According to the US Department of State, former President Donald Trump received $450 in gifts from then-President Muhammadu Buhari in order to avoid humiliating the one-time Nigerian military dictator.
Mr Buhari gifted Mr Trump a ground mat, three cushions, and leather panels estimated to be $450 in monetary value during his widely reported visit to Washington in the spring of 2018.
According to the State Department’s records filed in 2020 but recently accessed by Peoples Gazette, the gift was received on April 30, 2018, during the period the Nigerian leader visited the White House to discuss bilateral cooperation in fighting terrorism and other threats to peace and security in Nigeria and the West African region.
The gift, now transferred to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, was accepted by Mr Trump customarily as a form of respect and recognition which normally occurs during official visits in the international diplomatic world between heads of government, diplomats, authorities, and special delegations. Rejecting the gifts could cause embarrassment to the donor country and the US government, the archives noted.
“Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. government,” the American agency noted regarding Mr Buhari’s gifts and those of other leaders across the world.
Although the gifts were accepted in the form of diplomatic symbolism, Mr Trump did not hesitate to denigrate Mr Buhari shortly after their meeting, according to a Financial Times article published in August of the same year. Mr Trump referred to Mr Buhari as “lifeless,” telling his aides “he never wanted to meet someone as that again.”
Different reactions trailed the statement, with Mr Buhari’s supporters angered, taking the lead in responding with several comments on social media.
Nigeria-US relations under the two presidents were not without its ups and downs. Although it started brightly in 2017 when Mr Buhari became the first sub-Saharan African leader that Mr Trump called on the phone and hosted in the White House in 2018, things began to go south after the duo met.
Mr Trump’s administration will later oppose Nigeria-supported Akinwunmi Adesina’s reelection as president of the African Development Bank, relying on unsubstantiated allegations investigated by an ethics committee where he had been exonerated. Despite Mr Adesina’s exoneration, a U.S. representative on the bank’s board, Steven Dowd, would further insist on an independent review of the ethics committee report, even though it contradicted the bank’s governance code.
Similarly, the U.S., under Mr Trump’s leadership, opposed Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment as the director-general of the World Trade Organisation while ignoring the substantial support she received from most of the member nations. Outside issues directly related to Nigeria, Mr Trump’s perceived contempt for Africans and people of colour, in general, piqued the concern of many who did not view him positively.