Boris Johnson and the Supreme Court, By Hope Eghagha
I was amused to no end the other week when the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom showed its temerity and displayed absolute impudence to the executive arm of government. That arcane body, chaired by a woman of all human species, declared that the imperial and impetuous Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted illegally when he ‘prorogued’ parliament for an unprecedented five-week period. The eleven Justices were unanimous in their verdict that the unelected, precocious and bombastic PM broke the law. Can you beat that? A court declaring the action of a PM illegal, null and void! World leaders have a lot to learn from Nigeria and her ways with the judiciary. In other words, according to the revered Justices, Boris Johnson misled HRM the Great Queen of England! I wonder what could have happened to Johnson if this incident had occurred in the 16th or 17th century! Misleading the Queen of England!
Why didn’t Johnson arrange things to go his way? Like appointing conservative judges as Trump has triumphantly done in America! Like ensuring that the President of the Supreme Court was an amenable fellow; or removing a recalcitrant judge by digging into his anal cavity for traces of financial mess and finally inviting the judges to dinner, assuring that continuity of the government is paramount to national security and that the PM must not be wrong in any circumstances, whether now or in the hereafter! You know; there are ways and there are ways like King Henry of England who wedded six wives, one died, two were divorced and two were beheaded! You see, divorce could be messy as Brexit has shown to us!
‘Prorogue! I was never comfortable with that word right from when I first heard it. Perhaps it has to do with the ‘rogue’ in the word. Pro means ‘for’, in support of. A rogue is a thief. For example, a government could be pro-rogues, that is, in favour of rogues in power. As we well know, there is a form of government called ‘kleptocracy’, a government of thieves; thieves who simply loot the state treasury for their own benefit. So how can such an important convention of the British be associated with the filthy word ‘rogue? I am still wandering! Lest I be accused of trivializing such an important matter as a Supreme Court verdict, let me move on to the heart of the main matter, which is the ruling by the Supreme Court that suspending parliament was unlawful. For added measure, the learned justices affirmed that parliament was never ‘prorogued’ and the diminutive and comic Speaker Bercow put it succinctly when he asserted that the MPs should return, not resume legislative duties after Johnson roguishly tried to prorogue parliament! Some parliaments do have them!
Brexit or no-Brexit has got the British people into some mess. Parliament is looking right while the people insist on going left, metaphorically speaking. The heads of two prime ministers have rolled under the Brexit guillotine and except Johnson treads carefully his head will also join the victims’ before long. David Cameron who started it all surrendered without a wimp once the pro-Brexit people won the referendum. His successor whom Boris Johnson and all MPs made seem incompetent, licked the dust after several defeats in the House of Commons. Johnson took over with a lot of swag, gusto, verve and braggadocio. Indeed, the swag was the message. His swag would swing United Kingdom out of the EU. His deal with the British people through one hundred and sixty electors was that come October 31 the UK would leave the EU, deal or no deal. Of course, alarm bells went up in some places. Deal or no deal? Not so fast. Labour dug in and was able to steal the shine when some conservative MPs quit the party and stood against Boris Johnson. Johnson’s own sibling quit the government sending a strong message that he did not like the roller-coaster type of government his brother was running. Can you beat that? Your blood brother resigning from your cabinet after your nepotically appointed him to some cabinet position. That would be the day if it ever happens in Nigeria!
For Johnson October 31 is sacrosanct and he is determined to bulldoze his way without respect for the niceties of democracy. Perhaps he thinks he is an African leader, steeped in the tradition of riding roughshod over institutions. Were it in Africa, the judges would be shown dirty things which they had done in the past and advised to play ball! Or they would simply collect heavily padded envelopes and give judgment in a peculiar manner. You know, sometimes we hear, (God save us if it is true) that some African judges write two judgments and finally deliver the one in favour of the highest bidder. This must be a joke, an exaggeration in order to make mincemeat of honourable men and women who are already down in the dust of public insults!
What has come out the Brexit mess is a test of institutions in the United Kingdom. We may mock the excesses of the politicians yet the basis for orderliness, without a written constitution, continues to thrill us. That is the essence of tradition, of convention and respect for history. The persons may be clownish or may be outright buffoons. Jeremy Corbyn may not be ‘fit to be PM’ (who said?), yet he remains a popular leader with Labour. But a buffoon in power where institutions work is soon shown the way out or he must reform his character. Former PM Theresa May may be having the last laugh somewhere over the country that she loves; David Cameron may be nursing his wounds in a quiet corner and the Queen may be quietly distressed that she was misled and the Supreme Court has obliquely said she ought not to have been misled. But we know that on this matter there was no way she could have said no to the ebullient and rascally occupant of No 10. In the end, if UK does not kill Brexit, Brexit will kill UK! There is a feeling that the Brexit option was wrong, not clearly thought out, that democracy could be wrong sometimes, that a second referendum is needed to close the matter, that Britain is not ready for a no-deal exit and that a deal is not feasible under current circumstances. Whatever conclusion October 31 will bring, the old empire, now shrunk to one little island in a corner in Europe will summon the will of Winston Churchill and face the world with, courage and hope and glory! I hope!