On 20th April, 1653, Oliver Cromwell, the renowned English military and political leader and later Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, who actually abolished the British monarchy and ruled Britain at one point in time, dissolved the Rump Parliament in London, England. In dismissing its members, this was his address:
“It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place that you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government: ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.
“Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse: gold is your God: which of you have not barter’d your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?
“Ye sordid prostitutes, have you not defil’d this sacred place and turn’d the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation: you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress’d, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.
“Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength He has given me, I am now come to do,
“I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place.
“Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone!
“So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock the doors.
“In the name of God, go!”
That was 364 years ago. While Cromwell was not without faults, he boldly paved the way towards British parliamentary democracy. But is his prescient admonition to that parliament of bygone years now deja vu? History repeating itself elsewhere and shamelessly staring us in the face?
Therese Belisle Nweke