21st October 2021
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As a Nigerian living in the United Kingdom, I have followed and still following the Brexit process. First and foremost, as a former colony of the United Kingdom, Nigeria has always looked up to Britain. Our laws are almost a replica, English is our National language and recently, our Minister of Agriculture complained bitterly about Nigerians importing pizza from London through British Airways. So you see, I have no choice but to really pay attention to what’s going on with our former colonial masters. I also want to say that as a former “subject” of the Empire, I am sorely disappointed at the shambolic and haphazard way the Brexit process has been handled. I have always admired British politics and I am appalled at how difficult it is for the politicians to make a decision and stick to it. How difficult it is to show leadership and move the country forward? Nevertheless, despite my disappointment, I respect their doggedness in wanting to implement the decision of the referendum in the face of negative forecast. Nigerians by extension, Africans, can learn these three things from this whole Brexit process:

It’s OK to change course when things are not working well: when I woke up to the news that the UK voted to leave the European Union, I was gobsmacked. But, I was also proud of the British people. They felt that they were part of a Union that wasn’t working in their favour, and they actually did something about it no matter what other countries may think. They took matters in their own hands not minding what the future holds. In Nigeria and most African countries, the political structure is faulty, yet, the leaders vehemently refuse to do anything about it. For example, the Nigerian federal structure is top heavy – the federal government alone gets a whopping 53% of the national budget leaving the rest for the 36 states and 774 local governments to share. Apart from a few, most states do not generate enough internal revenue to keep their governments running. They run to the capital, Abuja, to get funds to pay for something as low as salaries for civil servants. This is abysmal! I still don’t understand the fixation of every president to keep the structure the way it is. The current structure is obviously slowing down our growth. Isn’t it high time we did something about it just as the British did? I believe if a situation is not working, then you change it.  It’s as simple as that! Why can’t Nigerians do something about this unstable structure?

Do not blame the past but look toward the future: throughout this process, I haven’t heard of any reference made to the leaders who led the UK to join the European Union. I don’t hear complaints of “it’s our forefathers or leaders who made us join”. Instead, the British people realised that the current EU structure is not how it was when they joined and therefore, made a decision to leave. In 2019, Nigerians still make reference to our colonial past. We either blame the UK for colonisation or, we blame Lord Lugard for amalgamating the northern and southern protectorates into one Nigeria. Come on, Nigerians! Our past is our past and the negative deed has already been done. We should leave it behind where it is supposed to be and take responsibility for our present and future. The country Nigeria has been handed over to us, now let’s make tough decisions. Let’s decide whether to remain as one country, change the structure or go our separate ways. And for the Youth, I think it’s high time we stopped blaming the older politicians for our present predicament. If as a youth, you want power, then go for it at all cost. Blaming the “elders” who won’t relinquish power is not the best way forward. On either points, we should stop the blame game and get working!

There is no call for help from the international community: no matter how shambolic or disgraceful this process has been, I don’t hear the British calling for help from the Americans, the “Europeans” or the “Russians”.  They are debating, arguing and forging ways to translate the referendum decision into actual action. I also don’t see any foreign consultants from the World Bank or IMF coming to assist with the implementation process, the Backstop or arrangements for a no deal outcome. Truthfully, I am sincerely sick and tired of Africans calling on the international community anytime there is a tough situation. That’s why although I categorically do not support El Rufai’s statement of foreigners leaving in body bags, I understand the spirit behind it. We should start coming up with solutions to our own problems and wean ourselves from this over reliance on international community anytime there is trouble. Be it in elections, economy, sports, development or any sector, we should learn to plough our way through tough situations no matter how “shambolic” it may be. It’s our continent, our country and nobody should tell us how to live in it. Yes, it may not be rosy and we will definitely make mistakes, but that’s exactly what is happening in the UK. They are not calling for help and no one is offering to help. The House of Commons is seriously tumbling and stumbling given that they cannot agree on any deal. Nigeria handled the ebola crisis very well and has become a model.The international community should please let Africa stumble and we too, should not go running to them for help every time.

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