By Denrele Animashaun
“With all due respect, sir, I have done battle every single day of my life and many men have underestimated me before. This lot seem bound to do the same, but they will rue the day.”-Margret Thatcher.
People often say that you remember where you are when important news are delivered. I definitely knew where I was when I heard that Margaret Thatcher died: I was travelling to work and happened to glance at my mobile phone and saw the news. So, I got into work and waited to get some reaction from the people around me. Nothing!
It was just another day but different. Confused? Indifference was not an option. As you see, in death as in life, at home and abroad, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was lionised and lambasted —both in equal measure. I do hope that the last couple of days is a learning curve for our politicians; that what you do for yourself dies with you, what you do for others is what you leave behind. I grew up and I was a student during Thatcher’s administration and the only time I have seen these polarised sentiments was in the heady days of Thatcher.
This lady was tough and she is undeniably Britain’s longest and, some would say, greatest peacetime Prime Minister of the 20th century. Other than Churchill, she will forever be remembered as a great politician and a patriotic Briton
She really did transformed the country into an economic force taking its rightful place in the top ranking countries of the developed world. She said: “I am not a consensus politician. I’m a conviction politician. And “the word “NO” was never in her vocabulary which was her strength and her ultimate undoing. She said “I don’t mind how much my ministers’ talk, as long as they do what I say.”
She was larger than life. From a working class family, she rose to the dizzy heights of prime minister of Britain. Hers was not mercurial at all; she fought every inch of the way and it took her thirty years to get there. Born one of two girls, she prided herself as capable as anyone if not better. She was never one to run away from a political argument she thrived on it: “I love argument. I love debate. I don’t expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me – that’s not their job.”
She came to office when Britain was in economic ruins and transformed it into an economic force in the world. Her ministers recalled: “We all felt her iron fist, when Maggie is convinced that what she was doing was for the benefit of the country she does not deviate”.
She was a forerunner and she led always from the front, never did she knowingly showed hesitation, her enemies may not like her but they admired her spirit and patriotism. She said: “To those waiting with bated breath for that favourite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say, you turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning.”
What she did with her conservative policies, the changes she made to British life earned a philosophy that was collectively called Thatcherism. The philosophy she espoused did rightfully or wrongfully shape the nation. She encouraged free markets and a small state, that government should stop planning and regulating business and peoples’ lives.
Arguably,it was free for all but she maintained if you work hard you will reap the reward and a lot of people did to the detriment of others. It was the boom years, the birth of the yuppies and the aspiration set. Like anything that goes up must invariably come down, and crashing down it came and the effect is still felt today. So when people took to the street to dance and jubilate at her death it shows that the emotional scars run very deep and after all these time, people have not forgiven her.
No one can doubt the fact that she was principled and hard working and I remember reading somewhere that she said that she only slept for five hours. She said: “What I do think is a man should be encouraged to stand on his own two feet. Yes, we help people. Of course we help people, but for those who can do, they must just get up and do. And if something’s wrong, they shouldn’t just whine about it. They should get in there and do something about it. Change things.”
Maggie, the iron lady was irascible and irreverent; she was one of a kind and the young pretenders will come and go, she has earned her place in political history whether she liked it or not, and frankly, I don’t think she cared what people thought. She had planned every bit of her funeral and left specific instructions.
She was understood to have decided that she should not have a state funeral. She was understood to fear that a parliamentary bill, which would have to be passed to permit public funds for a state funeral, could prompt a divisive debate. It is also understood that she did not wish to lie in state. I wonder if this could have happened in Nigeria!
Baroness Thatcher’s funeral will take place on Wednesday, 17 April with the whole world watching and many world leaders will fly in to attend her funeral. In spite of her prior instruction, the funeral ceremony will be with full military honours and take place at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, following a procession from Westminster.
Do I really think she has been a role model to women? My answer is no. She is who she is, being a woman is not only what defines her, she is much more. I do accept that because as a woman she had to fight her way through so many obstacles and she did so, because she never gave up. No one gave her an easy ride, she fought her way through. Do I admire her spirit? Yes, without an iota of doubt. She lived her political life without compromising her sexuality, her conviction and principles.
A word of advice to our politicians: reflect on your actions as life and history will judge you. Seriously, how many of our politicians would rouse an emotion of admiration? No one is going to live forever. Nigerians are watching and taking notes.