Biden’s victory and the US-Nigerian relations
The just concluded American presidential election has, apart from testing America’s claim to tutorship and guardianship of democratic ideals, resonated in every corner of the globe, as its Democratic and Republican leading and keen contestants, drew sympathizers also across the world.
If football clubs in the European leagues have crazy fans across the globe, the Democratic and Republican parties in America drew no less fanatical following throughout the world. This could not but be the trend, granted the fact that, the U.S. is a miniature world, as probably almost a fraction of the citizens of every country on the surface of the earth, have foothold on the soil of God’s own country, pursuing prosperity, good life and liberty, thus inevitably glued every part of the world to its affairs including the analysis of its politics and policies.
Although ideologically, the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties can be described as one between six and half a dozen, however, the Democratic party is seen as pro- poor and the middle class, while the Republican party is seen as pro-rich. In like manner on the fronts of international relations and foreign policy, while the Democratic party is perceived as progressive and pro-developing countries, the Republican party is often seen as hawkish and less benign towards the developing countries. It is within this prism, with all its limitations, that some Nigerians, playing the oracle but without being scientific (though it is also the aim of the scientific approach to be able to predict the future with precision), have argued that, with the victory of Biden, Nigeria should certainly receive a better deal from the US. This expectation is heightened by the fact that, Nigeria has in recent times, suffered some raw deals under Trump presidency which most Nigerians believe or assume, would not have probably happened, under a Democratic party -led administration.
The visa restriction imposed on Nigeria is one; the Trump’s efforts to frustrate the re-election of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina as the president of the African Development Bank is second; and his hanging veto on the choice of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala as the Director-General of the World Trade Organization is the third. It is against this line of thought that they are playing futurologists by asserting that, Biden‘s deals with Nigerian should be more benign than Trump’s.
This oracular or prophetic insight, may not necessarily hold for a number of reasons which are rooted in the historicity of American foreign policy objectives, foreign policy pronouncements, and its externally directed actions and even its inactions. In the first instance, let it be said that, any day any time, and under any political party, American foreign policy will always be driven by its national interests. The bipartisan American national interests have been woven to include: “to prevent, deter and reduce the threat of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons attacks on the U.S. or its military forces abroad; ensure U.S allies survival and their active cooperation with the United States in shaping an international system in which we can thrive; prevent the emergence of hostile major powers or failed states on U.S. borders; ensure the viability and stability of major global systems(trade, financial markets, supplies of energy, and the environment); and establish productive relations, consistent with American national interests, with nations that could become strategic adversaries, China and Russia.”
The above is the fulcrum on which American foreign policy is run irrespective of party affiliation. They were bequeathed to Trump and Trump barring any joker on Biden’s victory, will bequeath them to Biden. Although these objectives are fluid to some extent, and the personality traits of whoever is the president will influence their interpretations, however in the final analysis, what is often obvious in every US foreign policy pronouncement, action and inaction is that, America always comes first. This is why Trump’s often parroted foreign policy slogan, “ America first”, seems to me, a mere re-echo of what has been the driving force of American foreign policy over the years and ever before Trump presidency.
In other words, America’s interests over the years has never come second either under the Democratic party or Republican party. The point should be emphasised that, in the conduct of foreign policy, what futurologists called “hereditary mechanism” cannot be discounted. According to Stenelo, “hereditary mechanism” as a factor…fulfils two functions…it influences the probability that a certain political event will be transferred from one decision-making generation to another, and, on the other hand, contributes to the recipient’s maintaining its political heritage”.
This being the case, there is then, the possibility that, Biden’s victory will not automatically translate to the vacation of the visa restriction slammed on a category of Nigerians by Trump if Nigeria still fails to meet the requirements stipulated by the American government. As Stenelo has emphasised again, “a foreign policy heritage is normally in itself a potentially stabilising factor.” Thus, while it is in our interest that, Ngozi becomes the D-G of the WTO, if by the time Biden settles down, and he too perceives that, America’s interest can be jeopardised with Ngosi on the seat, he too might toe Trump’s path or if he allows Ngozi to clinch the seat, the organization may be rendered ineffectual.
Let it be also stressed that, Democratic victory as history has revealed, will not translate to America’s granting of undeserved concessions to Nigeria, and neither will the Republican’s habitation of power mean neglect of Nigeria by America. Right from the time Nigeria has sealed diplomatic cord with the U.S. in 1960, both countries have recognised the fact that they need each other irrespective of the party in power. That is why, save the period of Abacha reign, when there was a marked change in US-Nigerian relations, both countries have been seeking out each other for mutual benefits. Even in the face of Nigeria’s fall for Chinese paycheque diplomacy, in matter of purchase of Tufaco aircrafts to fight Boko Haram insurgents, Republican Trump agreed to sell the aircrafts to Nigeria, but which Obama declined.
Yet, both countries have claimed mutual benefits. In the final analysis therefore, Nigerians who are expecting drastic foreign policy shifts under Biden should exercise some caution and realise that, America under Biden will not compromise America’s national interests and we may even meet disappointment in him just as we met in Democrat Obama when he held gay marriage in one hand and financial aid on the other hand for bargain.
Dr. Adebisi writes from the Federal College of Agriculture, Akure.
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