Astounding satellite images taken from space have captured the staggering number of people who had lined the banks of the River Thames to pay their last respects to Queen Elizabeth II. She died 8 September 2022.
The lying-in-state of Queen Elizabeth II took place in Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament. The Houses of Parliament is the British seat of government. The lying-in-state was opened to the public 24 hours a day until 6.30am on Monday, 19 September.
A huge number of people – that is yet to be ascertained – predictably visited Westminster Hall. By Friday night, waiting time in the queue had reached 20 hours.
The Skuup took to the queue route in London, Saturday, 17 September, to find out why people are willing to go through all the trouble.
“It is no trouble at all,” said Alison Walker, with a bouquet of flowers in her hand. “Her Majesty, the Queen, was a good woman, although I do not necessarily like the idea of monarchy, I respect and appreciate her sense of duty and personal sacrifice. She made sure the political leaders remained true to serving us. I am sure she guided them in ensuring they did not step out of line.”
On his part, 71-year-old Martin Harding said he had come from the North of England. He had been on the queue for 15 hours. Martin said he was an ex-military officer. Wearing his medals on his black jacket, he said he had “come to pay tribute to his commander.”
The uncodified Constitution of the United Kingdom says that the monarch (exclusively referred to in legislation as “the Sovereign” and styled His or Her Majesty) is the head of state. Monarchy is the oldest form of government in the United Kingdom. In this system of government, a king or queen is Head of State. The British Monarchy is known as a constitutional monarchy. This means that, while The Sovereign is Head of State, the ability to make and pass legislation resides with an elected Parliament.
Although The Sovereign no longer has a political or executive role, he or she continues to play an important part in the life of the nation. As Head of State, The Monarch undertakes constitutional and representational duties which have developed over one thousand years of history.
Queen Elizabeth II, who died aged 96, became the longest-reigning British monarch. She reigned for 70 years. In total 15 Prime Ministers took allegiance to the Queen, since she ascended the throne aged 25 on 6 February 1952.
When Young Elizabeth became Queen, many African countries – including Nigeria – were colonies of Britain. Nigeria attained its independence from Britain on 1 October 1960. More than sixty years on, the country is still grappling with governance issues. Thankfully ending years of military rule, the country’s democratic experience has gone uninterrupted since 1999.
According to a 2020 article by Synda Obaji, University of Birmingham, “Nigeria is not a failed state, but it has not delivered democracy for its people.” Obaji contended, “despite over two decades of civilian democracy, in inequalities distribution of power and resources have continued to impact the people’s right to equal protection and due process. This state of affairs disproportionately affects Nigeria’s poorest people.”
Indeed, according to a March 2022 World Bank report which brings together the latest evidence on the profile and drivers of poverty in Nigeria, as many as 4 in 10 Nigerians live below the national poverty line. Many Nigerians – especially in the country’s north – also lack education and access to basic infrastructure, such as electricity, safe drinking water, and improved sanitation.
Mahmood Haliru, Kaduna-based political analyst says, “In Nigeria today, we do need our leaders – both elected and unelected – including traditional monarchs – to look into the mirror and sincerely ask themselves have they been fair to masses? They should ask themselves is governance about themselves or the masses?”
Only yesterday Haliru continued, “I saw hundreds of thousands of Britons queuing to pay their respect to the late Queen. Do you think it can happen here in Nigeria?”
So, it is based on these questions that The Skuup sought to ask whether Nigerians would indeed have cause to queue up for longs hours to pay tribute to their leaders.
Lagosian Sola Abayomi (not real name) is a Dangote truck driver. He said British people lining the streets to pay tribute to the late Queen did that because, “they are not hungry. Over there, poor people have government support. I hear that parents do not pay school fees, hospital is free, even the unemployed have financial support.” As a father of four who shoulders his family’s responsibilities, he must work at least six days a week he said. So, he continued, “if our President, Governor, or Oba dies, I cannot spend even one hour to go to see his coffin. I am busy looking for money to look after my family.”
Chioma Chiekezie – popularly known as Chichi – is a self-taught programmer. With laptop clutched under her arm, she said, “As you see me now, I am rushing to meet a client in Jabi. I am self-employed and I earn my livelihood based on how many hours I put into my work.” Would Chichi spend 20 hours to pay her respect to a deceased leader? Looking rather offended she spat, “How? I am sure many people will agree with me if I say our leaders do not deserve our respect.
“I am 26 years old, my parents paid to train me to university level. I am from Eastern Nigeria, hustling in Abuja. I finished my degree in Mathematics with a First Class No job.” She continued in a more toned-down voice, but with some hint of sadness, “Politicians’ children sometimes finish with 3rd Class degree from a UK university, and they are given jobs in CBN, NNPC and other organisations. There are many young Nigerians like me. I don’t see people like us sparing even 10 minutes to walk past the body of these so-called leaders, to show respect. We will rather get on with what is more important to us.”
According to Statista, a German company that specializes in market and consumer data, Nigeria is the country with the highest population in Africa. As of 2021, its population amounts to over 210 million people and is estimated to continuously increase in the next decades. By 2050, the figure could reach 400 million people. Nigeria has one of the youngest populations in the world – with half of them aged under 19 years.
Kano is the second largest city following Lagos. With millions of unemployed youths struggling to live a “decent life,” says Abdulhadi Isma’il. He is a student at the Maitama Sule University, Kano. He said although lying-in-state is not an Islamic practice, he does not believe that people would abandon their personal engagements to spend 20 hours to honour their leaders.
Abdulhadi said, “I can probably imagine people spending an hour or two to take part in the jana’iza (Muslim burial) of a spiritual leader. But a political leader, I don’t think so.” On why they would not, he simply said, “because people here would rather go about their businesses. Life is tough. They see the political leaders as the masterminds of their economic hardship. They punished while alive, so why should they honour them in death?”
Queen Elizabeth II was buried on Monday, 19 September 2022. Certainly, memories and images of the spectacle that followed her passing away will continue to be shared, savoured and analysed widely for years to come.
For some, the show of affection by millions of Britons will not cease to be a source of marvel. Some believe that paying last respect to the late Queen, by standing in queues for almost 24 hours, was an indication that “good leaders” can be praised when alive and honoured hugely in death.
Perhaps, therein lies the lesson for leaders across the world, but maybe, especially, for Nigeria as an ex-colony of Britain.