01 June 2010

A Tale of Two Countries in May; Why I’m happy for David Cameron, Helen Grant, Chuka Umunna, Chi Onwurah and other Lag-Lon stories


I was in England a few days after the May General Election that ushered in the Lib-Con coalition, so I witnessed some of the intrigues surrounding which party will form the government. Who will be the next Prime Minister? How will the Cabinet look? Will it be a coalition of losers? Why can’t Cameron force his way to the Queen and demand he be allowed to form the government? All of these were the questions on peoples’ minds fuelled by the anti-Gordon Brown Tory press. The scenario was stuff that I have read in history books and newspaper articles about Britain except that it was much more interesting witnessing it live on TV, on Radio and on the Internet.

A few days before my trip, Nigeria also saw a change of guard with the inauguration of Goodluck Jonathan as substantive President after the death of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

Below are some of my thoughts and highlights of my latest ‘Lag-Lon’ trip. They cover politics, religion and social issues. They may reveal my bias for England and why I am unflinching in the belief that the United Kingdom is probably the most decent country in the world.

  1. An image that has repeatedly been on my mind in recent weeks is that of David Cameron and his wife on the steps of 10 Downing Street. The picture shows relief, genuine affection for each other and more importantly it’s a picture that silently cries “we made it at last”. Sky News has been using it as one of its current videos and each time I see it, I feel like tearing up.
  1. I was very happy for David Cameron not necessarily because of his politics but because I love to see people achieve their life aims. For him, it was a gilded climb to the top - Eton, Oxford, a stint in the corporate world, MP in 2001, leader of the Conservative Party four years later and now Prime Minister at 43 - all these attest to this remarkable achievement. For me, it is just gratifying to see someone achieve his goal. I admit that Cameron, given his background, may never truly understand life for the man on the street, however, it is not always true that justice for the common man is best achieved by leaders who have tasted poverty, after all Tony Blair, just like David Cameron was a public school boy and Oxford graduate.

  1. Talking of Oxford education, it is rather interesting how self-deprecating British politicians and people are, and how on the contrary, Nigerian politicians like to drum up their achievements. British people generally do not always accentuate their personal achievements as we do in Nigeria. For example David Cameron had a First from Oxford. His predecessor; Gordon Brown also had a First (from Edinburgh) plus a PhD. And so do some members of the new and past Cabinets. However, they will rather die than say or admit this in public. It’s almost like they feel ashamed for being brainy. Interestingly, in Nigeria, anyone who has ever attended a course at Harvard proudly parade themselves as ‘Harvard-educated’ and hold alumni meetings even when they’ve only been on a 2-week programme.
  1. The civility with which the party leaders handled the rather difficult days between May 7th and May 13th showed political and personal maturity, and also a determination to put country first.
  1. Although I’m not a Brownite, I feel Gordon Brown was more a conviction politician than any of the other party leaders. I also admire people like Mr Brown who are not taken over by power.
  1. I feel it is much easier to plan your political future in England than in Nigeria. David Cameron obviously wanted to be Prime Minister, so much so he was called Prime Minister since his school days. Can the same happen in Nigeria? Well, nothing is impossible. It’s just a little bit more complicated. Many good people who should be in politics cannot see themselves joining any of the corrupt political parties we have. If you can sum up the courage to join a party, you will then be faced with having to grovel before full-time political Godfathers. For example, if it were Nigeria, William Hague will be a Godfather to David Cameron, not serving in his Cabinet. It’s really a challenge. Do I think this will change? Yes, I do.
  1. On the bright side for Nigeria, for the very first time, three British-born Nigerians were elected into Parliament. Like London Buses, you wait a long time for one and get three at once. Chi Onwurah, 45 became the MP for Newcastle Central, Chuka Umunna, 31 was elected MP for Streatham and Helen Grant 48 is the new MP for Maidstone and The Weald. I’m happy for them just as I am for Cameron.
  1. During this trip, I stayed in the leafy part of Streatham surrounded by two parks and one ‘common’. On one occasion, I went for a walk around the parks with my host. Although it was colder than normal at this time of the year and I was initially reluctant to go, I eventually enjoyed the walk. People jogging, some walking, a pub serving meals, a massive house with a large garden that was left by the owner to the community, a man-made fountain, a deep bath that is no longer in use, cleverly shaped shrubs and beautiful rainbow-coloured flowers, mothers with baby in push chairs, a personal trainer and her client who we spoke to, pupils on their way home from school were all part of the sight and sound of the walk. Although, I lived in England for nearly two decades, I was still intrigued by the order, the determination to make life easier for people, the devotion to duty of the people that keep the park. After a while, I felt lighter, hungry and almost feeling faint, so we walked to the local Sainsbury where I bought a prawn sandwich which I devoured as soon as we left the store.
  1. The potholes! Yes, the potholes, I noticed the unusually high number of potholes on London roads in my last trip as well. I’m told this was caused by the ice from the snow of last December to March this year. Na wa o!
  1. I had missed our Church in London, so it was nice to be back and to fellowship with them.
  1. I joined three American friends and my host for a meal at the Café Rouge restaurant in Dulwich Village on one of the evenings. I settled for Chicken Caesar Salad. I never imagined how massive Dulwich College is with its well-manicured fields, impressive buildings and very rich culture. Again, it is almost impossible to beat the English in maintaining tradition and building things to last.
  1. Coming back to Nigeria, it’s interesting how people came out to describe in flowery words the character, the politics, the integrity and adherence to the rule of law of our late President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Two things came to mind:
Firstly, if he was that good, how come the same people blamed Obasanjo for imposing on the country such a very ‘good man’. Shouldn’t we rather have been thanking Obasanjo all along?

Secondly, wasn’t it Yar’Adua that gave us Andoakaa, preserved Maurice Iwu, disgraced and chased away Ribadu whilst protecting Ibori, made Edevbie (Ibori’s corrupt aid) his Private Secretary, drove down EFCC and sat motionless on the country for two and a half years without any education, health or social policy?

And I hold no briefs for Obasanjo who in my opinion squandered a great opportunity to turn the country around but who nevertheless is head, shoulder and torso better than Yar’Adua or any other imbecile that has 'ruled' our country.

5 comments:

Gege said...

Interesting take on things. Hopefully Nigeria shall get there!

Anonymous said...

One day at a time right? Yes We Can! I believe...

An observer said...

I also believe!

Myne Whitman said...

It may take time but I see light at the end of the tunnel. Lovely perspective.

Anonymous said...

A great leader's courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position. A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves. The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.And Cameron has all those traits as virtues not a moral depravity out of derision as it was with his Nigeria counterpart and as seen in previous cabinet in Nigeria . The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly all this are, Cameron exhibits those virtues as traits not vices


Dr Akin Awofolaju, Ph.D.,CLE.,CSP