I want to talk about a video making the rounds, of about Obama giving Buhari's performance report to Justin Trudeau, in a quick informal encounter. One can ignore the fact that such encounter is a normal ritual of cordiality but the response miles away and through social media has been curious. Except one will be accused of been overly sensitive towards a rather insignificant diplomatic exchange, or even called out for raising dust where none existed, the response from fans of Buhari (and most Nigerians, in general), ascribes premium to Obama's estimation of Buhari's performance. And right there are questions and exclamation marks.
Beside the Buharian (I prefer the word to "Buharist") opportunists who have entertained themselves by using the video to score political points - perhaps deservedly, or in fact used the video to affront the opposition about an "American" endorsement of their principal's performance, one is rankled by the hysteria ("histrionics" might be considered offensive) that a 21st century Nigeria manifests what seems like a neocolonial submission of home performance to foreign approval. It's bewildering. One only needs to flip the actors in the encounter to understand the extent of the weirdness. Imagine Buhari said that about Obama, or, on the extreme, Putin says that about Obama to... Xi Jinping.
It reeks of big brother badge-ing of honour, a form of passive consent you expect from America in demonstration of its political and cultural superiority. But let's excuse America, for America will be America! Only a few days ago, Raul Castro "castrated" Obama's arm in an awkward handshake encounter. Observers who are nerdy about body language know well what Raul was up to, at least to the extent which people use the body as prop to demonstrate power and presence. And those blawdy American politicians know how to use their body to command presence and to subtly make their interlocutors feel smaller. It may not mean much to most folks but such h-armless acts are as h-armful as they are sometimes passive forms of assertiveness. One could say short man - Raul, subdued America's towering excesses by that simple act of resisting Obama's arm, even if for just TV. Whoever said Napoleon Complex isn't a thing... lol.
Well, this is not one of those cases that place blame on Buhari's handlers. And Buhari, given his susceptibility to gaffes, cannot be trusted to outwit Obama & Trudeau, or anyone sef, in a friendly comeback. Say, just after Obama finished saying, "He's doing a good job", Buhari, acting stunned but with a smile, just replies Obama, "Oh, let's just wish the young prime minister well in his new government", and gives Obama a left hand pat with, "Hey Barack, it's nice to see you perhaps for the last time, or would you consider rigging yourself for a 3rd term?". Then, the rest of the world can watch the rumbles of the clap-back.
The big African question remains how to free ourselves from subservience to foreign endorsement or to stop equating America's approval of performance to actual approval of performance, and especially when we are in search of actual performance and not hysterics masking as performance.