Enter the year of politics, sports
It’s a new dawn and new challenges over the next 12 months. Deputy Editor (News) ADENIYI ADESINA examines the issues that are likely to shape the world this year.
Welcome to the year of politics and sports.
There will continue to be diplomatic tussle on the world stage for economic and military superiority. There will be scientific discoveries; climate change will still be dominant as usual in spite of the United States (U.S.) pulling out of the Paris Agreement but politics and sports will take the centre stage this year.
North Korea and its eccentric leader Kim Jong Un will remain on the front burner. The ‘Rocket Man’ is believed to be getting set to fire another missile this month in spite of protestation from all including its ally, China.
From Hockey World Cup in India to the Commonwealth Games in Australia, the winter Olympics in South Korea – amid the fear of the North Korean nuclear threat – to the football World Cup, the single largest sport fiesta, holding in summer in Russia, sport is it.
The June World Cup will be one of the two important events holding in Russia this year. The second is the general election in March. President Vladimir Putin will get another six-year term on completion of which he will become the longest ruler in Russia’s modern history.
It’s a new dawn in Liberia. Former World’s best footballer George Weah, will take office as President after a landslide victory in a second round ballot against Vice President Joseph Boakai.
Nigeria will be full of action because the politicking for the 2019 elections will take place this year. The elections are billed for next year’s February and March.
Party primaries to pick candidates and the stumping will happen this year as the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after regaining its groove with a relatively successful convention, gears up to dislodge the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from Aso Villa.
Ekiti, Osun governorship polls
Governorship elections are billed for mid-year in two south west states – Ekiti and Osun.
Governors Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti) and Rauf Aregbesola (Osun) are ineligible to contest. A grueling battle for the top positions is predicted. The governors won’t find it easy to instal successor.
No doubt, the elections will be rancorous and the two major parties will be stretched thin. Already, the scramble to be standard bearers is fully on course.
History will be made in Cuba where power will change hands from a Castro to another person for the first time in 58 years.
After two unsuccessful attempts, Fidel Castro, supported by his brother Raul and other radicals, took over the reins after President Fulgencio Batista fled the country in 1959.
Many Cubans never knew any other ruler than a Castro because revolutionary leader Fidel Castro loomed so large until he was bedridden and had to vacate office in 2008 for his brother and long-standing deputy, Raul.
Raul was head of the armed forces and defence minister before he became Fidel’s deputy and successor-designate.
It is to Raul’s credit that socialism was reformed and there was a thaw in the frosty relationship between Cuba and the U.S. to the extent that they have restored diplomatic relationship.
The 86-year old is stepping down after two terms of 10 years.
President Donald Trump will know how much he has impacted his people with his’ America First’ and ‘Make America Great’ slogans, when the mid-term elections are held in the United States in November. It will be a referendum on his presidency.
Many senatorial and House seats will be up for contest as well as some governorship seats. The teaser to what is to come is Trump’s Republican loss of an Alabama senate seat to the Democrats for the first time in 25 years.
South American countries will get new leaders after elections across the major countries of that continent.
Brazil, which has been bedeviled by political crises and allegations of graft against its political class, will elect a president in October following Mexico’s presidential poll in July.
How do you handle Trump? That question will dominate the campaign. The U.S. President is insistent on building a wall on the United States border with Mexico, with a warning that Mexico will pick the bill, without saying how.
Mexicans will elect a leader who can best handle the matter in Mexico’s overriding national interest.
Columbia will in May hold its first presidential election since the armistice with the FARC rebels. The end of one of the longest running wars will determine the economic situation of the country.
European countries Sweden and Italy are also due to pick new parliament and prime ministers. While the Catalonia Independence bid in Spain will dominate headlines in the year.
The result of the election called by Madrid after sacking the government in the rich region in which the separatists carried the day, is a slap in the face of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Congo will also be able to shake off the Kabila dominance which started in 1997 when Laurent Kabila overthrew dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and assumed leadership.
His son Joseph took over in January 2001 after Laurent was assassinated by one of his bodyguards.
President Joseph Kabila had to be pressured by the International community to allow election which will hold later this year.
Kabila completed his constitutional two terms and kept the country in abeyance thereafter.
He neither set a date for election nor sought constitutional amendment for tenure elongation. He only said there was no money to conduct an election.
The opposition which saw this as tenure elongation by subterfuge picked up the gauntlet.
When the vast country with the second highest population on the African continent was becoming ungovernable, the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) intervened and a date for election set. Will Kabila respect it?
South Africa will also politick a lot this year although the general election to pick President Jacob Zuma’s replacement is next year.
However, there is a possibility that Zuma may be ousted before he is due to exit.
The president’s hold on the African National Congress (ANC) is ebbing.
Zuma supported his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the party’s leadership position but Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, with whom he is estranged, was elected. Ramaphosa, one of the ANC leaders that the late President Nelson Mandela pushed to boost the Black men in business and who enjoys the confidence of the business community, is poised to become the next President of the Republic.
Britain will know its fate and its new economic direction as the Brexit negotiations get to a critical point.
The world’s attention will also be glued to the UK in May when Prince Harry takes American Meghan Merkel to the altar in a marriage that will shatter many royal traditions.
While Nigeria will be nominally represented at the Winter Olympics, the same cannot be said of the World Cup in June in Russia.
The Super Eagles, carrying Nigeria’s flag in the same group with Croatia, Iceland and Argentina, are expected to put up a great performance and break the country’s World Cup Performance record.
This will be Nigeria’s sixth appearance since 1994’s debut, but the country has never progressed beyond the second round. A quarter final place, and a defeat of Argentina, which defeated the Eagles in the last five editions will bring smile to the faces of soccer-loving Nigerians.