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2018: Going to rest, year of fury, frenzy, fusillades II

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WHILE it may be tempting to dismiss 2018 as a year of long knives only, there are nevertheless some windows of feats on home soil that call for champagne. Where else to find this silver linen in a dull sky than Anambra State that lived up to its sobriquet – Light of the Nation – when five girls from Regina Pacies Secondary School Onitsha, who represented Nigeria and Africa at the World Technovation Challenge in the Silicon Valley in San Francisco, United States, dusted their rivals on all rounds to bring home the Gold Medal in the contest.

But that may be as far as the tale went on the brighter side before relapsing yet again into furious and frenzied bend when the familiar spirit of industrial action reared up its head again to trigger a gale of strikes that where they did not reverberate in a meltdown nonetheless caused temporary  shutdown of the sectors involved.

First was over 40-day-long health workers strike under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) that dealt one of the biggest blows on Nigeria’s health industry by time the workers returned to their shifts.

Then followed by organised Labour’s warning strike that sent its own jitters on national economy for the week it lasted with more threats of a ‘mega strike’ that was shelved on November 6, with National Industrial Court of Nigeria playing crucial stabilising role, to give room for continuous negotiation over workers’ demand for at least N30, 000. 00 national minimum wages.

It seems that state governors under the umbrella of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) are willing to play the black sheep in this ding dong. But the education sector, particularly the ivory towers, were not left out by the bug of industrial actions as Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) indefinite nationwide strike that began on November 5 is still on after their meeting with federal government ended in a stalemate.

The last of such meetings on Tuesday, had ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, and other leaders of the union staging a walk out, even though Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who presided over the meeting told newsmen that ASUU would call of their strike soon.

But before then, Colleges of Education in Nigeria (COEAS) suspended its own strike on December 6, two months after commencement.  As if this was a footnote on strikes in 2018, polytechnic lecturers downed tools on December 11 – and their putsch still blows across the sub-sector.

Away from strikes, a comic relief of sorts rocked Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife, when one of its lecturers, Prof. Richard Iyiola Akindele, and one of his masters’ degree students, Monica Osagie, traded words over allegation that he demanded sex from her in return for good grade.

But just when the lecturer thought he would have the last laugh, a tape made its way to social media showing exactly what happened. From there, matters took a debilitating twist that climaxed in a two-year jail term for Akindele in an aggregate of 48 months to run concurrently. Notwithstanding insinuations in some quarters that Akindele may yet be a scapegoat for no just cause, not a few pick holes in the predictable mob outcry that trailed this national shame as if it was a blues coming from a chapter of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Of course, the on-going anti-graft campaign of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration got further boost in 2018 with Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) recording 172 convictions as at October and expecting to improve the figure significantly before the year wraps up. Indeed, the evanescing year was a loaded one on many fronts in Nigeria but events elsewhere around the globe come to mind in a flurry.

In United States, whether rightly or wrongly, President Donald Trump still stomped on global news makers’ index. First, he announced a plan for the largest ever package of sanctions against North Korea, aimed at cutting off revenue for its nuclear program – with another world narrowly averted while Trump and Kim Jong-un toyed with nuclear missiles on a gullible globe.

Yes, Robert Mueller’s probe into allegations of Russian meddling in 2016 US elections continued with Trump and his fans projecting its fatal end in futility. Yes, over seven blue collar White House aides of Trump took their exits in melodramatic turn in protest over Trump’s leadership rulebook.

Trump also pulled US from the Iranian nuclear agreement which he called “a serious mistake” by former President Barack Obama. At a point Trump changed his gear levers and delved into a tit-for-tat face-eoff with President Vladmir Putin of Russia, culminating in expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats following the ex-spy poisoning case in the UK with Russia retaliating almost instantly to return 60 US diplomats.

But review of events that made 2018 thick may be incomplete without a space for the November 6  Mid-term elections in US which handed  Congress back to Democrats who gained over 40. However, Republicans retained control of Senate in a cliff-hanger margin.

Another angle to 2018 in US was denominated in gun incidents that rocked Uncle Sam’s land to its foundations to take a total toll of over 183 casualties in schools alone to make it worst on record according to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security.

This eclipses the previous high of 97 in 1986. Interestingly, Uber suspended its autonomous car production after a woman was killed by one of the vehicles in Arizona. But 2018 would not wind down if the world forgets the state-sponsored strangulation of Saudi dissident Jamal Kashoggi allegedly sanctioned by  Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

There was also a spate of air disasters around the globe, from Mexico to Algeria and Russia and many more, in which well over 1000 passengers and crew members were blown to ashes. And the world wore black.

But another complexion of the year came with what later became known as migrant caravan when more than 15,000 arrived at the US-Mexico border after crossing Mexico, according to official figures released by the Mexican Interior Ministry, to enter US. Some of them arrived after travelling more than 4,000km (2,500 miles) from different parts of Central America, fleeing persecution, poverty and violence in their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

United Kingdom is still entangled in Brexit blues with reprieve not yet in sight for Prime  Minister Theresa May whose (un)enviable job is to foster this baby of omens. A mid-January vote is in the offing for lawmakers to make a decision between May’s deal with European Union council or leaving without one on March 29.

May is pressing on with her deal to leave the EU, rejecting calls for a second referendum or to test support for different Brexit options in parliament, despite hardening opposition to the agreement to maintain close ties. There was a total lunar eclipse in large parts of Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America on …. Much long before Nobel Prize for literature was cancelled on October 4, following a sex scandal involving some of the judges.

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