A week ago, I was graciously invited for a Lunch meeting at the British House of Lords, Westminster, London. Our host was Lord Herman Ouseley, a most humble, fantastic personality. My meeting with him exposed the anomaly and the fraud we are practising in Nigeria. Ours cannot be democracy. It's a criminal enterprise.
I was most fascinated by my first ever visit to the cradle of Democracy. Mounted outside the British Parliament was the regal image of Oliver Cromwell, known to many as a true revolutionary. It was Cromwell, who caused a revolt against the British Monarchy in the 16th century, way before the Americans had any idea of Democracy. Because of his - radical and bloody efforts - the British Parliament today has a House of Commons, in addition to the House of Lords. The British Parliament, where we were shown around by the athletic Lord Ouseley, is a treasure trove of history. The walls are full of centuries-old carvings and huge paintings, of the wars and triumphs, tragedies and victories, that made Great Britain into what it is today, and that unified the world.
History. I began to have even more respect for history. In its intangibility, history is still the most prized possession of a people, and those - like us - who have neglected their histories, are nothing but beasts of the field. That none of our leaders are deep enough to appreciate this fact, is a sad testimony of our reality today. The Americans have of course seized the reins of leadership from the Brits, but what they will never have is the same richness of history that the British have. This is evident in the almost dramatic unraveling of the American Empire, where today, the key product being pushed all over the world - alongside their own brand of wasteful"democracy" - is violence. We live in perhaps a most violent world today than happened in the British Era, when at least, there was an attempt to organize people, to bring innovation (like medicine) for the benefit of distant peoples, to create administrative structures and so on. Yes, that era came with its own fair share of violence, but today, under America's guidance, structures are being demolished, countries are being destroyed, and minds too, no thanks to the mad media!
I need to clarify that the Lords are around 800 in number. Under Tony Blair, a deal was done to reduce the number of Lordship positions that are hereditary. Today, about 92 Lords will pass on their Lordships to their own children - or beneficiary. The rest are nominated by the Prime Minister, and approved by the Queen. The Commons consist of almost the same number of representatives. But the Lords - who are like our Senate - are unpaid, but for some meager allowances. The job is done as an addition to their daily employment, for those young enough to work. The elected representatives in the House of Commons earn a salary of GBP65,000 or thereabouts, which translates to about N16.9million, asides from a few other allowances. This is chicken feed to our own 'representatives'.
A Lord, will receive an allowance of GBP300 only for each sitting, per day (and nothing if he doesn't show up). This is about N78,000. They are also given an option to claim half of that amount, by free will. And I know many will opt for that, because these are mostly men of honour, integrity, and self-respect, not gluttons who acquire what they will never be able to use. The paradigm here is totally different. It is important to note, that as per what we economists call 'Purchasing Power Parity - PPP', one great British Pounds will buy much less in the UK than it's equivalent, N260 will buy in Nigeria. In other words, living on GBP65,000 in a year in the UK, one will probably have the lifestyle of someone earning a fifth of that, say GBP15,000 or (N3,900,000), in Nigeria today. Most MPs would ride the train to work, or cycle. Ministers are appointed from the MPs, and most of them have other jobs they do to earn income. It is not a do or die affair.
I began to wonder about what we practice in Nigeria in the name of democracy. Even with the present scenario, the British people and government are still complaining about the cost of running government. In fact, probes have been initiated, and some MPs shamed for mismanaging or embezzling amounts as small as 5Pounds! It's a very big deal to discover that an MP availed his mistress a few hundred pounds! Local government headquarters are merging - as did Camden and Islington a few years back. The whole idea is to cut down the cost of governance. Here in Nigeria, we are totally mindless of the dangers ahead. We take one glance at the price of crude oil and ask; why don't we spend some more? We take instructions from deceptive white men - mainly Americans - and their local representatives, who never advise us on what is most important. As we speak, we are being led into another debt trap! We keep spending like money is going out of circulation, we are feeding off our unborn generations like no man's business. It 's amazing. This cannot be democracy.
Yes it cannot, because all the while at the House of Lords, all I saw were visitors being treated with utmost respect and decorum. The guards did their jobs, the Police Constables were the embodiment of humility and civility. Everybody conducted themselves in appropriate manners. There was no noise, no sirens, no SSS man pushing people out of the way for Oga to pass, no lousy receptionist talking down to people and refusing them to see those with whom they had appointments. Where did we get this mutation we practice? Is this really us as a people? Are we really a lousy, noisy, unthinking, dirty, indecorous, graceless, disgusting, gluttonous, set of monkeys, with little self-worth, and vacant egos that needs to be fed and fed constantly? Why do we need all sorts of imported luxuries - flying first class, staying in 7-star hotels, jewelery, latest cars, private jets just because we have undue and criminal access to the resources of the nation? Do 'black' people actually deserve the evil words that, that word means in the dictionary - unfortunate, evil, sinister, bad, dirty, dodgy, hopeless etc? If we say no, we better get angry and change the status quo, using everything we have.
I will never forget the Lord Ouseley, offering to be the photographer when I asked for one with him. Until a staff of the House of Lords saw him taking pictures, and insisted "M'Lord sir, the picture will be needless without you in them!", a statement of fact I had wanted to tell the Lord without sounding rude to the other people in the team. And when I asked to visit the gents, M'Lord offered to show me the way, for the Parliament is a labyrinth of sorts. At the door to the Gents, he said 'Ok, I'll wait here for you'. Oops! A Senator waiting for me while I pee? In Naija? Not even his tea-boy will do that! And it's not as if the Lord was not busy. It's because in this part of the world, where it all started - the Democracy, the civilization as we know it - they are very clear what governance is about. It's not about noisemaking and oppression of the common man. It is about accountability, humility, service to the public. Some say they are corrupt. But their corruption favours their people. Here, our leaders are happy to see penury, disease, despondency! We must find a way of ending the mindless nonsense before it delivers us into Hell - if we aren't there already!