by Adewunmi Emoruwa
Friday the 20th of January 2017, President Donald J. Trump was officially recognised as the ruler of the free world.
However you feel about him, like him or not, he must be respected and if not, feared. So I penned a thread of sorts on my twitter handle (@eadewunmi), my thoughts swinging between my admiration and reverence for the American democratic tradition and the unquestionable sense of patriotism that the new POTUS exudes, and flashes of fear, lest this man fails — God forbid — and sadness caused by the fact that Nigeria has been mostly unfortunate to find leaders, who on the contrary act as though our nation is indebted to them.
For some reason, I am still confident that President Donald J. Trump is Nigeria’s best man for the US Presidency. I wrote a satire to drive home this point years ago. I believe you will enjoy the article, published on the 13th of December, 2015. It’s here. An excerpt from the article, as seen below, proved true;
“China, China, China, China”, one must have lost count of how many times Donald Trump uses, misuses and abuses the word China. Obviously China is his problem and this is the third reason why Nigeria needs Donald Trump. China is Nigeria’s largest trading partner with about $23 billion trade volume between both Nations. China has in recent times offered Nigeria a lot of concessionary facilities for the deployment of critical infrastructure, given the importance of Nigeria on the continent. Donald Trump most likely will have issues with this, his war on China may seem a better deal for Nigeria. I will like to have more American corporations backed by the EXIM to invest in critical long-term infrastructure projects in Nigeria, as was the case decades ago. This will definitely benefit Nigeria in terms of expertise and probably less rates or conditionalities than the Chinese. As they say, Competition is good for the consumer and Trump sure does know how to compete with China –as the Landlord himself!
Mr. Trump, who prides himself “Mr. Art of the Deal”, wants to force China’s hand and bring about a balance in the bilateral trade between both countries and reduce the rising influence of China in the world. Trump believes that the Chinese play dirty, accusing them of currency manipulation and other shenanigans.
As a sign of things to come, Trump deliberately questioned the very essence of the US China Foreign Policy on “One China,” which acknowledged the Chinese Position that Taiwan is part of this and should not have diplomatic ties, which was sealed in 1979 by the switch of diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing. “Everything is under negotiation, including ‘one China,’” Trump said to the New York Times in a recent interview following his call with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan that has raised tensions between Washington and Beijing. I tilt towards the views that it was a smart move on the part of the US President.
However, I do not find any agreement with several analysts who opine that the US will become weaker and the world will see a more dominant China under a Trump Presidency. China is panicking at the moment. Several of its state owned media editorials have called for tough actions against Washington with the Global Times of China calling for Beijing to “take off the gloves” and issuing direct threats to Taipei.“For every bit of “good news” they get, they will feel multiple fear,” one editorial read.
How does this affect Nigeria? Nigeria — Africa’s largest economy — has become a willing tool in China’s political chess moves to bring fear to Taiwan and show of strength with the Trump administration. I think Nigeria was in a better position to negotiate as both countries will definitely look to Africa in the trade war and global power struggle and no nation, I daresay in this continent is more important than Nigeria. This suggestion is not far fetched, as suggested in the China state media editorial.
Nigeria will not be the last country to put pressure on Taiwan. Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party will live in fear as long as they don’t recognize the 1992 Consensus and the one-China principle.
Nigeria fell, like the tiny island of Sao Tome and Principe, for China’s enticement: a promise of a $40 billion investment in our infrastructure projects, a deal with the details unknown. Nigeria broke off all diplomatic relations with Taipei and ordered its trade mission to vacate Abuja and relocate to Lagos.
The Taiwanese Foreign Ministry has since condemned Nigeria’s action, describing it as an “act of political hype carried out by the Nigerian government in complying with mainland China’s political goals.” The country has always suggested that China’s tactic has been to offer big loans to entice the “small countries,” a description Nigeria seems to fit in the mould.
I am not a big fan of China’s relationship with Africa though it is unfortunate that they have paid the most attention to us lately. According to the former Central Bank Governor, now Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, “[China’s] relationship [with Africa] carries with it a whiff of colonialism.” I agree.
I believe that the US-Taiwan-China power play and trade war offers Nigeria plenty opportunities to take advantage, a chance that might have been thrown away by our characteristic greed and beggarly foreign policy style.
Sometimes we have to take sides and if I have to, between China and the United States, I will go with the latter. I believe that as a Nation, Nigeria benefits more from an alliance with the United States over China, even if considered, from the spectrum of trade alone. China’s interest in Nigeria has been more of our Crude Oil and other Natural Resources, profiteering from our weak extractive institutions and lack of regulations, and often undermining those that are existent.
Nigeria can freely exchange products, services and talent in Technology, Arts, Entertainment and Culture, Education, Food, Religion and Sports among others with the US, industries we must approach seriously as Nigeria seeks to diversify its Crude dependent economy. America’s presence in Nigeria through several USAID projects have helped to build peace, deepen our democracy, empower youth and women and strengthen institutions. Presidential Initiatives like PEFPAR have helped us combat the scourge of HIV/AIDS and Malaria. The Millennium Challenge Corporation is doing great work in Africa and several countries with low Human Development Index and it is an example of the kinds of Economic Investment that we should embrace as conditions attached include Justice, Transparency and Accountability, Strong Institutions among others. If the statements credited to the US Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson are to be believed, then, we can expect more support for such initiatives.
I do not believe that China will invest this promised $40bn in our infrastructure except over the course of eternity. I also do not subscribe to loans and aid that is lacking in transparency. Trump will not continue the tradition of what countries like Nigeria consider ‘free American money’. His inaugural address validly questioned the spending of “trillions and trillions of dollars overseas” while “America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.”
If Mr. Trump decides to suspend all aid to Nigeria, I shall remain thankful still. It is high time our government start fixing its own problem. Let us begin with a reset of our foreign policy and make change happen.