HOME Secretary, Mrs. Theresa May, emerged the new leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on Wednesday. She succeeded Mr. David Cameron, who resigned following the vote by the UK to exit the European Union.
We congratulate the British people on the seamless change of leadership and felicitate with Mrs. May on her elevation. The surprising result of the British referendum had portended a lengthy political convulsion on the strength of which Cameron had projected a longer transition of up to September 7 when a new leader would have been chosen. But, contrary to expectations, the fears were unrealised and what had looked like a threatening volcanic eruption ended as a storm in a tea cup.
We salute Cameron for his exemplary leadership in calling the referendum, campaigning for it and taking responsibility for its consequences. All through, he stayed on the path of honour and courage. For that, he will be long remembered. The sustained applause he received as he bowed out of the House of Commons on Wednesday was historic. It was a testimony that even among his peers, allies and opponents, David Cameron had quit while the ovation was loudest. He will always be remembered as one of the most loved British prime ministers.
We commend the Cameron stewardship – his style, honesty, wit, honour, painstaking hard work and unimpeachable integrity – to Nigerian political leaders. We think he is worthy of emulation. Cameron won a fresh five-year tenure barely a year ago. Having promised to conduct a referendum to enable the country have clarity on its relationship with the European Union, he proceeded to conduct the referendum. He could have postponed it till his final year. He could have manufactured reasons why he couldn’t implement it. He could have found reasons why he shouldn’t resign after the “Leave” vote. Following the massive post-Brexit demonstrations all over Britain with millions saying they were misled into voting “Leave”, Cameron could have latched on the close vote and the preponderance of young voters among the “Stay” vote, to say that the future demanded that the British stay in Europe. He could have done these things if all he cared about was the power and the glory of his office.
Apostles of the ‘Realist’ school of politics and the pragmatists, who believe that there is no morality in politics, think Cameron made a mistake. Indeed, he made no mistake. He was being true to democracy. When a nation is divided on an important issue, it is most presumptuous of a few men to usurp the people’s authority and assume to know the true wishes of the people. It cannot be a mistake to directly ask the people themselves. In Nigeria, for instance, the nation seems divided on ‘restructuring.’ No one knows the answer. In a case like this, a referendum is clearly required. The beauty of the referendum is that it is a most peaceful way of resolving society’s contentious issues.
We salute Prime Minister May. The reward for her hard work at the Home Office is now more work. She bears a huge burden of practicalising her “Brexit means Brexit”, while ensuring that all the Brexit doomsday forecasts do not come to pass.
Although she voted “Stay,” Britons trust her on immigration on which she has the reputation of a hardliner. While British concerns are understandable and are, indeed, sometimes overstated, we hope she will prevent the mistreatment of immigrants and show some concern for those fleeing the troubled parts of the world. She must watch out for all the ugly signs of xenophobia, bigotry and mistreatment of minorities. May has been compared to Germany’s Angela Merkel for being “incredibly tough, shrewd, determined and principled”. These attributes should see her through the difficult times ahead.