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BREXIT fall out: Leaders must listen to the people — Amb. Keshi: Politics : - Nigeria's Premier Online Forum


BREXIT fall out: Leaders must listen to the people — Amb. Keshi

By: dayan (M) |Time : July 08, 2016, 04:44:00 AM
BREXIT fall out: Leaders must listen to the people — Amb. Keshi

On July 7, 20168:37 pm

By Hugo Odiogor, Foreign Affairs Editor

When the British people voted to leave the European Union, it was in fulfilment of their age long desire not to surrender their sovereignty to a supra-national authority and bureaucracy in Brussels. But the outcome of the victory of the Leave campaigners has come with unanticipated consequences for the British and the world. In this interview with Vanguard newspaper, Ambassador Joe Keshi explains some lessons that our leaders must learn from the BREXIT referendum.

WHAT would you say are the lessons form this BREXIT referendum vote?

If we in this country do not know what to do about issues of governance, I think we should watch television, especially global channels. There are a lot of advantages in watching global television. Firstly, you see the way other countries do things. Again, you see the way people behave and the way they respond to a number of things. In this country we are fond of saying that our children do not read or that they spend so much time watching television, but the truth of the matter is that the adults do not read, our leaders do not read.

My starting point, therefore, is to advise our leaders and elders to watch television, particularly global television. In the last three weeks or so, if we have watched and seen how other leaders empathise with their people, or how communities respond to disasters. If you recall what happened in Orlando, in the United States and remember what happened when the British Parliamentarian Jo Cox was killed in the United Kingdom, you could see why US President, Barack Obama and Vice President, Joe Biden, went to Orlando, to see for himself what happened and visit the families that had loved ones killed in that senseless shooting.

Senseless  shooting

The country rallied together to show support to the families of those that have died. We saw how policemen and the agencies responded to the situation. They conducted investigations to find out what happened. The US Attorney General also visited the place.

Our leaders do not lead us to empathise in any way or in any form. When the parliamentarian was killed in UK, we saw how their people responded. The two groups in the British referendum suspended their campaigns, to honour the memory of the slain MP. For one or two days, they stopped their campaign to enable them take charge of the situation.

We saw how the Police did  things. But here what do we do? We behave indifferently. When you see them deploy soldiers and security personnel to crisis zones, what strikes you is that the men and women are well kitted. But in Nigeria, we actually send our soldiers and security personnel to go and confront danger with their bare hands. We seem to send them out to go and die, forgetting that they too have families and dependants. We send them to go and face danger and we expect them to perform miracles. The point I am trying to make is that if our leaders watch television avidly , they will see how other nations do things. It will make them think outside the box.

What is your view on BREXIT vote?

When you look at the Brexit debate, one thing that strikes you is that whether they were Conservative or not, they spoke on the issues based on their conviction. Nobody keyed into the Prime Minister’s agenda or mantra. The greatest challenge before David Cameron came from his own Conservative Party, and from the opposition. That is not not what you find with our politicians. That is why I said earlier that when we watch global television we see how other people conduct their affairs  think properly. We see the mistakes that others have made and see how we can avoid them. We learn from them. The mistake about this referendum is the first question is: why did it happen? The answer is very simple; the leader did not listen to the people.

From day one, the British people were not happy or comfortable with joining Europe. That is why it took them such a long time before they joined. They were not in the fore front of joining Europe. There have always been Euro sceptics who do not believe that Britain should be in a union that will compromise its sovereignty. They do not believe that the future of UK lies in Europe. The greatest problem for David Cameron was to take the gamble of calling for a referendum which amplifies what I said earlier; that the leaders did not listen to the people. To make matters worse, the leaders in Brussels did not listen to the people as well who were saying that even though we agree that should make us to be part of Europe; we did not agree to totally surrender the sovereignty of the UK and its ability to make its own laws to a supra-national institution called EU.

The setting up of EU Parliament and other levels of bureaucracy became the sticking points. The British people wanted to retain the power to make decisions concerning their own affairs. The British people were resisting the supra-national institutions that were being created in Brussels because that is not what they bargained for. The unintended consequences are what we do not know now. There are heavy losses in the financial market and there are global economic uncertainties.

Do you mean the future of United Kingdom?

We will not be surprised that in a few years from now, we will not have the United Kingdom as we have it today because Scotland which voted to stay in Europe is not happy with the exit vote and this will encourage the pro-independent forces to demand for a fresh referendum after the one that took place in September 2014. Wales and Northern Ireland are likely to demand for a referendum to demand to leave the United Kingdom. That will leave the United Kingdom to the tiny English Isles.

How does this affect us?

We are already beginning to see fall out of the British referendum. There have been huge loses in the financial markets. Politically, I think our leaders must listen to the people. Our leaders must not dismiss the complaints of the people, especially complaints from the other sections of the country because you are in power. It is the failure of the leaders to listen to the people around them that has resulted in what we are experiencing in England. In a society  as unstable as ours, people will be watching the developments in England and elsewhere. For example, is taking place in Spain on whether they should stay in Europe. The Italians are saying the same thing. Nobody wants this supra national organisation and that is because the leaders fail to listen to the yearnings of the people, particularly, over to the issue of immigration.

In a country like ours where you have deep seated grievances and our leaders are pretending as if they do not exist or that you can throw some palliatives at the people and that is the end. When those palliatives fail, you will see the resurrection of the insurgency in the Niger Delta. When you visit the region, you will see how unfair the people of this country have been to the Niger Delta.

Resurrection of  the insurgency

Some people might argue that we have created the Ministry of Niger Delta, we have created NDDC and so on and that should be enough. No, you need to visit the region to see the depth of the poverty, the degradation of the environment, to appreciate what the people are saying. Which means that even if you have to make special effort to address their problems, you should do so, that is part of listening to the people.

Again, look at this whole Biafra agitation, first, as long as this country exists, and for the next 100 years, Biafra will continue to exist and it will remain an emotional issue for the people of Eastern Nigeria. As far as I am concerned, Biafra has become a metaphor and a platform to protest against marginalisation of the people of Eastern Nigeria, when you at it that way and you remember that we are in a democratic environment. Where the people have a right to expre4ss themselves, you do not send soldiers to go and shoot the people. They have the right to protest as long as they like. If they want to protest for 400 days, as long as they are not violent, they are free to do so.

The responsibility of the state is to grant them protection and create the environment to enable them to protest as peacefully as possible. It is not for the state to send soldiers against them. We need also to bear in mind that you do not use soldiers to quell protests that is the responsibility of the Police. We need to equip the Police to do their job. We have to be careful about the way we deploy soldiers to do everything in the name of security. Pull the soldiers back to the barracks or send them to the war front. The Biafra problem cannot be swept under the carpet. Our leaders should listen carefully as we have people who strongly believe that this country should be restructured and you people who say that we do not have the time for that, which is part of what leads to  and results in even more agitations.

The National Conference was held in 2014 but the report is seen as not relevant by the ruling party?

There are some aspects of the National Conference report that you need to look at. You do not dismiss it because you have power today. When you were not in power you were an advocate of True Federalism which means that the regions or the states should control their own resources, those who were advocating true federalism who are in power today are no longer saying anything.

Bakassi  Peninsula

The bottom line is that if we do not manage these agitations very well, it will soon reach a crescendo that we cannot control. When the people of Catalunia vote to leave Spain, when the people of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales vote to leave Britain, there will be a lot of agitation in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa where we have these type of problems. The people will say we want to be given the right to determine where we want to belong.

The people of Bakassi Peninsula, southern part of Cameroun, Eastern Nigeria and Niger-Delta are watching closely, when this happens, it will be because our leaders failed to listen to the voices and yearnings of the people and address their grievances especially now that the tension is not so much. Biafra will forever be part of the history of Nigeria and you do not need to bring it down with such force because we are in a democratic system.

In fairness, David Cameron has done well as Prime Minister, in managing the economy. He has done well as a Prime Minister. He has reformed the economic system, he has brought a lot of policy reforms that have impacted positively on the economy but there are still many people who feeling that they did not benefit from the system that is part of what fuelled the anger. In US when Obama was coming in eight years ago the economy was collapsing. People were losing their jobs, by the end of his first term the rate of job loss was put at 10.5% but as he prepared to leave office in November Obama created about 13 million jobs yet American people still feel angry with his administration because they feel that he did not listen to them , that is what threw up the likes of Donald Trump.

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