Turmoil in the House of Windsor
One must-read book I have been trying to bring to the attention of the academic world is “State and Society in Nigeria” by Gavin Williams, Emeritus Fellow at the University of Oxford. Published by Malthouse Press Ltd, this important book takes a comprehensive look at every facet of Nigerian life-history, politics, economy, as well as the interactions between ethnicity and religion and the inherent conflicts managed and still being managed as a result of these interactions. Any public library or university would have space for this book. A possible future edition, that is the 3rd edition, might want to incorporate a few dimensions on the role of the traditional institution in the life of Nigeria.
The traditional institution preceded colonialism and the rule of politicians. I honestly do not envisage any revolution that will sweep it away. The main reason for this assumption is that the traditional institution no longer impedes on the lives of ordinary Nigerians and its existence takes diverse dimensions in the society. There might have been a time, in some parts of Nigeria, when the traditional institution was perceived as the preserve of the locals and not-too-educated individuals. This is no longer the case. Most educated men and women now aspire to some traditional role after retirement from their professional calls. We do not have a King or Queen of Nigeria as they have in some nations of the world. What we have in Nigeria are potentates that preside over hundreds of cities, towns, and villages. The future of their institutions would seem to be assured.
The same may not be said of centralised institutions or monarchies. Be it in France, Russia, or Iran, many monarchies have been swept aside by one kind of revolution or the other. The British Monarchy is the most visible and celebrated in the modern world. Its future may not be cast in stone or iron as some might assume. The current Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is one of the most loved, level-headed, and cultured creation of God history has ever known. She is in her advanced age and no one can say in certainty what could happen in future if an irritant were to inherit the crown she has worn with so much grace. Royalists and anti-royalists exist in proportions and the latter has been declining in number with succeeding generations. Some irritating developments, in recent months, have brought the institution of the Monarchy into disrepute and unfriendly debate.
In November 2019, Prince Andrew, second son of the Queen, brought shame to royalty when it was reported, courtesy of a recorded interview at Buckingham Palace, that he had close ties to American billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who was charged with sex trafficking offences. Following enormous criticism of his conversation with journalist Emily Maitlis, Andrew said he did not regret his relationship with Epstein. He would later voluntarily step back from his royal duties.
Just into the new year, the ongoing anger of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle with the tabloid press boiled over. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have consistently complained of negative reportage and harassment or bullying by the press. Many have rightly or wrongly attributed this to the background of the Duchess, a 38 year-old divorcee who is of mixed ethnic heritage. They blame the antagonism of the white-dominated Press on racism. Both the Duke and Duchess have threatened to withdraw from royal duties and seek a progressive independent existence. Prince Harry is being compared to King Edward VIII who abdicated the throne a few months into his reign in 1936 following political, social and religious opposition to his determination to marry the twice-divorced Wallis Simpson.
Prince Harry was only 12 when his mother, Princess Diana was killed in a crash in 1997. The hounding of the Press was not unconnected with this. Harry has every reason to be apprehensive of their activities and to want to prevent his family from a similar fate. However, the half-sister of Meghan does not seem to buy into this. The 55-year-old Samantha Markle describes her sister as an attention seeker whose strategy is to divide and conquer. “Meghan has had the chance of a lifetime, that people all over the world would be proud to have, and has blown it… Billions of people would want to be in her shoes and instead of honouring the chance she has got, she has desecrated it. In this Cinderella story, the shoe did not fit!”
You may call Samantha the enemy within, if you like, the fact remains that recent developments in the House of Windsor has been generating debates about the future of the Royal Family. Clive Lewis, a possible contender for Labour leadership was reported to have suggested a referendum on the Royal Family, what the future of the monarchy is and what shape it should be. With that neck-to neck outcome on Brexit and the controversy it generated, no true lover of the Monarchy will want to dare a referendum on the future of that institution.
Akinola wrote from the United Kingdom.
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