Looking at the political confusion going on in the United Kingdom one learns why many Nigerian leaders lack any sense of where their country should be headed. The political gene of planless posturing and demagoguery that matured in Nigeria during the long years of military rule has matured with vengeance under the cloak of something called Brexit.
Who would have thought that this United Kingdom whose colonial officers were teaching us that the “British empire shall never perish” would be floundering under the weight of its own confusion? This Britain that would give anything to see its Nigeria survive just to serve the interest of capital wants to secede from the European Union – again in the interest of its capital. To that extent, the UK is being consistent. Those who thumbed their nose at self- determination are today shouting themselves hoarse about reclaiming their sovereignty. What an irony!
If I hadn’t been watching and reading about British Prime Ministers like David Cameron (of the “fantastically corrupt Nigeria” fame), of Theresa May and Boris Johnson, I would have been forgiven for thinking that all British PMs were cut in the mold of Disraeli, Churchill, Clement Attlee, or Margaret Thatcher. Or, that the John Majors-type hit the bottom of the barrel. How could I have known that the Boris Johnson would burrow well under that bottom of the barrel to establish a new low of their own? These people were the very same bunch who sailed around the world creating confusion and proclaiming that the sun would not set on their empire. How silly and confused they look now. The pity is that anybody believed them even for a second when, as is now evident from hindsight, they didn’t believe themselves.
Brexit appears to be about ‘open decisions openly arrived at’ – apologies to Woodrow Wilson. It appeared to be about parliamentary democracy where the mother of all parliaments would implement the will of the people. It turns out that the question on the Brexit referendum ballot was as clear as mud, and that the Brexit campaigners, including Boris Johnson, with their wheels suspected to have been oiled by business interests, were less than candid about what they sold to the untutored electorate. So much for openness. The mother of all parliaments has been in Brexit labour for over two years with no clue about what to do next. Now, as is popularly reported, the British parliament knows what Brexit package it doesn’t want. The only thing it doesn’t know up to this point is what it does not want. Way to go, Great Britain!!
Take the point seriously that this is democracy at work, and you wonder why they don’t just go back to the people, clarify the question, make clear the options and ask for a vote. In other words, try a democratic solution! The people in my Igbere home would understand that. But those who brought us democracy think differently. Boris Johnson reportedly believes members of parliament should represent their constituencies, but not if that means they disagree with him. If an African leader did that he would be unwelcome in No. 20 Downing Street. But that is where Boris Johnson lives! Oh, Idi Amin Dada, bring out those Scottish skirts you wore on occasions; this season in Britain is for men like you.
Boris Johnson and many British politicians, especially among the ruling Tories, are afraid that the electorate will say what they don’t want to hear in a second referendum. It still is democracy in the UK when a party without majority remains even for one day the governing party. It is no authoritarianism when, to hang on to power, the leader of a minority party sacks parliament. Perhaps the spirits of those African Kings who were tricked into signing away their kingdom to some lady sitting in London are roaming the British isles, looking for which PM to confuse.
These are not good days to remember that Nigeria was once a British colony. But then a good look at what is playing out there helps one begin to see the historical roots of our own confusion. Confusion will yield only more confusion, especially when nothing is done to change it and interests of prevailing power blocs are tied into the confusion. This is the season and the context in which the village idiots in Shakespeare’s plays become global philosophers.
Let the drama play on. As a Nigerian, I can now see, as I watch it, that our confusion is not inherent in our nature. Like yaws and smallpox, it was injected into our be system by a colonizer who was too arrogant to confess his ignorance about creating a union or disunion.