OPINION | Trump’s Aberrations, Biden’s Normalization and Okonjo-Iweala’s Ascension, By Magnus Onyibe

February 22, 2021
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*Magnus-Onyibe

When my opinion piece titled  “Coup In The Capitol Hill And The Divided States of America” which was focused on the insurrection by extremists who stormed the Capitol on 6 January this year was first published in the mass media on 11 January before being republished on LinkedIn platform a couple of weeks ago; a security expert in the USA was so riled by my reference to the country as Divided States of America, DSA that he literarily called me out.

According to him, he was pissed off by my uncomplimentary tagging of the USA as DSA.

He did not give a hoot about my explanation that the title was apt as the USA had become so divided as evidenced by the 81m people that voted for Joe Biden who won the presidency, versus the 74m that voted for Donald Trump, that got defeated in the 3November, 2020 presidential elections in the USA and refused to accept defeat.

Tried as l did , he failed to be persuaded by my explanations that the pattern of the votes and behavior of the electorate suggested a huge division amongst Americans that bayed  for Trump and those that  kicked against him numbering up to 7 million more than those for him.

I also strived to no avail to sway my traducer away from his impertinence into accepting that a consequential fall out of the deep rift amongst voters in the USA is what snowballed into the 6 January storming of the Capitol by the insurrectionists intent on disrupting the procedures by the legislators from the 50 states of the union who had assembled to certify Joe Biden’s win in the electoral college votes.

My assailant was so peeved that instead of paying attention to my justification of the title, he questioned my locus standi for commenting on the seeming collapse of democracy in the country that prides herself as the bastion of liberal democracy and leader of the free world.

In his view , what right do l have to poke fun or comment on the status of the democracy in the almighty USA, particularly when l’m a citizen of Nigeria that is yet to figure out what the practice of democracy as a system of government is about, how much more practice it in purity.

I ignored his asinine remark because l had concluded that the fellow who was trying to bully me must be a Trumpist.

Since l felt he must be living in denial , my response to him was simple and presented in the following manner :

The brutal and savage attack on legislators- senators and congressmen/women – by Trumpists and other political extremists during a joint session of Congress under the chairmanship of then Vice President Mike Pence in the process of certifying the  electoral college votes from the 50 states affirming Joe R. Biden as the 46th president of the USA , was enough to demystify the world’s most powerful democracy. And it certainly did for me.

I reminded him of how un-American the invasion of the Capitol, the symbol of USA democracy is, and what a blithe on the country’s democracy credentials , the savage action of trying to over turn Joe Biden’s victory represents to lovers of democracy or its adherents like me world wide. I drew his attention to the fact that some democracy devotees like my good self that had become champions of democratic system of governance in my country of which the USA was the poster child or mascot, are still trying to pull ourselves out of the trauma and depression of seeing the Capitol, which had never been attacked until the British set the legislative seat of power on fire on 24 August, 1814 when it invaded the USA during the country’s struggle for independence. I then proceeded to bring to his notice , how bewildered and crest fallen l was seeing the physical siege and desecration of the symbol of democracy by the extremists on the fateful 6 January, 2020.

That’s in addition to the fact that it was so absurd to me that then president of the USA,  mr Trump was caught on tape trying to compel an official in charge of elections in one of the states to arbitrarily award him votes that he did not earn.

l then added that the  shenanigans were really so appalling and jarring to me that a seating president would invite state government officials to the White House where he would attempt to bully them into skewing electoral votes in their respective states in his favor.

Finally, l informed my interrogator that given that we practice presidential system of government in Nigeria , the bad example set on 6 January in the USA was bound to rub off negatively on politics in my country, hence l expressed my displeasure via the article that was deemed  offensive to him.

I have no idea if he was assuaged or persuaded by my submission, but l’m convinced that the points that l made were enough for him to ponder and perhaps aid him in getting off his high horses.

On a personal note, the very critical reasons for writing the piece is that l was anxious to see the back of Donald Trump from the White House as the 45th president of the USA, principally because his administration, amongst other local and international perfidies and arbitrariness, was blocking the appointment of our own amazon -Ngozi Okonjo-lweala as the next president of the World Trade Organization, WTO.

Here is how Okonjo-Iweala described in a recent media interview, her ordeal in the hands of Trump when she was vying to be the Director General of the WTO :

 “I think I was quite surprised when that came (opposition from Trump) because there was no indication that there was any problem with the US.

“I had two good interviews with the authorities and with the administration so it was a surprise. But that’s the way life works. When things happen, you take them in your stride and you move on.

“It was absolutely wonderful when the Biden/Harris administration broke that logjam. They joined the consensus and gave such a strong endorsement to my candidacy. They joined the other 163 members to endorse my candidacy.”

Unlike Okonjo-lweala, l’m not surprised that Trump opposed her candidacy and my pessimistic prognosis is derived from the fact that the same Trump had also referred to Nigeria as a ‘shit hole’ country , affirming his racist tendencies, inclinations and attitude towards members of black and brown communities and even extending to Africans on the continent.

By also trying to literarily kill the dream of kids born in the USA also known as DACA (a lot of them Nigerians) via a policy of preventing them from getting a secure pathway to becoming citizens if their parents were not bonafide American citizens,Trump revealed that he lacked empathy or exposed his meanness.

Now, contrary to former president Trump’s abrasive leadership style, president Biden has amongst a slew or deluge of reversals of Trump’s obnoxious policies, resuscitated DACA that was introduced via executive order under the watch of the 44th president of the USA, Barack Obama whom he served with as Vice President . The policy which espouses 8 years time lag to get to citizenship by immigrants is poised to be one of president Biden’s biggest hurdles to scale , perhaps second in importance to the Affordable Care Act(ACA)otherwise known as Obamacare that was under threat of cancellation by Trump, but also currently receiving parliamentary attention .

It is amazing how the 46th president, Biden is such a contrast to the 45th , Trump.

While Biden is an empathetic and liberal leader with a mission to unite white and black as well as blue and red Americans, even as he seeks to reignite America’s sparkle as a force for good all over the world, Trump was a champion of white supremacy to the extent that he did not only divide Americans, but ostracized people from major parts of the world as he tangoed or faced-  off with China , lran , North Korea and even some countries in Europe-a continent with a preponderance of  countries that are joined in the hips with America.

Under president Biden’s leadership , the USA has just donated a whopping $4b to COVAX- a World Health Organization, WHO co-ordinated fund for sourcing COVID-19 vaccines in support of people in under resourced countries worldwide.

Compare and contrast such Biden’s public spiritedness with Trump’s -the man who as the president of the USA,the wealthiest country in the world-only donated ventilators that were no longer needed in the USA to African countries including Nigeria. Perhaps the gesture by mr Trump is a demonstration or in furtherance of his reckoning that only crumps are good enough for Africans that he disdainfully referred to as people from ‘shit hole’ countries.

His racist tendencies were not restricted to just blacks  in America, but he was projecting it far beyond. With his America First mantra , ex president Trump espoused and promoted the insularity of the USA by projecting to the vulnerable members of the global society that the USA is no longer ‘their brothers keepers’ , yet he wanted to have influential control over Africa Development Bank, ADB, the World Health Organization, WHO, the World Trade Organization,WTO and other Breton wood institutions.

How do l know that?

Under president Trump’s watch, the USA had tried very hard to torpedo Akinwunmi Adesina’s bid for re-election as African Development Bank, ADB president. The ADB president was accused of financial malfeasance by a USA representative on the board of the bank. But after several internal probes and a repeated  probe by an independent panel absolved him of any malpractice, the USA had no choice but to capitulate by accepting Akinwunmi Adewunmi’s re-election.

By the same token , the  WHO, Director General, Tedros Adhanom Gbebreyesus was clobbered by Trump over his alleged mismanagement of covid-19 pandemic, and allegedly for pandering to the Chinese, according to Trump’s reckoning.

His only escape from Trump’s racist cudgel is because the Make America Great Again, (MAGA)exponent lost his re-election bid to mr Biden who has now offered the Ethiopia born DG of WHO,  a new lease of life by returning the USA to the global health organization as a major donor .

Characteristically, Trump and his administration’s streak for literarily sticking dagger into the heart of Africans became manifest once again when he constituted a stumbling block on the path of our own amazon, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as she was vying for the role of Director General for WTO.

Even after 163 countries had endorsed the Harvard and MIT-ivy league institutions-educated development economist for the job, the USA under Trump’s presidency remained a lone dissenter and a clog in the wheel of progress as he threw his weight and that of the USA behind South Korea’s trade minister, Yoo Myung-hee.

Obviously, America’s public policy under former president Trump had become stuck like a bull trying to walk on quicksand that it needed to be rescued by a regime with a more robust and accommodating world view.

Fortuitously ,it is not only the WTO logjam that has been eased up, the Biden/Harris administration has for all its intents and purposes practically started untangling the administrative nooses that the immediate past president Trump’s  administration tied the system down with in pursuit of his America First and Make America Great Again, (MAGA) mantra.

As an administration on a rescue mission, team Biden/Harris now looks like a lawn mower in a garden that had been left unattended to by an irresponsible and perhaps reckless homeowner/tenant or at best a snowmobile clearing up the pathways after a snowstorm in the manner that the blizzard that recently hit the USA is being cleared up , particularly in the fossil fuel rich state of Texas.

Without a shred of doubt, the reputation of the USA as the epitome of democracy sunk , as my faith in the unequalled, unparalleled , indisputable and towering position of the that country as the face of democracy in this century symbolized by the Statue of Liberty whose imposing presence in New York habor beckons visitors to the great, USA, the land of the free and where all humans can be what they can be irrespective of their color or creed , was questioned by that 6 January invasion of the Capitol by those that l have, perhaps mockingly described as coup plotters.

Incidentally, l’m not alone in tagging the USA as the Divided States of America, DSA after the abhorrent behavior put up by right wing politicians and extremists who are essentially Trump supporters.

Fareed Zakaria, a CNN  anchor for the talk show Fared Zakaria GPS had shortly after my article  also titled his special report on the 6 January breakdown of law and order in the Capitol as “The Divided States of America- What’s Tearing Us Apart” a documentary which was broadcast on CNN, 29 January.

Following that obnoxious act that resulted in a major loss of face for the USA , it is commendable that the new Biden administration has clearly pressed a reset button that would put the almighty USA back to the top of the pecking order in the global committee of nations by acting like an adult that it is, before Trump’s maladministration made the country look like a banana republic following the coup on the Capitol Hill on the fateful 6 January show of infamy.

The G-7 meeting held virtually by the leaders of the 7 most powerful and prosperous nations on planet earth hosted in Munich , Germany last week offered president Biden the platform to announce the re-engagement of the USA with her allies that ex president Trump had alienated. He did so by signaling the rejoining global initiatives such as climate change and the multiple nations lran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) from which mr Trump had decoupled the USA.

As an elated president Biden declared to his audience during the G-7 virtual meeting “America is back, the trans-Atlantic alliance is back,”

For sure, everybody loves to win,but some winners can’t even boast about their success or gloat  about their victory because it may be pyrrhic. While that’s not the lot or burden of president Joe R Biden, former president Donald J Trump, the 45th president of the USA falls into the category of winners who can’t boast or gloat. Simply because his victory in the senate that failed to convict him after the House of Representatives had impeached him for inciting the insurrection in the Capitol on 6 January, can’t be celebrated.

Thats despite the fact that he has actually won four times since 2016 when he made his first foray into the arena of politics and winning the presidency of the USA. The lack of desire or spunk by his fellow party members in the upper legislative chamber to convict him in the senate after the House of Representatives had impeached him for inciting insurrection in the Capitol reflects how partisan politicians , even in the USA can be.

Before now, Mr Trump had also won in the senate when the upper legislative chamber failed to also get him convicted and removed from office after he was first impeached by the House of Representatives in December of 2019 for his role in soliciting the help of Ukraine- a foreign country  to investigate his opponent, Joe Biden which is an aberration of the constitution of the country.

Prior to the two aforementioned victories in the senate , ex president Trump had also in 2016 won the highly contested Republican Party primaries for the presidency, after which he went on to win the presidency following his defeat of Hillary Clinton, former First Lady of the USA, one time senator representing the state of New York and later US Secretary of State.

So, in a rather uncanny and grotesque manner, Mr Trump has been four times a winner in American politics.

Before each of the four wins, nobody gave candidate Trump a chance because he was a political neophyte at that time .

But having defied all the odds , he has become such an enigma, if not a cult figure in American politics. Although there is a legion of single term presidents such as Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush in modern American history, at least no other president in USA history had been impeached twice, except mr Trump. So he takes the cake in that respect.

Oddly enough, despite being defeated as president and the GOP losing control of both the House of Representatives and senate under his watch , former president Trump is still held in awe by the party members to the extent that the party of the venerable Abraham Lincoln is now being tagged Trump’s party.

The 45th president is such a study in contrast.

A leadership icon to his faithfuls- 74 million Americans who voted for him on 3 November 2020 that are also the insurrectionists that stormed the parliament to steal the victory for him when the electoral college votes from all the 50 states were being certified by all the law makers in the entire United States of America in favor of former Vice President Biden.

Conversely, Mr Trump is also a villain to the 82 million Americans that voted for mr Biden and they are those that Trump wanted to undermine by calling for the cancellation of their votes so that he could be awarded victory and returned to office . Certainly, from the foregoing , mr Trump represents different strokes for different folks.

But Trump does not bow to defeat, neither is he phased by it . That’s why he still has the confidence to excoriate his former ally, Mitch McConnell, former senate majority leader currently minority leader that voted against Trump’s conviction during the senate impeachment trial. In what appears to be a dubious act, McConnell also blamed the former president for instigating the storming of the Capitol Hill by the angry mob on that fateful 6 January, that resulted in fatalities for 5 persons including a police officer.

Which is curious because the senate minority leader seem to be blowing hot and cold same time.

Although mr Trump was able to inspire fear in most of the GOP senators enough to successfully escape being convicted by the upper chambers of the legislature twice, he is likely to buckle under the weight of the looming monumental law suits that are currently staring him in the face, since his immunity from prosecution has been lost following his ouster from the White House since January, this year. The judiciary has already proven to be an uneasy nut to crack when all the 163 suits that Trump filled against the 2020 presidential elections failed to yield his desired outcome.

Pre Trump’s presidency, (2016-2021) the USA and its practice of liberal democracy was awe inspiring to me. Especially after the  first black man, Barack Obama was elected the 44th  president.

That was an unprecedented feat given that blacks constitute only roughly 14% of the population of the USA.  Obama’s rise to the presidency was even made more poignant by the fact that barely a century ago, blacks that dwelt in the White House were only mere slaves who lived in the underground residences provided for White House  servants. Amazingly, a  black Woman, madam Vice President, Kamala Harris is now another co-occupant of the White House barely four years after Obama’s departure. To me those positive developments are the unique and beautiful attributes of democracy in the USA.

However, arising from the hack man’s job that ex president Trump did by working up his supporters emotionally to storm the Capitol, he burst my bubble about the inviolability and invincibility of the democratic institutions in the USA which l had reckoned as being very sturdy and tamper proof.

But given the dizzying rate at which things have rapidly changed globally  in the past one year, l’ve learnt never to take anything off the table or take anything fore granted.

Remarkably, while Trump was on his way out of the White House on January 20th, he had boasted , “l will be back.“

The question now, is would he?

The midterm elections coming up next year, 2022 in which he has promised to get involved, with a view to influencing positive outcomes for his allies would be a useful barometer.

That the GOP leaders allowed him to continue to lead the party whose fortunes he had squandered, speaks volumes about the vice grip that a man that was considered to be a political novice has on the Republican Party.

To be fair , were it not for Trump’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic that has sent nearly half a million Americans to their  untimely graves , the USA economy was bubbling with employment rate soaring. With those critical barometers of prosperity on the right trajectory, Mr Trump was pretty confident that he would be re-elected.

But alas, he got defeated by former Vice President Biden with about 7 million  more popular votes-81/74 and more electoral college votes of 273 for Biden and 214 for him.

Recall that in 2016 Hillary Clinton had beaten Trump with 3 million popular votes, but Trump clinched the presidency by polling more electoral college votes than Mrs Clinton-304/227.

So , in America and in fact, in life, it’s advisable to always be prepared as anything can happen.

For instance , nobody knew some three decades ago that China would be the economic powerhouse of the world barely 15 years after it joined the World Trade Organization, WTO. But China had cleverly shut itself out from the rest of the world and tarried until it had developed capacity to compete positively before she joined the WTO and opened her market to the rest of the world and also gained access to the global market.

In fact , in December 2019,  nobody, (perhaps except mr Bill Gates who predicted it 5 years earlier) reckoned that there would be an outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic in December of 2019 spreading from Wuhan, China.

Worse of all, no one expected that one year after the invasion of mankind by coronavirus, nearly half a million people would die in the USA-the most powerful and richest country in the world due to mismanagement of COVID-19 pandemic by former president Trump.

Nobody by this time last year also knew that cryptocurrency or Bitcoin would be a major payment currency in the world threatening the preeminent position of traditional currencies.

Also by this time last year , president Biden had the ambition, but wasn’t certain he would be the next president of the USA as his contest for the job in the primaries was floundering.

Ditto for Madam Vice President, Kamala Harris whose campaign during the primaries was not well resourced so it couldn’t  reach the threshold of remaining in the contest ,  and had to discontinue.

So her hope of being in the White House in 2021 had gone with the wind . As such she did not believe that she would be the first female and African/Asian American to be the Vice President of the USA.

But five years ago, Hillary Clinton thought that her pathway to being the first female president of the USA and the first, First Lady to be madam president of the USA was a fait accompli. But fate dealt her a cruel blow as her ambition to be the first woman president of the USA which was looking like a done deal, ended like a puff of smoke or a pack of collapsing cards with the trophy going to the unlikely winner , then candidate Trump.

I can bet that about a year ago, the 45th President of the USA, Donald J Trump also never had any premonition that he would not be living in the White House beyond 20 January . But would be living permanently in his Mar-a Lago resort in Florida , where he may be forced to vacate soon as he might currently be in breach of the agreement with the city council which does not allow him to dwell in the resort as a permanent resident for over a certain period of time consistently. In fact ex president Trump, at least was not planning to exit the White House until after his second term hence he attempted to dig in his heels. And that’s  evidenced by his antics to self perpetuate spanning several demands for recount of votes in several states, filling of 163 law suits aimed at claiming victory, his futile attempt to invoke the  marshal laws, a gambit of which he got rebuffed by the military before finally stirring up his supporters to storm the Capitol with a view to killing law makers and hanging  Vice President Mike Pence who was in the Capitol with his family.

I can go on and on being philosophical and waxing lyrical about what could be, what can’t and what has been.

As the saying goes, man proposes, God disposes.

With former president Trump’s isolationist policies in the four years that he spent in the White House , president Biden’s job has been cut out for him.

Fittingly, the G-7 virtual meeting last Tuesday offered the 46th president of the USA an opportunity to announce that America is back to lead the world which is in stark contrast with Trump’s America first mantra that alienated the USA from its traditional allies and deepened the void between America and her traditional enemies.

With respect to the ascendancy of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the top of the hierarchy as the DG of WTO, I admire her courage because it has been a long struggle.

It may be recalled that in 2019 she had set out to become the world bank group president. But she failed to clinch it when she lost it to David Malpas , an American because the super powers or security council members of the UN have allocated the leadership of the Breton wood institutions (lMF, World bank , WTO)  to themselves. World bank always goes to the USA, currently under the leadership of mr Malpas. The  lMF goes to the Europeans-now headed by a French woman , Christiane Largarde, and the WTO is allocated to the medium powers, hence the last occupant is a Brazilian and little wonder Trump was hell bent to hand the trophy over to the South Korean candidate Yoo Myung-hee that had no option than to step down after mr Trump, her backer lost his re-election bid and it became manifest that president Biden’s administration has no appetite for arbitrariness, but big on meritocracy.

President Biden’s appointment into his government of a coterie of Nigerian-Americans into critical posts in his administration affirms his confidence in the ability and capacity of Nigerians to perform their assigned roles creditably .

In pursuit of their  neocolonialist agenda, apparently, the G-7 or sometimes G-10 club of the most powerful countries in the world, might have concluded that Africa and the bottom of the rung countries in Europe and Asia could only aspire to have one of their own serve as United Nations Secretary General-think of Boutrous Ghali, from Egypt , Kofi Annan of Ghana, Ban Ki-Moon of South Korea and current Secretary General , Anthonio Gutteres from Portugal.

But apparently, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala ‘s ambition does not recognize barriers or glass ceilings.

So she persisted as a positive non conformist until she broke the WTO glass ceiling. In other words , she gave ‘good trouble’ as the late civil  rights icon and congressman, John Lewis likes to describe unrelenting and sacrificial trouble or struggle for a good cause, until she attained her goal.

Characteristically a lot of women, fellow Africans , Nigerians and even Deltans have been celebrating Okonjo-Iweala’s rare accomplishment.

As the saying goes, nothing succeeds like success.

It is doubtless that most of Okonjo-lweala’s cheer leaders are doing so for the altruistic reasons that she has broken the glass ceiling and by so doing she has paved the way for more Africans to aspire to lead any global organizations -including the World bank and IMF as opposed to being restricted to the role of a mere figure heads or ceremonial heads of the United Nations, UN.

But a good number of us are also doing so with a view to soliciting help such as contracts from the new WTO ,DG which typically is the quest of most average Nigerians and indeed Africans.

Well, to the later category of people, perhaps they need to be reminded that the contracting system in supranational entities such as WTO are very well scrutinized and curated to a reasonable degree. So more often than not contracts are only awarded on the basis of merit.

Besides being a global public servant (having served as the managing director of an arm of the world bank group) Okonjo-lweala has manifestly not exhibited the tendency to pander to the whims and caprices of her ‘people’.

l know that because when she was minister of finance under president Olusegun Obasanjo and later minister of the economy under President Goodluck Jonathan for  a total period of about 7 years, no infrastructure like schools, hospitals, roads or electricity power plants or transformers were influenced by her for location in Ogwashi-Uku her homestead or even Delta state in general.

Typically, as the finance minister ,fellow cabinet members would lobby her  before presenting their proposals in cabinet meetings by offering to cite or locate some infrastructure in her place of choice so that their proposals would sail through and receive funding at the executive council meeting.

But it appears like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala acceded to none of such entreaties and thus effectively denied her kinsmen the dividends of democracy or perks that come with such high profile jobs.

My hunch is that her tour of duty as the Director General of the World Trade Organization, WTO won’t be any different.

A worse case scenario would be that she could help unshackle the burden of unfair trade which is currently the yoke around the neck and load upon the back of Africans placed by the industrialized world in furtherance of the obnoxious slave trade , which got stepped down to colonialism and finally neocolonialism which was imposed on the people of the continent of Africa over four hundred years ago.

If she could make the case that Africa needs Trade not Aid by promoting south – south trade which implies trade between and amongst African countries and other developing countries without passing through the economies of their former colonial masters and the industrialized world in Europe, she would have hit a home run, as baseball players do, or  scored a birdie as golfers characterize exceptional achievements in the respective games.

Although I have no idea or evidence to determine  if Ngozi Okonjo-lweala has been feathering her nest in anyway or manner, but one thing that’s for sure is that she would ruffle feathers in her new role as DG of WTO if that’s what it would take to accomplish her noble mission.

After all, it is not for nothing that she was nicknamed Okonjo Wahalla during her tour of duty as a cabinet minister in Nigeria.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ONYIBE, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from lagos.

 

 

 

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