After we lost our way, By Hakeem Baba-Ahmed 

“It is the cloth of the orphan that is often given to the guest.” African proverb

There are likely to be a few thousand Nigerians who would have a bit more room for being further depressed over our seemingly unstoppable diminishing stature in the eyes of the world.You would know them from their reactions to a reported 20-minute conversation between the President-elect,Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the United States Secretary of State. No one could have missed it.

Tinubu was seeing his doctors in France and resting and avoiding crushing pressures from lobbyists for appointment and patronage when Nigerians learnt that he had had a conversation with the equivalent of America’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.Apparently it was a friendly exchange to lay the basis for goodwill from the US and the foundations for good relations with a man fighting tooth and nail to prove to Nigerians that his electoral victory was legitimate.It was not the kind of call the Americans would hide, even if it is a a bit of a gamble.


Or, perhaps because they know a little more than Nigerians that he will emerge victorious from this horrendous quarrel over the elections.If he does not, the Americans will lose little. The Secretary of State will have more or less the same conversation with whoever will be sworn-in on 29th of May.


Nor was it the type of call Tinubu’s people will waste a minute before telling the world that America is already speaking with Tinubu about relations at the highest level. This is the same Tinubu opponents have said was indicted by a US court for drug peddling; the man whose election US observers and other teams had said was badly tainted; a man whose victory was anxiously awaiting legal validation process in Nigeria. It was the kind of development you flash before opponents and other Nigerians with glee: an endorsement from a leading democratic nation and a major setback for those who thought America will at least wait until the tribunals have said who could be sworn-in. The Americans must have known that they will create an almighty uproar from the 20-minute diplomatic conversation, and they were dead right. Every negative adjective was thrown at the effrontery and insult of the US’s Blinken for engaging Tinubu in a nice tate-a-tate when he was engaged in medical tourism in France.


There will be some Nigerians who believe that US President Biden and Blinken are convinced that challenges to Tinubu’s election are merely making Senior Advocates of Nigeria and judges more billions in a charade with a largely predictable outcome.This category will be less shocked by the gambit of the US, and will be less impressed by the argument that this is an innocent diplomatic etiquett. After all, the same Secretary Blinken announced at about the same time that the US has imposed visa restrictions on unnamed individuals who are involved in frustrating credible elections and a smooth transition to May 29th.


There must be tens of dozens of intelligence reports meant for the top of the US administration on the quality of the elections, their aftermath and the on-going litigations over their acceptability. Weatern nations who spend billions on our elections and champion the pivotal role of Nigeria in promoting democratic system in Africa are likeky to feel more comfortable now if they line up behind the US.It is likely that some have been advised to create some distance between the controversies around the elections and their aftermath and an official reactions.


The UK government had taken the lead in all but concluding that Tinubu will be President, and a few others have followed suit. To its credit, the US held back for a few days, although even this may be attributed to the not inconsiderable presence of large population of Nigerian-Americans and its influence in shaping US policy on Nigeria.


Those who are outraged at the US’s seeming intervention on a very sensitive matter; those who think the US has disappointed them as a champion they look up to, to protect the fragile democratic tradition in Nigeria,and those who are likely to see a pattern in US action which has not changed over many decades will find a common position in this:the US government is not accountable to the people of Nigeria but core American interests that put premium on stability rather than the quality of Nigerian elections or leaders. If another candidate other than Tinubu had been declared winner by INEC, the US would have acted in the same way it did towards Tinubu. Whether he won the elections or not is not the issue here. What the West needs is another Nigerian President who will have its support to keep the country from going completely under after May. In other words they just want a stable Nigeria, or at least one that does not have to deal with additional crises as a result of the elections. The West does not have any great expectation that any great good will come will come out of an election it had observed closely, and one that had been trashed by loud voices in Nigeria and carries a pregnancy that will cause deeper divisions in Nigeria.


The West, led by US and the UK, know Nigeria more than most Nigerians. They know we are locked into a system that is incapable of being improved. They know it feeds on all our weaknesses, principally a rapacious political layer that makes pretences at being democratic.It keeps the country permanently on the edge, but it is good enough if it survives with injuries from unspeakable corruption, insecurity and a democratic system that prevents the emergence of a genuinely national political elite.As the country sinks deeper into desperation, our best and brightest and strongest move to their countries to build up sagging economies and sweep streets.


The third wave of pauperizing Africa is on, after slave trade and colonialism.They are, themselves, attempting to hold on from the tremours of a new world they are not in charge of, coming principally from China and India and the provocations of Russia. Many of their politicians and managers of national economies these days look like African leaders who think democracy is about them, and their prosperity now has to ignore niceties in poorer countries.


The West knows we lost our way a long time ago. Others think we are fair game in a world without boundaries or rules. Africa is neither feared nor pitied. Its rulers have sold it to countries that are less choosy about right or wrong, so long as it keeps them on their feet. The segment of Nigerian public that was shocked at the 20-minute chat between Blinken and Tinubu may be consoled by the hope that Tinubu himself understands the conversation for what it was: an assurance that Nigeria under him will be available to the US as it had been for decades. They could indulge in the hope that if he survives the vicious tackles of fellow Nigeria politicians and becomes President, he may move Nigeria towards a direction that elevates its interests to the level of the Americans’: Nigeria first, at all cost.


Hakeem first published this article in the Vanguard




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