The UK, Nigeria’s former colonial master, is currently in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. For this former imperial power, this is a time that tries the souls of men. The Royal Family and Number 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister’s official residence, respectively, are embroiled in scandals that touch on society’s core values and risk damaging them beyond repair, no matter how all the drama ends.
It is indisputable that British society, like most other countries in the Western Hemisphere, takes its moral laws and indeed other laws seriously and is quick to hold its citizens, especially its leaders, accountable. in the event that part or all of them are violated, even inadvertently.
However, in the controversy raging over the conduct of a senior member of the Kingdom’s First Family, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York and the person of the British Prime Minister, Minister Boris Johnson, the stakes are such as figures on trial in court and at the bar of public opinion, knew what they were doing and the likely implications if their actions became public.
Prince Andrew, the third child of the reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is embroiled in a sex scandal involving an underage girl, Virginia Roberts Giuffre of the United States of America. She claims she was forced to have sex with the prince three times – starting when she was 17 and was kept as a sex slave by the prince’s former friends Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. Epstein is believed to have committed suicide while in custody.
Andrew, 61, has always denied the charges. Yet the royal family and her mother in particular are embarrassed enough, enough to take drastic action against her to demonstrate the fact that some misconduct is not tolerated and also to affirm the axiom that no one is above above the laws. She relieved him of his royal duties and also stripped him of all his military titles and royal patronages to let him know that to whom much is given, much is expected. He will no longer be known as His Royal Highness “in an official capacity” to enable him to fight his lawsuit in the United States as a private citizen even though she continued to help him from his personal finances in the prosecution of the case which is receiving elaborate criticism from the media.
For his part, Johnson is facing an outpouring of public and political outrage over allegations that he and his staff flouted coronavirus lockdown rules by hosting a garden party in 2020 when Brits weren’t allowed. by law to meet more than one person outside their household. . The calls for his resignation are intense. For him, it’s a battle to save his political career or what’s left of it.
It should be noted that these problems arise at the moment. We are therefore sure to refer to it as we, as a nation, strive to strengthen our own democratic institutions. The two countries involved in all this drama, the United States of America and the United Kingdom, are considered the bastion of the rule of law as well as public morals. Both countries, in the application of their laws, respect the institutions and hardly the personalities.
Recall that during the presidency of Richard Nixon, his vice-president, Spiro Agnew, was ousted from office and imprisoned for tax evasion. Nixon himself was forced to resign following his involvement in the Watergate scandal. Now, the laws of this country do not spare a member of the British royal family as close and intimate as the two countries seem to be.
In Johnson’s case, we note that lower-ranking officials have recently resigned over matters of lesser public interest but serious enough to demand full enforcement of the laws of the land. In 2017 alone, two notable public officials threw in the towel over breaches of the nation’s best practices. Michael Fallon, Secretary of Defense and Chris Pincher, Government Whip, have left their posts following allegations of personal behavior.
Johnson has a precedent to rely on as British society demands his resignation over the unacceptability of his personal behavior at a time when fellow citizens have been forced to make sacrifices for the public good. He may have publicly apologized for his indiscretion, but we’re of the view that self-recrimination isn’t enough to assuage the pain people feel over what is essentially a betrayal of trust.
For us in Nigeria, it is important that people learn from these two incidents. The high and powerful in society must begin to accept that the laws of the land are meant to be applied blindly. On behalf of the citizens, they must speak out when these laws are violated by the leaders. It takes as much to hold the so-called leaders to account.