Britain’s influential financial newspaper, Financial Times, recently quoted US President, Donald Trump as having described our very own President Muhammadu Buhari as “so lifeless” in a meeting between the two leaders last April. The uncharitable description ocurred in an article “Africa looks for something new out of Trump”, published ahead of Kenyan president’s visit to the White House. Trump and Buhari met on April 30 in Washington and they discussed a range of issues including “fighting terrorism” and economic growth. Buhari was the first sub-Saharan African leader to visit Trump at the White House for a bilateral talk that touched on security, economy, trade, investment and governance.
The Financial Times, in its latest article, claimed that the meeting ended with Trump warning his aides that he never wanted to meet someone so lifeless again. “The first meeting, with Nigeria’s ailing 75-year-old Muhammadu Buhari in April, ended with the US president telling aides he never wanted to meet someone so lifeless again, according to three people familiar with the matter,” the newspaper claimed. The newspaper added that advocates of closer US-Africa ties hope his encounter with the younger, more urbane Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, 56, will breathe fresh life into a relationship with a region that Washington is seen to have neglected as other countries, notably China, develop ever-closer trade and investment ties with the continent.
Trump, however, said something positive too about Buhari during the joint-press conference held after the meeting. “Nigeria has a reputation for very massive corruption. I also know that the President (Buhari) has been able to cut that down very substantially. We talked about that, he is working on it and they have made a lot of progress and I think they will continue to make a lot of progress,” Trump reportedly said .
The White House has neither confirmed nor denied the Financial Times publication. However, the world is getting used to Trump’s notoriety for lacking in diplomatese. In January this year, he said America would not welcome illegal immigrants from “shithole countries”, mainly in Africa. President Trump later denied he made that snide comment, but he was roundly condemned by world leaders.
However, this time, the Nigerian government has chosen not to react to the supposed Trump comment about Buhari. Instead, the Presidency boasted that world leaders “are queuing up to meet President Muhammadu Buhari.” This, it said, was contrary to what happened in the past when world leaders did not want anything to do with Nigerian leaders.
Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, speaking shortly after Buhari and members of his entourage arrived in Beijing, China, for the 7th Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (September 3-4), said world leaders’ good disposition towards Buhari was an indication that there was something about the President and about the country he leads that the world liked. On the Trump comment, he said the Presidency’s position was one of silence. “You know that, as a policy, we said that we are not going to answer the American President. The fact that the entire world and world leaders are queuing up to meet President Muhammadu Buhari is an indication that there is something about President Buhari, there is something about the Nigeria he now leads, that the world likes.”
We, at Peoples Daily, welcome this dignified silence on the part of the Nigerian government, particularly the Presidency. Trump’s mouth runs like a turned-on water faucet. Nothing is to be gained from trying to stop him. Paying attention to his ungentlemanly remarks will embolden him the more. The best thing to do is to ignore him completely, and focus on the task at hand, at home. Buhari has Nigeria to govern , so he should get on with it and not be distracted by a tramp’s narcissism.