Recently, on April 17th, the British royal family laid to rest the remains of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at a low-key ceremony at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. The Duke had died peacefully on April 9, at the age of 99.
The Duke’s death in the middle of a global pandemic left many including yours truly wondering how and when his funeral ceremonies would take place. With England just easing out of a third COVID-19 lockdown, and only thirty people allowed to attend funerals, lots of questions ran through my mind. I could hardly imagine that the Queen’s husband would have a funeral service with only thirty people present. Would the Duke’s remains be kept until all restrictions were lifted? Or would the UK government grant an exception to the royal family? These are some of the questions I asked myself.
The first question was answered when the palace announced that the funeral was going to be held on 17th April, barely 8 days after his death. Shortly after, Downing Street announced that Prime Minister Boris Johnson would not be attending the funeral to allow for as many members of the royal family as possible to attend. This was when I realised that the rules were the rules and there was not going to be any exception for the royal family.
The funeral was watched live by millions across the world and we saw the Queen and members of her family socially distant and wearing face coverings. It was difficult not to have sympathy for the Queen sitting all by herself and unable to have close physical contact with her family at such a difficult time. Yet, both the royal family and the British government knew that it could not be otherwise. For the royal family to have been seen to be benefiting from any special COVID-19 privileges would have sent the wrong message to the citizenry.
I feel that there is a big lesson that Nigeria can learn from how the United Kingdom handled the Duke’s funeral. The lesson is that the laws of the land are sacrosanct and must be seen to be so. No one should be above the law and the law should neither be bent nor stretched to accommodate anyone. Unfortunately, Nigerians have come to terms with the fact that there is one set of laws for the “common” citizen and a different set for the rich and powerful, especially those in government.
Contrast the Duke’s funeral with that of President Muhammadu Buhari’s late Chief of Staff – Abba Kyari that took place almost a year to the day. Kyari’s funeral was also during a COVID-19 lockdown yet the rules were flouted by the rich and powerful many of whom were part of the government that imposed the lockdown. Other Nigerians who had lost loved ones and in some states were not allowed to hold funerals could only sit back and watch in horror and disgust as thousands of people flocked to Gudu Cemetery for Kyari’s funeral.
Both the Nigerian government and the rich and powerful in Nigeria owe society an obligation not just to respect the rule of law but also to be seen to do so. People of wealth and privilege need to restrain themselves from taking undue advantage of weak systems and institutions.
By refraining from flouting rules, they would be doing their bit to contribute to a fairer and more equitable society. A society from which they themselves will benefit in return.
A society where rules apply to everyone regardless of wealth, connections or social status will give Nigerians a greater sense of belonging and will lessen the animosity that the average Nigerian has for those with power and privilege.
Iso Bassey is the founder of Academix NG. He is a Cross Riverian and writes in from the United Kingdom via email@example.com
Since You Are Here, Support Good Journalism
CrossRiverWatch was founded on the ideals of deploying tech tools to report in an ethical manner, news, views and analysis with a narrative that ensures transparency in governance, a good society and an accountable democracy.
Everyone appreciates good journalism but it costs a lot of money. Nonetheless, it cannot be sacrificed on the altar of news commercialisation.
Consider making a modest contribution to support CrossRiverWatch's journalism of credibility and integrity in order to ensure that all have continuous free access to our noble endeavor.