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Exit Johnson: Fantastically roguish British prime minister

By Bisi Olawunmi
19 September 2022   |   4:03 am
The passage of Queen Elizabeth 11 of Great Britain on Thursday, September 8, 2022 after a 70-year reign was a world headliner and dominant feature of commentaries.

Britain’s outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers his final speech outside 10 Downing Street in central London on September 6, 2022, before heading to Balmoral to tender his resignation. – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson formally tenders his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday, handing over power to Liz Truss after his momentous tenure dominated by Brexit and Covid was cut short by scandal. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

The passage of Queen Elizabeth 11 of Great Britain on Thursday, September 8, 2022 after a 70-year reign was a world headliner and dominant feature of commentaries. The epochal event heralded the emergence of King Charles 111. The two landmark transition events practically crowded out commentaries on another major political transition event two days earlier when, on September 6, 2022, Boris Johnson bided farewell to 10 Downing Street as British Prime Minister and the emergence of Ms Liz Truss as the new Prime Minister.

However, there are some salient aspects of Johnson’s political debacle that deserves some attention over the din of the royal change of guards, especially as it relates to Nigeria. It is about the blatant hypocrisy of some British politicians. Remember the mischievous David Cameron, a former British Prime Minister, who threw the pun about a ‘fantastically corrupt’ Nigeria? His leadership was eventually rejected by his political party and he left office in untidy circumstances. His successor, but one, the brash Boris Johnson, is another pseudo puritan from the land of stolen money receivers o! I will explain, presently. For a starter, some preliminaries about Boris Johnson, described as a “ likeable rogue “ with regards to his swashbuckling, reckless dalliance with damsels !!!

On Tuesday, September 6, 2022, Boris Johnson exited 10 Downing Street, London ending his three-year tenure as British Prime Minister after weeks of huffing, puffing and bluster failed to stem the tide of party rebellion against his brash leadership style. Boris Johnson had choreographed a political career founded on elite education at Eton College and Oxford University, where he was president of the Oxford Union, the university’s debating society , where he apparently horned his rhetorical skill in sophistry – the art of mesmerizing, persuasive bombast, but lacking substance.

His gregarious, avuncular, free-wheeling disposition got him a large following among the womenfolk, earning him large electoral harvest. You know, ladies generally like the Gung-ho Guys, not the genteel ones, considered bores. And in return, Boris loves women to the moon – twice divorced and with his third wife, wedded last year, May 29, 2021, and already with their second child, a girl – with several flings in between. At the last count, he has six children from the second and third wives and one from a fling- totaling seven children.

In 2008, he challenged the incumbent Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, for the office. They were two of kind with regard to riotous marital life. Livingstone too, as at that time, had five children from three women!!! Which exposes the hypocrisy of white folks demonizing African polygamy. I used to tell them that they practice ‘ staggered polygamy’ , because many of them find it difficult to stay with one wife, reason they have the highest divorce rate in the world. A third candidate in the election was a married gay. Boris Johnson, the most flamboyant of the candidates, won the election and served two terms – 2008 to 2016 – as Mayor of London. The triumph of marital mercantilism?

British politics condone hypocrisies, while similar shenanigans in developing countries are sanctimoniously pilloried by the same amoral western politicians. A former magazine editor, dubiousness trailed Johnson’s journalism and political careers. As a reporter with The Times, he was, in 1987, sacked for fabricating a quotation, with his editor at another newspaper, The Telegraph, Max Hastings, describing him as ‘’ a moral bankrupt, shambolic in his conduct of office as in his management of his life.’’ His exposed illicit dalliance got him sacked from his cabinet position as shadow arts minister in 2004.

But like a cat with nine lives, he always swings back to political relevance, seizing political tides. An instance was his appropriating leadership of the campaign for Britain’s exit from the European Union, which eventually won him the leadership of the Conservative Party and the office of Prime Minister, when Theresa May had to resign that position when her stymied Brexit plan could not fly. However, Johnson’s luck ran out when he violated COVID-19 rules by holding office parties during COVID-19 lockdown. He had lied to Parliament about the violation but was forced to admit and apologise when investigation by the London Metropolitan Police found him guilty of the charge and got him fined.

He had survived a vote of no confidence but calls for his resignation had continued, with a flurry by cabinet ministers quitting his government providing the final straw for his forced capitulation and resignation. Writer, Gaia Servadio, mother of his first wife who had objected to her daughter’s marriage to him, had stated of Boris Johnson: “I didn’t like his character. For him, the truth doesn’t exist.” The childless marriage to the daughter collapsed after eight years.

Boris Johnson had adopted an aggressive posture against Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to bolster his sagging popularity at home. He was among the first to impose sanctions on Russia and to freeze assets of Russian oligarchs in Britain, Russian billionaires he had courted. He had blasted Putin for engaging in a ‘crazy macho war ‘ by violating the sovereignty of an independent Ukraine. This is another aspect of British hypocrisy.

How can a British prime minister so self righteously condemn Russian invasion of Ukraine when Britain was co-enforcer of the American-led invasion of Iraq, a nation that constituted no existential threat to Britain? The Iraqi Inquiry, a British public investigation of Britain’s role in the Iraqi war, commissioned in November 2009 had, in its 2016 report, indicted then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, for misleading the nation into an unnecessary war. The report, known as the Chilcot Report, named after the chairman of the inquiry, Sir John Chilcot , had pointedly noted that “by ultimately going to war (in Iraq) without a UN Security Council resolution, the UK was undermining the Security Council’s authority.’’ In spite of this indictment, Tony Blair has remained unapologetic for that unjustified war on Iraq. The same Britain is now crying foul over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This takes us back to former British Prime Minister David Cameron’s denigrating remarks about corruption in Nigeria. This is the most brazen hypocrisy. In a conversation with the Queen at Buckingham palace in May 2016, Cameron, in reference to an anti-corruption summit to hold later that week in London had told the Queen: ‘’We’ve got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming to Britain – Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt countries in the world.” President Muhammadu Buhari had reacted by stating that he would not demand an apology but would request that Britain help “return assets’’ stolen from Nigeria and held in British banks. That is according a bully undeserved courteous response.

A book, Butler to the World, by Oliver Bullough, had catalogued “How Britain became the servant of tycoons, tax dodgers, kleptocrats and criminals’’ while the Financial Times in a March 3, 2022 report wrote on ‘’ how London and the U.S. became safe havens for dirty money.” Investopedia describes London as the financial capital of the world because of its ‘’ feather-light regulations’’ about slush funds, while The Financial Secrecy Index (FSI ) noted UK’s surge as a centre of financial secrecy, with its Cayman Islands as the world’s number one “notorious tax haven.’’ So, you ask: What is the moral authority of the prime minister of the world’s leading receiver-nation of stolen and other illicit funds cheekily denigrating another nation as corrupt? Brazen hypocrisy. Bullough had noted that much of the report on corruption had focused on how corrupt elites from around the world launder money in the West, stressing that now is the time to put appropriate spotlight also on rich nations for inducing, aiding, abetting and warehousing stolen money.

Going forward, the complicity of the West’s financial centers, as havens of stolen and laundered money, should be the new emphasis of the narrative on global corruption. The multiplicity of hypocrisy of Britain and its former prime ministers like Tony Blair, David Cameron and Boris Johnson deserve to be more vigorously interrogated.
Dr. Olawunmi, a Senior Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Adeleke University, Ede, Osun state, is former Washington Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). Email: olawunmibisi@yahoo.com