Wednesday, 6th December 2023

Boris Johnson’s Fall… A lesson for Nigerian politicians

By Gbenga Akinfenwa
09 July 2022   |   4:11 am
Nigerian diplomats have advocated independence, respect for authority and self worth as the hallmark of politicians and people occupying high offices in the country.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson . (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Nigerian diplomats have advocated independence, respect for authority and self worth as the hallmark of politicians and people occupying high offices in the country.

The former Nigeria’s ambassador to Brazil, Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, and former External Affairs Minister, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, who made the recommendations yesterday, on the heels of the resignation of the former Britain’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said the fall of Johnson is a great lesson to Nigerian politicians.

Johnson’s tenure as Britain’s Prime Minister came to an end on Thursday, after a historic party revolt over a series of ethics scandals forced him to step down.

It took the resignation of nearly 60 members of his government – almost half the payroll – for Johnson to finally abandon his attempts to cling on to power. The Prime Minister, however, insisted he would continue as caretaker leader, while the Conservative Party launches the process of choosing a successor.

Speaking in front of the famous 10 Downing Street door, the same place where many of his predecessors delivered their resignation addresses, Johnson announced that he would be stepping down – without actually saying the words out loud.

Said he, “It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and therefore, a new Prime Minister. The process of choosing that new leader should begin now…”

In an exclusive interview with The Guardian, Cole said Nigerian politicians, especially ministers, should display some sense of integrity by speaking out in the interest of the masses.

“If you hold high office and the man leading you – the President behaves in an absurd manner not befitting that office, it is your duty to tell him…

“When you ask ministers why they are not forceful in talking to the president, you have a feeling that they are afraid that maybe they have some dirty linen; maybe they feel that talking in the interest of the nation may get them into trouble; maybe they feel that it may make no difference, but wont it be a breath of fresh air when you to have a minister who you respect for his integrity?”

Cole advised Nigerian politicians to learn from what other leaders do in their different countries, citing the recent case in New Zealand and the prompt effort of their president when the Muslims attacked a church recently.

“Our constitution demands that every state should have a minister, so the ministers who are in Abuja are in many respect representatives of the states. To that extent, they have an inbuilt degree of independence. Since the ministers are representatives of the state, why is the person representing Ondo State still in the cabinet despite the carnage in Owo? What has he said?

“When girls were abducted from Chibok and Dapchi, the government made some kind of wishy-washy explanations that it was done by bandits. Definitely, it was clear in the minds of other people in the country that it was Muslim attack on Christian girls.

“I don’t see a lot of condemnation on these kinds of religious attacks and it would not stop until the leaders condemn the acts with one voice. It is absolutely inconceivable and wrong for you as a Nigerian not to live in peace, because some religious people are going around shooting people and that kind of action is being surreptitiously or even openly endorsed by the ministers and the law enforcement authorities. People who are leaders should learn from what other leaders do in other countries.”

Cole continued: “On the case of Boris, his story is very clear; it was the ministers who got rid of him. They put in their letters of resignation first and said this is not fit to be our ruler. But our constitution is not the same with the United Kingdom, wont it be a breath of fresh air if minister sees the president’s lack of interest in saving the lives of Christians who are being butchered for them to say I cannot serve because you are not doing what a leader should do to condemn people who are killing people?

“Can you imagine, what a redeeming moment it will be if the president was in Owo -next to him will be the Cardinal and the Anglican Church Primate with Muslims and Christian leaders, all standing together and praying to God that these violence in the country should stop. Can you imagine what change this will bring?”

On his part, Prof. Akinyemi, who said it’s so difficult to draw parallel line between Nigeria and Britain, added that Nigerian politicians like Johnson don’t learn lessons, noting that the big difference is that the country’s politicians do not crash, because Nigeria is not running a parliamentary system of government.

“I don’t think there is any parallels we can draw, because we are not running the same system. We are running a presidential system, which means when issues arise, when the president loses support, the issue is handle through the National Assembly, dealing with impeachment process.

“The issue of ministers resigning, leading to an avalanche, which consumed the president, will not arise under our system, because the ministers are not elected, but appointed by him and he can dissolve them. It is the members of the National Assembly that he cannot suspend.

“Another thing is that, do we really have lines that the president must not cross? And if he’s crossing them, will it trigger off impeachment process or trigger off volcano in the country.”

According to him, Johnson should have been elected Prime Minister due to his latitude and the warnings issued by people he had worked with and so on.

“He shouldn’t have been made the Prime Minister, but when you have a country that focuses only on one item, you might likely to end up like Johnson or Donald Trump on your hand…

“You get a Nigerian politician who says I am going to kill corruption before corruption kills you and that’s the only thing the president is cheered on, then you are going to end up overlooking the character defect of that particular politician and everyone votes him into office. Once that is done, you’ll have to leave with the character defects, just as the British had to live with character defect of Johnson until his cup runneth over.

“They had looked the other way for so long. So, in the case of Nigeria, when you run a presidential system, you are stuck with the man, especially if your country is divided either on religious line or divided on identity line or ideological lines.”

Born on June 19, 1964, Boris Johnson served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party since 2019. Following a record number of resignations from his government, he announced his resignation on July 7, 2022, remaining as Prime Minister until a new party leader is elected.

He was Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2016 to 2018 and Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016. Johnson has been Member of Parliament (MP) for Uxbridge and South Ruislip since 2015 and was previously MP for Henley from 2001 to 2008.

He attended Eton College and read Classics at Balliol College, Oxford. He was elected president of the Oxford Union in 1986. In 1989, he became the Brussels correspondent, and later political columnist, for The Daily Telegraph, and was editor of The Spectator magazine from 1999 to 2005.

After being elected to Parliament in 2001, Johnson was a shadow minister under Conservative leaders Michael Howard and David Cameron. In 2008, he was elected mayor of London and resigned from the House of Commons; he was re-elected as mayor in 2012.

In the 2015 election, Johnson was elected MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip. The following year, he did not seek re-election as mayor. He became a prominent figure in the successful Vote Leave campaign for Brexit in the 2016 European Union (EU) membership referendum. Theresa May appointed him foreign secretary after the referendum; he resigned the position two years later in protest to the Chequers Agreement and May’s approach to Brexit.

In 2019, Johnson was elected Conservative leader and appointed Prime Minister. He re-opened Brexit negotiations an in early September controversially prorogued Parliament; the Supreme Court ruled the action unlawful later that month. After agreeing to a revised Brexit withdrawal agreement with the EU, which replaced the Irish backstop with a new Northern Ireland Protocol, but failing to win parliamentary support for the agreement, Johnson called a snap election for December 2019 in which he led the Conservative Party to victory with 43.6 per cent of the vote, and the party’s largest seat share since 1987.

On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom withdrew from the EU, entering into a transition period and trade negotiations leading to the EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The COVID-19 pandemic became a major issue of his premiership; the government responded with various emergency powers, introduced measures across society to mitigate its impact, and approved the rollout of a nationwide vaccination programme.

Johnson has been criticised by some scientists for his slow response to the outbreak, including his resistance to introducing lockdown measures.

Numerous controversies have occurred during Johnson’s premiership. Amidst a wider controversy over government social gatherings, known as “Partygate”, he became the first British prime minister to be sanctioned for breaking the law while in office after receiving a fixed penalty notice for breaching COVID-19 regulations.

The publishing of the Sue Gray report, and a widespread sense of dissatisfaction, led to a confidence vote in his leadership among Conservative MPs in June 2022, which he survived. The Chris Pincher scandal in July 2022 led to the largest number of ministerial resignations in a 24-hour period, leading to Johnson resigning as party leader. He remains in office in a caretaker capacity, pending a leadership election.