Brutally Honest President Trump and Nigeria’s President Buhari

By Ikenga Chronicles August 27, 2018

Brutally Honest President Trump and Nigeria’s President Buhari

 –ThankGod Ukachukwu

On 27th August 2018, a Monday morning, I was awakened by a not-so-pleasant dream, which is about some developing issue in my life. Someone who disappointed me was explaining why he failed to do a certain thing and given the intricacy and complexity of the situation at hand, it was quite a conundrum even in the dream. I woke up, sighed and quickly said a prayer. Next, I picked up my phone and first point of call was Twitter, the microblogging app which has become very important for me to spill my thoughts spontaneously to avoid that loss of flashes of thoughts which writers are often beleaguered with. Though sometimes I use the note apps on my computer or phone to scribble down my thoughts to tweet/post later. I was going through my timeline when I saw Financial Times (FT) pop up and it was on Trump’s upcoming meeting with President Kenyatta Uhuru of Kenya. I was curious. It was about Africa. I quickly opened it and saw the author was David Pilling. He has written a few articles I have read on President Buhari. Surprisingly, the usual subscriber reminder wall blocker didn’t surface and I started taking screenshots while reading. As I read, my eyes flickered on a paragraph — as I was trying to read fast before the blocker came on- and fixated on a particular line where the writers were assessing Trump’s assessment of Buhari’s visit in April 2018. A tinge of excitement and rush of blood went through my vain. I was taking screenshots knowing the reverberation of what I was reading was going to be cataclysmic. Let me quote the one-line paragraph verbatim, emphasis by me:

“The first meeting, with Nigeria’s ailing 75-year-old Muhammadu Buhari in April ended with the US president telling aides he never wanted to meet someone so LIFELESS again, according to three people familiar with the matter.”

The Cosmic Insult of Imprisoning Igbo Women by the Buhari Government

The above statement was made, as FT writers were sceptical about Uhuru’s meeting as the first meeting with an African president, Buhari ended in limbo and Trump was not impressed. As a keen observer of local and international politics, I knew the shockwaves such an awkward reference would send as Nigerians woke up to such an unwholesome portrayal of Buhari reminiscent of Trump’s shithole comment on Africa. I wanted to tweet about the news that early morning but I deferred till daylight. I finally posted the news by 7am prompt acting like one who was breaking news for a media organisation. Suffice it to note I was the first person aside FT that brought the news to Nigerians. In fact this was recognized as Punch Newspaper of same day, made reference to my post on twitter and referenced reactions of Nigerians from the post in their article later in the day on how Nigerians received the news.

As I write the ripples of Trump’s brutally honest assessment has not settled. With Nigerians taking sides, some dismissing Trump and others stating that what Trump said was what everyone already knows. I first heard the phrase ‘brutally honest’ after 2015 when Buhari made a scathing statement at United States Institute of Peace (USIP) where in response to a question in an interview, he quipped , “I hope you have a copy of the election results. The constituents, for example, gave me 97% [of the vote] cannot in all honesty be treated on some issues with constituencies that gave me 5%.” Buhari’s supporters came to his defence and argued that the president was brutally honest. Baring his mind on pertinent issues instead of deceiving the Nigerian people.

Buharimaniacs And Buharideens

When Buhari visited Trump in April, some of us were genuinely concerned given his penchant for gaffes on the international stage. The president labelled Nigerian youths lazy and said his wife belongs to the other room in different international trips abroad. I followed the live broadcast of the press conference at Rosenberg garden in the White House, it no gainsaying that Buhari was lacklustre, put up a poor showing and wasn’t able to string together coherent answers to questions from the press. Trump chided Buhari on the killing of Christians and the press conference was brief. But it was long enough to learn that the real message was Trump didn’t support Buhari’s re-election. I noted back then that “Buhari didn’t mention his re-election to Trump in public. Looks like President Trump is not impressed. Looks like the US is not supporting Buhari.” Trump in his answers at the press conference affirmed that “America is a nation of laws” but recall that Buhari paid for some Tuscano jet fighters without approval from National Assembly. Trump would have been briefed. Goodluck Jonathan once said, if there’s anything about his government or person, “America knows”. I also observed then in from this statement from Buhari’s minister, “on Trump’s proposed visit to Nigeria, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama, said Trump may not visit Nigeria until the end of elections next year.” This made me know that Trump doesn’t vibe with Buhari so he’s not coming anytime soon. I made all these observation April 2018.

Nonetheless, when Buhari returned to Nigeria, his aides and cabinet were revelling in the delirium on the takeaways as Garba Shehu, senior media aide to Buhari is wont to call his media briefing each time Buhari returns from an international trip. But the revelation from FT where Trump referred to his meeting with Buhari as lifeless confirmed all my observations at the time of Buhari’s visit only that we waited a long time for the confirmation

 The Ultimate Lowlifer

Anyone who has followed the activities of President Trump, would know that Trump is about governance not your emotions barring white nationalism accusations and aversion to immigration. He’s interested in deals. He’s a shrewd business man. Our President Buhari went for photo ops while Trump was expecting him to come with proposals for bilateral issues. Knowing Trump is boisterous, animated, full of energy and the go-getter guy. He like CEOs expects every meetings to be productive, produce results and meet KPIs. He would’ve been briefed classified information about a vibrant and ebullient president of Africa’s most populous country, biggest economy, a former general — remember Trump adores soldiers — a cerebral one, a populist like him. So he was expecting a mind blowing and charged environment. Trump hasn’t been to Africa so he would’ve been looking forward to learning a lot from Buhari about Africa, discuss its problems and ways US can continue to be a strategic partner. He would’ve expected a long list of bilateral issues on trade, knowing he’s a business guy. But he met a lacklustre and lame meeting where probably Buhari was too weak to say much and couldn’t articulate at the high level of governance Trump was expecting. No big delegation and Buhari even though from an Anglophone country probably needed an interpreter. Trump being a brutally honest guy had to tell his aides exactly what he made of a meeting he so anticipated and nothing but photo ops and insignificant benefits for both countries came out of it.