Life! A hazy phenomenon; difficult to comprehend and make sense of. Life is not always fair to us humans. Even looking at it from the religious angle, there would be the fall from grace, the departure from paradise, and the attendant woes that mankind has faced since the days of creation. A scientific angle also tells of an unfair life — a big bang and the struggle for survival. Thus, those who could adapt became the most likely to survive, and by humans' sheer intellect and ability to reason, they rose through the ranks to sit atop the table of evolved living things — the homo sapiens.
However, what has helped the human race goes beyond intellect and the ability to reason. There is also hope, which doubles as the basis of many people's faith. There is the hope that they would wake up the next day, live a fulfilled life and achieve their dreams; hope that Nigeria would be great again and experience true and positive change despite the visible signals. This unexplainable hope sparks the fire in the average human and keeps them going even when life is dealing them heavy blows.
No matter how indifferent anyone wants to feel about the end of the year, and no matter how much justification anyone draws as to the seeming indifference between April 4 and December 31, seasons like this — when the curtains at the edge of the year start to gravitate toward each other — bring us this nostalgic feeling. When the year draws to an end, it does indeed have a certain level of influence on us, our moods, and how we see things. Reviews and feedback are part of our everyday dealings, and sometimes, we are even on the lookout for them. What do other people say about you? How has my conduct been these past few months? Closely related to feedback and reviews is yet another human phenomenon — resolutions.
When humans face challenges, and life constantly attempts to knock them down, they live through it and strive, continually hoping that they will overcome one day. As one year draws to a close, hopes are revived that the coming year will bear some goodness in its arms. Humans gather at worship places, pubs, bukataria, mam-put, around a fire, and at the dining table to hope and make wishes for the new year, expressing resolutions of the sincere desires of their hearts that they would love to achieve. Whether or not such resolutions see the light of fulfilment is a subject for another piece.
As hope is always to the human heart at the end of an old year, it was towards the end of 2020. An arduous and draining year that took away our loved ones, left us in a state of mental anguish, robbed us of our freedom, and almost drove us crazy was finally coming to an end. The Year of the Pandemic was ending, and although all that we could hold on to was a decrease in the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were hopes, though not as heightened as those that ushered in the year 2020, that things would get much better in the year 2021. That we would once again find our feet. That we would leave the realm of those struggling to survive and join the league of those who are willing and prepared to thrive. The brush with death jolted humans worldwide to a more awakened reality. Although the new year arrived on the wings of uncertainty, humans were more willing to hope, push, and aim.
But how have we fared this past year? As a people, a nation, or a sovereign state of different entities? What is Nigeria's scorecard in the year 2021? If there were to be one apt phrase to describe how 2021 was for Nigerians, it would be "The Year Without Resolutions." That is a double entendre for people's unanimous decisions not to make new year resolutions or be overly optimistic on what the year would bring. We were bitten once by the stark difference in the reality that 2020 brought when hopes were at their highest. We had been struck so hard that we became doubly shy or, maybe, terrified. As a result, there were no big goals or resolutions. All we had were people willing to nurse their wounds, survive, and work hard to get back on track.
The first quarter of 2021 started with many feet dragging and struggles, especially because of the dregs from the traumatic experience of the coronavirus pandemic. The year came with a somewhat unanimous agreement that Nigerians have an unfathomable tough skin when it comes to the fear of the virus or its consequences. People suddenly stopped caring about wearing a nose mask or observing social distancing. Religious places became crowded again, and handwashing stations went out of service. The virus was gone as far as anyone cared; the pandemic had been conquered. But was it?
Countries were trying to make sense of what was left of their resources, and Nigeria was no exception. Borders had just been reopened in the last month of 2020 when Nigeria was coming to terms with the full brunt of the border closure. A hike in the prices of goods, especially food items, was seen, which the country amazingly sustained till the end of the year — one of the few things we have been able to endure as a country, albeit negatively.
Another ill that came with the first three months of 2021 was the heightening of herdsmen's brazened attacks on crops and crop owners alike. The herdsmen were attacking with reckless abandon, and the silent inaction of the man seated in Aso Rock, the Commander-in-Chief of the country's Armed Forces, seemed to be all that the herdsmen needed as permission to continue their rampage. To them, the refusal to voice disapproval was as good as approval. The attacks and rampage increased drastically in the first few months that they became matters of national discourse. And although we have not been able to stabilize the economy nor maintain an uninterrupted power supply, we sustained another thing — herdsmen attacks. Another bad thing.
These herdsmen attacks formed the basis for many other things that would come in the year: the initial reason for Chief Sunday Igboho's actions; the reason for the formation of the South Western Security Outfit (Amotekun); the reason for the formation of the Eastern Security Outfit (Ebube Agu), but to mention a few. The herdsmen attacks sparked unrest among Nigerians in different parts of the country, as the non-prosecution of the herdsmen sent a message of undue advantage to the other ethnic groups in the country. And what's more? The unscrupulous interventions of Sheikh Gumi and the zero repercussions they drew from the federal quarters. These were the basic indicators that made regions and individuals take the laws into their own hands.
For many, 2021 was a stagnant year, and stagnancy never does any good. Definitely, it will not do our country any good! The goal was to recalibrate and start taking forward steps, but some phenomena made this impossible, one of such being the bag of jetlag and accumulated hubris that 2020 left on the shoulders and in the hearts of many people. The year 2021 was when the Nigerian youth struggled to remain sane, to hold their ground that there was truly a massacre at Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020, that many young people were murdered. Against the ridiculous shenanigans of a discovered camera and the compounded strategies to debunk and strip the truth of its authenticity, there shot out a pang — an agonizing pang that stayed with the youth for the better part of 2021. It was not enough that their country betrayed them; the country was also acting grossly irresponsible, calling them a horde of insane and delusional people who did not see what happened on October 20, 2020, and were only imagining it. The sheer thoughts of this weighed down on many young people; it was a drawback.
The year without resolutions — 2021. ASUU strike is still largely unresolved; members of the ASUU are still aggrieved and justifiably so. We saw the strike action from judicial workers, the one from health workers — a queue of strike actions to prove that there was hardly any aspect of this nation that the leadership could get right. 2021 was far from being a year of unity. Or rather, it was a year of compartmentalized unity, in which unity only existed among ethnic groups, and Nigeria could not put up a united front as a nation. In 2021, there was no significant improvement in the standard of living of Nigerians: no stable electricity supply; no better healthcare, nothing! Things degenerated. To name a few, there has been inflation, a drastic drop in the value of the national currency, borrowing upon borrowing, a fall in the value price of oil, our national Messiah.
Beyond all this, we also saw a government that established itself as the quintessential stagnancy with the ban on Twitter, cryptocurrency, forex trading — bans that were made to help mask the ineptitude of those at the helm of the nation's affairs. If you have run out of ideas on what to do to stabilize the worth of the country's currency, why take out the backlash on citizens who are sincerely seeking a means to earn a living? Experts have touted blockchain technology, fintech, and cryptocurrency as the future of money and finance, yet Nigerian leaders are trying to deprive the citizens of the early benefits of what the future will be. This time, not at the hands of slave masters or external exploiters, but at the hands of our leaders, the people we were supposed to trust. When the rave of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology utterly consume the financial world in the next fifty years, what shall we say of the average Nigerian?
During the mid to late 2021, when Nigerians started to have a glimmer of hope, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed another of its many sides; that it is a mutating virus. Then came the Delta variant at the heels of the vaccines. The Delta variant ravaged; perhaps it ravages still. And to boot is the Omicron variant. Leaving questions on our lips that we are too afraid to let escape, too afraid because just the thoughts of a negative response may further destabilize us. Will the COVID-19 virus ever go away? Or is it the new normal in every sense of the word? 2021 was the year without resolutions. A year that Nigeria repeatedly failed its people. A year of unimaginable conclusions. A year of unthinkable gross violation of human rights. A year that people were not keen on hope; a year in which turtle-paced progress was just fine for everyone. A tired year.
Nevertheless, what shall be of the coming year? Have we decided not to worry about what lies ahead? Think we must, and hope we must. And even if all the leadership of this country has ever given us is disappointment upon disappointment, we must still find personal meaning and hope. We must unite in our dreams to create one solid multi-faceted hope that will chart a new course for us. On this note, I say Happy New Year in advance!