In some ways, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and President Donald Trump of the United States of America have some things in common.
The first thing is that they are leaders that people find difficult to be neutral about. Their supporters support them passionately, while their opponents oppose them passionately. Therefore, whenever people with opposing views on any of them discuss them, tempers rise. To their supporters, everything Buhari or Trump does must be justified and defended. This leads to people known for their high sense of justice and rationality — including professors and senior lawyers — making shocking comments on issues just to defend them.
Therefore, both of them are divisive leaders. They do not see all citizens of their respective countries as having the same national status. To them, those who support them are the true patriots, while those who oppose them are enemies of the state. This manifests in their words and actions. Once elections are over, other presidents drop the parochial partisan toga and don the federalist toga. But in the cases of Buhari and Trump, that toga is never dropped. There is no difference between their words and actions during the campaign era and during the governance era. Consequently, Nigeria and the USA have never been as divided as they are under Buhari and Trump except during the civil war period in the two countries.
In addition, both of them are supremacists. While Buhari believes in the supremacy of his Fulani ethnic group over others, as well as the North and Muslims over others, Trump believes in the supremacy of the Whites over other races, as well as hardcore Republicans and evangelical Christians over others. In dealing with the outside world, Trump also believes in American supremacy. For him, the only thing that matters is the interests of the United States. He does not even bother to moderate his views when speaking at the United Nations or about other nations. He differs with Buhari in that regard. Buhari does not project the interest of Nigerians when dealing with the outside world. Not only does he not show anger when Nigeria is ridiculed by outsiders, he even joins in ridiculing Nigeria and Nigerians when talking with leaders of other leaders.
Another area of similarity is the fallout from their extempore speeches. Any time both of them read from a prepared speech, they say the right things meant to unify the nation and make life better for the people. But whenever they speak extempore, they usually kick-start one controversy or the other. The reason is that when they read from a prepared speech, their aides would have moderated the speech to make it sound presidential. But whenever they speak without a script, they express their real thoughts, which never come out well.
Furthermore, both of them hate the media. This is because they hate to be opposed or criticised. The media points out the inconsistencies between their past promises or views and their current views on issues. The media X-rays their policies and words and criticise those that deserve criticism. Because the two presidents assume that they are the most patriotic leaders with the best intentions, they resent anyone that criticises them. So they see the media as enemies of the state. When Buhari ruled as a military dictator between 1984 and 1985, he gagged the media with the infamous Decree 4 and jailed those who criticised him. But because this is democratic rule, he merely tolerates the media today. However, his government has found another excuse to clamp down on the media using the nebulous term “hate speech” to describe media reports that are not favourable to his administration. It is not surprising that he refrains from speaking to the media in Nigeria. In the three and half years of his administration, Buhari has only had one media chat which used to be a monthly thing from the era of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who started it as a means of explaining national issues to the public. Similarly, because Trump cannot gag the media, he ridicules and blackmails media houses that criticise his administration, describing them as “fake news” capable of destroying the nation.
However, there are marked differences between Buhari and Trump. First is that Trump is a shrewd businessman who has run successful businesses, while Buhari is not known to have run any successful business enterprise since he was prematurely retired at the age of 43 years. Buhari does not seem to have a good understanding of how businesses run. Consequently, while Trump has impacted positively on the American economy, Buhari has impacted negatively on the Nigerian economy. Even though there have been claims and counter-claims on the American economy under Trump, there are evidence that the American economy has received a boost. Conversely, the Nigerian economy has received a heavy beating: 11 million jobs lost under Buhari; Nigeria became the country with the highest number of people living in “extreme poverty” in the world (87 million people); Nigeria’s debt rose from 11 trillion naira in 2014 to 22 trillion naira in 2018.
In addition, Trump is a hardcore capitalist who thinks of how to make the United States have an advantage in its trade relations with other economies like China which he laments have been having the better of the US in trade. Buhari has the worldview of a pseudo-Marxist who sees all rich people as thieves who have stolen from the ordinary people and need to be punished, with their wealth confiscated as proceeds of crime and shared to the ordinary people.
Therefore, Trump is sometimes seen as a necessary evil: even though he creates divisions among Americans and causes embarrassment to the people because of his comments, the American economy seems to have received a boost under his watch. Interestingly, unlike other fellow Republican presidents who seemed to perform better on international relations than the Democrats, Trump has done better on the economy than on the international front. On the other hand, Buhari does not have a strong side where he has performed better. The fight against corruption and also the security issue that were thought to be his forte have not experienced any known improvement. On the contrary, corruption has worsened as reported by the Transparency International; security has moved from the single key issue of Boko Haram to include the killer herdsmen issue.
Finally, Trump and Buhari are similar in being both septuagenarians. However, Trump is livelier and more alert mentally. Even though Buhari has faced health challenges, which have affected his strength, his health and age are not his major drawbacks but the age and strength of his ideas. Buhari uses analogue thinking to attend to digital problems, thereby getting results which affect the health of Nigeria.
Written for the Punch by Azuka Onwuka
via: INFORMATION NIGERIA