By Babajide Alabi
As the old year retires and a new one is born, we commit into the hands of our Creator the happenings of the past year and ask for direction and guidance in the new one. May He grant us His grace, His tranquility and His wisdom!” ? Peggy Toney Horton, Does God Want Us to Be Happy
As it is usual, the last two weeks of a year are mostly for reflections and also projection into the new year. 2015 was a mixed bag of emotions for nations and countries all over the world. For some parts of the year, there were celebrations of new developments while in some, the opposite was the case. It was a case of win some and lose most.
The 2015 UK and Nigeria general elections both went down with surprises. Against all odds and forecast, David Cameron, the Tory candidate won a convincing majority to form a government. The defeat of the Labour’s Ed Miliband promoted a change in leadership which saw the emergence of a left wing candidate Jeremy Corbyn. In Nigeria, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Dr Goodluck Jonathan accepted defeat without any fight, against bookies’ and bloggers’ expectations. And everybody lived happily after, as all “threats of war” disappeared.
However, there is no doubt that in 2015, the art of terrorism manifested more in many places than the previous year’s. Unfortunately, the Europe continent was the hardest hit. In this region, state security personnels were made to work extra for their wages. Despite this, the evil organisations still managed a few dastardly attacks on some cities. The French attacks are still fresh in our minds while the lock down of the Belgian state for fear of attack is not far from memories.
Elsewhere, the kidnap and killing of westerners which climaxed in 2014 continued. A British man who became particularly notorious for being the mastermind behind the slaughtering of captured individuals – Jihadi John – was reported killed by an air drone in Syria. We all remember him as the heartless man who took delight in showing to the world, via ISIS propaganda videos that he was not a man of feeble mind, and never flinched at cutting the throats of innocent individuals, who were kidnapped aid or charity workers.
As a result of the civil war in Syria and Iraq, coupled with the activities of the IS, and rebels, many citizens of this region put their destinies in their feets, and “swam” or “walked” their ways to Europe. They were joined by other migrants from sub-Sahara Africa also running away from wars, persecution or just a desire for better lives.
By mid year, the seas leading to Europe became congested by small boats occupied by individuals of different nationalities, ages and sex. The seas were turned into a sort of boat regatta and needless to say that many lost their lives. Despite the various warnings and stories of deaths on the high seas, it was a risk worth taking by these desperate immigrants.
The surviving immigrants who found themselves on the sea sides of European countries were desperate, hungry and sick from many days or weeks of travelling by all means and through all terrains. The European Union was completely taken unawares and some of the member countries could not but show there is a limit to their humanitarian gestures. The countries, encouraged by right wing citizens and groups turned their backs on these suffering immigrants.
For UK’s Cameron, these immigrants are “swarms” who had come to devastate the “farm”, called Europe. His comments on the immigrants were roundly condemned, even as his Home Secretary Theressa May maintained a “stoic” face that UK was not ready to take more that a thousand of the total immigrant population in Europe. She sure knew what she was talking about. The choice destination of these immigrants is Britain, where when successfully processed, they are entitled to some sort of benefits. The government is no doubt under serious strain on the benefits bills of Asylum seekers and families. The radical change in benefits pay outs has not deterred these immigrants from aiming for Britain.
While Cameron, May and some EU leaders were foot dragging, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, came forward boldly to announce her country’s readiness to take a sizeable number of the immigrants. As expected, this move angered the German conservatives, while she lost out in the “popularity vote”, but above all, she showed she is human. Her efforts have been praised all over the world and this earned her the valued TIME Personality of the Year 2015.
The irony of 2015 is that while immigrants were desperately “struggling” their ways to Europe, some EU member countries, especially Britain, also “struggled” with keeping their borders locked from inside so the internally radicalised citizens would not “escape” to fight in troubled regions. It was not such a success of an effort on the parts of Scotland Yard, MI5 and other security agencies. Many radicalised people, including families, comprising of children, escaped to fight the “holy war”.
While the agencies struggled to keep these wannabe terrorists in the country, they no doubt succeeded in “locking” the ones in the UK down. We have been told severally that many terrorist plots have been foiled in the county as a result of good intelligence. Among them were the couple, Mohammed Rehnan and his ex wife Sana Ahmed Khan sentenced to life imprisonment last week. The government believed there are many “small time” terrorists such as these and if not for intelligence, they would have caused havocs in the country.
In all these though, there was good news on October 30 when the last British detainee in Guantanamo Bay, Shaker Ahmer was released after 13 years without charge. Ahmer’s release to say the least was not on a platter of gold. It was made possible by relentless efforts of individuals, campaign organisations and pressure groups.
Just as the year was winding down, the heavens opened up on UK to record her biggest flooding in recent times. A large percentage of the country’s landscape was under water. Despite the numerous flood warning alerts by the Environmental Agency, there was little home or business owners could do than sit far away and watch their prized possessions washed off. Realising the enormity of the flood, the government drafted in the army to help in “putting the water” under control.
The financial implication of this flood on the country had been estimated at over a billion pounds sterling. This is understandable going by the pictures of neighbourhood totally submerged in rain waters.
Sadly, on the New Year’s Eve, an iconic building, the Address Downtown, in the oil rich country Dubai caught fire. There was panic among residents who had been looking forward to the annual end of year fireworks. Sadly the fireworks exercise took place as the 63-storey hotel building burnt in the background.
It is 2016, here is hoping that at the end of the year, we shall be writing good reports of it. Happy New Year