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2022: Climate change, Politics and Qatar’s World Cup (II)

We have all heard about climate change; its causes, catastrophic effects and what we can do individually and collectively to mitigate these hazardous effects. Most…

We have all heard about climate change; its causes, catastrophic effects and what we can do individually and collectively to mitigate these hazardous effects. Most Nigerians I have interacted with are ambivalent about the entire issue; Is it really worth worrying about? Is it something we should lose sleep over? Or is it another fabrication of the west? Why is so much noise being made about it?

Up until a few years ago, I also had a lukewarm attitude to the issue of climate change. However, a combination of intense reading, evidence-based research and recent weather changes has made an activist of me. Greta Thunberg was right; we are headed for disaster. 

In August, Pakistan experienced its heaviest rainfall since the country began keeping detailed national weather records in 1961. The provinces that were hardest hit by floods received up to eight times more rain than usual, according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department. It is likely that climate change helped drive deadly floods in Pakistan, according to a new scientific analysis. The floods killed nearly 1500 people and displaced more than 30 million, after record-breaking rain in August. The world watched as the floods washed away houses, cars and properties, destroying many lives while leaving behind a cloud of despair in its wake. Surveying the affected areas, UN chief António Guterres termed it a climate catastrophe, saying “I have never seen climate carnage on the scale of the floods here in Pakistan”.

Apart from the floods, this year, Pakistan has received its fair share of crisis: Political and economic. In April, Prime Minister Imran Khan lost a no-confidence vote in parliament, continuing a streak in which no Pakistani prime minister has ever completed a full five-year term. Khan, however, did not go quietly into retirement. He instead led his followers in a series of protest marches on the capital of Islamabad seeking to oust his successor, Prime Minister Sharif. Seemingly in retaliation, the government charged Khan in August with violating Pakistan’s antiterrorism laws. Later, in November, he was wounded in a failed assassination attempt.

Like Fela famously used to say: Double wahala for dead body.

September was an eventful month for the people of the United Kingdom and indeed the whole world. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, on the 8th of September, Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, died at the age of 96, after 70 years on the throne. She had been the queen of Britain since 1952, ascending to the throne at the age of 25 after her father’s death. The Queen had been unwell for days but had appeared in public sporadically till the very end of her time. She was laid to rest at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle after a state funeral which was attended by the Royal Family and leaders from around the world. She is succeeded on the throne by her son, King Charles III.

When her husband the “Dukkan Adunbura” as he is fondly called by the Hausa community after their famous visit in 1956 to the Emir of Kano (then, Ado Bayero) died last year, I remember thinking to myself: She (the queen) will soon follow suit. True to my premonition, seventeen months after his death, the queen joined her husband in the hereafter.

The second event that happened to the UK was Liz Truss becoming prime minister. So far, Truss is the shortest serving Prime Minister in UK history after she was forced to resign just 45 days (September 6th to October 25th) after she took charge. Truss, who had previously served as the Foreign Secretary in Boris Johnson’s Cabinet, holds the distinction of having served under two monarchs. Her time at No.10 Downing Street was widely unpopular, with a British newspaper comparing her tenure to that of an unrefrigerated lettuce, asking its readers: “Can Liz Truss outlast this lettuce?”

It is never a good thing when a prime minister’s tenure is compared to the lifespan of a head of lettuce, but that was the United Kingdom’s situation in 2022. The country whose empire once spanned the globe had three prime ministers in just two months. On 14 October 2022, the British tabloid newspaper the Daily Star began a livestream of an iceberg lettuce next to a framed photograph of Liz Truss. When she announced her resignation as prime minister on 20 October before the lettuce had wilted; the Daily Star subsequently declared the lettuce “victorious” over Truss.

Rishi Sunak cemented his place in history books in October when he was nominated by the Conservative Party to become Britain’s first Prime Minister of colour. Sunak’s resume include a stint as the Finance Minister in Boris Johnson’s Cabinet and years of experience as an investment banker.

I am embarrassed to say how much I enjoyed watching the hilarious drama unfold on Twitter. So, this Oyinbo people sabi mess up like this? Hehehe. Misery loves company.

Speaking of Twitter, in late October, Billonaire Elon Musk finalised the deal of purchasing the social media platform. On taking charge, Musk made drastic changes across the company’s leadership and in the platform’s policies, firing numerous employees and introducing paid features like the ‘blue tick’ with little testing. Though Musk has said that he will step down from the CEO post once he finds a replacement, it remains to be seen what Twitter will look like in the coming years.

Another country that has seen Shege this year is Iran. 

The protests in Iran began in September when “morality police” in Tehran arrested Mahsa Amini, a twenty-two-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman visiting Iran’s capital city, for failing to cover her hair properly. She died in police custody. When the news reached her hometown of Saqqez in northwestern Iran, hundreds of people gathered to condemn her death and Iran’s mistreatment of women. The protests quickly spread throughout the country as Iranians across social, class, and ethnic lines marched to the slogan: “Women, life, freedom!” Iranian leaders blamed the United States and Israel for engineering the protests, though the driving force was the government’s political repression, corruption, and mismanagement of the economy. The government tried to quell the protests with force. By December, Iranian security forces had killed as many as 450 protestors on the streets, and the government had begun publicly executing protestors convicted in rushed trials for crimes against the state. The persistence of the protests in the face of government repression prompted speculation that Iran is in the early stages of a new revolution. Perhaps. But so far, the regime has shown no signs of splintering, and no one has emerged to lead the opposition. 

But not all the time bad news. 

One of the highlights of this year was the magnificent world cup hosted by Qatar. The World Cup was a symbolic and diplomatic success for its host country. According to Gianni Infantino, the President of FIFA, football’s world governing body, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was “an incredible success on all fronts.” The first such tournament hosted by an Arab and Muslim country was, he said, “the best ever.” From the opening ceremony featuring the brilliant performance by Morgan Freeman and Ghanim Al-Muftah, to the vast array of cultural entertainment, to spectacular architecture that left visitors spellbound through out their visit. 

Football fans from around the world who watched matches in Qatar and on TV were exposed to Arab and Muslim culture and traditions, which many accepted enthusiastically. Arab headdresses in team colours were seen on the terraces, and women were reported to have felt safer in the alcohol-free stadiums. There were no riots in Doha, no significant disruptions and no big organisational disasters. The whole event, in fact, proceeded smoothly: it was the first World Cup in history at which no England fan was arrested. 

I am by no means a football fan, but many will all agree with me that the world cup was a lovely way to end 2022. Argentina may have won the cup, but in the end, the biggest winner was Qatar, the underdog. Nobody thought they could pull it off, indeed the western media tried hard to discredit them, but in the end, success was theirs.

May we be successful in our endeavours. 

Happy new year!