Trump is a Baby Dictator — But He’s Learning

By Manny Otiko

President Donald Trump is a baby dictator. I can say that because I have experience living through real dictatorships. I’m talking about “disappear if you say something bad about the president” dictatorships. In the 1980s and 1990s, Nigeria was ruled by several military juntas and that was my first experience of living in a country where your opinion doesn’t count.

In a dicatorship, decisions get made without any discussion and are announced after the fact. (Kind of like Trump announcing the U.S. military is going to be doing joint operations with the Russians — without telling them.)

Also, if you say the wrong thing you could end up dead. In 1986, Nigerian journalist Dele Giwa opened a package and died from the resulting explosion. He had been investigating a drug smuggling linked to people high in the government. A college professor, who had been a fierce critic of the military government, was pulled out of his car one night, driven across the country and put on a one-way trip to Britain. And Fela Kuti, the famously politically-active Nigerian singer, was falsely jailed on drug charges. The judge who sentenced him later admitted he was forced to do it by the military government. Current Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was also a former military dictator who jailed journalists because he didn’t like what they were writing about.

These might be extreme cases, but it’s not far from what Trump has done or tried to do. Recently, CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins was exiled from the White House, because the president didn’t like her questions. Trump has also tried to go after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, by attempting to raise the company’s postal rates. Trump has branded the press the enemy of the people, so it wasn’t too surprising that a few months ago a deranged gunman with far-right leanings killed several journalists at the Annapolis Capital Gazette.

Trump’s still a baby at the dictator game, but he’s learning. He’s been president for a little over two years, but he seems to be getting the hang of how the presidency works and the power at his fingertips. He’s also seeing the riches available to a politician who can steer contracts and deals to family members. Also, foreign governments eager to get into the good graces of the president are willing to offer him gifts and sweetheart deals. Republicans might say they hate the government, but they love those government checks and contracts. And that’s why they’re not eager to leave government employment.

And this leads to the end game. Don’t expect Trump to leave, if he wins another term. I don’t see him walking away from the power or the opportunities of the Oval Office. From watching Nigerian dictators, I have seen they always get drunk with power and want to stay in office. Trump won’t leave the White House voluntarily, he’ll have to be forced out.

Manny Otiko is a media professional who is based in Southern California. Follow him @mannyotiko on Twitter.

Originally published at on July 28, 2018.

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