Queen Elizabeth 11 celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of her ascension to the throne with festivities
For four whole days last week, the British entertained the world to a spectacular show of monumental magnitude as Queen Elizabeth II marked the Diamond Jubilee of her ascension to the throne on February 6, 1952. In a country that often suffers from racial division, intense political rivalry, and sundry scandals, the jubilee galvanised every community and lifted the spirits of even the most antagonistic politicians with republican tendencies.
Everyone joined in celebrating one of the things the British know how to do well: paying respects to their most revered institution, the Monarchy. Even though the celebration is expected to last to the end of this year, events of the first four days were so electrifying that the Diamond Jubilee became a global festival.
It included the lighting of 4,200 beacons across the globe, a flotilla of 1,000 boats on the River Thames, a rare music concert at Buckingham Palace, and fireworks displays among other forms of festivities. All over the world, but especially in the Commonwealth countries the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was celebrated even if with some reluctance. For Nigeria, the Queen’s era has seen this former
British colony transit from Independence in 1960 to a Republic in 1963, and then followed by some half a dozen military rules and three constitutional democracies.
Unfortunately, the ceremony was overshadowed by the Dana Air disaster which left 153 passengers and crew dead and an unspecified number of persons in the buildings into which the ill-fated flight crashed. In the 60 odd years the Queen has sat on the throne, our world has changed tremendously. She has been a living witness to all these changes and the arrival of a new millennium. She has seen the world transformed from analogue to digital technology and lately the new information age with the new media which made it possible for the youth of the world to follow events in London online through the various new social media network.
Although radical scholars have continued to question the relevance of the British Monarch being “Head of State of the Commonwealth”, the fact remains that it is still a powerful institution currently comprising 54 sovereign states. Among the membership are countries like Canada, India, Pakistan, and South Africa, just to name a few.
The contradiction of the Queen as our “head of government” can, however, be rationalised away with reality of the fact that she has no day-to-day involvement in the governance of any of the member states within the Commonwealth. Even in England, the Queen’s authority remains something more symbolic than the real exercise of political power. Although she reads the annual budget alright, in reality it is usually drawn up for her by the office of the Prime Minister.
Moreover, Nigeria as a sovereign republic no longer defers to the authority of Queen’s headship any more than we defer to, for example the authority of the African Union, on matters affecting the sovereignty and independence of our nation. In any case the Commonwealth has become over the years a “club of convenience” and Nigeria remains in it for the very reason that we find it convenient to belong.
There is no doubt that our country has benefitted and continues to benefit from membership of the Commonwealth in more ways than one. For instance, in the realm of education Nigerians continue to study under its scholarship programme in various universities within the Commonwealth; a Nigerian once served for 10 years as the Secretary General of the organisation, and even presently there are dozens of Nigerians working at the Commonwealth secretariat in London. We join our readers to say congratulations to the Queen.