Dear President-elect Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.,
I wish to congratulate you on your winning the hard fought U.S. presidential election, unseating the incumbent President Donald Trump. We all know the difficulty in defeating an incumbent American president, even a deeply flawed one. We know what happened when John Kerry challenged an incumbent President George W. Bush or when Mitt Romney tried to unseat President Barack Obama. You have done something remarkable. Congratulations!
Your life story is quite notable and inspiring. You were elected a U.S. senator when you were still 29 years old. The minimum age of a U.S. senator is 30 years but because your birthday comes up every November 20, you were to be sworn in when you just clocked 30. At the age of 78, you will be the oldest U.S. president ever sworn to office, at a time when most of the world is looking towards youth for inspiration and leadership. This is the burden of history.
As we look forward to your date with fate on January 20, 2021, we are filled with excitement and a foreboding of glad tidings that your administration will usher in for America and the rest of the world. We believe that you would give the office of the most powerful man in the world your best shot.
We know about your life tragedies. The painful loss of your first wife, Neilia, and daughter, Naomi, on that faithful day of December 18, 1972, left you as the senator-elect from Delaware devastated, but you were able to gather yourself together to embark on a career that impacted heavily and positively on the American political landscape. This speaks to your tenacity. Then on May 30, 2015, you experienced another great tragedy, as Joseph Robinette Biden III, known to everyone as Beau Biden, succumbed to brain cancer. Beau, the attorney-general of Delaware was your beloved first son, your protégé, your heir apparent. That you will rise five years later from this painful heartbreak to become the president-elect of the United States of America is a message that we can always emerge from the depths of despair to the heights of success.
On January 20, 2021, after you are sworn into office as the 46th President of the United States of America, you will inherit a country and a White House that has so much transformed in just four years, since you left there with your friend and boss, Barack Obama. You will inherit a country that has exited the Paris Agreement, the most valiant global attempt to tackle the threat of climate change; a country that is pulling out of the World Health Organisation, potentially incapacitating a coordinated global ability to tackle health challenges; a country of which allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) are wary of, in the face of increasing Russian aggression; a country engaged in various trade wars with China, the European Union (EU) and even small African countries like Rwanda. You will inherit a United States of America that has so diminished in stature that most people now look towards the Ballevue Palace in Berlin’s Tiergaten District, rather than the White House in Washington DC for the Leader of the Free World.
You will inherit a White House that has been bogged by scandals – a once revered edifice where the previous occupant hired and fired at will; where many of the previous occupant’s friends and associates are either convicts or are in criminal indictment; where government business and personal interests were willfully and vicariously intertwined; and from where several malevolent tweets were sent out at 2 a.m. by a leader whose moral profile is questionable .
From January 20, 2021, we expect that the dignity of the office of the president of the United States of America would be fully restored. We shall no longer have an American president who will be laughed at by other world leaders; an American president who is at an unending war with facts, truth and reality; a president who luxuriates in insults and name calling; a narcissist and self-indulgent president who was more concerned about TV ratings than his countrymen’s suffering and dying en masse from a virulent pandemic; a president who denigrates unfavourable reporting as fake news, declares the free press as ‘an enemy of the people’ and is engaged in an internecine war with the mainstream media. A president who engages in dog whistles and stokes the embers of racial tension and ethnic hatred for political gain; a president who finds it difficult to disavow white supremacists and is dogged by allegations of racism; a president with opaque business dealings, who fights tooth and nail to hide his tax returns, and a billionaire-president who pays only $750 in annual personal income taxes, ran a fake university and established a fraudulent foundation; a president who at the time of writing this article has still refused to concede to an election he has clearly lost but instead has engaged in frivolous lawsuits and outlandish claims of massive election fraud, capable of destroying America’s institutions and undermining democracy.
In as much as the impiousness of your predecessor is not in doubt, you should recognise that the election did not provide a massive repudiation of him or what he stood for. The 72 million plus votes he gathered is the largest in the U.S. presidential history (bar your own equally amazing numbers), while the fact that your party did not make expected gains in the Senate, House of Representatives or State legislatures meant that Mr. Trump and the Republican Party still appealed to a lot of American voters. The closeness of the votes in the ‘Battleground States’ of Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania, all of which you won by the skin of the tooth to take you well above the 270 electoral college votes needed to clinch the presidency, is a testimony of the thin line that separated your remarkable victory from possible defeat.
So you have a duty to unite a deeply polarised country. You campaigned as a moderate, centre left candidate and you should govern as one. Your policies and programmes should be such that meets the needs of Americans but it should also meet the needs of other countries of the world. The United States of America remains the richest and most powerful country in the world and her domestic and international policies have huge impacts on the rest of the world.
For Nigeria, our first demand is that you get your country to ratify the election of Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, who you should know also holds your country’s citizenship, would bring to the WTO decades of experience and expertise in finance and trade, as well as competence in administration. This must be the reason why the support of her candidacy cuts across different countries and continents and her assumption of duty is only being held up by the whims and caprices of the current outgoing occupant of the White House.
I implore your administration to open the American market for Nigerian goods and to remove tariffs on Nigerian exports to the United States to correct the current trade imbalance that is highly skewed in favour of the United States.
Secondly, Nigeria has been at the receiving end of Mr. Trump’s harsh immigration policies. You should take another look at the proposed change to students’ visa rules by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which will mean that Nigerian students (alongside 35 other African countries) will only be issued with initial two-year visas, even if their degree programmes will take longer. While they can apply for extensions, which will come at extra costs, there is no guarantee they will be granted these. You should also restore the visa interview waiver for Nigerian applicants who have previously visited the United States and are seeking for the same type of visa. U.S. visa fees should be reduced and, most importantly, the ban on the issuance of immigrant visas to Nigerians should be revisited .
Nigeria has huge ties to the United States. Apart from millions of African Americans who trace their origins to the largest black country on earth, more than a quarter of a million people living in the United States were born in Nigeria. This is the reason why the fact that Nigeria recorded the largest global drop in visitors to the U.S. in 2019 is worrisome and should be addressed by your administration.
Nigeria has several security challenges, most especially the battle with Boko Haram, a terrorist group that has killed and maimed thousands of Nigerians in the North-Eastern part of the country and elsewhere. Assistance of the United States in the area of the provision of military hardware, technical assistance, as well as the training of military personnel, would be essential for the country to win this war on terror.
In the area of the economy, Nigeria was one of the victims of the protectionist ‘America First’ policies of the incumbent Trump administration. At $2.2 billion in 2017, Nigeria was the second largest U.S. export destination in Sub-Saharan Africa. The United States and Nigeria have a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement. In 2017, the two-way trade in goods between the United States and Nigeria totalled over $9 billion. I implore your administration to open the American market for Nigerian goods and to remove tariffs on Nigerian exports to the United States to correct the current trade imbalance that is highly skewed in favour of the United States.
Mr. Biden, in as much as the Democratic Party in the United States, on whose platform you won the presidency is known for liberal ideals, which include the promotion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) rights, I plead with you to avoid one of the major mistakes that the Obama administration made in Africa. The first black man to be the president of the America angered so many people in the continent as he tried to ‘force’ them to accept the concept of same sex relationships and same sex marriage.
Nigeria, like most African countries, is largely a conservative society. The idea of a sexual relationship or marriage between a couple of the same sex is alien and reprehensible to a large section of the society, to the extent that there was overwhelming support for the law that criminalised same sex relationships in Nigeria. Any attempt to pressurise or arm twist Nigerians to accept homosexual relationships will hurt our relationship.
You can endear yourself to Nigerians if your actions in government would be more of a reflection of your Catholic faith, than a posturing that depicts you as a proponent of the far left liberals of the U.S. Democratic Party.
As we look forward to your date with fate on January 20, 2021, we are filled with excitement and a foreboding of glad tidings that your administration will usher in for America and the rest of the world. We believe that you would give the office of the most powerful man in the world your best shot. We are hopeful of a new dawn in the United States of America and the rest of the world. Best wishes Mr President- elect .
Dakuku Peterside is a policy and leadership expert.