Nigerian feather following the leaking of his side-talk in London with the
British monarch. Footage captured by an eavesdropping television cameraman had
gone viral. Looking a bit tipsy after what many in Abuja would imagine to be
one glass too many, Prime Minister David Cameron sensationally declared that
citizens of Nigeria, Britain’s biggest former colony on the African continent,
“are fantastically corrupt”.
But gutted by the outcome of the Brexit
referendum last weekend with its apocalyptic consequences for what was once the
imperial British empire, this is obviously the darkest hour in Cameron’s
political career and perhaps one of those harrowing moments he would wish he
never sought tenancy at No 10, Downing Street. Or took the needless gamble to
conduct the national poll in which a slim majority voted the United Kingdom out
the European Union. Resulting in what is arguably the biggest blow after World
War II to the European quest to foster greater unity.
Poor Cameron, if only fate had made him Prime
Minister of the very country he had so fantastically derided, he would not have
found himself in this sort of mess. And if he did, sundry escape routes would
sure be open for a quick getaway. Were he a Nigerian leader, he, to begin with,
would have long ago classified membership of EU as “non-negotiable”
and branded those agitating otherwise as “subversive elements” out to
undermine the golden legacy of “our heroes past”.
In fact, members of Cameron’s party – or
ethnic group – would have complemented that with a far more emotive argument
that the proponents had indeed been commissioned to either distract or
destabilize or derail the sitting government. Why now?, they would cry. To be
sure, someone would be thoughtful enough to rush to the court and obtain an
injunction – preferably perpetual – against further touting, if not
contemplation, of that very idea.
So, from the official angle, the odds would
have been deliberately stacked so high against the proposal of plebiscite. In
the event that did not work, efforts would then be calibrated in such a manner
to give the notion of opinion poll a bad name. Before anything else, leaders of
the ruling party would have helped themselves to the raft of contracts for the
supply of both software and hardware for the polls, with those that lost out in
the bazaar resorting to self-help by simply blowing the whistle, inviting
public scrutiny of the entire process.
If there was no such in-fighting, there still
could be the chance that the “emergency contractors” would fail to
deliver on time or the right quality, thus leaving the window ajar for another
sort of litigation after the exercise. If precedents already set by many
sub-national governments on creation of more local councils are enough guide,
then what would have transpired on the appointed day for the said referendum
would simply have been a kangaroo exercise in which fully incentivized state
officials would be at liberty to allocate figures to fit a pre-determined
Whichever side the pendulum eventually swung,
heavy dust would still have been raised. Just as the final ballot was being
counted at the collation centre, someone would have rushed out to read a
pre-written letter of protest, calling for outright cancellation. Perceived
sundry irregularities would have been painstakingly listed. With a straight
face, someone was likely to report that lots of underage voters were paid to
thumbprint ballots at several locations. Or, someone would not consider it out
of place to allege “computerized fraud” and “smuggling of
mercenary voters” to a particular polling centre.
Against this murky backcloth, the stage would
thus have been set for Cameron to exercise his power of discretion in the
overall “national interest”.
case for the incumbent. In view of the humiliating loss suffered by the
incumbent party in the exercise, two clearly marked escape routes would be open
to him. He would be at liberty to summarily annul the entire process, citing
“overwhelming” evidence of irregularities.
But in case he was able to resist the
temptation of that option, it still would remain his preserve to snatch victory
from the jaw of defeat. Without any scruple or shame, a spin would then be
brought to the matter. The Prime Minister would simply have declared that he
was exceedingly humbled by the clarity of the voice of the majority that the
country exit the union, even though that conflicted with the personal view he
had humbly expressed during the campaign.
“My people have spoken,” he would
then declare in summary, setting the tone for the clincher. “And where my
people stand is where I will stand as their humble steward. Let us therefore
see today as historic and an affirmation of the supremacy of the bottom-up
approach to democracy. In short, permit me to reaffirm my resolve to continue
to lead our people in the direction they want to go.”
Such transparent duplicity!
On a lighter note still, the following joke
allegedly made by the inimitable President Robert Mugabe after the Brexit polls
has been making the rounds on the social media in the past few days. It goes
“The colonials are reaping what they
deserve now; for the Lord is not a God of injustice. For as they have wrongly
and unjustly divided Africa and raped our natural resources; so would God
divide their households.
“Today, fantastic stupidity is when an
idiot cynically calls for an unnecessary referendum in furtherance of his
personal ambition and not only lose the vote, but end up disuniting the
country, partially unbundle the European Union, make the world’s financial
markets lose $2 trillion in a few hours, as well as lose his job to boot.
“What do I know…I was here when he came
to office; I am still here as he shamefully leaves office.”
But make no mistake about it: Cameron had to
offer resignation not necessarily out of his free will, but more to the
dictation of a political culture that imposes personal responsibility for
choices made and in submission to the awesome weight of durable institutions of
democracy that cannot be easily manipulated.
That is the supreme lesson we should take away
from the Brexit mishap.