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Takeaways from Britain’s restructuring debate

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By Emmanuel Aziken

In the last week, your correspondent has watched from close quarters the unfolding debate in the United Kingdom over the country’s relationship with Europe; or the continent, as mainstream Europe is referred to here by British aristocrats.

The agony over Brexit flowed from the controversial referendum in 2016, when voters opted by 51.9% to exit the European Union.

Among the casualties of the referendum was the prime minister at that time, Mr. Dave Cameroon who voluntarily resigned from office and politics at the age of 50, after a remarkably impactful six years of leading a conservative government.

He was the youngest person to hold the office of prime minister in 200 years.

While it is referred to as Brexit debate, this correspondent refers to it as restructuring debate. That is because at the heart of the debate is the future structure to be maintained between the UK and the continent.

Hard Brexiters want the country to pull out immediately and possibly engage Europe as any other political entity.

Soft Brexiters want a negotiated deal that would entail an economic relationship, and possibly, free movement of people between the EU and the UK.

The ongoing restructuring debate is unprecedented in British history, and only pales with the political convolutions that attended Britain’s entry to the then European Economic Community in the early 70s.

EU says ‘no solution’ yet to Brexit deadlock

As part of the convolutions, two ministers on Wednesday resigned from Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet following her unprecedented decision to engage the opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn in talks on how to resolve the issue.

Mrs. May had as at press time severally tried to push through parliament a motion to allow her soft Brexit deal.

However, her efforts have been repeatedly frustrated by internal challenges from within her Conservative Party and been ridiculed by the Labour opposition. Indeed, her battles have made the Marxist leaning opposition leader, Corbyn, even look presentable as a future prime minister!

Mrs. May who was against Brexit as home secretary has, however, soldiered on standing where many ordinary mortals would have fallen. Her place in history is secured.

She is the first woman to hold two of the four major principal offices of government; prime minister, chancellor, home secretary, and foreign minister.

In whatever way Nigerians may look at it, the ongoing British dilemma over Brexit has important lessons for Nigeria and its politicians. Mrs. May’s principled but pragmatic stance on the matter is exemplary.

Her decision to meet with Mr. Corbyn last Wednesday despite her earlier demonization of him as one unfit for the office of prime minister may have forced two of her ministers to leave office; but it shows the degree to which a leader would remove personal prejudices to accomplish national goals.

A salutary example from the restructuring controversy has been the resignation of about 31 ministers from the cabinet over the issue.

Such examples of principle are desperately needed in Nigeria. There have been cases of Nigerian political office holders at the federal and state levels campaigning for their principals despite not believing in them.

Resignation over principle seems to be anathema to Nigerian political office holders. A Nigerian minister suspended the executive secretary of a government agency from office on the allegation of corruption but the executive secretary was recalled by superior powers without his knowledge and the minister looked the other way!

Those leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC who used to clamour for restructuring before they took office in government will be shamed by the steel and sacrifices of their contemporaries in Britain over the restructuring debate.

Another takeaway is the fidelity of political office holders to the choice of the majority. Mr. Cameroon stepped down as prime minister because he was against Brexit. Mrs. May who stepped into office as a replacement has despite her earlier opposition been faithful with the mandate of the people to exit the EU and repeatedly ruled out a second referendum that would have suited her.

In Nigeria, political office holders would rather foist themselves and their views on the populace.

What is going on in Britain is the hallmark of participatory democracy which would in due season fine-tune the structure upon which the country is founded.

No Goodbye.

Last week, readers of this column were informed of the decision to rest the column upon the imminent non-fractious exit of your correspondent from the publishing company.

However, that decision was reversed upon the gracious encouragement of the man many call Uncle Sam, but whom I call Daddy Uncle Sam.

God bless his soul for his fatherly encouragement and blessing.

Unlike the fractious politicians in Britain and their Nigerian wannabes unable to manage restructuring, the example of Emmanuel Aziken in Emexit should be exemplary!

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