Highlights

THE ELECTION OF DONALD TRUMP: A NIGERIAN STORY Part 1

Donald Trump was a billionaire superstar befor he became a reality show star. The Trump Tower was an internationally celebrated piece of New York real estate long before Donald Trump spoke the now famous words, ‘you’re fired!’ Donald Trump was a celebrated real estate tycoon before he veered off into television. The Trump Plaza was the venue of some celebrated fights. We celebrated Donald Trump in Nigeria. He was a prime example of American success, wealth, glamour and big talk. His first wife Ivana shared the spotlight with him in those days. I still remember her on a show probably Opray, probably in the nineties invoking that shade of pink called lilac. She made so much out of lilac, in her East European Americanese that there was no mistaking the sense that lilac was her buzz-word at the time. For a long time Donald Trump has been one of the most celebrated real estate developers in the world. I do not know many. Looking back now, I believe that Donald Trump must have a great talent for getting noticed and selling dreams. When he crossed over into television and became a huge reality show star, it seemed like a mere extension of his larger than life reputation. When he squared up in the debates against seventeen other Republican presidential aspirants, he immediately stirred up some strong responses in Nigeria due to his knack for saying some of the most politically incorrect things – things that a lot of people felt but would never say. Trump was speaking the mind of not just a lot of Americans but also a lot of Nigerians. He was a hit. His valor and seeming lack of discretion caught the imagination of a cross section of Nigerians, mostly male, educated and conservative. It also became clear, soon enough that this admiration was not felt by most Nigerians living in the United States.

At the beginning of the debates among the Republican Party presidential aspirants, I was rooting for Ben Carson. I saw him as the African-American who could reverse the excesses of Barrack Obama. Almost a hundred and seventy million Nigerians had filled the skies with excitement and a sense of fulfilment on the day that Barrack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States of America. When he nailed Osama Bin Laden, vast swathes of Nigerian people became ecstatic about American military capability and its cool black President. To be fair whitefolks had just about as much claim on Barrack Obama because he was the son of a white woman, scarcely knew his Kenyan father and was shaped in the most part by his mother and white grand parents.

As President, Barrack Obama has created quite a few exciting moments in American folk lore like singing the Al Green classic ‘let’s stay together’ and being caught on camera kissing his wife Michelle at an exhibition game for the US Basketball team but he has also deeply disappointed many in black Africa with his decidedly anti-christian stance on gay issues and matters bordering on the liberty of christian America to practise its beliefs. It has been dissillusioning for many christian men in Nigeria for whom Barrack Obama had been a tremendous role model to witness his transformation into the world’s most famous promoter of gay sex and his touted ‘post christian’ America’, causing quite a few somewhat ignorant but outspoken soft-sell Nigerian publications to speculate or even accuse Barrack Obama of being the anti-Christ. This has not been an important issue for African Americans who live everyday with the issues of racism. In Africa, especially Nigeria where racism is not a daily reality, Barrack Obama’s advocacy of gay rights and even his attempt to bully some African Governments into reversing their anti-gay stance, had deeply offended millions.
Barrack Obama has blamed bigotry for the political rise of Donald J. Trump. Many Nigerians are however not resistant to the argument that Barrack Obama’s unchristian liberalism created the American appetite for a straight street-talking conservative man like Donald Trump. A man who spat in the face of liberal bulshit political correctness. Liberals had been shovelling so much bullshit into the American political conciousness that America needed a strong shock to be brought back to regain balance. While liberals, democrats and even some republican leaders expressed outrage and frothed in the mouth at some of Trump’s utterances, many Nigerians wondered whether Americans were going crazy. Did they not realize that uncontrolled immigration at the Mexican border was a danger to the continued prosperity of the United States and threatened to turn White America into a minority in a nation that it had dominated for over two hundred years. There was nothing wrong with trying to protect the status quo. Was it racism for white America to want to hold on to its territory? Then, we would be guilty of the same in Nigeria. It was not unexpected that immigrants especially Mexicans would find this worrisome. Uncontrolled immigration would always ultimately elicit a backlash. Getting a grip on it as soon as possible was in America’s best interest and condemning Donald Trump as a racist was not the urgent answer needed. Most people were racist anyway. No one was color blind. Even Barrack knew that he had a black father and a white mother. He probably just loved them both. Experience and the right orientation might teach one to look beyond the color. It was only skin deep. Still, it was a fact that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump naturally expected their beautiful daughters Chelsea and Ivanka to marry white.

Even before Donald Trump climbed over the bodies of other Republican presidential aspirants to become the presumptive Republican (GOP) 6presidential candidate, he was already under fire from Hilary Clinton who was rather confident that she would beat the insurgent Bernie Sanders. She had drawn first blood. On June 7, 2016 while still running against Bernie Sanders, she directed her fire towards Trump. At a union hall in a Los Angeles suburb she lashed out at the real estate mogul who had become the presumptive GOP nominee, calling him a “loose cannon” who would put the nation’s security and economic future at risk, portraying him as greedy and out of touch. She criticized the real estate developer for his personal business decisions and his tax plan, which she said would benefit the wealthiest Americans. “Donald Trump’s tax plan was written by a billionaire for a billionaire. as far as I can tell.” She was addressing union members at the Commerce headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11. She also attacked Trump for saying a few years before the 2008 economic crisis that a housing market crash would be a good thing for him. “He actually said he was hoping for the crash,” Clinton said. “All because he thought he could … make some money for himself.”  Raising doubts about Trump’s self-touted business acumen, Clinton reminded the crowd that several of Trump’s casino and hotel businesses had filed for bankruptcy. “I don’t know how you lose money running casinos,” Clinton said, drawing laughter. When Trump finally began working on Hilary Clinton, her powerful media network began to paint him as the aggressor.

Baiting Donald Trump was easy. He had the instincts of a gangster. He could not ignore the slightest provocation. He had the mind of a streetfighter and the ability to throw the most outrageous insults. He was a born salesman, he tweeted uncontrollably but he spoke the mind of millions of American men and women in bars across America. He could also make the most absurd and fictitious allegation.Ted Cruz never got over Trump’s claim that his father was involved in the conspiracy to assassinate JFK. How could Ted Cruz take this seriously instead of giving it a good laugh? I guess, Cruz was ticked off because there were probably many Americans who believed Trump’s fat lie. Marco Rubio got so irritated at being called Little Marco by Trump that he jumped into the gutter to make insinuations about the size of Donald Trump’s privates. Donald Trump shut down Jeff Bush so badly that the Bush family, embittered by this uncouth and abusive brand of politicking decided to support Hilary Clinton. Trump drove so many Republicans crazy, Mitt Romney called him a fraud, House speaker Paul Ryan described his utterance about a Hispanic judge as ‘textbook racism’ and quite dragged his feet over endorsing Trump.

Trump was labelled a misogynist, a racist, a homophobe and an islamophobe. Donald Trump was the only presidential candidate who had openly and consistently accused the media of corruption and bias. It was bound to make things difficult for him. Why did he not restrain his tongue? Should a billionaire real estate developer not know any better? Paul Ryan would admit, after Trump beat Hilary Clinton; against all odds and contradicting all polls, that ‘Donald Trump saw something that we all did not’. Perhaps, the polls underestimated those described as Non-college educated white Americans.

Did the charge of misogyny stick? By modern day American standards, most men of Donald Trump’s generation were male chauvinists and homophobes. It was the morality of their day. Liberals had since taken over American thinking to the point where people who held on to conservative views about women were now accused of women-hating. Liberals had taken over the mantle of intolerance and that was reflected in Hillary Clinton’s success in inspiring the greatest media driven hate uprising of American liberals. No other American presidential candidate has endured as much open contempt in the media as Donald Trump. It reached a point where CNN could no longer restrain itself as its celebrated newscasters, senior correspondents and hosts of the presidential campaign shows out-did each other in aiming devastating barbs at the candidate. No doubt, Donald Trump had quite a colourful history in his relationship with women but in the end, the allegation of misogyny, homophobia and racism could not stop his wild card ride to the White House. A great deal of silent America thought he made sense.

The polls put Hilary ahead of Trump for most of the race though Trump kept drawing larger crowds. The only time they conceded a lead to Trump was the few days after the Republican convention when he enjoyed a bump but it was already by media reporting a disastrous convention, devastated by Melanie Trump’s plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic Convention speech. The blunders of the Republican convention showed Donald Trump’s political campaign inexperience. Ted Cruz dealt him a dishonorable blow on the penultimate night of the convention, asking people to vote their conscience while not endorsing Donald Trump. Why did he accept to speak when he was not going to endorse his party’s candidate? Was it a payback to Trump for insulting his wife and alleging that his father was involved in the assassination of JFK? Ted Cruz was booed off the stage by a hall filled with Trumpites but there was the sense for those of us in Nigeria who followed the event on CNN, BBC and Sky that the convention was in crisis. CNN, the most important American news television channel watched in Nigeria did its subtle best to maim the Trump campaign, repeatedly showing clips of Michelle Obama reading her 2008 Convention Speeh followed by clips of Melanie Trump reading almost the same thing at the 2016 Republican Convention; Michelle would read one line followed by Melanie reading the same thing. It was plagiarism on an embarassing scale and CNN made sure that even a kid in kindergarten would get the message.The Trump campaign fought back. It was a lost cause. The plagiarism was extreme and beyond doubt. So the blame was heaped on Melanie Trump’s speechwriter who  had publicly accepted responsibility for the blunder and apparently, she volunteered to resign but Donald Trump, in a show of magnanimity would not accept the resignation.

I felt a sense of pity for Melanie Trump. The comparison to a cerebral Michelle Obama, spoken or otherwise was brutal. Nor did her accent help. It must have been very hard for her. Her convention speech was supposed to help her husband’s campaign. Instead, it had bombed and left a permanent dent. Melanie Trump was no where near Michelle Obama or Hillary Clinton in these intellectual pursuits. I suspected that Hillary Clinton resolutely scrubbed her face clean of every hint of smugness while the development was hot. Trump’s campaign  manager at the time, Paul Manafort accused Hillary of making an issue out of it but Hillary never made an official statement regarding it. In ’10 take aways from Donald Trump’s Republican Convention’, written by CNN’s Eric Bradner, the scandal was thus summed up: ‘It was a mess made worse by the 36 hours of denials and deflections. Trump’s advisers spent Tuesday pointing fingers at one another, while RNC strategist Sean Spicer invoked “Twilight Sparkle from ‘My Little Pony'” in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, to attempt to demonstrate that similar phrases have come from a host of public figures.’
That ended Wednesday, when Meredith McIver, a family friend and writer for the Trump organization, issued a statement saying she was the person responsible for lifting phrases for Melania’s speech. McIver apologized and offered to resign, but said the Trumps did not accept her resignation. For a candidate who’s a master of stagecraft and whose selling point is his competency, it was a troubling signal that his campaign was struggling to pull off a pre-planned event over which it exerted total control.’

The 2016 Democratic National Convention seemed better organised than the Republican Convention. The Hillary Clinton Campaign had never been confronted by organised crowds of protesters. Right from the start, it was obvious that she was running the best planned and best funded campaign. She had been running for president since 2008. In contrast, the Trump  Campaign, almost from the outset had been harried by crowds of angry protesters, building up in number and vehemance, right to the day and scene of the Republican Convention in Cleveland, Ohio where even the state’s Republican governor John Kasich, also beaten by Trump in the bruising Republican primary, stayed away. The mass repudiation of Trump seemed to have slotted into full gear …racist, misogynist, islamophobic, temperamentally unfit to be president…Donald Trump had become a deeply polarizing candidate. His supporters could not understand why people were saying such unkind things about him while those who loathed hiim could not understand why he was still in the race. Never before had so many Republicans been so determined against the party presidential candidate. Many agreed that the Republican party would be left in pretty bad shape by the time Trump was done with his ‘phony’ presidential campaign. Democrats and quite a few Republican leaders took their turn in expressing their contempt for the New York estate development sharpie who wanted to ‘make America great again’.  Susan Collins, a senator from Maine declared this of Trump in the Washington Post: . “I have become increasingly dismayed by his constant stream of cruel comments and his inability to admit error or apologize,” she wrote. “But it was his attacks directed at people who could not respond on an equal footing—either because they do not share his power or stature or because professional responsibility precluded them from engaging at such a level—that revealed Mr. Trump as unworthy of being our president.” Collin Powell, former secretary of state said, ‘he insults us everyday’. Powell also said in his e-mail that Donald Trump had no sense of shame. He called Trump a national disgrace and an international pariah. Barbara Bush also publicly disavowed Trump. “I mean, unbelievable. I don’t know how women can vote for someone who said what he said about Megyn Kelly, it’s terrible,”  Mitt Romney’s attack was the most breathtaking. ” Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. Trump kept going; the leash of insults and condemnation could not stop him. He had become one of the most hated men in America with a following so huge that he could not be written off..

According to the Washington Post, the Democratic National Convention gave Hillary a four point bump and a seven point lead in the polls. The Republican National Convention had only given Trump a two point bump. The Democratic National Convention was probably Hillary Clinton’s finest moment in the presidential campaign. It was also a predictable convention and lacked the excitement created by the Trumps at the Republican convention where thinge unexpectedly bombed and spectators, those who supported Trump sat on the edge and prayed for the convention to end without irreversible damage. There was plagiarism, there was Ted Cruz and there was Donald Trump who did not give two shits about political correctness and ‘crooked’ Hillary waiting to pounce on his gaffes such as ‘I alone can’. Television should never be boring.

Apart from allegations on how the DNC undermined Bernie Sanders which was promptly followed by the resignation of the DNC chairman and the seeming lack of interest of many big media houses in exposing the details, the Democratic Convention of 2016 was relatively uneventful. All the big-hitters in the party turned out in support of Barrack Obama’s prefered candidate. Senator Sanders, who should have a grudge regarding the DNC’s perceived or alleged partiality as revealed by leaks of DNC emails came to the convention oozing unreserved support for Hillary Clinton. Michelle Obama spoke on the first night, President Bill Clinton gave the key speech on the second night of the convention, President Barrack Obama tried to hurt Trump on the third night the third and Hilary Clinton took the stage on the final night. The convention demonstrated Hillary Clinton’s far more potent political connections and indisputably greater political experience. She had made history as the first female presidential candidate of one of America’s two great political parties and according to the polls, she had established a clear lead in the race to the White House.

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