By Victoria Ngozi Ikeano
“May we never see another year 2020”. That is the ardent wish of 99.9 per cent of Nigerians, fashioned into a prayer. Virtually everyone is/was in a hurry to consign 2020 to the trash bin of history to be recalled in memory only occasionally in passing remembrance. Most people do not even want to recall or look back at it as it is replete with sad memories; memories that have left an indelible impression on us because of its resounding bang as it thumped un-relentlessly forward in its march right from its early weeks while we watched in wonderment and supplication. Whatever be the deep emotions it wrought on us, one thing is clear and true for all of us, we are/were all eager to see this year roll off as quickly as possible, to turn its husky back on us because we are/were in a hurry to bid it good bye. We are all hoping desperately that 2021 will be better than 2020. It is in the nature of human beings to keep hope alive and imagine better days are ahead as a shield of sorts to weather storms.
There was a similar expectation when year 2021 was being ushered in. Alas after the New Year festivities 0f 2020, we began to hear of a corona virus that was already wrecking havoc in Wahum, China, leading to complete lock down of that city. We considered it a rumour generally speaking and believed that it could not get to us, not only because of the huge physical gulf between us and china but also more importantly, we believed our genes are stronger than those of the white man and so can better withstand and foreign virus because we have generally survived many an illness notwithstanding our ‘messy’ environment, poor nutrition and general poverty levels including ill equipped hospitals/clinics. So, the average Nigerian lived in denial, conjuring conspiracy theories about the disease, explaining off those who died of the virus as having been killed by some other underlining sicknesses as diabetes, stroke and the like. This is the case with Kogi and Cross River states which governments continued to insist that they did not have a single case of corona virus.
We managed to celebrate St. Valentine Day on February 14, 2020. But by the end of February, our lives took an unexpected turn and we are yet to fully recover from its effects both individually as a person and collectively as a nation. This is because one foreigner imported the virus to our shores and others were subsequently infected in geometric progression. Thereafter the country soon joined other countries in the world in imposing a total lockdown for weeks. We could not go outside of our houses, freely mix with others or travel to anywhere. For Nigerians that mostly live on daily income basis, it was hell of a sort as they were grounded. Small, medium and large scale businesses, unemployed, underemployed and even the employed were adversely affected as prices of consumer goods and others skyrocketed due to non production worldwide during months of the lockdown. Marriage plans and other social activities were disorganized, put on hold. Physical church and Friday Jumat congregations were banned, Muslim and Christian pilgrimages for this year cancelled.
Our social lives became altered as new COVID-19 safety protocols emerged such as social distancing, frequent washing of hands and mask wearing. As at December 29, 2020 the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed 85,560 cases with 71,937 patients discharged and 1,267 deaths recorded in all “36 states and the Federal Capital Territory”. Over a thousand persons have been killed by the pandemic and hundreds others in isolaltion. Notable among them were the former Chief of Staff to President Mohammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari whose death more or less changed the complexion of the president’s kitchen cabinet, former Oyo state governor Ajumobi who was primed to be the ruling party’s chairman, billionaires and others. And now a new strain of the corona virus has been discovered in Nigeria, just as a second wave of the pandemic approaches us. The NCDC confirmed that Week 52 of 2020 recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases in a single week. So, in recent times, in the twilight of 2020 several other prominent Nigerians including top politicians, professors, heads of traditional institutions, business gurus, etc. have been felled by it. The newspaper industry was also hit with serial deaths of notable proprietors, the latest being Sam Nda-Isiah, founder of Leadership newspaper, Isa Funtua former president of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, (NPAN), Chairman of Peoples Daily newspaper, Wada Maina, and so on and so forth; not to talk of passing on of several other journalists across the land.
Unsurprisingly the country went into recession with dire economic consequences for all as the naira was devalued with concomitant debilitating results. Inflation was at an all-time high in 2020. And insecurity continued to haunt us even as the security agencies continue to do their best in the face of inadequate personnel, materials and poor remuneration. The insurgents in the north east continue to strike at what is called ‘soft targets’, maiming and killing people. Kidnappings and abduction for ransom continue to happen, even outright murders as in the case of the APC chairman in Nasarawa state, Phillip Shekwo, etc., etc. Some students of a secondary school in Katsina state were kidnapped, leading to the government ordering closure of all schools. This was a rather daring act, happening at a time when the commander-in-chief himself was in the state, his home state. The boys were later “rescued” by security agents. This year’s governorship election in Kogi, Bayelsa and Edo states was replete with high drama. What with the sacking of the presumed winner of the Bayelsa gubernatorial election as he was rehearing for his inauguration the next day and also the Supreme Court’s dismissal of a governor that had already been sworn-in and was settling down to work, for his rival who was immediately inaugurated. What about the ‘EndSars protests’, a youth revolt of sorts that took everybody by surprise.
Even now there is still tension in the political firmament as politicians continue their brickbats and shenanigans, rejigging and strategizing for 2023 with attendant conspiracy theories while the masses continue to wail over their dwindling economic fortunes. During the winding days of 2020, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called off their nine-month long strike action. That is to say that that the strike lasted for a whole academic session during which the students had nothing doing and literally roamed the streets. Thus 2021 would begin on a good note for these students as they are expected to resume school/classes after having wasted an academic session due to the ASUU strike. However, with the threat of another lock-down due to the surging COVID-19 this expectation may be delayed. Year 2020 gave us a mouthful, more than we could chew. It is a testament of the average Nigeria’s resilient spirit that we survived it. Bye bye 2020…never again!
Ikeano wrote from Nimo, Anambra state via firstname.lastname@example.org 08033077519