up the challenge and defend the honor of his people.
Instead he dodged the question, crawled into his hole, kept his mouth shut, put his tail between his legs and whimpered like a little puppy in the prescence of his master.
So much for him being a strong, no-nonsense leader. At the end of the day and when it mattered the most he proved to be weak, uncaring and insensitive in the prescence of a man who rightly or wrongly dishonored his country and denigrated his people.
Clearly he is only strong when he is ordering his troops or his Fulani herdsmen to slaughter innocent men, women and children. Such is the way of all schoolyard bullies.