Dreams point the way forward for us. Memories only remind us of a past that continues to recede far into the distance. And so, as the bell tolls the knell of another parting year, it is worthwhile, as habit so very often compels us, to cast a glance over the shoulder at some of the memorable — and infamous — events that made 2015, like every year that had gone before, such a hotchpotch of the good, the evil, and the ridiculous. Now a review of a few of those events, although not necessarily in that order.
If time was frantically looking for a place to hatch the evil in its womb for 2015, it looked no further than Nigeria. In the space of three days, January 3 – 7, the town of Baga and its surrounding villages in northeastern Nigeria, witnessed a barrage of sustained attacks by Boko Haram, the Islamic terrorist group that refuses to let that part of the country heave a sigh of relief even for a week. Well over 2,000 innocent victims were massacred in the process. Audacious in its evil exploits, pathologically resentful of western education, and irretrievably committed to its blind passion to Islamize all of Nigeria, Boko Haram became a huge object of presidential campaign in 2015.
If President Goodluck Jonathan, an incumbent, lost the presidential election so ignominiously to his opponent, it was as much because of Boko Haram as the exasperating realization that Jonathan had been given a job for which he was most ill-qualified. Muhammadu Buhari, a man of Fulani extraction and a former military head of state with a reputation for toughness and rigid authoritarianism, became the new man in the saddle. Buhari garrulously promised to roll back and ultimately defeat Boko Haram within a few months of his administration. The report card so far: all hat and no cattle.
Here and there, up and down the globe, evil remained on the prowl like a feral beast with an insatiable thirst for blood, unlocking its fangs, drilling them deep into humanity’s flesh and leaving behind rivers of blood and endless acres of vanished dreams. The ISIS-sponsored attacks in Paris resulting in over 130 deaths. The slaughter of nearly a 150 souls made up of mainly students by Al-Shabaab in Kenya. The mass killings in San Bernardino, California, USA, by a married couple of Middle East descent. And more Boko Haram, Boko Haram, Boko Haram…
In 2015, evil showed mankind its varied hues and stripes. In April, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, resulting in nearly 10,000 deaths in that country and the neighboring countries. More than 2,300 pilgrims perished in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on September 24, during a stampede that followed the pilgrimage. Over a thousand more were injured. In June, more than 2,000 people were killed in the Indian heatwave.
For a moment, South Africa, a country so much beloved by the rest of the world because of Nelson Mandela, lost its humanity. Driven by xenophobia and nativist sentiments that transformed all “strangers” into legitimate objects of hate and annihilation, many South Africans across the cities and towns of their country, rose and set their fellow black brothers and sisters from other African countries alight as many policemen stood and watched them roast to death without so much as a twinge of conscience. Excavating the catacombs of history, it is impossible not to find prototypes or parallels for that South African evil. They’re, in fact, scattered all over history’s landscape: Nero and his court. The witch burners of Salem. The annihilators of the Jews in Nazi Germany. The Tutsi murderers in Rwanda. Just name it. If not in scale or quantity, at least in concept and the sheer medieval barbarity of it, the malevolent acts of those South Africans not only rankled the moral conscience of mankind, but they in fact rose to God for justice and eternal damnation.
But it was not all evil. Good things, indeed great things, happened, too. Although the country remains in trouble financially and politically, Nigeria’s democracy continues to show resilience. For the first time in its history, and perhaps in the history of Africa, an incumbent president was defeated, and warm-heartedly he offered his concession. Buhari, the victor and beneficiary of that concession, is now waging a tough war on corruption which the man he defeated shamelessly presided over. Although many doubt his motives and criticize his efforts, I have no truck with the president giving the looters of Nigeria’s wealth hell. The question is this: If he doesn’t do it, who else will? And when? Let me add this: I await the day Goodluck Jonathan will be arraigned to explain why he chose to be asleep at the switch as the financial lynching and maiming of Nigeria persisted unchallenged.
In July, Nigeria banned female genitalia mutilation, also known as female circumcision. The great significance of that momentous step, for those who do not know, is this: More Naija women can now enjoy the thing well well. In 2015, the World Health Organization declared an end to the Ebola epidemic in Africa, the same year that the continent was pronounced polio-free for the first time ever. A total of 195 countries signed the world’s first accord on climate change.
The US economy was adjudged to be in great shape by economists, meaning much of the world does not have to entertain any fear of global recession or economic downturn for now. The year also saw a worldwide decrease in poverty rate. A great achievement, you might concede.
The year 2015 brought us lots and lots of great things too numerous to mention. But I should say this. After decades of magazine journalism, three of my journalism mentors and former employers at Newswatch, are back where they began: newspaper journalism. The incomparable Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese and Yakubu Mohammed, now write columns for The Guardian. Reading them again after such a long time reminds you of why, in the first place, you passionately wanted to be in their line of work. Their feel for, and instinctive reverence of, the written word are as fantastic today as they were yesterday. In their offerings on different days at that paper, they bring uncommon perspective to bear on issues. Ogas Ray, Dan and Yaki, may the Lord continue to speed you all.
Now if you have been reading this blog and are finding it worth your while, please reserve most of your credit for one gentleman named Joel Amao, a man I’m exceedingly blessed to call a friend and a brother. The dreamer, the designer and the facilitator of this site, Amao, a brilliant graduate of electronics engineering from the University of South Florida, USA, came to me one day and said, “I have been reading you on the web and in the newspapers. Boy! you deserve more than that. You are something else, and I think you need your own blog.” I thought nothing of it. Then he walked away. A month and a half later, he came back with the delightfully pleasant news, “This is your blogsite. It is my belated birthday gift to you.”
Now that, too, happened in 2015. May the Lord populate this earth with only those of Amao’s tribe.
Finally, to the only ridiculous item in this effort, we now go. If a physician takes a stethoscope and gently presses it to the apex of the Republican Establishment’s heart right now, he won’t like what he’ll hear. That establishment is having a heart attack over a man named Donald Trump who has taken the party by storm and seized the base imagination of millions even across it. Regarded as pretty much of a joke when he launched his campaign in June, Trump today has inspired an ugly delirious following. At campaign events he is mobbed by thousands and thousands of adulatory fans who swoon and ooh all over him as you hear endless bursts of clicks from camera shutters. His politics and style are ridiculously ugly. Vile, unrestrained in his ejaculations, maniacally egotistical, Trump traffics in sexism, racism and xenophobia. Barring any tectonic event that stops him, Trump is already looking like he’ll be the party’s nominee in November’s presidential election, a prospect the establishment views with ultimate doom for the party in 2016.
Yesterday, Trump declared that he viewed this campaign as a war, and Jeb Bush, his Republican opponent, and Hillary Clinton, the woman he may confront in a general election if she wins her party’s nomination contest, as his enemies. Now how ridiculous can it ever get! Well, if you think that the 2012 election was ugly, wait until you see this one in bold relief come next fall. As you follow this blog, I promise to be your guide as events unfold next year.
I wish you the very best and pray that you scale new heights in 2016.