OPINION: The Unelected Powerful First Ladies Of Nigeria
By Suyi Ayodele
My first beat, in 1999, as a reporter in the Nigerian Tribune, was the office of the wife of Oyo State Governor. The woman then had a pet project called “Ilera Loro” (Health is Wealth). I did not last on that beat. Peter Onoche, who was assigned to replace me, lasted only three days on the beat. The two of us were new recruits of The Imalefalaafia School of Journalism (Tribune’s Head Office) and “our blood too dey hot’. We covered the beat as independent journalists and Madam Excellency never liked our “attitudes”. Within the two weeks or so I spent with “Her Excellency”, I saw raw power. I saw the ‘strong men’ of power we used to see on the television genuflect before the governor’s wife. Some of them waited for hours without seeing Oga Madam.
There was an old chief I knew years ago. He numbered among the first six kingmakers of his town. He was powerful and very loud. His presence commanded respect. His carriage was infectious. And he was also rich and showcased that with a harem of different shapes of women. He ruled his house with an iron fist and his wives coiled whenever he roared. But there was one among the wives. She was more powerful than the other women in the harem. In fact, she was more powerful than the old strong chief. Without exaggerating, the high chief knew his limitations in any issue concerning that particular wife.
Ace comedian and merchant of jokes, Okey Bakassi, said in one of the shows that I attended that he feared nobody. He added a caveat though. He said: “the only man I fear in my life is a man who does not fear a woman. Whenever I see a man like that, I run”. Okey Bakassi uttered those words to emphasise the superior power women wield. My late father summed up the power of women to me this way: “A man is as powerful to the extent his wife wants him to be. You are only a strong man because your wife wants you to be strong”.
I have attended many marriage seminars. But the best marriage seminar I have ever attended did not last up to five minutes. In that seminar, the message was just one sentence. And guess who the keynote speaker was; my late mother; Maaami Alice Kehinde Ayodele. It happened when I took my fiancée, now my wife, to her for her consent. God bless Maaami. She had a sharp penetrating sight. And she was blunt to a fault. After the normal ‘feferity’ of the Ekiti ‘welcome’ party, Maaami called me to her room. Then she uttered these words: “Omo han re mi loo, ho si a s’omo ure ehi ni ko ba mo la lohun” – I love this child and she will be a good girl on the condition that you don’t open her voice. The meaning of the transliteration, “open her voice” is deep. My mother said that the girl I brought to her would only remain calm only if didn’t provoke her anger such that she would talk.
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Our elders say every town has what ails it. For Lagos, they say it is hustling and bustling. Íbádán ailment, we are told, is street brawl. Likewise every man knows his strengths and weaknesses. I used to think I had the loudest voice in my house. Yes, yours sincerely can shout for Africa. But they are not deep-seated shouts. However, I learnt years into my marriage that I possibly don’t have the loudest voice in my family. The first day my Orente shouted at me, I was looking for where the voice came from! My goodness! So this Ijebu girl has this loud voice! Then my Maaami ( please don’t use the Isale Eko intonation to pronounce this) came back to me: “…Ho si a s’omo ure ehi ni ko ba mo la lo hun”. I borrowed myself sense. Women are indeed powerful and a man is as loud to the extent that his wife keeps calm.
Men in positions of authority usually have powerful women behind them. In the ancient and the conventional times, wives of powerful men are more powerful than their husbands. At creation, man was an obedient creature, who stayed within the limits set by God in the beautiful Garden of Eden. Then one day, Adam, the first man, listened to his wife, Eve, and ate the forbidden fruit God commanded him not to eat. That was the end of innocence for mankind and the rest is history.
In contemporary Nigeria, some hundreds of school children were “kidnapped” in Chibok, Borno State in 2014. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who was in power then, lost his manliness and was completely lost as to what to do. It was the iron lady of the Aso Rock Villa, Madam Patience Jonathan, aka Mama Peace, who rose to the occasion and summoned those who should know about the incident to Abuja. Unfortunately, Nigerians did not see the wisdom of the courage displayed by Mrs. Jonathan then and followed the clue that could have led the nation to where the children were “kept”. Rather, our concern was the phonological idiosyncrasies of the First Lady and we laughed out the very chance of nipping in the bud such ugly occurrence. Today, Nigeria has lost the number of school children that have been “kidnapped” and will never know the number that will be “kidnapped” in future.
Most Nigerian political leaders are captives of their wives. They are held bound in conjugal subjugation and they cannot talk. Their situations are akin to the proverbial “iso inu eku; a mu mora ni” – the one who carries the spirit mask dare not fart! Most times, when His Excellency laughs in the public, don’t mistake that for complete happiness. Majority of them have troubles at Government Houses as First Ladies. If you see mostly regarded ‘strong men’ of power melt in the presence of their wives, don’t think that the men have eaten the Itsekiri “Igbilekokomiyo” (fowl no dey refuse corn). No. Women are naturally strong beings; pray they don’t use 10 percent of the powers they have. In the recently concluded primaries of the various political parties, we read that Mrs. Akeredolu, wife of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, went to her home state, Imo, to vie for a senatorial seat. I asked a friend in Akure, Ondo State capital, how Arakunrin Akeredolu, with his ‘spartan discipline’ would allow such a perfidy. The answer I got shocked me to my marrow.
On Tuesday, September 9, 2019, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi, wife of the immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, was somewhere in Ikole Ekiti for a function. While returning to Ado, we were told that she was advised to take the Ijesa-Usu-Ado route because the students of the Federal University, Oye Ekiti were on the streets, demonstrating against one of the bad policies of this present government. Her Excellency would have none of that. She would not change her route because of some “silly children”. Meanwhile, those familiar with that axis will agree that the Ikole-Ijesa-Usu-Ado route is shorter than the Ikole-Oye-Ifaki-Ado route. Mrs. Fayemi plunged into the Oye Road and encountered the students in their thousands on the streets. The security men in her convoy engaged the hapless students in order to “clear the road for the woman wey sabi”. When the dust settled, two young undergraduates were on the ground stone-dead, courtesy of the bullets from Mrs. Fayemi’s police guards. Her husband, the real ‘His Excellency’, Governor Fayemi, was in Ado Ekiti, where he did nothing. The parents of the two slain children nurse their pains till date while the Fayemis have since collected their severance allowances as ex-governor and ex-First Lady and moved on with their lives. That is how powerful and brutal the wives of Nigerian political leaders are.
It is therefore not a surprise when the news filtered in that Her Imperial Excellency, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, wife of General Muhammadu Buhari, President and Commander-in-Chief, had an issue with Aminu Adamu, a 500 level student of the Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State, who was alleged to have body-shamed the first lady by calling her a fat woman who became bloated after eating poor Nigerians’ money. The first person who drew my attention to the issue claimed that the reported ankle injury Mrs Buhari was said to have suffered some weeks ago happened when she kicked the suspect. I didn’t believe that. However, I gave that piece of information the life of truth when I later got to read that Adamu was actually arrested and brought to Aso Rock. What for?
Adamu’s tweet that led to his ordeal was posted in June this year. The First Lady saw the tweet and set the nation’s security architecture after the undergraduate. If you have ever wondered why it has been so difficult or almost impossible for our security agencies to trace and track the felons that have held the nation bound to violence in terms of banditry, kidnapping and gratuitous killings, seek no further. It took Nigeria’s security agents acting on the orders of the most powerful woman in the country, five good months to be able to track Aminu. Yet the poor child used a network service provider to post the “offending” tweet. The service provider has coordinates scattered all over the place. Aso Rock spent five good months achieving that feat; you can imagine how much ‘logistics’ went into that exercise!
Now you may wish to ask: while the whole issue was ongoing, did General Buhari not hear about it? I have asked that question several times myself. And on each occasion, I came to this conclusion: is General Buhari himself not at the mercy of Mrs. Aisha Buhari? How many crises in Aso Rock involving Aisha Buhari has the retired General been able to resolve? When the video of the First Lady surfaced the other time banging a door and complaining of being locked out of a part of the Villa, did the president not see it? How many months did Mrs. Buhari disappear to God-knows-where before we saw her at the APC presidential primaries? Did anybody pay attention to the obvious wedge and distance between the president and his wife at that primaries? How else does one define the phrase, “two strange bedfellows”?
Mrs. Buhari is a mother. Mothers are kind and compassionate, supposedly. An “offence” was committed in June. A mother nursed the animosity for five months. She did not rest until the ‘culprit’ was brought to justice; first in her presence, and later before a judge, who remanded him in a correctional custody. Then you would want to exclaim: “Some mothers”; as a national newspaper exclaimed in 1996 when Mrs. Adekunbi Ero, then Editor, Nigerian Observer, was sacked by the military administrator of Edo State, Group Captain Baba Adamu Iyam, and his Information Commissioner, Lady Winifred Onyeonwu (of blessed memory) said “Adekunbi is my daughter”.
Granted that Mrs. Buhari stays in Aso Villa, the presidential lodge. The last time I checked, the Villa is not listed as a police station. Why was Adamu brought to Aso Rock? When the poor boy was brought in, what did the Villa intelligence unit do? The personnel there did not deem it fit to alert the president that a fundamental human right was about to be breached? What lawlessness rules our political landscape? What was Adamu”s crime?
That he said Mrs. Buhari is fat? So? Is the First Lady not fat? Has she not added some weight? Is she as she was when her husband moved to Aso Rock Villa in 2015? The boy said Madam President’s wife got fattened up because she has ‘eaten’ poor people’s money? Is that also not correct? Mrs. Buhari does nothing in terms of any vocation except being the president’s wife. The president and his family live on Nigeria’s money. Nigerians are damned poor and nobody can deny that. They said we are 200 million people. Experts, Nigerian Tribune reported on Monday, December 5, 2022, that 133 million of us “languish in poverty”! If Mrs. Buhari’s feeding allowance is from the nation’s patrimony and the owners of the money are poor, is it not logical that the First Lady is fat because she derives her sustenance from the poor people’s pocket?
The argument that the young man is impudent is as unsustainable as the charge of “defamation of character” preferred against Adamu. Our elders say a man who does not want anyone to talk while preparing his pounded yam should not buy the yam on credit ( Eni ti a ko ni soro nigba ti a ba ngun iyan e kii ra isu awin). If Madam Excellency does not want anyone to talk about the state of health of the First Family, she should have impressed on her husband to fix our economy as he promised. From the health of General Buhari to the educational attainments of Aisha’s children, and the physical appearance of the First Lady, everything about the Buharis have improved to the disadvantage of the average Nigerians who are confronted, daily, with acute poverty. How on earth did uttering that obvious fact become a crime in the dictionary of a woman we did not elect to rule us?
I will not blame General Buhari on this; at least for now. I will wait to see how the retired General and Mrs. Aisha Buhari live together after May 29, 2023. Thankfully enough, it appeared someone spoke sense to Mrs. Buhari. Last Friday, we were told she withdrew the charges preferred against the student. And Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Federal High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, was said to have “commended” Mrs. Buhari, possibly for her ‘magnanimity’. Justice Halilu equally imposed on parents and intended parents to “monitor their children and wards”; possibly too, because our landscape is populated by unelected First Ladies with over bloated egos!
Suyi Ayodele is a senior journalist, South-South/South-East Editor, Nigerian Tribune and columnist in the same newspaper.
OPINION: Oluwo And The Glorification Of Ignorance (2)
The pig – washed off mud, slaughtered, cut up and cooked – becomes pork. Spiced with condiments and spread over a barbecue fire, its cured belly and sides become bacon, ham is the meat from its upper hinds – salted, dried or smoked.
If you dressed up the pig as smartly as George Orwell dressed up his failed revolutionary pigs in Animal Farm, or you left your pig to sun in the Maroko mud, it’s still a pig. I don’t do pig in any form. I’m a Christian, nevertheless.
Lord, give Nigeria good leaders like Benjamin Franklin, though long dead – his words are still alive, more than 200 years after. Franklin said, “Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don’t have brains enough to be honest.”
The Oluwo of Iwo was my friend up until last Monday when a knife severed the cords of our friendship upon the publication of the first part of this article.
Dazed and sent reeling by my article, the Oluwo rained curses on me through WhatsApp text messages. But the goat’s scornful look cannot kill the butcher. Èèwò òrìsà! The butterfly is at liberty to call itself a bird. Who should be afraid of the bullet, the antelope or Odesola, the hunter?
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Oluwo’s hirelings, masquerading as journalists, rushed to his corner of the ring, and offered to assassinate my character for a pot of porridge, sacrificing honour and integrity. The crucial issues raised in my article didn’t make sense to them. What mattered was the denial of the Oluwo, who alleged that he doesn’t know me, and that he was never my friend.
As a satirist, I understand a friend could be metaphorical or literal. But I mean what I say in this context. What do you call someone you send tonnes of your kid-stuff views about tradition and culture to on a WEEKLY basis, and the person to whom you send those ridiculous views, in turn, takes the pain to school you on the right perspective of the Yoruba worldview? What do you call such a person? An enemy? A friend? Or a teacher? I humbly think I also qualify to be a teacher in this regard. What do you call someone you sent a New Year greeting to on January 1, 2021? A deity?
On April 9, 2022, the Oluwo and I engaged in a heated argument over his bizarre views on Yoruba culture and tradition through WhatsApp chats from 12:34a.m to 2:11a.m. This is just one of the uncountable chats and voicenote between the monarch and I that I’ve saved in my phone. And he claims he doesn’t know me!? I’m ready to share the chat log of our weekly communication with interested parties to unmask the face of a liar.
He also denied that I didn’t mention him to former Governor Rauf Aregbesola, after he, Oluwo, while talking on the phone with me a few days before my first article, made a passing remark about the role I played when he vied for the throne.
On November 14, 2022, after he texted to me one of his cock and bull views titled, “Ifa is a teaching of a recent seer called Orunmila – Oluwo,” I responded with this text, “Good morning, kabiyesi. Gbogbo aafin nko? One day very soon, I hope to do a rejoinder in my column to your assertions, most of which I believe are very, very misleading. I got a nasty cold and just took some meds to knock me off. I’ve been waiting to do the riposte for a long time now, but many engagements kept coming up.”
The Yoruba say, awí fún ni kó tó dá ni, àgbà ìjàkadì ni – he’s a great wrestler, he who forewarns his rival before slamming him to the ground.
In my attempt to set the records straight, the Oluwo has faintly succeeded in distracting me from the substance of this article, to which I’ll return in earnest. If left to fester, bare-faced lies could sneak up on the truth, and befuddle reality. I won’t allow that to happen.
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In his display of ignorance, the Oluwo, without oral, scientific or historical evidence, makes many laughable assertions, claiming that certain historical epochs were revealed to him in the spiritual realm.
For instance, he said the Yoruba descended from Adam in the Garden of Eden, whereas the history of the Yoruba predated the creation story in the Garden of Eden.
Archaeologically, to buttress the point that the earliest humans were found in Africa, and not in the Middle East, where the Garden of Eden was located, the corpses of the earliest humans were not found in Europe, North America, Asia or Middle East; they were found in Kenya by Kenyan-British archaeologist and anthropologist, Dr Louis Leakey, whose works demonstrate that humans evolved in Africa. Leakey’s “fossil discoveries in East Africa proved that human beings were far older than had previously been believed and that human evolution was centred in Africa, rather than in Asia, as earlier discoveries had suggested” (Louis Leakey. Encyclopædia Britannica).
To affirm his conviction that humans existed long before the Garden of Eden, Leakey wrote a seminal work in 1934 titled Adam’s Ancestors.
Before Akanbi’s sudden flight of fancy, no authority anywhere in the world had ever traced Yoruba genealogy to the Garden of Eden, which may soon be translated into the Garden of Ede, near Iwo, whenever a pillar of smoke engulfs royal inspiration.
Whenever the pillar of smoke inspires, names like Adamo, Yoruba word for Adam; and Oduduwa are defined to support baseless, false and speculative idiosyncrasies. In one of his videos, the Oluwo says Adamo means Eda Amo – a creature made from the red earth. How ridiculous! What does the Bible say Adam was created from? From salt and pepper? Oba Akanbi goes ahead to malign religious history by saying Adam was the father of the Yoruba. The authority and panache with which the Oluwo spews his unfounded history will shock a kindergarten class.
According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Evidence of human occupation in Nigeria dates back thousands of years. The oldest fossil remains found by archaeologists in the southwestern area of Iwo Eleru, near Akure, have been dated to about 9000 BCE” (“History of Nigeria.” Encyclopædia Britannica).
As no known scientific, oral or documented historical evidence supports the trado-cultural fallacies of Akanbi, I humbly advise that the monarch gets some textbooks on Yoruba history, culture and tradition. Iwo, the land of the parrot, boasts of illustrious sons and daughters who are great historians.
A good textbook in Yoruba history will teach Akanbi that Yoruba monarchy predates the history of the sultanate in the Kanem territory of northern Nigeria. Islam got to Nigeria in 666AD, whereas Kanem had been in existence long before the coming of Islam to Nigeria.
Therefore, it’s ridiculous when the Oluwo calls himself an emir because the Yoruba monarchy predates the emirate system in Nigeria, and should not be subsumed under an emirate in terms of hierarchical preference.
That Akanbi even calls himself an emir is an insult to the Oluwo throne which predates even the sultanate in Nigeria. The fact that an emir is a small king when compared with a sultan makes Akanbi’s adoption of the title of emir a personal devaluation. A sultan is a supreme ruler, an emir is only a ruler.
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In ‘Pre-Oduduwa Eastern Yorubaland’ by Prof Ishola Olomola, and ‘The Entire Yorubaland’ by Prof Isaac Akinjogbin and Prof S. A. Akintoye, it is affirmed that there had been established monarchies in Yoruba land long before the period of Oduduwa, let alone the caliphate of post 1800.
The sultanate based in Sokoto and the caliphate based in Borno are superior to the emirate at every point in northern history. The first caliphate in Islamic history was established after the Holy Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) era in 632 AD. The earliest caliphate is referred to in history as the Rashidun Caliphate aka the Orthodox Caliphate. That Caliphate is also known as the period of the Rightly-Guided-Caliphs.
Oluwo surely needs a reorientation in Yoruba cosmology.
To be continued.
Tunde Odesola is a seasoned journalist, columnist with The PUNCH newspapers and a guest writer here.
Facebook: @tunde odesola
COP27: Loss And Damage At Injury Time [OPINION]
By Nnimmo Bassey
The recently concluded 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, went in the way of rituals and did not rise beyond the low bars set by previous editions. Well, maybe it rose above the bar in one aspect which could be considered, more or less, the brightest glimmer of hope, appearing in the extended time of the conference. For those who were keeping vigil on the deliberations, it was a roller coaster session. Hope glimmered when many nations unexpectedly rose to say that fossil fuels, all of them, should be phased out, not just the phasing down of unabated coal as was cockily suggested at Glasgow. Recall that Glasgow only talked of phasing down (not phasing out) of unabated coal (not all coal). Observers gasped and yelped as some nations notorious for blocking any attempt to name fossil fuels as the driver of global heating in the official negotiations shifted positions. However, the flickering candle was snuffed and smashed at the final plenary. So it came to pass, that a handful of nations, including Saudi Arabia and China, threatened to scuttle the entire COP if fossil fuels were called out and their obituary announced.
Why is the COP playing the ostrich and burying its head in the sand by being unwilling to accept that fossil fuels are literally burning the planet and that the real climate action is to phase out the polluters? How come everyone knows that up to 89 percent of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere emerged from the burning of fossil fuels but the COP choses to ignore this truth? How come even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) which is the COP’s thinking hat says that fossil fuels must be addressed, yet the COP plays deaf? The simple answer is that the swarm of over 600 fossil fuel lobbyists at the COP, with some on official national delegations, simply would not allow reason to triumph over profit. And, as expected, African nations asserted their right to use fossil fuels as the means towards developing their nations even if the dangerously polluting pathways that the industrialised nations used brought the world to where we are now. That argument sounds more like the swan song of a fossil fuel industry desperate to keep itself on life support. And, of course, there is no shared understanding of what the development the African leaders speak of looks like.
Some of us expect leaders in the Global South to demand the payment of the climate debt and a stoppage of accumulating further debt by halting dependence on fossil fuels. The jinx and allure of the fossil age must be broken. It is time to quit denial and accept that fossil fuels must be fossilized. African nations are right to be concerned by poor levels of energy penetration on the continent. However, it is essential to point out that this cannot be solved by allowing fossil fuel corporations to get away with murder, ecocide, and human rights abuses just so that you have fossil fuels to export. Do the leaders not realise that 89 percent of fossil fuels infrastructure in Africa serve export purposes and that Africa’s extractive sector employs less that 1 percent of Africa’s workforce? Moreover, only 5percent of the investment in the sector is done in Africa. Testimonies from oilfield or minefield communities are tales of woes, pains, poverty, and death. With the scramble for new fossil fuels development on the coastline of the continent and virtually all the deltas the continent is the last ditch stand by the fossil fuels speculators and companies.
Assault on the Deltas
The deltas under assault in Africa include the Zambezi Delta in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique; the notoriously ruined Niger Delta in Nigeria; Okavango Delta in Namibia/Botswana and the
Saloum Delta in Sénégal. Add to that the lakes and rivers in the Albertine Rift Valley and the Virunga Park and the continent and the world are set to lose major biodiversity hotspots, protected areas and UNESCO world heritage sites.
The resistance by communities, fishers and knowledge holders in South Africa and elsewhere clearly show that the industry is unwanted by the people and that their persistence is nothing but a waging of war against the people and planet. We should add, too, that militarization, violence, and conflicts are the templates on which the industry constructs its ever-rising inordinate profits.
Considering the above, it should be clear that fossil fuel extraction in Africa has little to do with employment, energy supply or boosting local economies. It is all about meeting the appetite for inordinate profits and of fossil fuels addicts. It is time to rethink the hard-headed marriage with the polluters.
A Harsh Reality
Just before COP27, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) issued an Emissions Gap report that aggregated the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that countries have made under the Paris Agreement and concluded that the puny pledges would do nothing to ward off impending catastrophic global heating. In fact, the report highlighted that the world should prepare for a temperature rise as high as 2.8 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by the close of this century. The report emphasised that the window to avert climate catastrophe was rapidly closing and that the world needs urgent transformation and deep actions to cut emissions by at least 45 percent by 2030.
The first jolt of COP27 was the release of a concept note on carbon removal activities under the Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement. That document defined carbon removals thus: Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) refers to anthropogenic activities that remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and ensure its long-term storage in terrestrial, geological, or ocean reservoirs, or in long-lasting products. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) can be part of CDR methods if the CO2 has been captured from the atmosphere, either indirectly in the form of biomass or directly from ambient air, and stored over the long term in geological reservoirs or long-lasting products.
Two things among others in the concept note raised concern. First, the reference to storage in ocean reservoirs. While it is not clear what these reservoirs would be, it signals a huge threat to ocean ecosystems. This was roundly denounced by groups such as the FishNet Alliance because using the ocean as carbon reservoirs or for any other geoengineering experimentation could sound the death knell for their livelihoods, cultures and spirituality. The notion of long-term storage suggests that there will be a terminal point or a time when the storage would cease to work. That means that the proponents of such measures are laying a load of trouble on future generations. Secondly, carbon capture and utilisation and indeed the entire paragraph reads like something lifted from the playbook of the fossil fuels industry. Before geoengineering entered the climate debate, oil companies had been capturing carbon and reinjecting into wells to push out more crude oil for burning and releasing of yet more carbon. If this specious definition is accepted, fossil fuel companies would be earning credits for committing more climate crimes by pumping more and more carbon into the atmosphere. It would again illustrate the hypocrisy of the carbon trading non-solutions and the net zero propositions, keep dirty fuels in business and allow the planet to hurtle to cataclysmic climate impacts.
For many nations and the fossil fuels lobby COP27 was a huge carbon trade fair. However, for civil society groups, indigenous groups, youths, women, and people of faith, it was a great space for interactions, networking, learning and actions. Real and actionable climate solutions were offered while the negotiators were largely busy wordsmithing and birthing non-solutions.
Lost and Damaged
The shining light of COP27 was the decision to have Loss and Damage. The Parties decided “to establish new funding arrangements for assisting developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, in responding to loss and damage, including with a focus on addressing loss and damage by providing and assisting in mobilizing new and additional resources, and that these new arrangements complement and include sources, funds, processes and initiatives under and outside the Convention and the Paris Agreement.” The COP came to this decision after acknowledging “the urgent and immediate need for new, additional, predictable and adequate financial resources to assist developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change in responding to economic and non-economic loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow onset events, especially in the context of ongoing and ex post (including rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction) action.”
Having Loss and Damage is indeed historic. However, the nitty gritty of the mechanisms to bring it to life is yet to be negotiated. Already there are signals that the USA and some others do not see the decision to have Loss and Damage as having anything to do with reparations or liability. What this portends is that unless those who have already been damaged by global warming speak up and insist that the unfolding crisis has both historical and systemic roots, this may be another tiresome ritual of quirky charity. Another bone that will have to be picked, will be how this relates to the already existing Green Climate Fund and how rich nations who have not met pledges made since COP15 will cross the hurdle to Loss and Damage. This may well be the pivotal time to go beyond celebrating the possibility of payments for loss and damage and demand the payment of a Climate Debt accumulated over centuries of exploitation, despoliation, imperial and colonial plunder. Loss and Damage cannot be charity.
An African COP?
Some had called COP27 the Africa COP but that was mere wishful thinking. Although the COP was held in Africa it did nothing to assure that temperature increases will not burn or cook the continent. Except for the acceptance of Loss and Damage there is no hope that more financial flows will come to the region. With our leaders insisting on digging up more fossil fuels, the hope of rescuing our environment continues to dim. The answer to the question as to what was gained at Sharm El Sheikh is thus blowing in the wind.
Seeing the Red Sea
Sharm El Sheikh is quite a peculiar place. While some could not gain accreditation to attend the COP, the hospitality businesses in the city squeezed all the profits they could from those who could. The people were generally friendly, and the taxi drivers were routinely kind enough to put out their ubiquitous cigarettes as a mark of courtesy. A ride on the Red Sea in a glass bottomed boats was a delight as one could see the state of the coral reefs in the area. Those who found time to visit Mount Sinai came back with tales of getting to the location of the Burning Bush that radically altered the trajectory of the life of Moses in the Bible. For this writer, the highlight of the two weeks in the Sinai Peninsular city were three guys. The first was the guy who took care of my hotel room and was lavish in the display of his artistic creativity. One day he used the towels in the room to create a heart and decorated it with bougainvillea flowers. On another day he used an assortment of items to create a baboon and hung it over the head of the bed. Swans were routine designs. The one that was an overkill was when he used my pyjamas, sandals, hat and pillows to create a full-bodied human form on the bed. It was not a good omen as it spoke to me of a dead or damaged COP. I was happy it was the day to leave and head home!
The other guys who made the stay exciting worked in a panoramic restaurant. They were jolly good fellows who offered excellent service and would get you to enjoy the delicacies they offered until your wallet wept for mercy. Medhat was one of the guys and was popularly known as Mike Tyson, because people said they had a resemblance. The other guy was Rabea, a very engaging guy who paid close attention to what you needed. And they often tried to make us dance, but the music in my head was a sombre climate negotiations elegy. Next time perhaps.
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