By Sunny Awhefeada
Once upon a time the thought of the end of one year and the approach of another elicited joy and expectations. In between the outgoing and the incoming year is a moment of transition that was marked by stocktaking, conviviality, merriment, then sober reflections and resolutions. We truly felt the transition from an old year to a new one and we were all happy or so we thought as children? My earliest concrete memories of the old and New Year phenomenon were formed in Evwreni, then a somnolent community where a teachers’ training college was located. My family lived in the staff quarters of the college. All around us was vast grassland with fruit trees dotting the somber landscape. Our existence revolved around the home, classroom and farm. The grassland would be thick and lush green grass of different species till the month of November when the blaring sun would compel them to wither. Then the chill and dry harmattan wind of December would turn the hitherto lush green grass into brown, frail and brittle strands waiting to be consumed by the implacable harmattan fire.
The coming of the harmattan was the most telling sign that the year was old and ready to give way to a new one. This was marked by a lot of frenzy to get a lot of things done and finished with so that we can take on new things and tasks in the New Year. The harmattan fire was a regular occurrence and we all enjoyed watching it as rabbits, squirrels and rodents scamper for safety. The hawks also played their own games with the raging fire as they dived and plunged into it as if offering themselves as burnt offering and then fly off again to show off their mastery of aerial gymnastics. In all of this, the allure of Christmas made audible by the sonority of carols and visible by the gaiety of everybody was unmistakable.
It was in that mood of anticipation that people looked back at the passing year, evaluate it and look forward to a happy new year. It was always thought that the New Year would be different and better that the old year. In truth, the New Year then was not only always refreshing and inspiring, but opened up new directions, kindled new aspirations and engendered the realizations of hope.
The foregoing was once upon a time! The New Year of our recent past has been antithetical to the one of my childhood and teens. New Year has become a moment of uncertainty that is bound to trepidation. Fear and anxiety, disillusionment and ennui, indecision and intimations of catastrophe have combined to maroon our country and citizens on an island of unhappiness with a profound sense of hopelessness.
Nothing has changed and nothing is changing, at least for now. Things remain as they were last year, the year before last year and the year before the year before last year….The people seem to have given up and are waiting for the worst to happen.
Government has also given up, but pretending to be in charge. Yet, everybody knows that our country is spiraling out of country. It is like a drama with an anarchic plot that can only be resolved by a deus ex machina.
The year 2021 was worse than 2020 which was adjudged annus horribilis!
The near apocalyptic experience of 2021 is a reflection of the failure of governance which ultimately inheres in failed state status. Government was simply helpless, or to borrow their word clueless in all of 2021. The breed in government today lacks the critical and mental rigour that is needed to confront and resolve the many oddities being thrown up by the new world order that has come upon us. When Bill Gates carpeted the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) some years ago, government squealers worked themselves into a frenzy to defend the vacuous policy. Later, the government went on to launch an agenda for 2050 and of late it came up with a development plan. That a government will come up with three different economic plans in four years speaks to heightened confusion and coming to its wit’s end.
Nigerians are confronted by many challenges that have made the New Year taste like ash in their mouth. These challenges are largely the social, economic and political consequences of the failure of governance the magnitude of which remains unprecedented. National aspirations when pursued and fulfilled reflect in good life for the citizens.
In the same manner, national aspirations when blown off and violated can result in doom for citizens. This is the Nigerian dilemma. Those entrusted with the onerous task of realizing our national aspirations have either gone to sleep or are intoxicated by the brew of power. In their soporific state, they are not able to configure the essence of nationhood.
For Nigeria, the essence of citizens’ wellbeing in 2021 had frightening indicators. The exchange rate ran riot with over N400 going for just $1, inflation standing gidigba at 15%, unemployment rate as tall as 32% and a staggering debt profile!
The unpalatable manifestations of the foregoing include, but not limited to grinding poverty, acute hunger, disease, death, failure of infrastructure, collapse of health and educational institutions, insecurity, hyper lawlessness woven into disorder and anarchy.
These indices tormented us in 2020 and 2021. They are already intractable and they have started torturing us in 2022! Two days ago the minister of finance carried out a budget briefing in Abuja. Drab, uninspiring and lackluster, the briefing told us nothing new. The ministry officials yawned and yawned and probably had tea later and left. Same day, the president granted an interview that also gave us nothing to hope for.
That interview shouldn’t have been. It gave us nothing new, nothing to be happy about. Those who dragged the President out for that interview must have recoiled in embarrassment by now. They should have left the old man to enjoy his tuwo shinkafa and sovour fura de nono quietly and await his exit in May 2023.
This is the first week into 2022 and we are still inundated by the same gory happenings that have plagued us for a decade now. Nigerians have given up to fatality. But I insist this shouldn’t be so. Nigeria are many Nigerians who want the country to work and who still believe that our country can be salvaged. We must neither resign nor give up for Nigeria.
We must regroup and together envision a new destiny for our country. Until we do so and engender a national aspiration for Nigeria, we can neither have a new nor happy year in the true sense of it.