SINCE the British people took the historic decision to pull out of the European Union (EU) a week ago, the atmosphere the world over has been suffused with both excitement and dismay. Many, beyond the British people, who took the decision, are excited that Britain has set a standard that other countries of the world should follow. Agitators of differing persuasions across the globe believe, rightly or wrongly, that the development in the United Kingdom has lent credence to their causes, whatever they may be.
However, while excitement rules and reigns in some quarters, there are those whose moods have been subdued by the development. For the reckless migrants across Europe, Britain has become a bad story. It has become a nightmare to other Europeans, who have no genuine business in the UK. For this category of Europeans, the feeling out there is that Britain has turned its back on its own brothers. That is the mood and argument of the European in the street.
But the sophisticated thinkers among them have a different kind of worry. For this category of Europeans, Britain has disrupted the spirit of essential interconnectedness in Europe and this, they believe, is antithetical to the spirit of globalisation. A once strong EU, which adopted a common currency in order to boost inter-regional trade and build a strong continental economy has been decimated. Henceforth, the driving philosophy behind its actions will no longer be integration but separation. This is the unfortunate bend that the exit of Britain from the union will take the EU to. It is even possible that the EU could cease to exist on account of Britain’s exit.
The non-British European is not alone in his feeling of despondency and rejection. Even within the British Isles, the reverberations are there for all to see. The Brexit referendum has rekindled the independence drive by the Scottish. They are planning to go to the polls again on whether to remain part of the United Kingdom or be independent. In Ireland, there is an eternal feeling of justification for Irish nationalism. Its proclaimed right to independence or refusal to be tied to the apron string of its English big brother has been reaffirmed. Ireland now feels a sense of vindication. It is, indeed, justification galore for all the indigenous peoples of Europe and their immediate neighbours who have had cause to aspire to self-determination.
Beyond Europe, the Brexit referendum also has its backlash in some other quarters. In the United States, it is evident that the government and people of the world’s most advanced democracy are not excited about what Britain has done. As a democrat, President Barack Obama has restrained himself from condemning the popular will of the British people. But his body language shows that he has his reservations about the development in Britain. He feels somewhat awkward about it. And his country, for diplomatic reasons, will not make any fuss about it.
In a way, the Brexit agenda, when and if it is properly laid bare, is an extremist agenda. It is symptomatic of intolerance. It is illiberalism writ large. It fits the mood and mould of the Donald Trumps of this world, who are insisting on reclaiming their country from foreign invaders, real or imaginary. This being the case, a United States, which is acclaimed as the world’s watchdog cannot but be worried. If every country of the world chooses the path of insularity and willful exclusion, there will be no open society for the United States to superintend over.
Indeed, the aftermath of the Brexit referendum seems to suggest that British people have made a mistake. That is why some of them are calling for a repeat of the action. Some have even confessed to voting wrongly and have, consequently, regretted their actions. But whatever the misgivings, Brexit has come to be.
But of what consequence is all of this to Africa? Like the rest of the world, Africa is viewing the development in Europe with mixed feelings. But it can be averred that the mood in Europe will hardly serve our purpose on the African continent, particularly Nigeria. Whereas Europe and the Americas thrive more in an atmosphere of dialogue and reflection, Africa is easily given to brute force and intolerance because of the oppressive atmosphere that pervades the continent. Even where reason and enlightened quest find expression, they are usually subdued and thwarted by negativists, who see oppression and suppression, as cardinal responsibilities that must not be shirked.
In the wider world of today, democratic governance has people as its centrepiece. It respects the wishes and aspirations of the people. The people’s preferences, likes and dislikes are usually tested through the ballot box. But the atmosphere in Africa hardly accommodates these time-tested democratic principles. Rather, it promotes a system that subjugates and supplants the people. In Africa at large, democracy is no longer for the people. It is for the megalomaniac who uses power to feather his own nest.
If we bring this aberration closer home to Nigeria, we will be less excited about Brexit. This is because the referendum that gave the majority of the British people what they are asking for can hardly take place in Nigeria. Whereas the civilised world can adopt the option of referendum to determine what the people want, the system in Nigeria will never permit such liberalism. Nigeria is the obverse of whatever Brexit represents. It is no more than a country where imposition is passed off as the will of the people. That is why the constitution that we operate unabashedly claims that “we the people” of Nigeria are the authors of the document. That is deceitful imposition.
In Nigeria, what the people want is not the same thing as what the mafia that rules the country wants. Whereas the people want freedom, the mafia will always insist that they remain in a slavish state. That is why the pockets of agitations across the country are viewed with disdain by the authorities. They find such agitations laughable at best and irritating at worst. Because Nigeria is not programmed to be a free country where citizens will dictate what they want, the government of the day has conveniently ignored calls by well meaning Nigerians for the implementation of the Report of the National Conference of 2014. Even though the people believe that the report of the confab comes close to what and how they want their country to be, the government of the mafia will not allow that to happen. The people’s will does not matter in Nigeria. What does is the dictatorship of the oppressive class, which insists on enslaving the people. For this reason, the gains of the Brexit referendum can hardly be domesticated here. We can join the excitement train, at least as a form of flagellation. But we should never expect to reap its gains.