By Morak Babajide-Alabi
Let us not pretend or try to deceive ourselves that Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is not a horrible dancer. If there is another word to describe her ability to dance, it is not yet “invented”. She could not manage a semblance of good dance cadence to the drums and songs that welcomed her to the African continent.
After her touch down in South Africa in her first Africa visit since becoming the Prime Minister, May was welcomed by a student- traditional cultural dance group. The sight of the welcoming party was so inviting and exciting that she could not resist the urge of throwing a few steps. It did not take long before she became the focus as the world watched her shuffle tortuously to the African drums.
Trust the Internet, her dance steps went viral and ended up being the focus of the three-nations African visit. This would not have been of much concern if only Mrs May had been a good dancer. Unfortunately, she was the worst dancer to represent her country, although there was no dancing contest here. Her attempt at dancing was very poor, to say the least. Watching her was not only agonising to the eyes, it was also embarrassing. Yet, everyone at the ‘party’ pretended she was the best. This was understandable – honesty at this point was rendered redundant as it would have spoilt May’s fun.
While like others I was not particularly impressed by her dance steps, I was looked forward to her next stop on the visit – Nigeria. This was not in anticipation of the economic or political gains that her visit will bring to the motherland. I was, in actual fact, waiting to see if she would do the popular “shaku shaku” dance. I thought if May really felt like dancing in Africa she would do it properly on the soil of the “giant” of the continent.
I was eager to see her touch down in Nigeria and, at least, do “Azonto” if not the latest “shaku shaku” dance. These are simple dance steps and would not have belaboured her the way the South African dance did. It should have been an opportunity for the Prime Minister to redeem herself from the shambolic swing steps she performed in South Africa.
On landing in Abuja, and to my surprise and disappointment, May decided not to do the “dance diplomacy”. She did not do either “shaku shaku” or “Azonto” dance. This was a missed opportunity to show sceptics that westerners can actually dance. I am yet to understand if it was the Nigerian government that advised against this or simply did not provide her with the platform. Or probably May decided to take a rest from the routine of the South Africa dance.
This is because after refusing to do “shaku shaku” or “Azonto” in Nigeria, May applied the “dance diplomacy” in Nairobi. She was spotted dancing to the sound of trumpets with a group of Boys Scouts during a visit to the United Nations offices. It was another disaster on the dance floor for the Prime Minister. She shuffled like an old aunt that forgot her hearing aid at home but still bent on rocking to a tune she could not hear.
It was unfortunate that her dance steps overshadowed efforts to boost her country’s trade with the African continent. Looking at the Prime Prime Minister’s body language it is safe to say that the dancing was not entirely her idea. Her dance steps were extremely uncoordinated that you wonder if the tune she was listening to was different from what was coming out. Her hosts could not have done anything as they looked on in astonishment and obviously bemused.
Do not blame May nor his handlers for this pretence. They, especially May, had no clue what she was doing at all. You would have expected her, as the foreign dignitary to sit back and enjoy the songs and dances. But the mistake most western leaders (or westerners, in general) make about the African continent is that they have to bring themselves “low” to create a “level playing ground” with the “natives”. The impression is that for them not to look arrogant, they have to let Africans “realise” they too are human.
If not for this, what reason could you think, off the head, for May’s dance disasters? The idea is that you have to pretend to belong so you can impose your wishes. She only abided by a colonial tradition.
BREXIT GOES GAGA
We can not dispute the fact that the visit was very important to the United Kingdom as May’s government struggles with the negotiations to exit the European Union. The primary objective, according to the government was to boost the UK’s post-Brexit, but it was also to give May a confidence spring as she tries to call the bluff of the EU bureaucrats.
The reality of the proposal for the country quitting the continental European Union (EU) is beginning to hit the Conservative-led May government. The lofty dreams of the UK becoming more prosperous outside the union are fading by the days. It is unfortunate that a few months to the final exit date, nothing is really clear on the way forward. This has raised questions and concerns in certain quarters on what will happen in the nearest future.
As a result of the uncertainties, various groups that are very concerned on the UK walking into a brick wall at the end of it all are now piling pressure on the government. Many people are beginning to think the government of May has lost the way out of the plan to quit EU. It was not long ago that the prospects of a “no deal” were canvassed by major players in the ruling party. The hard Brexiteers believe a “no deal” would be better than allowing a soft Brexit that will mean the country losing control of major policies to the EU.
The magic date of March 29, 2019, is upon us but as we approach this date, there is no clarity on what direction will be best for the country or the citizens. It is in this uncertainty that the voices of the campaigners for “no deal is better than just any deal” are getting louder and louder.
Analysts have warned that a “no deal” will put the country and the EU in a bad light as this will signify poor political relationship. This will be unfortunate, not just on the relationship, but will definitely impact all cooperations between the UK and the continental union, and put all their past achievements and strides in jeopardy.
Although May’s blueprint on how to exit the Union is drawn out in the Chequers plan released a few weeks ago, it is obvious she is not ruling out a “no deal”. She had said recently that a no deal is better than a bad deal and think “it is absolutely right that the government is putting the preparations in place for no deal because we don’t know what the outcome of this is going to be. But alongside that what we’re doing is working for a good deal.”
It is this flip-flop on the part of the government that has raised the concerns of the citizens. The uncertainty has prompted questions from the populace. A great percentage of the Leave voters no longer remembers what they voted for.
For May and her co-travellers, the African continent beckons. But have they left this little too late, as China is making big inroads into these countries? Well, no worries, as there will always be some leftovers for Britain to pick.
As written for the column – Diaspora Matters, Sunday Vanguard 2nd September 2018.