A comparative study of the persons and leadership styles of Muhammadu Buhari and Donald Trump would be an interesting research topic for students of leadership and political history. Consider the following:
For a start, they are both deficient in empathy. This may be to different degrees but that does not detract from the fact. Despite the hue and cry over the savage massacre of innocent farmers and their families by blood-thirsty Fulani herders, how many times did Buhari visit the families of the victims? Interestingly, they both have parallels. For Buhari, it is Goodluck Jonathan, while for Trump it is Joe Biden. Unlike Trump, Biden is always quick to commiserate with and, in some cases, visit families of victims of racist police brutality – not just for political gain but because that is his nature. Critics of both men equate their empathy with weakness. If there is one thing that Jonathan will be remembered for forever, it is his statement that his ambition is not worth the blood of anybody. Should Trump win the November election under dubious circumstances, it would not be surprising to see Biden concede on the same premise as Jonathan – putting the lives of the people and the peace of the nation first.
Trump has shown that he is a bad loser. He is claiming upfront that the only way he is going to accept the outcome of the November 2020 presidential election is if he wins. Otherwise, the election, to be conducted under his watch, would be adjudged to have been rigged. How ridiculous! He has even told his supporters to “stand by”, apparently for ‘action’ should he lose. This is reminiscent of General Buhari’s threat in 2015 that “If what happened in 2011 (alleged rigging) should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.’’ Members of Buhari’s support base have attempted to explain this ominous statement away as simply metaphorical, in puerile disregard for the social context of language.
Both men are experts in blame game. In his October 15, 2014 declaration for the APC’s presidential primaries in Abuja, General Buhari said, “Since 1999 PDP has presided over our country’s decline. Nigeria in my experience has never been so divided, so polarized by an unthinking government hell bent on ruling and stealing forever whatever befalls the country. Mr Chairman, we in APC are resolved to stop them in their tracks and rescue Nigeria from the stranglehold of PDP.
He went on to catalogue the woes the PDP had foisted on Nigeria to include:
- There is now general insecurity in the land. Quite apart from Boko Haram, there is prevalence of Armed Robbery, Kidnappings and Killings, Cattle rustling, Market and farmland arson. These outrages have taken a new and a frightening dimension, disrupting economic and social life across whole communities.
- The economy continues to deteriorate while the Government continues to announce fantastic growth figures but Manufacturing is down Agriculture is down Commerce is down Simply because you sell oil and steal part of the money does not entitle you to cook figures and announce phantom economic growth
- When PDP came to power in 1999 Nigeria was generating about 4,000 M/W of electricity. After 15 years and $20 billion spent we are generating between 3,000 – 4,000 M/W. No failure is more glaring than this.
“The rest of the world looks at Nigeria as the home of corruption. Nigeria is a country where stealing is not corruption,” Buhari said then.
More than five years down the line, the same lines are repeated in different words. In his October 1, 2020 Independence Speech, President Buhari said, “No government in the past did what we are doing with such scarce resources. We have managed to keep things going in spite of the disproportionate spending on security. Those in the previous Governments from 1999 – 2015 who presided over the near destruction of the country have now the impudence to attempt to criticize our efforts”.
In the same way, Donald Trump had vowed during his 2016 campaign to “drain the swamp” in Washington DC, by which he meant the rot in the Democratic government led at the time by President Barack Obama. On being elected, he proceeded to dismantle everything Obama, including Obamacare for which there has been no replacement to date. The unenviable position the US occupies today as the country with the highest coronavirus infections and deaths in the world per capita is largely attributable to the fact that Trump dismantled Obama’s Pandemic-Preparedness Systems. According to Beth Cameron, a former civil servant who ran the White House’s National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, Obama ensured there was a framework in place, and everyone understood what authorities and roles and responsibilities everybody across government had at their disposal to be able to address an emergency. But Trump discarded all that, so that today, according to another Obama era civil servant, Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who ran USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance in the Obama administration, “he (Trump) clearly wants all the credit for it when things go right… he wants the credit without the accountability.” He still jumps at every opportunity to blame Obama and Biden despite the fact that the duo rescued the nation from the jaws of recession and handed over to him a booming economy.
The above ties in with their hypocritical nature. While blaming the PDP, Buhari easily forgets that most of the facilitators of his emergence as president were the arrowheads of the PDP, including former vice president Atiku Abubakar, President Olusegun Obasanjo, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Governors Chibuike Amaechi, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Nasir el Rufai, etc. The story of how Buhari would eliminate corruption, stop fuel subsidy, improve power supply, and how the reverse has been the case is all too common.
Trump also finds nothing wrong with his cheer leaders like Senator Lindsay Graham who was one of his most virulent critics and who had dismissed him as a non-presidential material. Donald Trump claims that Mail-in Ballots would be a recipe for rigging, despite the fact that he had voted himself with the system. He says fake drop boxes will be used to rig the election, whereas such fake boxes found in California so far were deployed by his Republican party people. He promised to build the Mexico Wall with Mexican money, but the little that has been built so far is with American money. According to records, Trump has built only about 300 miles of the 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) of concrete wall he promised in 2016. His new promise is to get “substantially more than 500 miles completed” by January 2021.
Even more rankling to his critics is the fact that under former President Enrique Pena Nieto and current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrado, Mexico emphatically refused to fund the wall. It is the U.S. government that has spent billions of dollars, assigned by circumventing Congress, to expand the wall.
They are not only hypocritical but also Machiavellian. For them, the end justifies the means. Buhari had to attend church during the presidential campaign and Trump portrays himself as a ‘good Christian’, even if that means holding the bible upside down for a photo opportunity. But the discerning know better. Has President Buhari intervened in the targeting of Christians in Kaduna, Taraba, Benue, Plateau, and other states of the country by you-know-who?
Both leaders are seemingly impervious to the suffering of the masses of their people. Buhari’s endorsement of hikes in electricity tariff and pump price of petrol in the midst of the ravaging coronavirus pandemic is construed as the action of a callous leader, even though his sympathisers see it as a necessary sacrifice. The question for the peddlers of this justification remains, though, why not cut the outrageous salaries and allowances of parliamentarians and other top government functionaries rather than pass the burden to the poverty-ridden masses? Buhari bemoaned the fate of Nigeria as the home of poverty in his declaration speech and promised that “We in APC are resolved to bring change to Nigeria. We plan to do things differently”. He has kept this promise. Lo and behold, Nigeria has changed from the home of poverty to the poverty capital of the world!
On his part, Donald Trump is currently in a running battle with Congress on the Stimulus Package that is supposed to serve as palliative to the millions of Americans who are out of job, sick, hungry and homeless because of the pandemic. At a point he decided to postpone action on the package, until after the election, hoping to use it as tool for political blackmail. Then out of the blue, he has decided to increase it beyond what Congress Democrats consider rational. While the ding-dong goes on, many are suffering and many are dying.
They are both considered as ethnic bigots. This finds resonance in Trump’s unwillingness to condemn white supremacists vis-à-vis Buhari’s apparent endorsement of the atrocities of his Fulani kinsmen by his failure to categorically condemn their actions. Their attitude to #Blackliversmatter and #EndSARS is not that different. Buhari did not have to wait until many innocent lives had been wasted before prevailing on the Inspector General of Police to disband the brood of predators armed with taxpayers’ money. This same attitude is obvious in his refusal to sack the service chiefs, composed mainly of officers from his ethno-religious stock, under whose watch the security situation in the country has hit rock bottom. We already know Trump’s attitude to #Blacklivesmatter, the Play Boys, Qanon and the KKK. He is playing artful dodger with his “good people on both sides” and “all lives matter” rhetoric.
Then there is the matter of appointments into the most critical positions in government – essentially portfolios that control the economic and socio-political levers of the country. No leader in Nigerian history has favoured his ‘people’ with such appointments as much as President Buhari. For Trump, the story is not different. The number of black people in his cabinet, and among appointees to the country’s judiciary can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Both are ‘resolute men. It is doubtful whether this is a positive trait, but they know what they want and they go all out to get it.
There are areas too where they differ. Buhari gives his appointees a free hand to discharge their duties, whether they are doing it well or not. Unlike Trump, he has not been sending mixed messages and denigrating the same experts he appointed to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, including arguably the best epidemiologist in the world, Dr Anthony Fauci. Trump believes he knows everything and does not hesitate to fire any of his appointees that is not dancing to his beat. Not many would be surprised if he decided to fire even Dr Fauci, who has not been mincing words in condemning the president’s attitude to the virus, even as more infections and deaths are being recorded daily across the USA.
They are poles apart in sociability. President Buhari is known for his reticence while President Trump’s garrulity is unparalleled. Trump thrives on physical interaction and lives on Twitter. Nigerians are still begging President Buhari to interact with them more often, and he does not seem to like Twitter. The tweets ascribed to him are very few and far-between.
There is virtually no basis to compare both men on morality. President Trump is brash, egotistic, narcissistic, and materialistic. He is a bully who has no compunction about trampling on the weak and vulnerable, including women and the disabled; he is an incorrigible liar and is incredibly cavalier. His handling of the coronavirus pandemic attests to almost all these characteristics.
As I write this, he is holding a rally in Florida with hundreds of maskless people in attendance and with zero social distancing, even after he had been admitted to hospital for the deadly disease. He cares only for himself and is reported to have said whoever wants to die should hold on and vote for him first on November 3. Whether he actually said this or not, his actions say even more than that. He told his fans at the rally that he felt ”powerful” and could “kiss everyone” in the crowd.
Trump is now considered by experts as the Spreader-in-Chief of coronavirus, based on the number of persons that contracted the virus at the September 26 White House ceremony to unveil judicial nominee Amy Coney Barrett, which Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of White House’s coronavirus task force described as a ‘super spreader’ event for coronavirus infection.
Trump himself got infected with coronavirus on October 2 and at least 20 others that attended that event, including his wife, his close aides and media personnel were subsequently found to be positive for the infection. It is noteworthy that there has been a 41 percent spike in Covid cases in America from last month.
Rather than stay at home for at least another five days after hospitalisation, as required by COVID-19 protocol, President Trump is proceeding from Florida to hold similar reckless rallies in Pennsylvania, Iowa and North Carolina, claiming that he is now immune – a claim that goes against the grain of due medical process.
All things considered, I would prefer Muhammadu Buhari to Donald Trump as my president any day – if there are no alternatives.
What about you?