By Emmanuel Onwubiko
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.” — Gloria Steinem;
“Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all kinds of oppression.” — Nelson Mandela.
For nearly two hundred years, Nigeria was ruthlessly colonised, overrunned and governed by the force of arms and crude weapons by strangers from Great Britain who came in search or human and material resources to quicken their organised campaign to erect the British Empire that is strong and vibrant enough economically not to be dethroned by her competitors from Europe and far flung nations such as Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy.
Then the scramble for Africa was in its frenetic stage.
Fast forward to 2022, when there has emerged a Nigerian citizen born in United Kingdom who has achieved the unthinkable by getting so close to becoming the Prime Minister in the 21st century Great Britain and her name is Miss Kemi Badenoch.
She is a parliamentary member in Great Britain belonging to the Conservative Party which is currently heading the existing government in Britain. The resignation of Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party following his fall from grace due to innumerable scandals including his violations of the Covid-19 lockdown rules, has opened the opportunity for a new kind of history to be made by a Briton who is originally Yoruba from Nigeria in West Africa.
Yesterday, she came fourth and has etched her way to making history. And if by tomorrow July 20th 2022 she makes it to the second position, then she is only one step away to achieving a dream of a life time by becoming the first ever BLACK British Premier in one of the oldest Sovereign entity in the World Great Britain. If she becomes the British Premier, she will equal the World’s political trajectory and history netted in by Barack Obame whose father was from Kenyan with White America Mum. Her own version will be sweeter because she bears the African name Kemi. If she is defeated, she would still have made momentous history as the first black to have gotten so close to the political paradise of Great Britain-an uncommon and unthinkable history and this achievement has opened the way for Nigerian Women to stay on course as they fight hard to humanise politics in Nigeria and make Nigeria respect the universality of the precept of human right that all humans are born equal and endowed naturally with equal rights.
The truth is that Great Britain has a very unique characteristic as a nation that offers equal opportunities to all irrespective of gender, nationality and other mundane affiliatiations and so it is not unexpected that someone with a Nigerian name could get so near to becoming the modern powerful ruler of majority Caucasian nation and people. So she rose from grass to grace as we are made to understand by a British journalist in the following report which i have decided to relay extensively.
The reporter said that until a couple of weeks ago, almost no one outside Government circles and her Essex constituency had heard of Kemi Badenoch.
Today, not only is she a household name with huge numbers of admirers on the Tory Right, she is also being taken seriously as a possible future party leader.
Most people think this contest has come too soon for her, and she is a long shot to reach the final two contenders. But she is already being tipped for a major Cabinet post in the next Government. It is easy to see why her ‘small state’, anti-woke platform is winning support.
She has become the poster girl for the culture wars and someone who does not shrink from confrontation, wading into arguments over race and radical trans-activism with the gusto of a political street fighter.
She also possesses an ability — rare among her fellow MPs and ministers — of speaking plainly. She certainly couldn’t have been clearer when, in 2018, she declared that trans women were ‘men using women’s bathrooms’.
And she was understandably proud in her most recent job as Equalities Minister when she announced that all new public buildings would have separate male and female toilets.
This same direct — some might call it blunt — approach has been equally visible on issues of race, notably when she described the concept of white privilege as ‘stoking divisions’ and ‘marginalising the disadvantaged’.
In a challenge to the Left, she argued that the solution to making the country fairer did not lie in the rhetoric of ‘decolonise this, tear down that’.
Refreshingly, she bridles, too, against trendy thinking that likes to paint British history as a long saga of wickedness.
At the same time she has declared that any school that taught ‘elements of critical race theory as fact’, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, ‘is breaking the law’.
Such unflinching confidence, of course, can sometimes come across as arrogance. But as one Westminster friend of Kemi says: ‘You can’t smell the ambition on her as you can with other people in politics.’
In terms of the current leadership contest this alone marks her as an outlier. She had no childhood dream of being a politician, let alone Prime Minister, nor has she demonstrated the kind of flexibility on doctrine that some candidates have adopted in order to chime in with what they think people want to hear.
But as Michael Gove, her boss in the Levelling Up department, says of her qualities: ‘She has zero tolerance of bull**** and she doesn’t want to ingratiate. I have rarely seen someone so on top of her brief.’
High praise, but then perhaps the key to the mother-of-three’s unexpected success lies in her upbringing, which was far from conventional. Although British-born, she was raised in Nigeria by African parents and the memories of those days have never left her.
‘I saw real poverty,’ she said. ‘Doing my homework by candlelight, because the state electricity board could not provide power; fetching water in heavy, rusty buckets from a borehole a mile away because the nationalised water company could not get water out of the taps. Unlike many born since 1980, I was unlucky enough to live under socialist policies. It is not something I would wish on anyone.’
This snapshot of her childhood was delivered soberly as part of her maiden speech in the House of Commons. She did acknowledge one long-held aspiration ‘as a young African girl’, and that was in becoming part of ‘the project of the United Kingdom’. And now, here she was as a British woman having ‘the great honour of delivering that project’.
This then was her no-nonsense take on what being a Conservative means. ‘There is more to Conservatism than economic liberalism,’ she said, ‘there is respect for the rule of law, personal responsibility, freedom of speech and of association, and opportunity through meritocracy.’
No wonder that five years later her address is still considered the finest debut of the 2017 intake and why she was even then being talked about as a future PM.
She has done precious little wrong to disabuse supporters of that since. What they recognised then — and do now even more so as the curtain comes down on the Boris years — is that she would be immune to Labour’s class-based insults.
Indeed, she has been described as ‘Labour’s worst nightmare’.
She rattled the Opposition almost as soon as she was elected and was one day approached by Labour whip Mark Tami, who thought she was one of ‘theirs’. Kemi explained: ‘He asked me: “What seat are you?” When I said Saffron Walden, a look of horror crossed his face. He knew instantly I was a Conservative.’
As an underdog in the race to succeed Boris, Badenoch has avoided the focus imposed on the favourites. But some questions about her early life are emerging.
Badenoch’s family were, in fact, comfortably off in Nigeria. Her father, Femi Adoke, who died of a brain tumour in January, owned a hospital and founded a publishing company. Through her mother, Badenoch is a cousin of the country’s vice-president.
‘They were upper-middle-class,’ says Seyi Roberts, a friend of her late father’s. ‘The kids must have grown up without lacking anything. That was a given.’
She studied at the International School, one of the best academic institutions in Nigeria and lived in a well-to-do neighbourhood.
As for Badenoch’s suggestions that her family suffered periods of poverty, Roberts says that such periods affected everybody, particularly when Nigeria’s currency depreciated in the late 1980s. Power cuts and water shortages hit every section of society.
Badenoch describes herself as ‘to all intents and purposes’ a first-generation immigrant. Her mother, Feyi, needed obstetric care unavailable in Nigeria and travelled to Britain to give birth to Kemi in a private maternity unit in Wimbledon in 1980 before the family returned to Nigeria.
But when she was 16, her father decided his daughter would have a better future in the UK. By then depreciation meant the local currency was almost worthless but he scraped together his savings for a one-way flight to London.
‘He had £100 left when he paid for my ticket, and he gave it to me to take to England. So that’s all I had when I arrived,’ she recalled.
But there was no disguising her excitement. ‘When I saw my British passport (which she qualified for through her birth in the UK) it was like Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. It was amazing, a very special privilege to be a citizen of this country,’ she says.
Unlike many members of the Johnson Cabinet, Kemi was not privately educated. Although she lived with a family member, she took a job at McDonald’s to support herself while studying for A-levels at a sixth-form college in Morden, South-West London, and can still recall arriving for lessons with the smell of chip fat in her hair.
She still has bitter memories of the low expectations the teachers had of their students. ‘When I told one of my teachers I wanted to go to Oxford University, she advised me: “Don’t bother applying. They don’t take people like you.” ’
It was just those kind of assumptions that were to propel her into politics. After taking a degree in computer engineering at Sussex University she became a software engineer and systems analyst.
She also worked as a secretary, maths tutor and shop assistant.
Her political career began in 2015 when she was elected to the London Assembly.
By then she was married to Hamish, a City banker who shared her interest in politics but stepped back to support her career.
The foreign journalist said it was a rare mis-step from the Essex girl who wants to be Prime Minister.
To a typical British reader of media reports, this doesn’t sound strange because by the way, Great Britain has recently become a place whereby people from all kinds of places and nationalities have found their voices echoing strong in the political firmament. Most office holders in Great Britain have foreign births such as the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and Sunak who is very likely to succeed Boris Johnson.
Reuters wrote about the Turkish links of Boris Johnson thus: Turkey celebrated (then) incoming British prime minister Boris Johnson’s Turkish heritage on Wednesday, with politicians and media proclaiming that the “Ottoman grandson” could strengthen ties between two countries on Europe’s fringes.
The former London mayor is the great-grandson of the Ottoman Empire’s last interior minister, Ali Kemal, and his ancestry has been a source of pride for many Turks.
Despite his sometimes disparaging remarks about Turkey, including a crude limerick about President Tayyip Erdogan and demands in 2016 that Britain veto Turkey’s accession to the European Union, Johnson is affectionately referred to as “Boris the Turk” by some Turkish media.
“Ottoman grandson becomes prime minister,” read a front-page headline of the opposition newspaper Sozcu. “For England, a prime minister with roots in Cankiri,” it said, referring to Kemal’s home province in central Turkey.
Like Johnson, his great-grandfather was a journalist who went into government, a move that proved ill-fated. In the final days of the Ottoman Empire, Kemal was captured and lynched by nationalists fighting to establish the Turkish state.
Erdogan congratulated Johnson on Twitter, adding that ties between Turkey and the United Kingdom were set to improve. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also congratulated him, sharing a video of Turkish reporters asking Johnson about his roots in Cankiri during a 2016 visit to Ankara.
Demiroren News Agency quoted a resident of Cankiri’s Kalfat village as saying it was an honour that someone from their village had become prime minister, adding that Johnson owed his distinctive mop of blond hair to his Turkish forefathers.
“They call his ancestors from this house ‘Blond Boys’. Boris Johnson’s blondness comes from this lineage,” Mustafa Bal said.
Besides, Johnson’s own relations with Turkey have sometimes been rocky.
Three years ago he won first prize in a British magazine competition which asked readers to compose limericks about Erdogan “as filthy and insulting as possible”. He later said the Turkish leader had not brought up the verse when they met. Editing of this story was done by Dominic Evans and Catherine Evans. Let’s read about the economic/Finance minister of GB who is topping the list of possible successors of Premier Boris Johnson who will exit in September 2022 after a tumultuous term.
A historian asked Who is Rishi Sunak, the Indian-origin leader campaigning to become UK’s PM?
The reaearcher answers thus: Rishi Sunak announced his bid to become the UK’s next Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party on Friday, a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s said he would resign from his post.
Former chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his bid to become the UK’s next Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party on Friday (July 8). He kicked off his campaign with the release of a slick video on social media, where he emphasized his Indian heritage and that his “family is everything” to him.
The Indian-origin Tory leader said he wanted to “restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country”, and stressed the age old-conservative values of “patriotism, fairness, hard work.”
Sunak’s bid comes after a tumultuous week in the UK that culminated with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation on Thursday, a day before Sunak’s announcement. Johnson, who had consistently refused to leave despite growing criticisms from his own party, was forced to exit after more than 50 ministers left their government posts. The spree of resignations began with the sudden exit of two senior-most ministers, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid, who left the cabinet on July 5.
After exiting his post as Chancellor of the Exchequer (or Finance Minister), Sunak wrote in his resignation letter that “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”. He added, “I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”
Who is Rishi Sunak?
The 42-year-old Tory MP was born in the UK’s Southampton to Indian-origin parents. His father was a general practitioner for the National Health Service (NHS) and his mother ran a local pharmacy. His grandparents were born in Punjab and had migrated to East Africa, before moving to Britain in the 1960s where they reportedly worked administrative jobs.
He studied at the elite private school Winchester College, after which he went to Oxford University and Stanford University, where he received his MBA and won the prestigious Fullbright scholarship.
His impressive resume includes working as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and various hedge funds. In 2009 Sunak married Akshata Murty, the heir of Narayan Murthy, the billionaire owner of Infosys.
Rishi Sunak’s political career
Sunak’s political career began in 2015 when he was elected the Conservative MP for Richmond, Yorkshire. An early supporter of Brexit, his career was catapulted when he was made a junior minister in former UK PM Theresa May’s government. Sunak, who backed Boris Johnson’s Tory leadership election in 2019, was rewarded with the post of Chief Secretary to the Treasury that year. After a cabinet reshuffle in February 2020, Sunak was promoted to Chancellor of the Exchequer, a post that lies third in the ministerial ranking, placed only behind deputy prime minister and prime minister.
As the newly elected chancellor, he faced the tough challenge of leading the economy when the coronavirus pandemic raged across the world and lockdowns were imposed in the UK. Pledging to “do whatever it takes” to help UK citizens, he launched a £350 billion financial rescue package that led to a tremendous rise in his personal poll ratings, reported the BBC. He was praised for this scheme and his expensive job retention programme that, according to Reuters, averted mass unemployment.
The criticisms against policies of Rishi Sunak
While Sunak was able to rapidly surge through the Conservative party in only a few years, he has faced scathing criticism from the opposition and the public during his role as chancellor.
Sunak was reportedly criticised for not giving enough financial support to households during the Covid-19 lockdown. Reuters reported that his tax-and-spend budget in 2021, where the government would impose high taxes on the public to later spend for the public, also placed Britain on course for its largest tax burden in around 70 years, weakening his claims of supporting lower taxes.
During his tenure as chancellor, the UK also faced its highest rate of inflation in 40 years, as consumer prices rose by 9 per cent in April this year, with warnings from the Bank of England that it would increase by another 11 per cent. Consequently, various unions in the UK have begun striking for higher salaries. Last month, Britain faced its biggest rail strike in 30 years, when over 40,000 rail workers took part in a mass walkout and other groups have threatened industrial action as well.
Personal image of Rishi Sunak
The ‘golden boy’ of British politics also suffered personal scandals, when controversy erupted over his wife Akshata Murty’s finances. It was discovered in April that she had non-domicile status in Britain and thus, did not pay tax in the UK on her overseas income. While it was not illegal, the Labour party said it was “breathtaking hypocrisy” for the chancellor’s wife to have a reduced tax bill, while Sunak was raising taxes for millions of workers, reported the BBC.
Following the controversy, Murty announced that she would begin paying UK taxes. Reports indicated that she saved approximately £20 million in taxes on dividends from the shares she held in Infosys.
His image also suffered due to the ‘partygate scandal,’ when media reports and government investigations revealed that government officials including Johnson and Sunak had breached Britain’s strict lockdown rules and attended parties. Both of them were fined by the Metropolitan police for attending Johnson’s birthday party in June 2020.
What next for Sunak?
Despite criticisms against him, polls indicate that Sunak continues to have a high approval rate.
However, our joyous moments come from the fact that someone like us from Nigeria is at the verge of a history making event.
Her monumental statement in the political stage of Great Britain should become a source of inspiration for Nigerian Women to become resilient and courageous Iin their campaigns for equality of rights and gender equity and balance politically and otherwise in Nigeria especially as the biggest historic election takes place in Nigeria next March. Sadly, no single woman is running for the highest office in the land in an election that will take place in few Months time. Women are still at the margins of politics in Nigeria and are always only deployed as cheer leaders during campaigns by the mostly male dominated political parties. Nigeria needs a radical political revolution to once and for all cement the legal framework permitting the equal treatment of all genders in terms of politics. In some places in Nigeria, women are seen only as disposable items of child bearing usefulness. Sadly too, the 9th national assembly killed many legislations and constitutional reform mechanisms that could have bridged the gaps between the two divinely created genders if male and female because as the Holy Bible says “Male and female, God created them”.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.