So much has happened in the last year that it seems every single event that should have been spread out over the course of five years was stuffed into one and we were expected to somehow roll with the punches. We did, somehow and we are here in 2018. With the glow of a new year, tinting our lenses, we can look back on 2017 and pick out some of the major moments that we think transcended pop culture and shot up straight into history-making territory.
THE MEDIA MACHINE THAT IS DONALD TRUMP
Of course, everyone but straight white American evangelicals could see that electing President Donald Trump into power was a bad idea. But none of us could have predicted just how much of a bad idea the former reality tv star and housing magnate would be for the American people and the wider world.
Trump rode into 2017 on a chariot of racist ideologies, Islamophobia and an irrational disdain for Obama and the policies he had put to law when he was in office. And Donald went to work, strong-arming the American Republican Senate into aiding him to dismantle the policies Obama had created and the progress he had made. Trump fought and failed to institute a travel ban that would have targeted Muslim nations, he spent the bulk of the year attacking the Affordable Care Act, a healthcare policy that required insurance companies to put to proper use the premiums they require of users and cover over 330 million Americans. He didn’t manage to repeal the Act, but he managed to cripple it sufficiently that nearly 10 million children and elderly persons are now without insurance. Trump came for taxes, revamping government policies to provide tax breaks for America’s richest persons while punishing others. He publicly bullied diplomats and leaders from other countries and insisted on holding on to his personal Twitter account, through which he sent out unfiltered ‘thoughts’ on public policy, international diplomacy and the lives of other public persons. He has already been threatened with impeachment, and held one of the lowest approval rates of any president of the United States, ever. And of course, who could forget President Trump wading into the decades-long dispute between Palestine and Israel and escalating the discord between them for the opportunity to proclaim ‘Jerusalem’ the capital of Israel, the final act that saw the vast majority of countries in the United Nations publicly defying the head of the free world. And we are only in his first year in office.
Trump might be impeached in 2018, or he might end up running the full course of his first term, whichever one happens, it is certain that Donald Trump will cast as huge a shadow on 2018 as he has on 2017.
THE NAIJA RAT PACK GREW UP AND HELD THE COUNTRY’S ATTENTION
Anyone who follows pop-culture knows about the rat pack of Hollywood’s 1950s and the brat pack of the 1980s, two distinct groups of entertainment inclined friends who went on to define the zeitgeist of their generations. Since 2014, a Nigerian iteration of this phenomenon has risen out of the chaos of social media influence and become one of the most followed and admired group of men in the country for their individual talents and their near-impenetrable bond, Nigeria’s very own “rat pack”. Olamide Adedeji, the Demuren brothers, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, Bankole Wellington, and Noble Igwe form the very heart of this pack and through an extensively documented social media presence on Instagram they have risen to become a media phenomenon all of their own. They have held the country’s attention most thoroughly through their transitions from bachelorhood into marriage and fatherhood, turning their wives, often unknown prior into instant celebrities.
In 2017 Banky W broke the ‘Naija Rat Pack’ mould when he announced his quiet engagement to actress Adesua Etomi, who was bringing some mega star power of her own into their union. Their engagement piggybacked off the insane digital footprint “The Wedding Party” had amassed the year before and drove speculation about their impending wedding into overdrive. It remained one of the most speculated media events of the year eclipsing major concerts and conferences. However, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu came right out of the nowhere and became the biggest news item of the Wedding of the Year, his influence springboarding designer Ugo Monye into stardom and an estimated 59,000 followers in the month since Obi-Uchendu wore of the designer’s Spring 2018 Agbadas to the wedding. With a little help from the South African Tourism board, the ‘Naija Rat Pack’ and their friends and associates created a continent-wide destination wedding spectacle that is still being discussed today.
The ‘Naija Rat Pack’ has our undivided attention now, and it will be interesting to see what gold they can spin from it.
WIZKID AND DAVIDO PLAYED THE MEDIA GAME AND WON
On the 24th of December 2017, during the much anticipated Wizkid ‘Homecoming’ concert, Wizkid pulled to the stage a surprise guest. It was the last person anyone expected that Wizkid would grant audience let alone a performance slot on his victory lap. But as Wizkid and Davido sang ‘Fia’, the latter’s monster hit from 2017, they publicly quashed a feud that had kept both of them in the news and fueled music and gossip blogs all year. Two days later they cemented their reconciliation when Davido returned the favour, bringing Wizkid onto his stage to perform ‘Manya’, the Starboy’s holiday hit. Nigerian millennials wept for joy, taking to social media to share and reshare pictures of the ‘reconciliation’, joining the voices to the chorus revelling in this new united front.
There is some level of naivete within me that truly wants to believe that Wizkid and Davido have truly feuded all year, and genuinely reconciled but it is hard to shake the nagging feeling that this feels more like a media long-con, using the collective fandoms of both artists to drum up record sales and increase engagement and then publicly quashing a feud that existed only on social media during highly anticipated concerts. Whatever the truth is, it doesn’t take away the fact Davido and Wizkid have proved their mettle this year and cemented their places in the constellation of Nigerian musical greats, winning several international awards including the MTV Europe Music Awards and the British MOBO’s. There is still some way to go, but what these men have achieved in 2017 is nothing short of phenomenal.
NIGERIAN SPORTS PERSONS CONTINUE TO DOMINATE THE SPORTING WORLD
The Y!/YNaija.com 2016 Person of the Year was the country’s Paralympic team who went to the 2016 Paralympics after a poor outing at the Olympics and redeemed the country, ranking 17th on the global medals table and first on the African medals table with an unprecedented 12 gold medals and several new world records. In 2017, athletes like the phenomenal Anthony Joshua took up the mantle, winning the world heavyweight title and the celebrated Nigerian Olympic Bobsled team who, without the government’s support, trained themselves and qualified for a coveted spot at the 2018 Winter Olympics, becoming the first African team to achieve that feat. There was also of course, a return to form for the Nigerian Football team who finally qualified for the World Cup after several previous upsets and the Nigerian Super Falcons who again, ended the year as the top team on the continent.
THE WAVE OF FINTECH GREW IN 2017
Many people worry that the tech explosion in Nigeria is only a bubble and there are no real ways to scale all the ideas and startups that are being established with alarming speed. In many ways, 2017 put that assertion to test and proved it wrong, particularly in the fintech subsector. Managing money has always been a problem Nigerians want solved and several young Nigerians stepped into the fray, building world-class options for Nigerians. There is, of course, the beacon that is former Andela head Iyin Aboyeji’s Flutterwave, which has revolutionised payment options in Nigeria and beyond and won the coveted Fintech Award at the 2017 Apps Africa Digital Innovation Awards. There of course is Ezra Olubi and Shola Akinlade’s Paystack which crossed the N1 billion mark in monthly transactions and has become an invaluable part of the ecosystem for young businesses looking to conduct business outside of the often tiring and restrictive bureaucracy of new generation banks, and Timi Ajiboye’s Bitkoin Africa, wading fearlessly into the oft-misunderstood world of virtual coin markets. The wave of Fintech hasn’t beached like many predicted, and it hasn’t receded with the tide. 2018 will be instrumental to see how these businesses evolve.
THE WORD WIELDERS OF 2017
TED, the internationally renowned non-profit returned to Arusha, Tanzania after a ten-year hiatus to recap on the decade that followed its first wave of revolutionary talks and brought a number of young thinkers out of Africa into the global spotlight, including a writer called Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This return to Arusha reminded us of just how powerful public speaking can be, especially when words are wielders by doers, whose narratives are built on a foundation of personal field experience. TEDGlobal2017 introduced us to a new crop of impassioned visionaries, but none as transcendental as Olutimehin Adegbeye, a Nigerian based social activist and feminist writer whose talk ‘Who Belongs In A City’ spread through the world like wildfire, quickly amassing a million views in less than month and shedding much needed light on the forced evictions of indigenous fishing communities in Lagos state. Along with Nnedi Okorafor, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, Ike Ude, Yvonne Chioma Mbanefo and 8 other Nigerians, TEDGlobal2017 became a soapbox for mediations on a New Nigeria.
But it wasn’t the only place where Nigerians shone. Adebola Williams brought ex-president Barack Obama to his feet with his impassioned speech at the closing session of the Obama Foundation 2017 Summit, capping a year of public speaking tours that included a keynote address at the Said Business School in Oxford University and talks at the Face Africa Wash Gala in New York, the Columbia University Business School and the Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs to name a few. Nigerian born writer and activist Ijeoma Oluo became the face of the public conversation around race when she profiled infamous activist and transrace-tivist Rachel Dolezal and spent the rest of the year steering the conversation around race in America. And of course, who could forget Buzzfeed editor’s riveting panel on sexual violence at the 2017 Ake Festival.
But it wasn’t just public speaking in which we excelled, we also dominated the literary scene in 2017. At the front of the pack is Nigerian born, Commonwealth Prize-winning writer Lesley Nneka Arimah, whose debut collection of short stories “What it Means When A Man Falls From The Sky” eclipsed every other book this year, garnering dozens of nominations and winning its fair share of awards. Ayobami Adebayo also rose to prominence after nearly a decade since she first started musing at Saraba Mag, her debut novel ‘Stay With Me’ ending up on the most best year lists and having the unique honour of being the last book reviewed by revered critic Michiko Kakutani. There was of course Tomi Obaro and Reggie Ugwu of Buzzfeed whose cutting essay on Nigerian life became instant classics and Akwaeke Emezi whose experimental debut has been building up steam nearly a year before it is even released. Along with Uzodinma Iweala and Olumide Popoola, this trinity are bound to dominate the global conversation on literature in 2018.
Harvey Weinstein was a powerful man before October 2017 but he had no idea that he would soon become the world’s most infamous man. Thanks to a New York Times article painstakingly researched on by journalist Ronan Farrow, son to actress Mia Farrow and director Woody Allen who was accused of sexually assaulting his own adopted daughter Dylan Farrow, several high profile Hollywood actress came forward with personal testimony corroborated by witnesses that documented decades of sexual harassment and manipulation by Weinstein. In the weeks that followed nearly 80 women came forward with testimonies of their own, effectively ending Weinstein’s career and starting an avalanche of public accusations that have exposed several high powered men in journalism, film, finance and industry and started an all-important conversation about sexual assault and rape in professional settings. The #MeToo Campaign which was started nearly a decade ago has become the biggest, most important event of 2017, eclipsing the #WomensMarch of early 2017, in response to President Donald Trump who makes this list and is also a serial offender when it comes to sexual assault.
The ripple effect of the #MeToo campaign spread even here in Nigeria, with a number of women openly discussing their rapes and assaults and naming their alleged attackers. With the number of violent attacks on women, including the horrific Falomo Rape incident early in 2017 and the disheartening case of Obiamaka Orakwue who was raped to death in her own bedroom by hoodlums who broke into her parents home while she was asleep. The #MeToo movement has been slow to yield tangible legal results in Nigeria, but it has fostered so many important conversations on rape and consent already, a conversation we suspect will only grow more complex in 2018. We welcome this, it is long overdue.
We can scarcely cover everything of note that happened in 2017, which is why we ask that you step in and use the comments, and the power of social media to help us document the events that we missed.
Happy New Year, and may your year eclipse the whirlwind of a year 2017 was.