President Trump’s latest insulting and derisive remarks to come to light, in which he instinctively denigrates whole nationalities and people groups is yet another rock bottom of his presidency. According to Michael Shear, White House correspondent for the New York Times, Trump in a fit of pique at a cabinet meeting in June 2017 railed against the number of Nigerian U.S. visas holders, upon being informed that 40,000 entry permits were granted to Nigerians. He supposedly took serious umbrage with that number and allegedly pontificated that all would contravene the visa terms so as not to return to their ‘huts’ in Africa, having seen the splendour and bounty of the U.S. It should be noted that Nigeria has a population of circa 193 million and visa applicants are strenuously vetted.
I am a Nigerian holder of a Harvard law school masters degree in International Law which I earned as a fee paying student. I am presently living happily in a well appointed, water front town house in Lagos, Nigeria. I am shocked but hardly surprised that Trump resorts to the level of racism and ignorance that has not emanated from a paramount world leader in modern history and has certainly not been a building block of official immigration policy in recent memory. I would venture to state that the rhetoric is reminiscent of an ugly, dastardly period of world history in which equally negative connotations and slurs contributed significantly to the eruption of the Second World War. Such was the horror and devastation of the conflagration, in which it is estimated that 60 million people lost their lives, that this dark stain on humanity resulted in the formation of the United Nations in 1945 under the auspices of President Franklin Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the U.S. Ironically, the organisation is head quartered in Manhattan, New York which is the home borough of President Trump, who is overwhelmingly characterised by the U.S. press as ‘divisive’.
The cardinal objectives of the organisation at its inception were to prevent such a future conflict and to promote International cooperation. These goals are still central to the workings of the 193 nation body, of which Nigeria is a member and a vital organ given its regional significance and sphere of influence. The ‘comity of nations’ is based on universal values underscored by friendship, respect, understanding and the pursuit of peace and progress. These ideals take on added relevance in areas of security, trade and health as all have increasing global ramifications.
The U.S. government’s website of the Office of the United States Trade Representative, states the following; ‘Nigeria is currently our 60th largest goods trading partner with $5.3 billion in total (two-way) trade during 2015. The U.S. goods trade surplus with Nigeria was $1.5 billion in 2015.’ Furthermore, the Department of Commerce, states that ‘U.S. exports of goods to Nigeria supported an estimated 28 thousand jobs in 2014.’
The U.S. private educational sector also reaps benefits from Nigerian patronage. According to Oyedele Adeyi, an associate Professor at the University of Toronto, Canada, it is estimated that $1.5 trillion was spent by Nigerian parents to educate their wards in foreign Institutions in 2016. The top countries with the largest number of Nigerian students are Canada, UK and the U.S.
It is abundantly clear that international terrorism poses grave threats and existential challenges globally and constitutes the new frontier of the war on civilisation. Vital trans-Atlantic partnerships based on trust, affinity and goodwill are indispensable in combating these vile forces. The alleged deliberate and unjustifiable disparaging statements about Nigerians do not serve the interests of the U.S. in this regard.
It would seem from all indications that Trump is seeking to pursue an impossible and elusive ‘Alice in Wonderland’ dream for Americans in the 21st century in which non-whites are pilloried, stigmatized and most definitely unwelcome in the U.S.
I would draw the reader’s attention to the salient and poignant words of former President George. W. Bush spoken in a public address in New York in October 2017.
‘We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanisation. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.
We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.
We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments – forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places, where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge.
In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values.’
To these words, I would humbly add given the season the world is now celebrating ,that the greatest man who will ever live in human form, was not even born in a ‘hut’ but was born in a ‘manger,’ a place deemed fit only for animals.
Fowler is an international lawyer.
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