The extended sick leave of the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, has been one that has insinuated a censure of the actions of his administration and, even more, spurred hate mail in social discussions – death rumours and the likes.
With the ongoing debates and far reaching effects of the absence of Mr. Buhari- a number of which have been circulated in the media – many Nigerians were surprised to hear that President Donald Trump of the United States placed a called to the convalescent President on February 13, 2017.
According to Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to the President on media and publicity, who took to social media to share the information, the two leaders discussed the issue of terrorism and Trump highlighted the successes of Buhari’s administration in its effort to rescue the kidnapped Chibok school girls.
— Presidency Nigeria (@NGRPresident) February 13, 2017
Now, a few questions have been raised. Why? Because Trump has obviously not shown a particular interest in sub-Saharan Africa, and this is evident in his rhetoric that has remained constant through his campaign till now, with the only exception to African presidents that the US leader had talked to being Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt.
Speaking with Buhari might not a big deal but constitutionally, Professor Yemi Osinbajo is the Acting-President of Nigeria, so shouldn’t Trump’s call have been placed to the office of Osinbajo in the capacity of acting head or is there a divide in correspondences between the incapacitated leader and the acting leader?
Also, absent from the whole conversation as is characteristic with President Donald Trump is a tweet to such effect. Going by his Twitter feed, Trump was met with the Canadian PM, Justin Trudeau and CEO’s as well as business women from Canada and the United States.
Today I will meet with Canadian PM Trudeau and a group of leading business women to discuss women in the workforce. http://t.co/bFAHPRXHdP
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 13, 2017
Would such a validation from Trump have gone against his stance on sub-Saharan Africa and US relations? It is not history yet that he placed Somalia – which is the sub-Saharan region – among eight countries made up of primarily Muslim populations banned from entering America, a ban that many expect would be debated at the United States’ Supreme Court.
President Buhari made no mention of the #MuslimBan, which is surprising as the African Union which Nigeria is a party had come out to criticise Trump. In fact, the conversation looks like it was just a courtesy call by the US leader and then to extend the possibility of a state visit once Buhari was much better.
The conversation sounds like a voice mail sent by the US leader and might come across as a diplomatic duty among them, however, for Buhari who has not found the grace to address the citizens of his country, even in the face of nationwide protests on the state of affairs, one might take it that their concerns might be taken with a pinch of salt by the Presidency.
Does Trump’s call put a spin on the Buhari sick leave story? Yes – we can say that he is alive – but does it change anything in the lives of the citizens who are groaning under the increasing pressures of a crumbling economy and security issues? The answer is still a no.