On Thursday, October 20, 2022, Liz Truss resigned as the UK prime minister. In resigning after spending only 45 days as prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party, she broke the record of the British prime minister with the shortest rule. She beat George Canning’s record who in 1827 served as prime minister for 119 days. Truss’ time as PM was even shorter than the campaign that brought her to office. Now, let’s look at a timeline of Truss’ time in office: On September 5, she beat Rishi Sunak (who had 60, 399) with 81, 326 votes to become PM. About 172, 000 members of the Conservatory had voted. By the way, Rishi Sunak became the new prime minister a few days ago this week.
Back to Liz Truss, on September 8, she released the energy support package, but her problems really began on September 23 when Kwasi Kwarteng, then chancellor, announced a mini-budget which had tax cuts worth £45 billion for the rich. In doing this, there were complaints that both the office of budget and the Bank of England were not consulted by Kwarteng.
The immediate fallout was that the pound sterling took a serious beating and the British economy appeared to be in a freefall. Six days later the 29th of September, Truss continued to defend her tax plan. Kwarteng would reverse the plan by October 3, saying it had become a “distraction”, but he was sacked eleven days later October 14, and replaced by Jeremy Hunt. And Hunt couldn’t reverse everything Kwarteng had done fast enough such that by October 17, he’d completely undone Truss’s mini-budget. The next day October 18, the Daily Mail newspaper said Truss was “in office but not in power.”
On October 19, home secretary Suella Braverman resigned (Sunak has reinstated her as home secretary, plus 11 others from Truss’s cabinet). Braverman’s 43 days as home secretary saw her fixated on cutting the number of international students and their dependants among other far-right immigration policies. Braverman resigned because she supposedly used her personal email to send official policy documents or something which was considered a security breach. She also used her resignation letter to call on Truss to also resign but on that same day (October 19), Truss said she was a “fighter, not a quitter.” Alas, the very next day on October 20, Liz Truss resigned!
The main reason for this long story/shalaye is to show you some of what transpired in the 45 days Liz Truss was British PM and her many ‘sins’ so you can compare from a Nigerian perspective. I know Nigeria is very far from being in the same league as the UK, but nothing stops us from making comparisons. And clearly, if Liz Truss were Nigerian, she would never have resigned.
Why would she when she would have people begging her not to? There would have been people from her tribe, her religious sect, her political party, and more defending her. In fact, during that period, she may even be rewarded with an excellence award. Only in our dear country Nigeria which is why the slogan ‘Nigeria is not a real place’ has become such a cliché.
Interestingly, in the wake of the Truss resignation, there were usually predictable reactions from a wide section of Nigerians basically confirming that Liz Truss wouldn’t have resigned if she were Nigeria. Although these reactions tended to place the blame solely on public officials: ‘No Nigerian politician would’ve resigned like Liz Truss did.’ While this may not be false, I think we may be missing the big picture. Why do we have these kinds of leaders?
First off, the leaders come from among us, so it’s only right for us to begin to look at ourselves. When our leaders mess up, we are the ones who come up with a zillion excuses. With Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s president these last 8 years, we’ve had far too many examples of people not being held accountable: When Buhari took 6 months to form a cabinet in 2015, he was hailed. When Nigeria went into recession in 2016, respected journalists turned Sherlock Holmes to dig out other times Nigeria suffered recession. Some weeks ago, news broke about the discovery of a massive oil theft going on in the Niger Delta. President Buhari is the minister of petroleum, but there’s been no word from him.
Has anyone been held responsible? Nigeria is perhaps the only oil-producing country not meeting up with quota since Russia declared war on Ukraine. Countries like Angola have benefitted greatly from this. Is anyone even talking about this? Just the other day the news came about NAPIMS (National Petroleum Investment Management Services) purportedly spent N90 billion on PR in 2021. Yet millions of Nigerians know nothing about NAPIMS. Did I mention that President Buhari is the minister of petroleum? Yet, the man is not under any pressure to sit up or resign. And if anyone were to complain, the usual suspects would jump out of the shadows to fight, viewing any criticism against him as an insult to the entire northern region.
Let’s look at other examples: The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, called off their 8-month-old strike not too long ago. At that time, no government official resigned or was sacked. Not the ministers responsible for education or labour. In fact, as if that wasn’t bad enough, every once in a while, Dr. Chris Ngige, the minister of Labour, would throw a few threats around. Meanwhile, the education minister and other top government officials were proudly sharing pictures of their children’s graduation from foreign universities. Why not? It’s not like they are going to be sacked. Who’s going to sack them? The president whose wife relocated to Dubai because of insecurity at the presidential villa?
Just two days ago, news came that the Central Bank of Nigeria under Godwin Emefiele has decided to redesign the 200, 500, and 1000 Naira notes. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Nigerians have been given barely 6 weeks to return their old notes. 6 weeks! Remember not everyone has access to banks. In my local government area of Akoko-Edo (Edo State), banks have been bombed and robbed nearly out of existence. Etsako, the nearest local government area isn’t much better. Banks in Auchi were under siege at a point.
Banks in Okene (Kogi State), another neighbour have also been terrorised by armed robbers. And when you add the fear of kidnapping, one can imagine that people reserve their trips to the bank except it’s extremely important. Yet people in remote rural parts of Nigeria have 6 weeks to return old banknotes. Or lose their money. Why on earth should Emefiele, widely acknowledged to have failed as CBN governor, instead of working to fix the flailing value of Nigeria’s Naira be embarking on another spending spree, causing maximum inconvenience that may well be life and death for some unfortunate majority?
I could go as the examples are plenty. Think of the confusion Isa Patanmi, minister of communications and digital economy, has caused all in the name of NIN, National Identity Number. NIN is supposed to help the fight against terrorism but that didn’t stop the Kuje Prison jailbreak and has not helped the rearrest of escaped terrorists. Think of Abike Dabiri, chairman/CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, who has made it her life ambition to de-market Nigerians abroad as criminals. Nigerians have been murdered in foreign countries with no help from the government. Abike feels so untouchable because now she’s working very hard to install her mentor, Bola Tinubu as president, giving the ruling party another eight years. The same party that has managed to make Nigeria the poverty capital of the world. Each time Abike throws decorum to the winds on social media, there are people who feel a need to defend her. Not because she’s right but because she’s their friend, tribesperson, etc. I could go on: Zainab Ahmed, the finance minister nobody seems to remember these days. Sadiya Umar Farouq, minister of humanitarian affairs, disaster management, and social development, who managed to spend more money feeding out-of-school kids during the COVID-19 lockdown. What about the very unimaginative FCT minister…?
With a sizeable portion of Nigeria flooded, Buhari travelled to South Korea (might have been North Korea sef. After all he thought Angela Merkel was from West Germany). He couldn’t be bothered to visit any of the affected areas. But if anyone decided to take issues with this, some otellectual or belle-lectual, Dr./Prof. will come out in his defence. Just like the EndSARS where the youths were protesting police brutality in 2020. Some people said it was an attempt to remove Buhari from the government. This is the same man who has himself been involved in many military coups. That aside, I always felt like asking those people: ‘What’s so bad about removing Buhari from office? Considering where we are, would that have been the worst thing to happen to Nigeria? Someone is very bad at his job, but he can’t be removed or even criticised.
Unfortunately, even as elections are around the corner, we don’t seem to have learnt any lessons. Some presidential aspirants are already showing signs that they’re going to be worse than Buhari. Tinubu told those asking for change to ‘shurrup.’ Atiku doesn’t mind dissing the southern part of Nigeria which he says doesn’t love Nigeria as much as the ‘multi-ethnic’ and multi-religious North. The same North where Hisbah Islamic police is enforcing dress code? I could go on, but the point is that we the people must demand more from our leaders, especially those holding elective offices.