The transition of Queen Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor known as Queen Elizabeth ll to the world beyond has conferred the rulership of the United Kingdom on the former Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, now King Charles lll. The development has sent shivers to the spines of the Commonwealth of Nations. TOPE SUNDAY and HUSSEIN ISA examine what this portends for Nigeria.
With his ascension to the throne after the demise of his mother on September 8, 2022, King Charles lll is now the official King of the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth realms. According to reports, he was the longest serving heir apparent in British history and, at the age of 73, is the oldest person to assume the British throne.
Queen Elizabeth, Commonwealth and Nigeria
The late queen, whose reign lasted for 70 years, seven months and two days before her death on September 8, 2022, was the first British monarch to rule for 70 years. During her lifetime, she travelled and visited 117 countries on all continents of the world except for continent Antarctica during her lifetime. During her long reign, she visited Nigeria twice in 1956, and in 2003, when Nigeria hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 independent countries, almost all of which were formerly under British rule; and Nigeria as a country is one of them. The origins of the Commonwealth come from Britain’s former Empire. Many of the members of the Commonwealth were territories which had historically come under British rule at various times by settlement, conquest or cession. The administration of such colonies evolved in different ways, to reflect the different circumstances of each territory.
After achieving independence, India was the first of a number of countries which decided that, although they wished to become republics, they still wanted to remain within the Commonwealth. To reconcile these aims, the 1949 London Declaration recognised King George VI as Head of the Commonwealth. Following his death, the Commonwealth leaders recognised Queen Elizabeth II in that capacity. With the demise of the queen, King Charles lll is now the Head of the Commonwealth.
Nigeria in the spotlight
Although the new British monarch’s role is more ceremonial, some Nigerians who spoke with Blueprint Weekend are still hopeful that his reign might be beneficial to Nigeria which was colonised by Great Britain.
An entrepreneur, Mr. Kolawole Kehinde, said despite the ceremonial nature of his office, Nigerians should expect improvements in the UK and Nigeria’s bilateral relationships.
He said: “There are some fundamental things we need to establish. The UK government has a long standing relationship with Nigeria dating back to pre-independence in 1960 when we gained Independence bearing in mind the fact that they colonized us. And also looking at the last couple of years, and looking at the Muhammadu Buhari administration, one would notice that it has been a topsy-turvy relationship in the sense that at one point, there was a kind of support from the UK government and at another point, it will be observed there are some kind of reviews in our relationship in terms of visa policy, provision of aid and intervention programmes, and as well as collaboration in the fight against terrorism and counterterrorism measures.
“About a week or two ago, the UK government volunteered to train some of the security personnel in counterterrorism tactics and logistics. The demise of the Queen expectedly would cause interruptions and bring new dynamics in some of the ongoing talks between the two nations. I don’t know if you recall an incident where a former British prime minister referred to Nigeria as being fantastically corrupt and even went further to say that if Great Britain lost the amount of money stolen from Nigeria through corruption since Independence, the British Empire would have ceased to exist.
“And away from that, we all know that King Charles lll has not been so much in the public eye apart from his charity work that he’s been doing. We’ve not seen any major articulation of his intervention plans for the Africa nation members of the Common Wealth and Africa as a whole and that is because the Queen has been in the fray of those discussions.”
He said further that, “But away from that, we’re hoping to see some real review of our relations. I am aware that the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, had a one-on-one talk with King Charles lll on the sideline of the Queen’s funeral. We do not know the details of that discussion, but we hope it will be made public in the coming weeks. So, I see a robust and more expanded relationship.
“But a whole new era of discussion and renegotiation owing to the fact that the new UK prime minister had just been appointed few weeks ago before the Queen’s demise; and so we do not need to be making assumptions yet as it is too early to assume that our relationship with the United kingdom might be strained or have a major turn in terms of policy shift from what it has been which is that of cooperation.
“And don’t forget also that the functions of the British monarch are largely ceremonial so they have no much influence on the actual policies of Britain.”
Also, a civil servant, who simply identified himself as Mr. Martins, told our reporters that the ascension of King Charles lll to the British throne would open scholarships and opportunities for Nigerians, expressing the optimism that the monarch would be more influential than his late mother.
“The new king will bring about more influence unlike the late queen, in terms of immigration of Nigerians to the UK. I think the king would make the process easier in terms of difficulties and the huge sum of money usually spent by those who wish to migrate from Nigeria to the UK for studies and other legitimate concerns.
“So, hopefully, I am expecting that more scholarships and opportunities would be opened to Nigerians. Another thing to look at is our economy and the prevailing economic situations of our country. I think we need interventions and aids to alleviate the current hard economic realities bedeviling the nation and I think the new king would bring his influence to bear in that regard.”
Conversely, a Legislative Aide at the National Assembly, Abuja, Aliyu Usman, advised Nigerians not to expect much from the king because he is a ceremonial head.
Usman said: “But in terms of expectations of the new King for Nigeria, I think it has to be tampered. The King is a ceremonial head; in this respect, I don’t expect any significant difference from what the precedence of that office is. He will continue the tradition that is already laid down like heading the Commonwealth. If anything, his new responsibility will require him to refrain from his activist posture when he was Prince Charles.
“What I think will define his kingship, however, is the republican movements across some of the realms and Commonwealth nations where the British monarch is the Head of State. In places like Scotland and Australia, the call for a Republic has become strong. Whether the British monarchy will be weakened in the face of agitations like this, and what will become of its long term future if the republicans succeed are some of the existential challenges in a rapidly changing world that King Charles must certainly confront in his reign.
“But before all that, we will get an early glimpse in the coming days. For a King who begins his reign at a time of economic hardship for his subjects, will he be a reformer who cuts down on the Royal privileges? In all of these, you can see that Nigeria may not future prominently, but I expect a patronising royal visit at some point during his reign.”