BusinessDay

Boris Johnson’s resignation holds lessons for Nigeria

Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister, on Thursday, at 10, Downing Street, London, resigned as the leader of the Conservative Party and head of the country’s government.

Johnson, however, said he would remain in office until the Conservative Party elects a new leader who will also assume office as prime minister before October.

His resignation followed scandals and other allegations, which led to the resignation of some ministers who passed a vote of no confidence in him.

Johnson had, in his resignation speech, thanked the Conservative Party and the British voters for trusting the party and helping it to victory in the 2019 elections.

He said: “I regret not to have been successful in those arguments and of course it’s painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself.

“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.”

Some of the sins of Johnson were the illegal Covid-19 lockdown-breaking parties thrown in his Downing Street offices for which he and others were fined, accusations of using donor money inappropriately to pay for a refurbishment of his Downing Street home, and ordering parliamentarians to vote in such a way that would protect a colleague who had breached lobbying rules.

In specifics, a Member of Parliament, Chris Pincher, who was the Conservative deputy chief whip, went to a private members’ club in London, said he “drank far too much” and “embarrassed himself”, but Johnson reportedly did not pay attention to “specific allegations” about Pincher before appointing him as deputy chief whip.

Another issue is the inflation, which has risen sharply in 2022, to the current rate of 9.1 percent.

In October 2021, a House of Commons committee recommended a 30-day suspension for the then-Conservative member of parliament, Owen Paterson, for breaking lobbying rules, to try to benefit companies who paid him.

However, the Conservatives, led by the prime minister, voted to pause his suspension, and set up a new committee to look at how investigations were carried out.

He has also been accused of unclear visions and ideas, even though Johnson won his thumping majority on the back of a clear, easy-to-follow policy – Get Brexit Done – but since then, his critics said there was a lack of focus and ideas in Downing Street.

His ex-adviser turned chief critic, Dominic Cummings, repeatedly accused him of being an out-of-control shopping trolley, veering from position to position.

Others questioned Johnson’s philosophy – or, indeed, if he had one. In June, Conservative MP and former minister Jeremy Hunt accused Johnson of lacking “integrity, competence, and vision”.

According to reports, the scandal that ultimately ended Johnson’s nearly three-year premiership was triggered by his decision to promote a lawmaker, Pincher, to a position of power even though he knew Pincher had been the subject of a sexual harassment complaint.

Read also: Boris Johnson resigns as British Prime Minister

Lessons for Nigerian leaders

The resignation of Johnson holds lessons for Nigerian leaders who hold firmly to power, even in the face of outright failure and scandals.

In Nigeria, there has been a hue and cry about some actions and inactions of the government which have brought about hard economic conditions and rising insecurity that has led to the loss of thousands of lives and property.

This week, terrorists attacked President Muhammadu Buhari’s advanced convoy on their way to Katsina State, killing Aminu Umar Dayi, an assistant commissioner of police and area commander of the Nigeria Police in Katsina State, and one other gallant officer. The Kuje Custodial Centre, Abuja was also attacked, and 879 inmates escaped from the facility.

There are many instances where frustrated Nigerians and the opposition parties demanded the resignation of the president and some of his ministers but that all fell on deaf ears.

Several times, the House of Representatives called for the resignation of the Service Chiefs and asked President Buhari to sack them if they refused to resign as they have failed to address the security challenges confronting the country since 2015 when they were appointed. But the calls have not been heeded.

Analysts said the resignation of Johnson should be a lesson to African leaders, particularly Nigerians’ and urged the heads of government and their officials to borrow a leaf and resign in the face of their clear failures.

John Ayuba-Gwantu, an Abuja-based lawyer, said the insecurity and other indices of bad governance are enough for President Buhari and other government officials to take a cue from Johnson.

He said: “In democracy, leaders should respect the voice of the people. So, what happened there, he (Johnson) and most of the cabinet members resigned and they were calling him to also resign. So, African leaders and Nigeria in particular should learn from Western politics. He resigned for the interest of his people and country.

“We are having insecurity in the country and every sector is collapsing. Education, for instance, is collapsing. ASUU has been on strike for months. Even the president of Nigeria, his convoy was attacked, Kuje Prison was also attacked and inmates were freed. I think that is a reason enough for the president to resign. They should copy what the UK Prime Minister just did.”

Idayat Hassan, director of Centre for Democracy and Development, said African leaders and appointees should follow suit as Johnson did and resign their positions when it appears they have failed and are caught up in scandals.

He said: “When all his cabinet ministers show that there is a vote of no confidence which was passed on him, he had to resign. There are some issues, if you look at the trajectory of Boris Johnson and the kind of scandals he has been in and out, he should find out that there is the limit that the people can take.

“It will look small when it comes to Nigeria it could be actually defeated. These are issues that for us we will just gloss over. Nobody is bigger than an institution; that is just what we saw. That could not have happened in Nigeria because they will definitely support him. There is no honour in resigning.”

Christian Okeke, political science and international relations lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, said: “Johnson’s resignation, just like those of his predecessors, should ordinarily serve as a lesson to political leaders, particularly in Nigeria. However, the political class here don’t learn good things from their interactions with their contemporaries elsewhere.

“Government business is conducted with competence and seriousness. That is the standard practice except in third world countries, including Nigeria. The attitude and approach towards governance here are horrible. The political class unapologetically pursue self-preserving interest and turn democratic ethos against their people.

“Here, ministers hardly resign, not to talk of presidents. Patriotism is a concept perhaps taught only in schools and never sufficiently practised by those in authority. Many phenomena would have warranted the president to resign but that is the last thing he thinks about. Those who benefit from the situation don’t even encourage him to do so. The situation here is, indeed, a sad reality and may still remain so for some time to come.”

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