The United Kingdom has a new Prime Minister, the youthful 47-year old Ms Mary Elizabeth Truss, (Liz Truss), who replaced the controversial Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street in London. The former Foreign Secretary defeated the dour Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a keenly contested election to become the ruling Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister. She polled 81,326 votes to Sunak’s 60,399 comfortably coasting home to victory with 57 per cent of the total votes cast.
She is the fourth Conservative leader to occupy 10 Downing Street since 2010 when the Tories took power from the Labour Party. Others before her were the predecessor, Boris Johnson, Theresa May and the charismatic David Cameron. Cameron left after losing the titanic battle for Britain to remain in the European Union. Lady May quit the stage post-Brexit as she failed to effectively manage the complicated fallout.
As the British royal leadership tradition stipulated both the outgone PM and his successor had travelled to Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland where Johnson had offered his resignation to the Queen. And Queen Elizabeth then appointed Truss as PM.
Ms Truss is not the first Lady to occupy 10 Downing Street. The first ‘Iron Lady’ to do so was the late Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the longest serving PM for over 150 years in the British parliamentary democracy history. She dominated the British politics from 1979 to 1990 and passed away in London on the 8th of April 2013.
The former Prime Minister and ex-Mayor of London, Johnson, was brought to national limelight following his energetic participation in the Brexit referendum that saw the UK quitting the European Union and taking her national destiny into her own hands. Boris was one of the leaders that led the ‘yes’ crowd that triumphed in the referendum leading to the resignation of the then Prime Minister, Cameron.
As the ‘Brexiters’ won Johnson’s political career sky-rocketed leading to his election as PM post-Theresa May. But once comfortably seated in office controversies and scandals trailed his every move. And the last that seemingly broke the camel’s back had to do with the clandestine party inside 10 Downing Street at a COVID-19-era lockdown.
Ministers, Secretaries and aides began resigning in droves as Johnson became isolated. Though he survived the no-confidence vote by the Conservatives, months ago, his position was threatened. Lack of trust and competence were the issues at the heart of his graceless exit.
A jolly good fellow ex-PM Johnson was a man suffering from executive hubris. He paid dearly for this hubris as allegations of perjury, mendacity, cluelessness piled up prior to his forced resignation as the ruling party leader. Johnson would be remembered as that flamboyant politician with grave faults yet imbued with many unique virtues.
The Ukrainian crisis caused by the invasion of Russia on the 24th February this year brought out the very best in Johnson in terms of intrepid leadership and vociferous opposition to the Kremlin dictator, Vladimir Putin. He had visited Kiev thrice in a show of both solidarity to the Ukrainians and defiance of the corrosive Putinic international politics.
Britain has been a great ally of Ukraine since Russia launched its predicted pre-dawn invasion. Johnson, now out of Downing Street, must have learnt the hard lesson that leadership is much more than fathering children inside the British government’s official residence in London. Or engaging in alcohol-fuelled parties in desperate moments of a global pandemic.
Ms Truss may not possess the charisma or efficacy of the late Thatcher but she has made history as another ‘Iron Lady’ leading the Great Britain with the old and graceful Queen Elizabeth as the honourary Head of State. The late Thatcher was not called the ‘Iron Lady’ for nothing. She was brilliant, effective and patriotic, delivering quality leadership and democracy dividends to the British citizens.
For eleven long and eventful years Thatcher brought tact, vigour and rigour to governance displaying neither inferiority complex before men nor fear before any challenge. She tackled the thorny issues of the day to the best of her ability bowing and trembling before no one, force or circumstance.
The Thatcherite golden era ushered in stability and prosperity and global recognition of the UK as one of the European powers. Indeed, she came, saw and conquered every ‘demon’, every adversity posting a formidable stewardship still remembered today.
The challenges ahead of the new PM are enormous. There is the energy crisis, the diminishing purchasing power, inflation, Russia/Ukraine war, the divisions in the Conservative Party and so much more awaiting her immediate attention. She must face the consequences of Brexit even though she never voted for it!
The female power revolution is sweeping across the world. It is perhaps only in Nigeria that this phenomenon has not yet taken hold of the national political firmament for obvious reasons. This has more to do with our men-dominated politics and the traditional culturally-imposed role of women in the household.
Around the globe women are taking power democratically, imposing their electoral will on the rest of us. The late Indira Gandhi of India and Benazir Bhuto of Pakistan had shown how possible it could be for ladies to triumph in a democratic polls in their different conservative societies.
In the late soccer legend, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messie’s Argentina Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner presided over the affairs of the latin American country from 2007 to 2015. Presently, she remains the Vice-President of the country. Recently she survived an audacious assassination attempt! The trigger of the gun was pulled in her face by the assailant as she saluted her supporters but the bullet refused to go off! Miraculous indeed!
Angela Merkel was the German Chancellor for a record 16 years! In the Philippines the late Corazon Aquino was once a President! Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was also a former President. The late Golda Meir was the first female Israeli Prime Minister holding office from 1969 to April 1974.
In Africa women have had rare opportunities to be President. In Tanzania a strong woman currently governs the country as President, Samia Suluhu Hassan. In Malawi Joyce Banda was once coronated President following the abrupt death of the ex-President Bingu wa Mutharika and she held that position for more than two years.
The African ‘Iron Lady’, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, presided over Liberia for a record twelve years! In the war-torn Ethiopia the ‘ceremonial’ President remains Sahle-Work Zewde.
But historically the first female President in Africa was Sylvie Kinigi of Burundi. After the death of the long-ruling President, Omar Bongo, in Gabon, Rose Francine Rogombe served as Interim President of the tiny Francophone country from June 2009 to October 2009 before the son, Ali, took over.
Catherine Samba was the Acting President of the Central African Republic from 2014 to 2016 after rebel leader Michel Djotodia resigned from his self-appointed presidency. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim was the first elected female President of Mauritius.
There are Prime Ministers too. Victoire Tomegah Dogbé is the current Togolese Prime Minister and Rose Christiane Raponda leads the government in Gabon as Prime Minister.
Nigeria is conspicuously missing in this rich list of African iron ladies doing better than what men can do in power. Since our politicians, the men, have proven their mediocrity, rapaciousness and yawning lack of patriotism in the delivery of governance at the centre, is it not yet time we try the amazons among us?
This is wishing the British ‘Iron Lady’, Liz Truss, success in the two years before the general elections. She should remember a big-for-nothing country in West Africa, Nigeria, where national leadership has failed the people. She should insist that President Muhammadu Buhari must allow a free, fair and transparent presidential poll come February next year in our abused country the same way and manner hers happened.
Hopefully, then, in 2023, a new democratic era, unadulterated, will electorally dawn on our long-sufferring terrorized people. Nigeria must, therefore, count in her scale of priorities!
Goodbye Boris Johnson. And welcome Ms Liz Truss!