Tuesday, February 11, 2020 12:50 am
By Ademola Araoye
In the era of global uncertainties brought about by the open resurgence of challenges to liberal ideology and Constitutionalism in the Donald Trump United States of America, the rise of neo-fascism across Europe, and South America as well as strengthened racial prejudices in the Middle East, Nigeria has a challenging task of balancing its foreign policy, and associated with this, its consular relations with and in a rapidly altered world. This new rough global strategic template is characterized by increasing repudiation of established axioms underpinning interactions among peoples and nations around the globe. This is so as major state actors, most especially as the United Sates Trump administration questions the continued validity of old governing principles and fragilizes established guardrails of global diplomacy in its defiance of international sensibilities. Through this, the United States administration has rendered even more complicated the games that nations play. The subversion of the old understandings articulated in new bizarre policy prerogatives often reflects the altered problematic realities and difficult dynamics of internal politics of policy formulation in an unstable operational environment. A classical illustration of such bizarre policy in a turbulent operational environment is the Trump administration’s imposition of immigrant travel visa ban on Nigerians.
In the United States, Americans have noted the challenge their democracy is traversing in recent times. It has been highlighted that the Constitution of the United States, reflecting the best of eighteenth Century Enlightenment thinking is in grave danger under the “thugocracy” in the current White House. These American analysts express fear of a long national nightmare as they observe that the Constitution has become just another political football. They advance that to a significant degree the dysfunction they observe is a function of having a president who floridly embraces the values of a mob rather than of the Framers of the Constitution. They ruefully assert that the American Constitution has been hollowed out from below with the connivance of Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnel, who is described as “the greatest enemy of Constitutional democracy since the American Civil War”. They conclude that a written Constitution is not much value when it is just a piece of paper to those who decline to administer it. Under these conditions understanding the policies, including foreign and consular relations, of the Trump administration must begin with insightful interrogations of the dramatic domestic American context of policy, especially in demonstrated policy goals that may be revealing of unstated strategic objectives. A critical appreciation of the global context of policies emanating from any elite state player is imperative first, to highlight what the policy illustrates of the evolved dominant worldview, in particular if such policy deviates from established principles that have hitherto directed reciprocal relations between interacting traditional state powers. Secondly, the contextual evaluations are intended to gauge the resonance of foreign policy with international sensibilities within the framework of subsisting power structure with a view to assessing how the now “bizarre” policy advances the overall strategic objectives of the policy formulating elite state actor. Finally, inter-state interaction at its most profound is a two level engagement: the obvious and stated and the opaque and unstated. This is a critical dimension of foreign policy that deviates from internal domestic policy making within the constraints posed in a Constitutional environment. At the best of times, to unravel the real but unstated objectives of foreign policy such as the Trump administration’s ban on immigrant visa on Nigerians the analysts on the receiving side must undertake rigorous deconstruction and projections of emerging trends, known or potential intentions of the state actor often through tell tale indicative domestic policy that are overt. Such information are often openly sourced. A study of psychological profile of the preeminent articulators of policies is a great asset in this regard.
That is exactly the role of specialized national intellectual hermit homes like the long moribund Nigerian Institute of International Affairs. A functioning Institute of International Affairs must generate knowledge prodigiously. It must be headed by a serious world class intellectual of proven sterling contributions to the development of conceptual frameworks and theoretical appliances as well as paradigms to direct policy analysis and illuminate new and emerging trends as they evolve. These analytical tools, diffused through academic journals, books as well as in specialized publications of the institute help to illuminate developments in the thematic fields of endeavor across universes that are critical for the articulation of national objectives. They are also useful mechanisms in supporting policy prescriptions regarding alternative modalities for optimal achievement of desired objectives of state. That is the cultivation of a culture of rational inquiries and intellectualism that is clearly far from the constant outburst of commonsensical speculations by big titular heads that merely purvey the sentiments of a larger society gathered from parlors of “gif me another tombo”, These viewpoints seemingly from inebriation are basically unsound as they do not show intellectual rigor and uninformed about complexities and subtleties of foreign policy, including consular affairs to which the visa policy, whether in relation to admittance or limits to admittance, is core. It is obvious that Nigeria has certainly lacked the aforementioned crucial cerebral inputs to policy for a very long time. The National Intelligence Agency has the onerous responsibility to sift and distill all available information on any phenomenon of interest to state policy goals, from sources both open and otherwise, into a coherent snapshot of threats and opportunities for the benefit of policy makers who are also political leaders. Indeed there is no significant difference in the skill set of agents of the state engaged in the management of security policy and intellectuals in specialized think tanks that feed their counterparts on the state side. A symbiotic relationship exists.
Meanwhile, since the concept of national interest is regurgitated as an ubiquitous abracadabra parroted cliché by every foreign policy novice, it is necessary to also critically interrogate the concept in relation to whatever policy a state wishes to pursue. National interest is not a carte blanche, The fact is that the system, whether global, regional or sub-regional, places certain constraints on unbridled pursuit of self interests by state actors. That is why a good appreciation of prevailing sensibilities in the system is important. Nigeria just saw it at play when it took its time to study the implications of the long term implications of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) on its economic outlook. A stated pursuit of state policy can be adjudged normatively wrong in the context of prevailing international norms and consolidated understandings among allies and partners. Trumps impeachment saga tells a story about normative assessment of policy. Theoretically, a hegemon or leader of a coalition that pursues policies that endanger the coherence and collective stability of the alliance as we have in NATO in the Trump era can be called to account. Though of lesser gravity and import, a good example of a bizarre policy is the Trump administration immigrant visa ban on Nigerians. Internally Nigerian experts must acknowledge its wrongness, bizarre nature and interrogate it. By any stretch of imagination the emerging consensus in mainstream America is that the ban in no way protects Americas interests. Given the turbulence that America’s democracy and Constitutional order are going through, experts of repute understand that the immigrant ban on Nigeria has more to do with a radical and dangerous shift in the world view of the United States administration and more seriously it subverts the very republican ethos on which the American system is founded. The so called terrorism charges against the country cannot hold. The immigrant visa ban on Nigeria is reflection of the sad retreat of America’s future to the dangerous historic confrontations of the country with an unyielding inglorious past of the notion of America as a white nation. The Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs could have done nothing to pre-empt the travel ban given the circumstances.
The steps enumerated above on the need for robust examination of underlying causes of policy above enables the informed analysts of foreign policy to come to sound conclusions on the strategic objectives of the bizarre policy it has to grapple with .The attempt would be made here to apply these tools to the immigrant visa ban on Nigeria. Since the local apologists of the ban reference an imagined potential flood of Nigerian terrorists to the United States, it is apt to look at the facts in relation to this bogus claim. The anatomies of the two genre of Nigerian terrorism reveal that they both, Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen, have opportunistic antecedents. They have both equally exploited the structural and institutional weaknesses of the Nigerian state. Their characters and political objectives differ even though their methods are equally reprehensible. The differentiating defining character is that Boko Haram is a revolutionary group seeking to destroy the extant Nigerian order to replace it with a medieval Islamic Caliphate. On the contrary, the rampaging Fulani herdsmen are status quo forces seeking to expand its stakes and strengthen its hold in the prevailing Nigerian order. The objectives of the herdsmen would seem to coincide with those of prominent strong civil society associations with strong linkages to the status quo. These groups include Miyetti Allah horte Kaure.
The salient relenance in relation to the immigrant visa ban is that the two terrorist bodies are focused on largely internal interests in Nigeria and the immediate neighborhood in the case of Boko Haram. Meanwhile, the only significant adventure of a Nigerian terrorist in the United States was Murtallab, the Nigerian “underwear bomber’. Yet, Murtallab, like the two axe wielding Britons of Nigerian antecedents, was nominally Nigerian who was radicalized in the United Kingdom. Also, Murtallab’s father took the unusual step of alerting the American authorities of the potential threat posed by his son. The best analyses on global Terrorism, especially regarding threats to the United States are in American information banks. The United States administration has the where withal to understand the Nigerian challenges through vast data base and their rigorous analyses, The Trump administration, given the analytic arsenals at its disposal, therefore cannot believe there are many terrorists threatening the United States from Nigeria as the Nigerian apologists of their strange policy would want us to believe without adducing any factual and evidentiary references. This shallow thinking is consistent with our overall lack of rigor in our public discourse. This specific instance comes from an entrenched very disturbing and sad culture of national self vilification. It has no basis in fact. American security analysts know that our home spun terrorists are linked to network of Middle Eastern terrorist network who envision the conquest of Nigeria as a low hanging fruit to acquire at very low cost. And there are elite powers that have a vested interest in permanent destabilization of Nigeria in order to consolidate their hegemony that is being threatened by new potent forces such as China. Otherwise, in the larger scheme of things the threat of Nigerian terrorists to the Western order, including the United States, is very insignificant. That leaves the question open as to why Nigeria is included in the immigrant visa ban. Related to this is also the question as to why not a total travel if the goal is to prevent Nigerian terrorists from entering the United States.
The logical next step is to look inwardly at internal developments in the United States to seek explanation for the immigrant visa ban on Nigerians. In a recent intervention it was observed that in the process of “Making America Great Again” Donald J Trump has brought to the fore and to a head the hitherto subterranean turbulence and paradoxes in the long evolution of the concept of Americanness and the devaluation, even rejection, of its historic Exceptionalism; the conventional hallmark of being American. These paradoxes have challenged and undermined the fundamental underpinnings of America’s understanding of itself. Implied in this (d)evolution is the flagellation of the very unimpeachable theologies that have driven the centrifugal norms and protocols of America’s internal politics, notions of justice, internal race relations, the nation’s firm spirituality. Of course, these distortions have realigned America’s interactions with its neighbors and, indeed, the universe of diverse peoples and nations far and wide. The contemporaneous polarity of all facets of American national life is manifest in the psychological and physical barriers constructed by the Trump administration to protect and insulate America from those perceived to be unwanted racial, social and spiritual opportunistic dregs who gained access to the United States through a now repudiated liberalism that is also characterized as underbelly of its historic Exceptionalism. This turn around in the administration’s world view and associated immigration policies are symptomatic of a retreat to a future of unresolved crisis of Americanness and the undermining of grudging accommodations of the traditional policy derivatives of the assumed unique character of post Civil War, Reconstruction and Post World War II United States.
Today, a major plank of the Trump administration is the goal to Make America Great Again. In reality this is a code to Make America White Again. The concept of Whiteness in America has gone through many accommodations. Yet, America and indeed, the global white universe can’t stop obsessing over it. Donald J Trump has latched on to the old divisive theme of race to bolster his political career. Experts write that the legal and social strictures defining white Americans, and distinguishing them from persons not considered white by the government and society, have varied throughout U.S. history. The experts illuminate that by the 18th century, “white” had become well established as a racial term at a time when slavery of African-Americans was widespread. David R. Roediger has argued that the construction of the “white race” in the United States was an effort to mentally distance slave owners from slaves. The process of officially being defined as white by law often came about in court disputes over pursuit of citizenship. The Naturalization Act of 1790 offered naturalization only to “any alien, being a free white person. By 1923 race legally became “performance-based” standard, relating to religious practices, culture, education, intermarriage and a community’s role in the United States. Yet even the physical expressions of whiteness were graded. The White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP) was the premium grade white. Also the Germans and Scandinavians were top grades of whiteness. Southern Europeans like Italians, Greeks, Irish and Catholics were of lesser grades and not integrated into mainstream white America until much later. The Pew Research advances that U.S. Constitution famously prohibits any religious test or requirement for public office. Still, almost all of the nation’s presidents have been Christians and half of US Presidents have been Episcopalians or Presbyterians, with most of the rest belonging to other prominent Protestant denominations. When J. F. Kennedy in 1963 became the first Catholic elected president, he felt compelled to defend his faith by asserting that he would not take orders from the pope.
In relation to the status of blacks, the literature notes that laws dating from 17th-century colonial America excluded children of at least one black parent from the status of being white. Early legal standards did so by defining the race of a child based on a mother’s race while banning interracial marriage, while later laws defined all people of some Africa ancestry as black, under the principle of hypodescent. In societies that employ hierarchical classification races, hypodescent refers to the assignment by the dominant culture of children of a mixed union or sexual relations across different socio economic groups to a specific race. These prejudices have been trashed by scientific findings.
In her exhaustive and fascinating new look at the history of the idea of the white race, Nell Irvin Painter explains in ”The History of White People,” that race is a social construct that goes back much further and is much more complicated than many people think. In the book, Painter, a professor of American history at Princeton, chronicles the evolution of the concept of whiteness from ancient Rome — where, she points out, the slaves were largely white — to the 21st century America and explains how, in the era of President Barack Obama, the once-narrow concept of whiteness became at once far broader and less important than ever before. Or so it was thought.
Such scientific findings have not dampened the malevolent intentions of neo fascists. Accordingly, Donald Trump’s Making America Great Again has entailed harrowing changes in the constriction of the emerged universality of American Exceptionalism. This narrowing of the universalist mantra clearly deviates from the core values of American Exceptionalism. Yet it has been the drivers of immigration of those perceived as threatening the whiteness of America. The major targets in that regards are Hispanics and blacks as well as Muslims to prevent the mainstreaming of Islam in American spirituality. The idea of limiting access of non white to a future great America involves blocking all legal avenues of gaining opportunities to citizenship.
Trump’s view of Hispanics is captured in his comments on a prominent Hispanic: “Cortes must choose his true allegiance”. Observers note that Hispanics are demonstrably second-class citizens in the eyes of President Donald Trump. His actions in this regard are perceived as both textbook definitions of racism. Trump”s contempt for Africans is reflected in his comment that their countries are “shitholes”. It was only a question of time for his policy to demonstrate this contempt. Nigeria was an obvious choice. With a population of 194,8 million, Nigeria is the largest congregation of black humanity on Earth, the largest Islamic monotheistic cathedral, even if fatally poisoned, of black Muslims in Africa, reputedly home to one of the deadliest Islamic terrorist groups that the modern world has known and in an environment, perceived rightly or wrongly, to be condoning politically motivated serial pogroms. These facts locate Nigeria on a sensitive plane in this turbulence internal to the United States. Because of its internal politics, Nigeria’s weaknesses preclude any significant leverage to withstand elite state actor bullying represented by Trump’s United States, Nigeria has been seriously constrained in instruments available to it to assert itself. Admittedly, many of the weaknesses and associated constraints are self inflicted.
But as the spontaneous uproar in the black community in the United States has demonstrated Americans are not sold on Trump’s manufactured excuses to block Nigerians from immigration to the United States. This is not a sentimental defense of an unfairly targeted black nation. The community of Nigeria in the United States, assessed to be 380, 750 is reputed to be the most educated ethnic group in the United States. In many respects the Nigerian community towers way above all other communities in the United States. 4 per cent of the Nigerian community possesses a Ph. D degree against the 1 per cent in the overall American population. 27 per cent have a Masters degree compared to 11 per cent of Americans, 70 per cent of all black doctors in the United States are of Nigerian ancestry. Nigerians are present in the most exciting, challenging arcane disciplines in the American system. The black caucuses in the United States have protested this attempt by the Trump administration to block the immigration from the most achievement oriented community of the race. Many whites have condemned this affront of the blackmail of a black nation with progressive credentials in the United States.
At the level of developments globally there is cause for Africa to be concerned. Should current resurgence become full blown Africans would be the most hurt. There is almost a conspiracy like initiative to induce Africa to drastically reduce its population. The advent of new slavery of Africans in theobscure corners of the world, the flooding of Europe by Africans would seem to awaken threats to the well being of the White world by a race that would appear incapable of enhancing its own capacity to autonomously take care of itself. This is not withstanding contrived stricture by the same white universe to exploit the continent. There seem to be a dangerous fatigue regarding the invasion of their world by black people, Novel and seemingly innocuous strategies are thus afoot. At a recent conference in Paris, a panel of white met to consider effective strategies to reduce black population in Africa. At the conference a presumed expert on African history, Professor Bernard Lugan, proclaimed that “ population growth in Africa is a threat to European civilization”. He stressed that it was important not to wait to see Africa’s population growth next to Europe. The outcome of the conference the report highlighted was a plan to syndicate to syndicate more closely private and public in Western countries to provide money and logistics for more effective actions to curb the frightening African population growth. The distribution of global population however belies the claims of over population as Europe and Asia are more populous than Africa. The fear of black humanity would seem to resonate well beyond the world of Donald Trump..
It bears stressing that the tepid policy response of Nigeria to the immigrant visa ban has been conditioned by its challenging internal circumstances and not because of any lack of an overarching strategic framework. Foreign policy management, as astute practitioners and trained analysts know, hovers between a pipe organ or a ship at sea approaches. The challenge is to calibrate responses with a mind to doing no harm while exploring modalities to cope with the evolved situation. The current situation in the United States confounds all major actors, elite and non elite, as no traditional guidelines are available in a turbulent era contrived by an American administration that delights in repudiating all axioms and cherished principles of games that nations play.