Soyinka And Nigerian Trumpsters, By Adeolu Ademoyo
If the online community of Nigerian Trumpsters still does not see this implication of their attack on Soyinka, which shows their legitimising the allocation of moral and intellectual values to people based on looks and races, then it is indeed grim and frightful. It shows a lack of critical historical agency and it is un-acceptable.
Donald Trump’s bigotry and divisiveness notwithstanding, it is still possible for a person like him to have fans and followers outside the United States of America, in an African country, Nigeria. Bigotry and racism are social acts whose sources lie in the dark and evil recesses of the mind and soul. Bigotry and racism can on one hand intensely repel humanists and progressive people who put our common humanity at the centre of living and lived experiences and on the other hand intensely attract right wing people who put the humanity of only their race or group at the centre of things. It all depends on one’s moral and social vision.
In Nigeria, it is very easy to line behind bigotry and bigots. All you need is to construct your argument and position for or against a group, a religion (such as Christianity or Islam); and demonise whole peoples, races, ethnicities, gender groups, and you get the bigots fired up. Adolf Hitler, the German Nazi Chacellor, was the ultimate bigot enveloped in and tethered to evil. So when any humanist sees and smells bigotry anywhere in the world, the opposition to it can be instant, categorical and intense. Wole Soyinka’s opposition to Donald Trump falls into this category.
The slight difference in the wave of nativism, racism, bigotry, provincialism and irredentism in the US is that given the origin of America as a land owned by the native Americans before the wave of immigrations from Europe (starting with Christopher Columbus and his crew who ignorantly called the owners of the land Native “Red” Indians), other people settled in thinking America would be different. These people – from Africa, Asia, South America, Middle East, the Jewish and Arab world – considered that there would never be the bigotry, provincialism and irredentism that saw England exiting the EU in the new territory.
True, there is always an overt explanation for any event, including a local election. And in the recent American election, the explanation of the outcome is said to be economic, and about jobs i.e. it is said that working class and rural America “felt neglected”, they were “angry” and they – a section that bought into the racist alt-right claim that the United States of America is a “European” country – wanted their country back! And they voted for a racist and bigot! After putting in Donald Trump, who did not articulate any economic plan during his campaign other than dangerous populist rhetoric, whoever still thinks the issue here is strictly an economic one needs to re-examine his or her knowledge of the race history, race politics, race economics and race sociology of the country called the United States of America.
Today, because of what has been called a “white working class revolt” – which, as we now know, includes elements of the “white middle class” who were not unemployed (and therefore cannot be said to “angry”) and who were not courageous enough to publicly associate with Trump but yet voted for him, alongside a section of the American Church – things may have been irreparably broken and destroyed by the bigotry and racism of a section of the American populace.
This explains why after the election, a palpable mutual suspicion, animosity and division along race lines has seen an increase in hate crimes pervade American local neighbourhoods and communities, schools, and the chief cause of this is the alliance among racist and white supremacist groups, Trump’s campaign, and the Republican Party. This also included the FBI led by its director, James Comey, a card carrying member of the Republican Party, and a section of American Christianity which voted for racism and bigotry.
So given how the Trump campaign was built primarily around bigotry, racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and sexism, it is surprising to see that there can be an online community of Nigerian Trumpsters who ignorantly or out of a lack of critical historical agency often attack anyone who rejects Donald Trump, his bigotry and racism.
We are not just in the age of the millennial, we are in the Internet age and this has changed everything. So, like the Nigerian trolls who took over the Net on behalf of their paymasters during the last Nigerian presidential election, I understand internet forces such as the Russian KGB enabled American election trolls, “journalist” and email hacker Julian Assange of Wikileaks, who all worked in alliance with American racist and race supremacist groups to create an online community to spread fake news against the integrity of the American election and Hillary Clinton.
But given the history of colonialism and transatlantic slavery, and its alliance with Christianity in subjugating the African continent, and retarding the cultures of African peoples and peoples of African descent, and the role of contemporary racist ideology which delivered the votes to Donald Trump, the emergence of a Nigerian online community of Trumpsters can only be seen as an exercise in a lack of critical historical agency. Also, palpable ignorance of the negative forces seeking to turn the American democracy into a third world democracy, a banana republic, and an acceptance of the dubious categories of race supremacist groups that backed Donald Trump.
Reading these Nigerian Trumpsters one wonders if they have ever heard of racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan – a major supporter of Donald Trump, or of a character called Richard Spencer, the founder of the alt right. The rightwing and racist alt right people are happy when they are mentioned because they wrongly think that mentioning them is mainstreaming them. But it is important to report them as they present themselves, who they are, and for the social, moral and intellectual danger they represent our common humanity – an emerging Hitler like fascist group, which does not hide its admiration for the German Nazi, Adolf Hitler.
Like the former German Führer, Hitler, Richard Spencer makes the intellectually and morally dubious, silly and untenable claim, which associates intelligence and moral values with races – a version of the theory and practice which enable ethnic and race cleansing, and which led to the genocide of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany. And this is the race supremacist ideology the Nigerian Trumpsters, either by act of omission or commission, are enabling by attacking those, like Soyinka, who reject the bigotry and racism of Donald Trump. Strangely, some of this Nigerian online community of Trumpsters and trolls call themselves “Christians”! Where is their “Christian” faith if their actions enable bigotry, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism and anti-Semitism?
One wonders if these Nigerian Trumpsters ever heard of one Steve Bannon, the alleged Catholic (he presumably grew us as a catholic!) and chief counselor of Donald Trump. Steve, as former CEO of Breitbart News, gave the alt-right (which is a digital and modern re-creation of Ku Klux Klan) the platform of Breitbart News to propagate their bigotry, sexism, hate, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism. Given Bannon’s role in promoting the alt-right, and given that it is more effective for anyone to hide their association with questionable views as many Trump voters who hid their preference for Trump before the election did, there are good grounds to believe that Bannon is for tactical reasons hiding his membership of the race supremacist organization, the alt right.
Yet Bannon will sit beside Trump in the White House. Finally one wonders if this online community of Nigerian Trumpsters ever heard of Breitbart News and Fox News, the chief media organisations for bigotry, racism and xenophobia in the United States of America and the chief promoters of Trump. One wonders if these Nigerian Trumpsters know that the alt-right and other racist groups actually theorise racism and bigotry and dubiously allocate moral, intellectual value and intelligence to people based on their races and ethnicity – an evil position which their various news media then promote and mainstream in the American polity.
So, given the danger Trump and the forces backing him represent to humanity, and given Soyinka’s own humanism and commitment to defending our common humanity, it is to be expected that for Soyinka, a Donald Trump and the social forces backing him, will represent an intense radical violation of our common humanity.
Like global citizens will take on any trend that represents a real, imminent and potential danger to our common humanity, Soyinka correctly rejected Trump, and Trumpism and said so. And here are some basic reasons, which ought to gall any human being anywhere in the world. Donald Trump admitted to being a woman groper and sexual harasser on tape, and he believes he is such an efficient sexual harasser and gets away with sexual harassment because he is a “star”! When he was confronted with his own tapes where he admitted groping women as a star, he called it “locker room talk”. Trump’s wife normalised her husband’s women groping and called it “boy’s talk”.
One of Trump’s sons claimed such sexual harassment talk makes us “human”! In other words, to Trump defenders, men who do such are just being human, and it is just a boys’ thing. I do not know what kind of “humanity” or part of being “human” this is! I have male children, I do not teach them to grope women. Sexual harassment talk, and the groping women are not boys’ talk, or being human in my own family. Also, I am a man, I have a mother. It is not being human to grope women, our mothers, or grope anyone for that matter.
For me, and I guess it ought to be the case for any humanist, this is not being “politically” correct”, so the fundamental point of departure on this is not because I have daughters who I do not want to be groped, not because I am married, and we have a mother in the home who I do not want to be groped, most importantly for me it is because I am a son who was properly ‘mothered’. And I do not wish that our mothers should be groped, even if the gropers are billionaires and “stars” .
A self-confessed sexual harasser, sexist and woman groper is an irreparable violator of universal motherhood, our common humanity and hence unfit to be the president of any country, and we should have the moral courage to say so and continue to say so. And the Nigerian Trumpsters who mis-read this historical and moral situation and criticise those who have the moral courage to say so are logically committed like Donald Trump to be part of the violators of our motherhood and our common humanity.
Trump’s racism, sexism and bigotry; his assault on our common humanity and its rationalisation by those who surround him, and those who voted for him, must be a point of rejection and radical departure for anyone who is committed to our common humanity, and I guess this is the case with Soyinka. It is therefore sad that when Soyinka makes this point poignantly, analytically and in a symbolic manner, the Nigerian online community of Trumpsetrs missed the point.
Hence, it is either the Nigerian Trumpsters lack a sense of historical critical agency or they are committed to the morally questionable view that the “enemy” (Trump) of my “enemy” (Soyinka) is my friend (Trump). This is a dark and self-deprecating, self-demeaning view that can only come from the abyss of humanity. These Nigerian online community of Trumpsters seem to have accepted by implication inherent in their positions and attack on Soyinka the race supremacist categories of the modern Ku Klux Klan – the alt right (the racism and bigotry on which Donald Trump ran) – that dubiously and cowardly put races other than the Caucasian – i.e. the African-American, the African such as the Nigerian Trumpsters themselves – at the lowest ladder of human intelligence. If the online community of Nigerian Trumpsters still does not see this implication of their attack on Soyinka, which shows their legitimising the allocation of moral and intellectual values to people based on looks and races, then it is indeed grim and frightful. It shows a lack of critical historical agency and it is un-acceptable.
Adeolu Ademoyo, firstname.lastname@example.org, is with the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.