Africa

How to resign gracefully - and other Brexit lessons for Africa

Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni Image copyright AFP
Image caption Uganda's Yoweri Museveni is one of Africa's longest-serving leaders

In our series of letters from African journalists, novelist and writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani looks at the spate of resignations in the UK after the vote to leave the European Union and asks whether there are any lessons for Africa.

1: There is a time to sit tight and a time to let go of power

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Media captionThe PM is heard humming to himself after announcing he will leave Downing Street.

After failing to convince the British people of the need to Remain in the European Union, Prime Minister David Cameron knew that his time was up. He felt he was not the right person to lead the country.

Without waiting for street protests or endless appeals from the United Nations, Mr Cameron announced his resignation, giving way to someone better equipped to manage the new situation that Britain found itself in.

Africans can now appreciate that there is no need for melodramatic performances when it comes to leaving office and importantly, not unusual for a leader to step down before his term ends.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption David Cameron's family had to move out within days from 10 Downing Street

It is even possible to go out on a jaunty note, as Mr Cameron did, whistling to the tune of D'Banj's Olorun Maje.


2: In times of crisis, unite and act speedily

Immediately after Britain voted to leave the EU, the country's political establishment was thrown into chaos.

The uncertainty in the currency markets led to the pound falling to a 30-year low. And confidence in doing business in the UK seemed to be ebbing.

The UK's unity was in jeopardy, with the possibility of Scotland pulling out of the union.

Britain was facing a crisis.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Theresa May officially became prime minister after meeting the Queen

But the country did not accuse the international media of presenting an exaggerated impression to the world of how bad things were.

They did not sit back and watch their country fall completely apart, before they took action.

As quickly as possible, the ruling Conservative party did away with the prospect of a prolonged leadership battle, recognising that collective energy was better expended on tackling the looming crisis head on.

Experts who had warned of turmoil if the Leave campaign won rehashed their predictions but they started offering solutions on how the UK would cope with life outside the EU.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer who had campaigned for the Remain side quickly changed gear and declared that Britain was "open for business".


Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani:

Image copyright Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

"Theresa May has not ordered that Larry be thrown out on suspicion of being a witch in cat form sent by political enemies to spy on her or pull her down"


And as soon as Theresa May took over, she announced her cabinet without much ado, everyone expected to begin work immediately.

No time for lengthy, and televised, courtesy calls from her villagers and church members and the market women association and the traditional rulers and her old girls association and her husband's villagers - all of them wanting her to know, via hours-long speeches, that they support her and wish her well.

3: Nothing wrong with occupying the official residence immediately after your predecessor vacates

As far as we know, Mrs May spent her first night in office at Number 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British Prime Minister, never mind that she may have stayed awake all night drawing up her cabinet list.

How many African leaders would dare do such a thing? Occupy a residence just vacated by a predecessor without first inviting native doctors or shamans or pastors to sanctify the place and cleanse it of any spiritual booby traps, while commanding the witches and wizards lurking in the woodwork to either return to sender or fall down and die.

And Larry the cat is being allowed to stay. The stray feline has lived in Downing Street since 2010, playing the role of chief mouse chaser.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Larry could have been called a witch

Mrs May has not ordered that Larry be thrown out on suspicion of being a witch in cat form sent by political enemies to spy on her or pull her down.

You need only watch a random selection of Nollywood films, which are immensely popular all over Africa, to understand that a stray cat in this part of the world is never just a stray cat.

Not to talk of a stray cat inherited from a political predecessor.

The UK is not in any way a perfect place.

The country itself can learn a few things from the diverse ways of the African people.

But, when it comes to the matter of Mr Cameron's handover to Mrs May, we would do well to sit at the feet of Britain and learn.


More from Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani:

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