How long is 365 days? If the year 2015 is a good example, then 365 days is very short. January 1, 2015 feels like yesterday. Yet, 2015 witnessed many events, some, whose influence will be felt in 2016. As we celebrate this New Year, here’s my review of the year we just left behind.
For Nigerians, the biggest event for 2015 was the General Election. The vibrations from that event continue to be felt, as the aftershocks don’t seem ready to stop any time soon. Nigerians began the year the apprehension. As the main contending parties campaigned with quixotic promises, the undercurrent of violence loomed in everyone’s mind. Gladiators from both sides of the divide threatened fire and brimstone if their own candidate did not win the presidential poll. People with the means shipped their loved ones beyond Nigeria’s shores, expecting the election to cause national chaos.
Against all odds, the doomsday prophets were forced to hide their tails. While the results of the presidential poll were being collated, as the veiled and not-too-veiled threats continued to simmer, a phone call changed everything. The historic call by the then incumbent president to the poll leader helped to diffuse the tension that threatened to rupture the country. That phone call, conceding defeat, would later culminate in the first transfer of power across party lines. Goodluck Jonathan vacated Aso Rock for Muhammadu Buhari.
Although the elections ended in the first quartet of 2015, the inauspicious timing worsened living conditions for many Nigerians. In the build-up to the elections, crude oil, Nigeria’s main export, went on a price dive. The dwindling price unbalanced the country’s budget. This was exacerbated by the violent threats that created an aura of pseudo-political instability. Investors were wary about bringing their funds into Nigeria. In fact, several investors moved their monies out, thereby reducing every important stat of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
While inflows of foreign exchange tapered off, increased demand of major currencies put the Naira in a precarious position. Politicians demanded dollars for the elections since they were easy to haul around, and more prestigious for bribery activities. At the same time, some affluent Nigerians, in fear, sought dollars as a safer store of their wealth. In the midst of the crude oil crash, these events hit the Nigerian economy very hard.
These events in 2015 shrunk the pockets of the average Nigerian. In this New Year, all eyes will be on President Buhari to end some of the aftershocks. Nigerians will definitely appreciate some peace, quiet and prosperity after the intensiveness of 2015.
On the international scene, 2015 meant different things to different countries. However, two occurrences seem a common denominator for virtually every country—oil price and terrorism. Given America’s global influence, the pre-election campaigns may contend for global reckoning, but not like the aforementioned twain.
The year 2015 saw the global oil cartel, OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, dig in its heels in the econo-political fight against America’s shale operators. The resulting global oil supply glut, estimated at almost three billion barrels, has taken crude oil producers to an unenviable position. From a high of about $140 per barrel, oil threatened to reach the low 30s, and some pessimists even predict that in 2016, oil may fall to as low as $20/bbl. For Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Russia, and other countries whose budgets’ balancing depends on high oil prices, the present situation is like moving from eating large chunks of meat on a high table, to picking bones that fall from the table.
Just like Nigeria’s election season, the global oil crash is occurring at an unlucky time. China, the behemoth energy consumer is in the midst of an economic contraction. The same holds true for most developing countries whose fast-paced growth had hitherto helped to push demand for crude oil and gas. Iran’s nuclear deal is another bad news for oil producers, potentially availing the already saturated market of millions of extra barrels of oil. Economists may want to consult thermodynamics and define a super-saturated state for global oil supply.
Terrorism, the second common denominator, finds a way of staying in media headlines every week. If it’s not ISIS executing some dastardly act, it will be Boko Haram using western weapons to fight western (and Islamic) civilization, or Al Shabab or another egregious group doing something patently wicked. If it’s none of these, it will be a lone-wolf attack. Whichever way, terrorism stayed on international lips all through 2015.
The year began and ended with France. Charlie Hebdo’s offices were fatally attacked in January to officially mark the beginning of terrorism’s year. Paris then witnessed another set of brutal attacks on Friday the 13th of November. In between these events, terror attacks around the world continued to wreck lives. The European migrant crisis can even be attributed to terrorism, whether by state or non-state actors.
Terrorism also provided a pretext for Russia’s Putin to commit his country’s armed forces to the Syrian conflict. The Syrian conflict is now likely the most complicated conflict on earth, a tale of strange bedfellows, enemies turned friends, and friends turned enemies.
Terrorism could not even let 2015 end in peace. Brussels and some other cities cancelled celebrations on New Year’s Eve, citing security threats. Even in some cities where celebrations were not banned, the number of security personnel on active duty appears unbelievable. New York City celebrated with about 6000 police officers actively watching for terror’s adherents.
2015 was surely an eventful year filled with twists and turns. 2016 will be wondering if it can fit into the shoes of a great year. Will 2016 be quiet or hectic, prosperous or impoverishing, healthy or sickening? Time will tell. For now, we shall be content with proclaiming, “Happy New Year!”