The year 2020 was supposed to be a great year. It was another Leap Year – the famed Olympic Games year when thousands of athletes worldwide participated in various competitions. This event brings together the entire human race. Since the commencement of Modern Olympics games in 1896, the international sports competition has been cancelled or postponed thrice. The three occasions have to do with world wars, 1916 during World War I, 1940 and 1944 during World War II.
Until the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, when the Summer Olympic games were postponed for a year, the Olympics weathered politically charged boycotts and two separate terrorist attacks without being cancelled or postponed during peacetime. Therefore, it is safe to say we experienced something as huge as a World War in this fleeting year 2020. Humans are in a war against an unseen enemy – Coronavirus. The battle is ongoing, and humans are far from winning it, but win it we must!
Nigerians are generally very spiritual people. While event planners emphasise weather forecasts in some countries, Nigerians resort to soliciting rainmakers’ assistance to keep their events free from rain disruptions. Nigerians who attended all manner of ‘crossover nights’ at the wee hours of 31st December 2019 were inundated with the prospects of the great Year 2020 when good, great things would happen, and prosperity would abound.
While some Nigerians may have experienced some improvements in their lives in the departing year, the Year 2020 is notoriously considered a disastrous year, a year of dark clouds. It is a year like no other in more than a century; a year most of those who lived it would pray and hope never to see its type in their lifetimes.
The year 2020 is the year of Covid-19, a global pandemic that brought the entire universe to her knees. Maybe Covid-19 is so powerful that it could blindfold even those who are supposed to have greater access to the almighty God and science.
Covid-19 triggered the biggest stock market crash since the Great Recession and great global economic crises never seen in recent times. The fallout of this is still ongoing and the impact yet to be fully known. The world economy is in tatters, and COVID-19 is still ravaging most lands. The heralding of the COVID-19 vaccines filled the air of later part of 2020. However, the world is grappling with the logistical nightmare of implementing the vaccination across the globe whilst developing countries are still battling with the vaccination’s enormous cost implications. Counter-narratives and conspiracy theories abound against taking the vaccines. These trends will play out properly in the year 2021.
The Year 2020 will be remembered as the year the world witnessed the murder of the unarmed black man by a white US police officer named Derek Chauvin when he knelt on George Floyd’s neck for nine and half minutes with the latter handcuffed and lying face down. This incident led to a protest all over the United States and many other countries of the world as people called for racial justice and an end to discrimination against black people.
In United States, the credibility and resilience of the US democratic system was put to test when President Donald Trump refused to concede an election in which he lost. Trump parroted all sorts of conspiracy theories to challenge his apparent loss and is bent on undermining his successor, President-elect Joseph Biden Jnr.
The year 2020 saw the exit of legendary footballer, Diego Amando Maradona, arguably the most extraordinary human to kick the round leather; famous basketball player, Kobi Bryant and the actor Chadwick Boseman, famously known as the Black Panther.
In Nigeria, we lost J. P. Clark and Chukwuemeka Ike, titans in the world of literature and the arts. Our music became poorer with the demise of Victor Olaiya and Majek Fashek. Simultaneously, political heavyweights like Abiola Ajumobi, Ismaila Isa Funtua, Abba Kyari and Buruji Kashamu all left for the great beyond. The recent death of my brother and friend, Sam Nda-Isaiah, media mogul and publisher of Leadership Newspapers was one of the low points of the Year 2020.
For Nigeria, the Year 2020 challenged the country in so many other ways. We entered another recession, the unemployment situation became direr, and the inflationary trend became worse, mostly because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The naira also lost a lot of value against the US dollar.
There are many positives, too, in 2020. The Federal Government led a campaign to create jobs for the youths, improved our transport infrastructure, especially the railways, and embarked on massive road construction and rehabilitation.
Although with a seemingly decrepit health infrastructure and care system, the government managed to fight off the devastating grip of COVID-19 and the doom predicted by the Western media never happened. COVID-19 infection and morbidity are significantly low in Nigeria compared with developed countries of the world. This low impact of Covid on African countries has posed an urgent challenge to scientists and researchers. Lockdowns, palliatives, facemasks, and social distancing became common words in our language of everyday discourse.
However, perhaps the greatest challenge for the country came around security. The attacks on soldiers, police officers and civilians by terrorists and bandits were phenomenal. From the 24th March ambush of Nigerian soldiers by Boko Haram where over 70 military men were killed to the Gubio massacre where Boko Haram killed 81 villagers in Borno State in June, to an attack in April where armed bandits slaughtered 47 Nigerians, Nigerians were overwhelmed by insecurity. The North-Eastern part of the country has received the brunt of these attacks to the extent that deaths of people less than a dozen is no longer considered a tragedy that merits headline news.
The security challenge got worse towards the end of the year with the 28th November Kwashebe Massacre during which 110 civilians and peasant farmers had their throats slit by Boko Haram terrorists. It is on record that Boko Haram killed more than 363 civilians between January and September 2000. Amnesty International is on record to have said that Boko Haram has killed over 10,000 civilians since 2011.
There was also the daring abduction of more than 300 schoolboys by bandits on motorcycles after storming the all-boys Government Science School in Kankara, Katsina State. Luckily, the students were freed unharmed after some gruelling days in captivity.
The security threats of terrorists and bandits were complimented by the heinous work of kidnappers, armed robbers, ritualists, and other criminals which have created an atmosphere of angst amongst most Nigerians. Nowhere in the country is safe from hoodlums who are effectively holding the country to ransom.
Bureaucratic incompetence also cost Nigeria and Nigerians dearly in 2020 as evidenced by the Abule-Ado explosion in Lagos State in which 15 people died, and 50 buildings were destroyed. Early investigations showed that a mismanaged gas pipeline caused the explosion.
The most significant concern for most Nigerians is that there is no visible silver lining in the Year 2021 as there seems to be no end in sight for our security challenges. We have a situation where we seem to be doing the same thing repeatedly while miraculously awaiting a different outcome. Nigerians seem to believe in God so much. This is not a bad thing, but the Holy book says faith without work is meaningless. Faith in God has its rightful place in the affairs of men. But when practical measures are neglected while emphasising hope, prayers, and supplications to God, it breeds unaccountability and impunity and makes a bad situation worse.
In 2020 we ran a deficit budget of over N3 trillion. However, we witnessed galloping spending and weakening revenues. The 2021 budget is not looking different. The trend remains as we plan to run a deficit budget of over N5 trillion. This has debt implications and must be adequately managed to get the economy right. The issue of debt servicing will continue to persist for Nigeria. There are no easy ways to demand a restructuring of loans or deferment of payments without significant adjustment to Nigeria’s credit rating. Nigeria needs to reflect on its debt use as linked to self-liquidating status or generating revenues in the longer-term.
Leaders, officials, and citizens responsible for different failures and catastrophes we experienced must be made accountable. After each destruction, each death, each disaster, we quickly bury the dead and embark on the reconstruction. The events are seemingly misconstrued as ‘acts of God’ over which no mortal being could have had control. Those whose incompetence or wilful acts led to the tragedies are given a free pass and allowed to roam free. Sometimes, they retain their positions and are given higher responsibilities that give them more room and impetus to perpetrate more damage either by omission or intentionality.
Seldomly, justice is denied the dead and bereaved families. We learn nothing, and things remain the same and impunity continues to reign unchecked.
#EndSARS has come and gone. Our youths rose to challenge police brutality. The government responded with swift reforms and has set in place judicial inquiry to draw the imbroglio lessons to improve our society. Have we learnt anything from #ENDSARS?
If Nigerians must get it right in the Year 2021, we should take a holistic look at our situation, processes, and methods. We should start by ensuring that people are held accountable for their actions and inactions. In any society where there are no consequences for wrongdoing or inefficiency, there is an incentive to do the wrong things, and there will be no reason for deterrence. Punishment is the natural response to irresponsibility by those we entrust collective assignments.
Every Nigerian life must matter, and whoever is responsible for a Nigerian death should be made to face the music. There should be political responsibility as well. When policies and strategies do not work, those who are responsible should be removed. It should not matter whether they did their best. It should matter that their best was not good enough.
This is how our country should work. This is how sane societies operate. Nigeria cannot be different. We should never accept mediocrity or ineptitude. We have the human and material resources to make a great country. What is lacking is our ability to do simple things, to focus on what is essential. We are perpetually sequestered in political and ethnic disputes and rancour while the nation bleeds, and the helpless, hapless, and increasingly hopeless citizenry are continually traumatised.
Let the Year 2020 be the end of our old ineffective, unworkable ways. Let the Year 2021 usher in a better, brighter, greater country.