By Sunny Awhefeada
One incontestable fact is that 2020 was a year of trepidation. It was a year that humanity will never forget. Stories will be made out of it for generations to come. Such a year as 2020 is never lost to history. By family records, none of my grandparents was up to fifteen years of age in 1918. That means that my parents were not even born then. They were born three and four decades later respectively. However, an incident that shook the world in 1918 some many decades before I was born was so central to aspects of my studies that it appeared as if I was a witness to it. The Influenza of 1918 which claimed twenty million lives has been a subject matter not just in History, but almost every discipline or field of study. That incident was magnified in all its dreadful manifestation as wonjo in Elechi Amadi’s The Great Ponds. It also popped up, significantly, in 20th Century British Literature or what some called Modernist Literature. In the global melee that was caused by COVID-19, the Influenza became a benchmark for evaluating the pandemic in every ramification. 1918 was not just the year of the Influenza, but it was also the year that the First World War ended. But it is now mostly remembered for the Influenza.
The Nigeria of 2020 was not only haunted by COVID-19, it was a year of many battles and casualties. The world, and not just Nigeria, was in a hurry to put the year behind it. Back home in Nigeria, the year was characterized by the acute failure of government and the nation descended into a phenomenon that was worse than an ungoverned state of nature beyond what Thomas Hobbes conjectured. The ills that afflicted our country and people were inconceivable, daunting and dehumanizing.
We were bruised beyond the worst we had imagined. It was for that that those who made it to 2021 gave thanks to God for seeing them through the horrors of the long dark night that 2020 turned out to be.
Every New Year is heralded by greetings and wishes that speak to hopes and aspirations. When all is lost, when disillusionment sets in and it looks as if the world was coming down on one, there is always that thread no matter how tiny or nebulous that one can cling unto. The thought of that thread, weak or vague as it is, limns the inner recesses of one’s heart and strengthens one to hold on and plod on. That is hope. It was not for anything that our street philosophers insist on a daily basis that “when there is life there is hope”.
And it was hope that charted the dawn of 2021. Not a few people waited for midnight to be ushered into 2021 by hope. Anxiety and fear loomed, but hope was there bringing smiles and inspiration that “All will be well”. Let us first have life and then hopefully “All will be well”.
I do not think that many people had time to make resolutions for 2021. In truth, these are no times for resolutions which are broken the second after they are made. These are times for deep engagements with hope, not just any hope, but the kind that runs very deep. Our nation is fractured and the citizens are at the receiving end of all that is bad. The agonizing reality is that government seems to be doing nothing or not enough to alleviate our plight. Besides COVID-19, much of what ravaged Nigeria in 2020 was essentially the consequences of the monumental failure of government at all levels.
The afflictions that came with such a failure were both personal and collective and they are innumerable. Government made life miserable for Nigerians in 2020. Take for instance the fate of judicial officers in the magistracy of Cross River State whose show boy governor takes delight in entertaining Nigerians with pretended flashes of brilliance and an equal dosage of tears. The magistrates are owed salaries of twenty four months. Their headache was thus more than triple. COVID-19 and living without salary for 24 months must be perilous as the dreadful consequences will be uncountable and unimaginable.
There is a certain feeling of renewal at every new turn. This feeling is more dominant during a New Year. The dawn of 2021 offers us such a feeling no matter how vague. When we wish one another “Happy New Year”, we do so in anticipation that “All will be well”. Each day brings us a reality for good or bad. Even if any of such days succumbs to Tai Solarin’s “May your road be rough”. Some are wont to argue that nothing has changed and that 2021 is a continuum of 2020. I choose optimism over pessimism. God will certainly abridge our affliction and I do know that tribulation does have an expiry date. Yes, there are all round us the indices that made 2020 hell.
COVID-19 is having a rebound in a more virulent form. Anxiety is mounting over another lockdown. Boko Haram, bandits and kidnappers are still holding sway killing our people every day. Corruption remains on the upward swing. The police are crawling back extorting and shooting people. Federal Government is begging cap in hand for money to fund 2021 budget when that of 2020 was a colossal failure.
The question then is, where is reprieve coming from? Reprieve shall come from within. It shall come from inside us. Individually, we need to think deep, meditate even, and make choices with consequences that can act as bulwarks against adversity. Turbulence never lasts. When it comes, there is always this feeling of hopelessness which only a deep inner strength can subdue. We must therefore think deep and wear a psychological amour against the buffetings of today. The smile which only hope can induce will be our shield. Let laughter provide a veil for our pains.
As we think deep and make choices, we must also work hard. Let us not recline and bemoan our fate. We must do something anywhere and wherever we find ourselves. The task of rebuilding our country should not be left in the hands of others. Let us all join hands. Let us work and sweat. But we must remember to wipe off the sweat and smile in anticipation of the good to come. Yes, let us work, “All will be well”.
2021 is not just another year. It opens a new decade. Let us think, make our choices and work for ourselves and for our country Nigeria, so that at the end of the decade we can look back and see what gains we have made. There must be no loss.
Whatever confounds us today is not insurmountable in the face of strong will. Insecurity is manmade and so is the legion of other maladies undoing us. They can also be eradicated by man. Nigeria is stirring. There is an emerging consensus that things cannot remain the way they are. When that consensus is fully built and Nigerians must have thought, made their choice and worked for it, then “All will be well”.