By Obi Nwakanma
Americans dodged a bullet. Four more years of Trump would have turned the US into another Banana republic, with the irretrievable destruction of its foundational democratic institutions. The defeat of Donald J. Trump in penultimate week’s poll gave the United States a new lease of life.
It offered Americans an opportunity once more to restore their compact with nation. I felt a deep sense of disappointment and outrage on seeing images of Nigerians marching for Trump. Christians in Aba and Onitsha marching for Trump! What terrifying irony. But it did confirm to me how deep the disease of ignorance is ingrained in the psyche of folks who misconstrue “literacy” for “education.”
The Igbo think of ignorance as a fatality. They say it is like one who was not present when the dead was buried. When such folk are tasked to exhume the corpse, they begin to disinter it from its limbs. Many Nigerians have all kinds of perverse ideas about America. Many who have never stepped inside an airplane pontificate about America from the very narrow spaces of their bedrooms just by watching TV. They tell you what is happening right now in Alaska! Some swear about America just from what they glean from this catch-all space called ‘social media.’
The social media, of course, is some kind of poltergeist. However you twist it, it gives you a shape. It is a ghost. All kinds of confused and confusing voices inhabit it. The worst are those Nigerians who think that spending a few weeks or months in the US, or any other place for that matter, gives them a sense of that world.
They become experts about America; American politics; American culture, and the deep undergirding frames of its social meanings. Truth is, many Nigerians who visit America stay in its fringes. They have very little ideas about this society. Nigerians come to visit, and they just stay inside their hotel rooms, or the basements of the homes of their friends and relations whom they visit. They go to the malls. Perhaps do a bit of the rounds around Disney.
They may drive around to see, and take pictures around familiar monuments, or go to the food halls in the shopping malls where they really mostly spend their time. They see the surfaces. They do not get into real American homes, see Americans at work in their most imperfect and vulnerable states.
They do not even go into the underbellies of the cities – the ghetto, the soup kitchens; the homeless shelters; inside America’s bitter rural enclosures. They have no opportunities to meet the hillbillies of West Virginia. They watch TV. The Morning Show. Oprah Winfrey. They read the glossy pages of America, and imagine they know America, just by staying three weeks, a month; three months of vacation; and chaperoned through the more tolerable sites.
They do not go to libraries, or exhibitions; or the neighborhood pubs or speakeasies; or to the meetings of political groups organizing for various issues; or school board meetings; or insert themselves inside spaces frankly closed to many who do not understand America’s race codes. Even many Nigerians living in the US for years do not often break through these carapaces of America because they stay confined in their lanes or ‘comfort zones.’
They do not mingle with the real America. It takes another generation to pull them in. And so, it can easily be such a stretch that an American election, with its deep layers of issues escapes these Nigerians. But the comments by Femi Fani-Kayode and others like Chris Oyakhilome, of Christ Embassy Church, about Trump and the American election, convince me that too many Nigerians, especially those at the pretentious top, are extremely, profoundly, pathetically ignorant of the texture of world events and world politics, and the facts as they pertain to a global Africa position.
These are ignorant men. They mislead people because they pretend to know things above their pay grade! When the sheep and the Shepherd are blind, they all end up in a ditch. But there, again, I have referred to two characters driven by right-wing evangelical fervor and zealotry. We have in Nigeria, today, clear evidence of a Pentecostal implosion; a frenzy of false teachers replicating the work of the prophets of Baal.
The issue is that Christianity of the kind especially practiced by right wing evangelical Christians in America, who are the key funders of contemporary missionary activities in Nigeria and much of Africa, continue to disgrace and repudiate the mission of care which the master, Jesus, through his Apostoloi, inaugurated. White evangelical Christians in America despise Africans and African-descended people. It did not start today.
There is a history behind it all. Evangelical Christians raped African women in the plantations during slavery; impregnated them, and proceeded to rape their own daughters from these women; the so-called ‘tragic mullato.’ It all began there. There is guilt and there is anxiety mixed in a historical alchemy of the fear of Black insurrection.
American Pentecostalism rests on the fact that the African had no God; that it was ordained by a white God that Africans shall be slaves. Liberal white Americans, on the other hand, often side with Black folk, and fought slavery and the lies retailed through the American church alongside Black folk. But Black Christianity and White Christianity do not meet in America.
They do not sit on the same tables. And the Republican party is the home of the kind of toxic Christianity which has no respect for Africans, and which is at the bastion of the current Republican party; the party of the KKK. There is no place for the Black man in the Republican party.
These are the supporters of Donald Trump. This is the bastion of the rural, dirt-poor white Americans, who see changes in American democracy because of new immigrants, as a threat to what they often call “our way of life,” which actually is a shorthand for racist, white privilege and an irrational fear of white disappearance.
Urban white America sees it differently: mostly made up of liberals, and young, progressive Americans living in cities, they see America’s future in the possibility of a just coalition of races that is the actual power of the United States. But it is the bastion of hatred, exceptionalism, and difference that Donald Trump embraced. He has no respect for Africans and other minorities. He had no compassion for the poor because the Republicans, sometimes erroneously, imagine Black folk and other migrants to be the poor.
Which is why the outgoing US President would describe Nigerians and other Africans as coming from the “shithole” and dwelling in primitive “huts.” I often do not mind such folks underestimating Africa, and Africans, because it will make even more writ-large, the surprise that Africa is about to spring in this century. But what I do actually mind are self-hating black folk joining in their own humiliation.
It is called mental slavery. It is a form of psychosis actually. Any black person who voted Trump, or supports him, is guilty of self-abnegation. And these African Pentecostals, including Igbo Zionist groups who are marching for Trump, who have been fed the leaven of the Pharisee by their false prophets of Baal are a sick and sorry lot!
There is no other easy way of saying this. This is not to say that the Democrats have not failed Africa either. As a matter of fact, Africans went into the streets and danced when Barrack Obama, the son of an African immigrant, was elected President of the United States. But Obama’s election turned out for most Africans as a left-handed gift. Many say Obama was a man burdened by his bi-raciality and conflicted by his ambiguous relationship with an absent African father.
Most Africans say he treated Africa with condescension and with the same kind of paternalism that long characterized America’s relationship with African nations since decolonization. But that kind of clunky paternalism is now at its very tether’s end. Still, the US election grips folks in Nigeria as if they themselves have voting rights in America. America seems to matter to Africans, and particularly, Nigerians. So, why does America matter to Africa? It matters precisely because the United States of America is the third largest Black nation in the world. Nigeria is the largest concentration of Black people in the world, followed by Brazil, and then the United States. These three nations occupy strategic sites in the Tri-Atlantic corridor. WhereasTrump saw Africa as made of a series of “shithole” states, and whereas his foreign policy saw the African continent as nothing more than a blimp on the global map, Mr. Biden’s election offers an important opportunity for a foreign policy reset.
Frequently, Africa is ignored, or treated as some kind of invisible afterthought, or as some perpetual case of charity. America’s engagement with Africa has been as some kind of “sphere of influence” footstool, which makes African states dependencies of America and her European partners. Even Mr. Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, who has not resolved his own democratic conundrum in this US election, has the temerity to ‘lecture’ Tanzania about how to conduct its own democratic elections.
This has to change. The German Foreign minister, Heiko Maas, has called for a new Atlantic partnership with the incoming Biden administration, if Europe were not to become a “play thing” between the three powers – the US, Russia and China.
In the same way, Africa must have a new Atlantic partnership that recognizes and deals with Africa on the basis of equality, not on some old-fashioned policy of paternalism which is driving Africa more towards greater relationship with China. Africa is a natural partner with the US, for all kinds of historic reasons, but the longstanding racist foreign policy of the US that has long instituted a view of Africa as a “governed” satellite of broken people has to be replaced with a policy that understands that Africa has real options.
It is a huge market for one thing. That its long exploitation must end. That an Afro-Atlantic partnership based on mutual respect, and not laughable paternalism, and racist presumptions, must be instituted as the new basis of an Afro-American or a Black Atlantic partnership and relationship under Biden. The Democratic party currently offers Africa that option. Hardly the Republicans who have no idea what constitutes African humanity.
QUOTE: Christians in Aba and Onitsha marching for Trump! What terrifying irony