2023 – looking back, looking forward
By Femi Olugbile
In a few days, it will be the end of the year 2023.
It has been a year replete with stories, many of them bad. The mind struggles to find the good story, not tainted by doubt, or worry.
Perhaps the spate of tragic, disturbing events that erupted across the world in the more recent months have cast a ‘recency effect’ that makes the year look worse than it truly has been. The October 7 ‘land and sea’ invasion of Israel by Hamas took an unprecedented toll on Israeli lives – with more than a thousand deaths and injuries. It also shattered the sense of Israeli military invincibility that was the holy grail in the balance of power between Jew and Arab.
The consequences did not tarry long before arriving. A sleaze tarnished Israeli Prime Minister who was battling with half of his citizens already because they opposed the dictatorial changes his government was determined to make to their democracy went to war with the Palestinians. More than twenty thousand Palestinians have been killed in a war purportedly to destroy ‘Hamas’ – an impossibility since ‘Hamas’ lives in the tormented souls of Palestinians in the Gaza strip, in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as in Arab populations and sympathisers all over the world, including Europe and America. Every day when an air raid kills two hundred women and children recruits more enemies for Israel.
2023 started on a note of war and is closing on one. On 24th January, the Doomsday Clock was set at 90 seconds to Midnight. The clock is a virtual contraption set up by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, to illustrate, from time to time, how close the world is to a catastrophic nuclear war, euphemistically referred to as ‘midnight’. Ninety seconds to midnight is the closest the clock has ever been to midnight. The danger arose out of ominous Russian statements warning that nuclear weapons were not off the table, and the Ukrainian President Zelensky’s whispered pleas to NATO to carry out a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Russia. Russia meanwhile claimed that it perceived the whole imbroglio as an effort by the West to plant NATO presence and weaponry in its area of influence, similar to what America itself had resisted with a nuclear threat in the Bay of Pigs episode.
In the same month of January, 2023, Prince Harry published his much-hyped book ‘SPARE’- a tell-all memoir about his life in the British Royal family.
In February, the FBI disclosed its suspicion that COVID-19 originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China.
In the same month, the ‘International’ Criminal Court, a court that could not arrest or try American or Israeli citizens, because their countries did not sign the enabling treaty, issued a warrant of arrest for Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, a country that also did not sign the treaty. Watching mainstream western media discuss the matter seriously, it was clear they did not see the absurdity of their position, or that the only way Putin could be brought to the Hague would be in chains, after a total Russian military defeat and surrender, like the German Generals at Nuremberg. Anyone who truly thought this would happen must have been smoking something very potent indeed.
Artificial Intelligence AI, its endless utility value and its potent risk to human civilisation have become talking points in public discussion in 2023.
Elon Musk – the eccentric South African entrepreneur and genius, this year obtained permission to plant electrodes in living human brains, with nary a whimper from medical or religious ethicists.
In the battle to push the frontiers of LGBTQ+ ‘freedom’ from the West to the rest of the world, willy-nilly, the lead singer of the UK band ‘1975’, Matty Healy kissed a fellow male band member on stage in Kuala Lumpur, in brazen defiance of the laws of Malaysia, a Muslim country, which forbids gay marriage and behaviour. The concert was promptly cancelled.
In July, the President of Niger Republic was removed in a coup that, to the chagrin of fellow presidents in West Africa, received massive public support, especially for its anti-France, anti-colonialist stance.
Back home, 2023 opened with the reported killing of herders in an explosion in Nasarawa, and a container falling from a truck onto a bus in Surulere, killing several people.
The country was thrown almost into chaos in the runup to national and state elections with Mr Emefile’s botched currency change.
The Presidential polls in February occurred in a ferment of public controversy, with different people threatening fire and brimstone if they were not declared winner.
Natural and human disasters continued – the killing of members of a US consulate convoy in Anambra, a Kwara boat disaster that drowned 100 people in June.
Some cheer emerged for a change as the Lagos Rail Mass Transit Blue Line began rail mass transit in Lagos, forty years after a certain General Buhari aborted an earlier initiative.
As the year is ending, the noise of the ‘Over-My-Dead-Body’ crowd against the ascendancy of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has abated. The Tinubu government is struggling to manage the impact of ‘Renewed Hope’ and the drastic changes it has wrought on a long-suffering public.
Nigeria, the largest black nation in the world, carries the psychological burden of all the promise and possibilities of the black race, which today is still buffeted by a concerted effort to make Africans accept, in their heads, that they will always be a subject people. The reality is that the long hoped-for African Renaissance is ‘dead in the water’ if a renascent Nigeria is not there to lead it.
Will ‘Renewed Hope’ work?
Wole Soyinka has opined that there should be no rush to judgement, noting the usual Nigerian mind-set that always anticipates failure, based on an all-too-real experience of past failures.
2024 will, perhaps, confirm that, this time, the future is here, and it is worth the wait.