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Trumpism: the lessons for Nigeria

by Our Reporter

By Tochukwu Ezukanma

Many Nigerians gloated over the invasion of the United States’ Capitol
by President Trump’s supporters because they subliminally found solace
in it. The solace being that, if the oldest and most stable democracy in
the world can be plagued by such political upheaval, we can justifiably
excuse away the abysmal social and political standards, and political
bungling, of our fledgling democracy. But, in that episode, there are
lessons, not alibis, for Nigerians.

Despite the congeries that have been associated with civilization,
civilization is most importantly about what the ancient Greek writers
called, “taming the savageness of man and making gentle the life of
this world”. Over thousands of years, different cultures and countries
of the world succeeded, in varying degrees, in taming the savageness of
man. Western countries are the most successful in this civilizing
enterprise. More than the other peoples of the world, they evolved the
most genteel and just societies, and made “gentle the life of this

It is tempting to attribute this feat to the genetic superiority of the
races that inhabit the West. However, as Harry Barnes rightfully noted,
“All efforts to prove the superiority of one race or sub-race of man
over another turned out unsuccessful”. It is not a race, but culture,
cultural skills and attitudinal disposition that are most significant in
determining human development. The differences in social accomplishment
and human development between races, for example, White and Black, are
more cultural and attitudinal than genetic. Race is strictly a physical
matter that has no relation to intelligence and cultural attainment.

In every human soul, no matter how barbaric or civilized, lurk
conflicting proclivities for savagery and civility History has
demonstrated that even amongst the civilized, wealthy and materially
efficient, savageness has sometimes triumphed in this duel between
savageness and civilization in man. No wonder, Donald Trump, a
billionaire, superlative achiever in business and politics and the
president of the world’s oldest, greatest and wealthiest democracy can
be a barbarian.

The election of Trump president in 2016 was a backlash to eight years of
Barack Obama presidency. The election of Obama as the president of
America, a predominantly White country, with its entrenched and
intractable racism seemed impossible and was an unpardonable affront to
White Supremacists and other racist and ultra-conservative White
Americans. Trumpism gave expression to some of the deepest instincts of
these Americans. Trump is an epitome of White American implacable racism
and hard-core conservatism. For a delusional narcissist that expects to
always win, Trump alleges rigging each time he loses. So, quite
naturally, to him, because he lost the November 4th, 2020 presidential
election, the election was rigged.

It was leadership as personified by Trump that awakened the dormant
savagery in his supporters and channeled it to exceedingly disruptive
ends. His supporters fenestrated their sense of demureness, respect for
the law, reference for the popular will and democratic institutions; and
desecrated the ultimate citadel of American democracy, the Capitol. They
breached security, scaled walls, broke down windows and doors, entered
offices of congressmen and senators, strewed official papers around,
carted away artifacts, and planted pipe bombs. Their willful and
ruthless destructiveness was repulsively redolent of the vandalism of
the Vandals in 5th Century Europe.

Following the 2015 Nigerian presidential election, leadership, as
personified by Goodluck Jonathan brought out the best in Nigerians. Many
Jonathan supporters were ready to reject the election results and slug
it out with the opposition. They were roiled and ready for trouble. It
was the words of Jonathan that engendered the triumph of decorum over
savageness in that inner duel among his supporters. With his concession
speech, he restrained his crestfallen and agitated supporters, and
stunned and sobered his overjoyed opponents. And, inescapably, peace

Is the lesson not obvious? It is all about leadership. The power,
influence and consequences of leadership are so enormous and
all-encompassing that it literally defines a people, nation or country.
The words of a leader unleashed anarchy in America, a civilized,
efficient and orderly country, and the words of a leader brought peace
to Nigeria, a vast scene of confusion, renowned for its dysfunction and
anarchistic propensity. By their words and actions, leaders shape the
country: bring about peace or war, poverty and prosperity, rule of law
or anarchy, etc. Invariably, Nigeria is in its present disgraceful state
because of the irresponsible utterances and dishonorable actions of our

It is therefore high time we paid painstaking attention to the quality
of men and women we elect to power in every stratum of our governments.
We must carefully scrutinize them, meticulously pore over their
education, mindset, credibility, patriotism, commitment to the
collective good, etc because the quality of a leader must invariably
reflect on the people/country he leads. And for those already elected to
office, we have to continually engage them: demanding accountability,
responsibility, elevated morals and ethics, equity, and social justice.

The #EndSARS protest was very exhilarating because it was a major
attempt, in a very long time, to hold the Nigerian power elite
accountable. Lamentably, it was not sustained: it fizzled out once
soldiers opened fire on the protesters. To expect a reformation of the
Nigerian government, and subsequently, the transformation of the
Nigerian society without loss of lives is quixotic. It is starry-eyed
optimism and infantile naiveté. Just, as there cannot be birth without
loss of blood, there cannot be national re-birth without loss of blood.

Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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