By Morak Babajide-Alabi
Events on the world stage these past three weeks have been moving so fast that one needs special skills to keep up. The rate at which the news was coming may be rapid, but the impact cannot be underestimated. If you had missed any of them, you probably had shut yourself completely out of media reach.
Most of them are alarming while for others you would think they are taken out of sketches for stand-up comedies. Interestingly, no geographical zone ca lay claim to having the best or the worst of the news during this period. There are surprises and so are shockers that will make you wonder what humanity now holds as values for existence.
While most of the stories revolve around some world leaders, we also have dumb unknown individuals that shot themselves into the limelight. We remember how Mark Anthony Conditt, 23, walked into the dark side of history as a serial bomber that terrorised the city of Austin, Texas, United States of America. At the end of his bomb delivery exercises, he left two individuals dead and injured a few others. We will never know his reason for the random attacks.
In France, there is respite that the world knows the motive of the small-time drug dealer turned terrorist, 26-year-old Redouane Lakdim when he held shoppers hostage in a supermarket in the small town of Trebes. He was said to have demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, the suspect in the 2015 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people. Lakdim killed three people and left a policeman, who shot him, fighting for his life.
We realised also that corporate executives can be as dumb as Conditt and Lakdim. You could put the former chief executive of the United Kingdom-based Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, in the same class as these individuals. Now we know that the fact that he headed a political consulting firm that mines data for the electoral process does not make him intelligent. Nix was caught pants down boasting to undercover reporters at Channel 4 News how his company uses dirty tricks to swing elections. What a dumb man!
Unfortunately, we also got confirmation that social media network, Facebook, have been harvesting and selling our data for other purposes that we are not aware of. Facebook had been passing our personal data on to third parties while deceiving users with the promise not to disclose data without notice or permission. No matter how aggressively Mark Zuckerberg tries to explain this, the tag of “dishonesty” will never be shaken off.
In the political world, it is not any different. The traditionally aggressive North Korea have surprisingly been behaving nicely and leading the “movement” for world peace. The leader Kim Jong-Un has not only “repaired the relationship” with his southern neighbours, he is set to meet soon with Donald Trump, the President of the country that his forefathers were traditionally at loggerheads with. A few months in the past, Jong-Un was a leader bent on fighting the whole world.
His turn around-diplomacy is impressive. Going from a “rocket man” who was always the subject of attacks from Trump to a patronising tweet such as “the deal with North Korea is very much in the making and will be if completed, a very good one for the World,” is incredible. Let us wait and see how this works out.
On the other hand, the cat and mouse relationship between Trump and China has turned sour as the two gear up for a mega-trade war. On Thursday, Trump signed a presidential memorandum that could impose tariffs on up to $60 billion of imports from China. If China’s Xi Jinping had momentarily forgotten about Trump’s campaign promises to make America great again by bringing jobs back, he was jolted into reality last week.
We thought Trump had gone soft on China when he spoke glowingly of the country a couple of months back. Could he have been waiting for the right moment to kick the Chinese in the groin? The opportunity came when Jinping got members of the National People’s Congress to technically make him a “Leader for life”. The assembly abolished the two-term limits for the president and vice president, effectively allowing them to remain in power indefinitely.
Did I hear you say the Russians are unpredictable? Well. you are right. They came to the United Kingdom and right under the nose of Prime Minister Theresa May attempted what could have been the most strategic murder in recent time. A Russian dissident Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with Russian nerve agent – Novichok.
While the UK government was gearing up to query the Russians’ audacity to attempt murder on their streets, Vladimir Putin got an endorsement for a fresh six-year term to lead them to “Eldorado”. In his characteristic Tupac-like style, Putin strolled to the stage for an after election speech and described the poisoning allegation as “nonsense.” Period.
While the West drew an image of Putin with the satanic horns on his head, some of his citizens see a hard man destined to rule and ward off external aggression. Observers believe the stance of the UK, especially May and her Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on the nerve agent poisoning, rather than impact negatively on Putin, actually boosted his image and “helped him massively” to win the elections. This is debatable though, with the allegations of massive rigging and intimidation.
The drama that played out in the West African country of Nigeria seemed more like a script for the Nollywood industry. When on February 19, the news of the kidnap of the 110 Nigerian school girls in the North Eastern village of Dapchi by the terrorist group, Boko Haram, broke, it came as a shock. To be honest, it was not the kidnap that took the world by surprise, but the fact that the Boko Haram operatives still have enough “teeth” to bite, despite all the claims that the group has been routed.
It seemed like yesterday when in 2014 the kidnap of 276 students by Boko Haram in the town of Chibok was all over news waves. A lot of negative news was generated against the government in power at that time, as the world rose in unison to demand the release of the innocent girls. The Bring Back Our Girls campaign became a huge global success and a few of the initiators became instant celebrities. The kidnap soon became a political campaign issue, with candidates promising a total defeat of Boko Haram, if elected, within a stipulated time frame.
It is no secret that the Boko Haram defeat’s “promise” was nothing more than mere campaign rhetoric. We get this all the time, you may say. No. The Dapchi kidnap is totally different. Boko Haram, without any security intervention, had a change (or wave) of mind and returned the kidnapped girls. They got them fanciful dresses, nice bags and sandals and gave them heroic rides back to the city centre. What a classic Nollywood material.
Need we say more? Some critics of the government are alleging there has been an exchange of money for the release but this has been denied by government officials, It was just that the Boko Haram guys developed cold feet and decided to return the girls. What a story? We may never know the true story as it seems there has been sworn secrecy from both parties – Boko Haram and the government.
Written for Diaspora Matters column, Sunday Vanguard March 25, 2018