Americans should be under no illusion about the serious damage to their country’s remaining moral authority and capacity for international leadership caused by yesterday's assault on the U.S. Capitol in Washington. In addition to its function as the seat of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Capitol has been a symbol around the world of representative government and of the strength of American democratic institutions. The assault on it by a mob—egged on by a sitting American president—the apparent incompetence of the security services charged with protecting it, and the pictures of mob looting have been spread all over Africa. With its extensive internet coverage, it is safe to say that many Nigerians know as much about what happened as Americans do.
A sample of tweets from my roughly 18,000 Twitter followers highlights the themes of American hypocrisy in presuming to criticize Nigeria's poor governance, a strongly negative reaction to police use of live ammunition and the killing of a demonstrator, and the collapse of the American pretense (from their perspective) of American moral leadership. Here are some representative tweets (omitted are the personal attacks on me, mostly for "hypocrisy"):
- “Leave Nigeria internal affairs alone and face your country, your democracy is under siege, capitol Hill is being ransacked by protesters, people being shot!”
- “The arrest and killings of American peaceful protesters are poor representation of America to the ongoing Buhari administration. who gave the order to shoot a peaceful protesters at the #CapitolHillmassacre? Her last words were peace and unity!”
- “Quench this fire first. Frankly speaking, you guys have lost moral authority.”
- “Face your undemocratic terror country.”
- “Before you start to fix the problems overseas please fix the problems in your home first.”
- “How is your country fairing today democratically?”
- “You guys should all hide your heads in shame!”
- “At this point I think Americans should keep quiet about all happenings in the world.”
- “Go and settle the coup at Capitol building today. I thought USA was a nice country until I met Trump. Mr John, charity begins at home”
- “Sir it'll be advisable you concentrate on what tyrant @realDonaldTrump is doing to American democracy and institutions of governance. Thank you”
- “The use of live bullet on Peaceful Protesters in the state is a poor representation of America This is condemnable.”
Rebuilding American moral authority will be a difficult, lengthy process. It is to be hoped that starting this process will be a foreign policy prerogative of President-Elect Joe Biden and Secretary of State-designate Antony Blinken. For now, American prestige in Nigeria, at least, is in the gutter and American soft power in the world's second largest continent is evaporating.