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No tears for Brexit

By Luke Onyekakeyah
05 July 2016   |   3:57 am
I am confounded by the flood of lamentations and concerns being expressed by people outside Britain, especially, Nigerians, over a decision a country and its people consciously and deliberately made.


Afrobeat King, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, in one of his classic lyrics asked, when cat is sleeping and rat goes to wake it up, what is it looking for? Answer: Palavaaa (trouble). Fela’s humorous warning is for all to be careful not to awake sleeping trouble because when it wakes up, the onslaught will be overwhelming.

When the European Union (EU) is resting and Britain decides to exit from its protective shield, what is she looking for? That is nobody’s business. If you use your head to hit a beehive, certainly, you will receive stings on that head and not on another man’s head.

I am confounded by the flood of lamentations and concerns being expressed by people outside Britain, especially, Nigerians, over a decision a country and its people consciously and deliberately made. You don’t cry more than the bereaved. People are crying more than the British people.

Who said that the British did not weigh the pros and cons of Brexit before exiting? Don’t the British know what is good for their country?

By the way, must every country belong to a regional political and or economic bloc? While it is advisable for countries to join in politico-economic unions, it is not mandatory. The interest of a country is paramount. Are there no countries that don’t belong to any groupings and still survive? Which union does reclusive North Korea belong?

The Gambia, the other day, pulled out of the Commonwealth, vowing “never to be a member of any neocolonial institution.” What is wrong about that? It made no headlines because The Gambia is a small country. Why the fuse about Britain pulling out of the European Union if her interest is at stake? If The Gambia could pull out of the Commonwealth and no tears were shed, why can’t Britain pull out of the EU if her interest is in jeopardy?

Countries forming unions are there to protect their national interest and not others. They remain as long as that interest is protected. It is unpatriotic and pretentious for any country to remain in a union that doesn’t serve her national interest.

I can understand why Nigerians are so concerned about Brexit. Nigeria’s interest doesn’t matter in many international associations the country belongs but our leaders stay put to launder their personal ego at our expense.

For example, Nigeria almost single-handedly funds the African Development Bank, ECOWAS and other sub-regional bodies but gains little or nothing. Our resources are expended voraciously in unprofitable unions. Think of what Nigeria expended as a frontline state fighting apartheid in South Africa and in ECOMOG operation in Liberia. What did we gain in return? Today Nigerians are hated like lice in South Africa.

Truth is the Brexit palava is squarely a British problem. It is their own cup of tea, which they know how to steer. Nearly all of the effects would be on Britain; the rest, if any, will be on Europe and perhaps, America. Russia, China and the Eastern bloc countries are nearly immune to Brexit consequences. In fact, it may be in their interest. Africa’s beggarly nations can still go to the EU and or Britain. I don’t see how Brexit affects ordinary Nigerians.

Our cerebral former Minister of External Affairs, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, has been particularly furious about Brexit, fearing that it is going to affect Nigeria in no small way. He described the Brexit decision as “fantastically calamitous, which will negatively impact the global community.” He then lambasted David Cameron for being “boyish” to have allowed the Brexit popular referendum.

Prof. Akinyemi preferred a “representative” debate on the issue rather than the populist democratic referendum adopted. He expected Cameron to adopt the Nigerian style “representative” democracy. Wao! Nigeria teaching Britain democracy! Cameron should be commended for his integrity and the peaceful conduct of the referendum. Akinyemi did not consider what would happen if he disallowed the referendum he promised his people.

With all due respect, I beg to differ. Professor Akinyemi is an establishment technocrat, who likes to propagate the status quo! But sometimes change is imperative for that makes history. His most immediate concern might be the fate of the Commonwealth, an elite association of neocolonialists with nothing to offer ordinary Nigerians.

To start with, when you talk of Brexit affecting Nigeria, it could be positive or negative depending on where you are standing. In order to appreciate the direction of the impact, we should ask what Nigeria gained from the EU because of Britain.

Britain and indeed EU countries are among the richest and most prosperous economies in the world. They have food, water, housing, excellent infrastructure – roads, railways, airports, schools, hospitals, name it. All the basic necessities of life are taken for granted in those countries. They don’t have poverty. None of those countries is importing food to feed her citizens. None is borrowing money from the other. Those countries are donors to mainly poor countries.

Nigeria is in a pathetic state despite the existence of EU and Britain. Prof. Akinyemi talked about MoUs that Nigeria signed with the EU and or Britain that have to be renegotiated. What is the problem about that? Perhaps, those MoUs are more in the interest of the EU and or Britain and not Nigeria.

Akinyemi also talked about the possibility of the EU breaking up. Is it Nigeria’s headache if the EU breaks up? If they break up, you relate with them on individual country basis. The Soviet Union, which was a more closely knit country, politically and economically, broke up in 1991 and heavens didn’t fall; why should anyone think that a break-up of disparate nations that constitute the EU would be anything different?

Brexit is a British problem. The immediate shocks are manifesting. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, is resigning; the pound has plunged against the dollar; sentiments have been rekindled for a grand renegotiation of the UK; Scotland could renew its desire for another referendum for independence, likewise Northern Ireland, etc. As to what lies ahead, only time can tell.

Coming to Brexit buoying dissenting voices in Nigeria, it is positive or negative depending on where you are standing. The British are among the wisest people you can think of; I believe they are conscious of the implications and know how to handle it. The world should watch as history unfolds in the Brexit event.