Despite President Donald Trump’s ban on Nigerian immigration to the United States, he apparently remains popular among Nigerias. The Washington Post headline was “Trump Trashes Nigeria and Bans Its Immigrants. Nigerians Love Him for It.” The article, by Nigerian writer and journalist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, ascribes Trump’s popularity to the perception that he is “tough, no-nonsense, blunt, pro-religion, and entertaining.” He also says what Nigerians believe to be true: the international community does not want to welcome a wave of Nigerian immigrants, of which there are many. Nwaubani cites a Pew survey from 2018 that indicates that 45 percent of Nigeria’s adults planned to move to another country in the next five years.
For friends of Nigeria, Nwaubani makes the important point that Nigerians blame the travel ban on their own government, that of Muhammadu Buhari, rather than President Trump. It is Nigeria’s fault that it did not implement necessary security procedures and thereby avoid the ban. Nwaubani notes that when the Trump administration announced the ban, the Buhari government immediately appointed a task force to address the ban’s criticisms and get Nigeria removed from it. Why the lethargy up to then? The answer is not clear, but the simple lack of bureaucratic capacity likely plays an important role.
Trump’s popularity in Nigeria would seem to be a manifestation of the widespread disillusionment in a country characterized by growing poverty, multiple security threats, an expanding crime wave, and a government seen as unresponsive and corrupt. Trump’s relative popularity in Nigeria is likely to be characteristic of the small percentage of urban Nigerians who participate in the modern economy. For the majority of Nigerians, who live in rural areas or urban slums with little connection to the outside world, they are unlikely to have strong views one way or the other.