An American State has bestowed a recognition on Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari in a way that interrogates President Donald Trump’s reported reference to the Nigerian president as ‘lifeless’. The recognition is so flowery and comprehensive a narration of the Nigerian president that it is reproduced as cover picture of this story. It is not clear what relationship the State of New Jersey is referring to but the award is based on so complete a portrait of the president.
The question is how the legislature of an American state or province could have so different a gaze of one and same president of Nigeria from that of an incumbent American president. It is not about states in the US being autonomous of the federal. Rather, it is about explaining a striking divergence within the American geopolitical imagination which derives essentially from the notion of America as a city set on a hill to bring light to the rest of the world. That is why the US doesn’t see anything wrong in invading a sovereign country. In fact, Melvyn P. Leffler, one of the best known historians of US foreign policy behaviour declared in a 2004 essay that the history of the US is the history of pre-preemption, irrespective of the party in power.
The last would not have been heard of this award and its consensual tone on a Nigerian president fighting the battle of his life to retain power at home. In a world of performative materialisation of the nation, Buhari’s foreign policy behaviour has been rather quiet and famished, none of which is a winning foreign policy attribute anymore.