On the 30th of January, Michael Bates, UK’s International Development Minister, offered his resignation for coming few minutes late to Parliament. This has earned the Minister a lot of accolades but not as much as it has earned Nigeria insults.
A lot of Nigerians took to social media to lambast the country, claiming that such a thing cannot happen in Nigeria. Nigeria does not operate a Parliamentary system of Government which would see Ministers answering questions from Parliament and in cases where Ministers have been summoned to either Committees of the House of Representatives or that of the Senate, Ministers have not been reported to come late.
As if to play into the narrative, it was reported that President Buhari, yesterday, reinstated the suspended Director of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Usman Yusuf, who was indicted of corruption and nepotism and suspended by the Minister of Health, who many now ask to resign, at least in protest. Mr. Yusuf’s reinstatement was however on the recommendation of the House of Representative Committee which investigated and asked the government to reinstate the NHIS Director. This part was however left out in screaming media headlines.
Normal or Outstanding?
Bate’s action has been sold as the norm in the UK but not only were the MPs surprised at his offer to resigned, some expressed disagreement by screaming “No!” while others laughed in disbelieve, with a few others making the “this is ridiculous” face.
Bate himself spoke to show this may not have been the standard but is a standard he wishes for
“During the five years in which it’s been my privilege to answer questions from this dispatch box on behalf of the government, I’ve always believed that we should rise to the highest possible standards of courtesy and respect in responding on behalf of the government to the legitimate questions of the legislature,” he said.
The massive media coverage of his gesture also speaks to the fact that it is not the norm in the UK to resign over lateness to Parliament or similar issues.
Every Minister not like Bate
Professor Ruth Lister, whose question Bate missed and offered to resign for, has herself said there are other Ministers she would want to resign, just not Bate.
“Of all the ministers I’d want to cause to resign, he’d be the last.”
In January 2016, Minister of Environment, Rory Stewart, came late to a meeting with flood victims and did not seem to know the path leading to his destination. He came under heavy criticism but no mention of resignation was made.
Three other British Ministers have been forced to resign following conducts that were very serious, yet they did not resign immediately. In November 2017, British Defense Minister, Michael Fallon, resigned over sexual harassment claims.
Damian Green, a close ally of Prime Minister Theresa May, denied both sexual harassment and having pornography on official computer accusations. Green later resigned over the pornography accusation after it was discovered he lied.
Priti Partel, who was former International Development Secretary, was also forced to resign after she lied to the Prime Minister about secretly meeting Israel and Israeli lobbyists.
Meanwhile, Brexit minister, Steve Baker, who has been accused and has apologized for misleading the Parliament has not offered his resignation. Whereas the Ministerial Code says
“It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation”