PROFESSOR Charles Okeke, dean of the School of Education, Behavioral and Social Sciences in the Nevada System of Higher Education, United States of America, USA, writes that Nigeria and Africa will not be a priority of Donald Trump’s administration in America beyond the point of intersection of Nigeria and U.S. geopolitical and economic interests.
The world has awaken to the reality that the United States is changing guards and that in less than three months the sun will set on President Barack Obama’s administration and Donald Trump’s administration will come into force. How this came to be is something that will be studied and discussed by scholars, politicians and people in various spheres of life.
One enduring take away is that hope and hopelessness are opposite sides of the same coin: the former being the force of good while the other could unleash the unexpected side of human instinct. How this affects our politics and our actions is a lesson for Nigerian and African leaders and their peoples. When a leader forgets or ignores the cries and aspirations of his people, he will lose relevance. In Nigeria, the Boko Haram insurgence, IPOB, Delta Boys etc. are symptoms of hopelessness and not necessarily instrumentalities of oppression. How the affected governments react to these symptoms depends on how they are seen: symptoms or instrumentalities.
How the incoming Trump administration in the United States will relate to various parts of the world, their peoples and issues has become subject of interest. No one can say yet with certainty the direction and scope of the Trump administration’s global engagement. However, as has been said by many, America has permanent interests, not permanent friends.
For Nigeria and Africa, one of the most important signals for direction is the person who is appointed to the position of assistant secretary of state for Africa. This would tell Africa watchers the vision and expectations Trump administration has for Africa. The U.S. policies will be inward. One thing any serious observer has to contend with is the likelihood that Nigeria and Africa will not be a priority beyond the point of intersection of Nigeria and U.S. geopolitical and economic interests.
A U.S. statesman, late Governor Mario Cuomo of New York, once said that campaigning is done in poetry while governing is in prose. So it may be with U.S. President-Elect Trump. Although he did not say much during the presidential election, many analysts and are furiously reaching conclusions from the election tidbits. He did not fly to the Middle-East for photo op as many U.S. presidential candidates were wont to do. Rather, he concentrated on domestic issues. Would he deal with international issues? Of course, but these are not going to be top priorities unless there is immediate threat to U.S. national interest abroad. His commitment is to his people and not to Nigeria or to Africa. He would not ignore Africa, the world richest and, paradoxically, poorest continent on earth but African leaders should expect to be lectured on the importance of good governance and the anti-developmental effect of a corruption-induced capital flight.
Rather the Trump administration would address Nigeria’s and Africa’s concerns to the extent that taking up such issues would help the administration meet some domestic concerns in the U.S. as well as any pressing international obligations such as fighting terrorism, renegotiating trade and international agreements, and border security/immigration issues. There would be a serious review of foreign aid. Therefore, it would serve Nigerian and African leaders well to start cataloguing their anti-corruption initiatives and the successes achieved. This dovetails into an area where Nigeria would continue to engage with the incoming Trump administration: seek its help in searching and locating looted Nigeria’s monies by the country’s politicians, civil servants and their accomplices, foreign and domestic.
Asset Recovery Initiatives
It is imperative that Nigeria does its homework before convening any serious meeting with the incoming U.S. administration. The process should isolate and define a clear set of objectives. Stolen asset recovery should rightly be included in those objectives. It was reported recently that the federal government of Nigeria is considering seeking foreign loan. To do so without simultaneously indicating the seriousness of the recovery of the country’s stolen public funds would be a flagrant display of unwisdom given that it was not too long ago (during President Obasanjo Administration) that the country went through the process of debt restructuring and forgiveness. How did the country come to acquire those forgiven debts and what was the loan used for? Unproductive loans will put a shackle on the economy and should be avoided at all cost.
Continued assistance to Nigeria in his asset recovery effort should be one of those areas of common interest. In a statement attributed to Trump during the campaign that if elected he would deport Africans especially Nigerians who it was claimed were taking away good jobs meant for Americans. He further indicated that the reason Nigerians came in large numbers was that monies meant for the development and job creation in the country were stolen by their leaders. In that case, Nigerian leaders should seek the Trump administration assistance in locating the stolen monies to help reduce the migration of Nigerians to the United States.
Health and Security
In a recent article (November 10, 2016) by John Campbell in the U.S. Newsweek, while acknowledging that “Africa is of immense importance to U.S. interests with respect to climate change, disease and a host of potential security issues” he expressed the opinion that U.S. traditional long-term focal point of “promoting democracy, human rights and rule of law” may not be top priority of Trump administration.
Given the global nature of today’s economy and the need for a coordinated security efforts, one would expect to see a continuing security arrangement between the U.S. and some strategically located African countries. The U.S. military assistance in dealing with Boko Haram insurgence which became a tad chilly under President Goodluck Jonathan seems to have warmed up under President Muhammadu Buhari. That is expected to continue.
Economy and Trade
It is in the area of economy and trade that there could be serious concern if Trump’s autarkic campaign posture is carried out. Trade wars represent an ill wind for everyone. It leads to general decline in global output of goods and services. African economies have traditionally relied on commodities and extractive industries and if Trump makes good his inward-looking policies, these economies will be negatively affected as the demand for the primary products will decline.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act, AGOA, which is worth about $50 billion which may not be that significant, but looms large for African economies, was recently renewed, but could become a casualty of Trump’s professed inward focus.
In an effort to assist developing nations acquire the funds, resources and technical know-how, developed countries and international organizations often provide developmental assistance to developing nations. Africa has benefitted from such programs. This is sometimes quite unpopular in some donor countries including the U.S. The unpopularity of such aid programs tend to increase when the donor country is having its own economic difficulties. While I expect U.S. to continue to provide such aid, its size may be reduced and some of the saving resulting from the reduction redirected to deal with internal domestic concerns.
In the November 10, 2016 issue of The Africa Report, Mark Anderson and Nicholas Norbrook, indicated that U.S. “is the world’s biggest bilateral aid donor. Last year Washington spent $31bn on overseas development assistance, with much of those funds going to Africa. In an interview with the Washington Post, Trump said his presidency will focus on internal programmes rather than overseas aid.”
It is because of the enormous size of the U.S. economy that it is often said that when the U.S. sneezes everyone catches cold. Nigeria and African leaders must start seeing leadership as a means of developing and lifting up their peoples to become productive and contributing members of their societies and not an avenue of lining their pockets and fattening their bank accounts. Good leaders must listen and feel the pains of his people. As a leader, you have to ask yourself as my favorite poet, Kahlil Gibran asked, “Do you hear those cries and lamentations? Do you hear these moans and sighs? Or are you like the proud and mighty who do not see the out-stretched hand or bear the cries of the poor.”
The uncertainty created in the international community by the election of Trump as the 45th President of the United States should represent a wake-up call for African leaders and would hopefully lead to the realization that the best way to inoculate their peoples to the vagaries of politics and economies is to train and empower their peoples.
*Dr. Charles Okeke was born in Nigeria. He attended St. Joseph’s Secondary School, Awka-Etiti and earned Grade I in the West African School Certificate Examination after which he attended St. Patrick’s College, Asaba. He is currently a professor of economics and statistics in the department of social sciences and the dean of the School of Education, Behavioral and Social Sciences in the Nevada System of Higher Education. His areas of interest and research include Health Economics, Macroeconomics, Development Economics, Monetary Economics and Labor. He served as the chairman of Department of Social Sciences from 1993 – 2003. He obtained the Bachelor of Business Administration in Economics from University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, a Master’s degree in School Business Management from University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, Master’s and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in economics from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He is an expert in wealth protection and intergenerational transfer of wealth. He holds Life, Health and Fixed Annuities licenses in multiple states in the United States. He has authored and co-authored numerous public interest articles as well as academic papers such as “Enterprise Zones and Community Revitalization: A Wish or Reality?” “The Wealth Gap: The Continuing Dilemma,” “Employment and the New Economy,” “Why Is the Cost of Health Care Rising So Fast?” “Unskilled Labor and the International Trade’” “Health Insurance Coverage, Medical Events, and Bankruptcies,” and most recently, contributed a chapter titled “The Integration of Africa: Commodity Based Industrialization Examined,” was released last Summer in Private Sector Development in West Africa, Diery Seck, Ed. (2015) (Springer Scientific Publishing). He has also served on numerous boards such as, International Journal of Economics, Business & Finance (Editorial Board Member) & Scientific Journal International Review Board, (2008 – Present). He was a board member of Las Vegas-Clark County Urban league and later served as its consultant. He is a member of the Knights of St. Peter Claver and 4th degree member of the Knights of Columbus. He is member of Nigerian Association of Las Vegas where he served as the founding secretary. Dr. Okeke also holds memberships in the International Health Economics Association, American Society of Health Care Economists, Western Economic Association International and the American Economic Association. With over two decades of experience in Higher Education internationally, he is a highly sought after speaker on various policy issues.