By Christy Anyanwu and Henry Okonkwo
Four days from now, the year 2020 will finally fold into history, never to be lived again.
For many in the world and Nigeria in particular, the year 2020 comes through with many upheavals.
As it grinds to its final halt, and 2021 beckons, Nigerians have been baring their minds on the quantum of memorable events that shaped the year – their grievances, loss, illness, and hardships, and life lessons they learned going forward.
From a global pandemic to political uprisings across the globe, to the pain, fears and uncertainties the year has brought, it is sufficiently evident that it is an era so strange and frightful.
But wait a minute. The year 2020 is such an eventful one – a year of the Lord. It is a year of great lessons, a year of immense discoveries brought about by the travails it has brought.
2020, an unforgettable year
“It is a year of great upheavals – a year that COVID-19 pandemic struck, and left an indelible mark on my psyche – a life-long mark that is sure to stay in my memory till I’m no more.
“To be honest with you, Coronavirus has made Nigeria and Nigerians much poorer.
“I doubt if any other event in my life would be as pervasively disruptive and destructive as COVID-19.
“The pandemic led to the shutdown of the entire world for several months to prevent further spread of the contagious disease. Yet till now, we are still not out of the woods.
“Now, look at the other end of the pain it brought. I’m talking about the closure of Nigeria’s airspace which meant that sick, but wealthy Nigerians and other prominent public servants who did not care about our poor health facilities, and who often travelled abroad to treat basic ailments could not do so. They all were trapped here. Some of them had to die.
“Let me also talk about the EndSARS protests in October 2020. They changed the perception everyone held for long that the youths are too docile and unorganised to challenge the political leadership that has mortgaged their future through inept leadership and corruption.
“Despite the hijack of the protests by miscreants and in some states, they were largely peaceful, well organised and effective. The ‘leaderless’ protests had the children of the rich as well as the poor participating actively. For the first time in Nigeria, the protests had a lot of digital, online, and social media influence, such that influential world personalities identified with the youths in their quest to end police brutality in Nigeria,” Prince Ben Onuora, president of Igboekulie, a pan-Igbo socio-cultural and political group, said.
Onuora added that the high wire politickings, and aftermaths of the Edo gubernatorial, and the U S presidential elections were also events that changed his perception about some long-held beliefs.
“In Edo, for the first time in Nigeria and perhaps the world, two governorship candidates of leading political parties in a state faced each other after swapping positions. The sitting governor, Godwin Obaseki, of APC who defeated Pastor Ize Iyamu of PDP in 2016, contested for the same position in 2020.
“Whereas Obaseki moved to PDP, Iyamu contested as APC candidate. This unexpected development confirmed to me that indeed, political parties and most politicians in Nigeria lack principles and ideology. Political parties are mere SPVs (special purpose vehicles). Evidently, this brand of politics cannot bring about the nation of our dream.
“I found the US elections and the aftermath, intriguing and memorable. The delayed announcement of the winner, rejection of the clear outcome by the incumbent, the endless counting and recounting of votes for weeks, baseless allegations of rigging, orchestration of religious and racial divisions, etc, shattered long-held beliefs about the superiority of American democracy. The entire exercise was very similar to what citizens of developing countries experience. It can no longer be doubted that America has lost its moral voice as well as the claim of superiority and better democratic credentials over other nations.”
Onuora also noted that “there is also the good side of the COVID-19 pandemic. And that is, we were compelled to slightly improve on our health facilities. Even our IT infrastructure had to sustain an increasing use of various online platforms. Meetings were held virtually.
“A lot of time wasted on avoidable long trips with perennial traffic congestion was now saved.”
Also, baring is his mind on what he learnt during the outgoing year 2020 is Dr. Abdullahi Ya’u, a lecturer, management consultant from Kano State.
He lamented that the current wave of insecurity in the country had impacted him negatively much more than before.
“My major lesson this year is stronger use and reliance on technology to plan against security challenges and commercial challenges in the market.
“I travel a lot to other parts of the country. But 2020 made me skeptical and choosy each time the need to travel arose. However, when it’s necessary to travel, I strove to remain abreast with the news on various Apps so that I didn’t get caught in the right place at the wrong time.
“Another key lesson I’ve learned as a consultant is to diversify my income. The security challenges in 2020 constricted many small-scale businesses, and this grossly affected our clientele base. So, we aimed to take advantage of the online platform and start sourcing beyond the borders of Nigeria for more clients.”
For Mr Adebanjo Esanmore, secretary of Itun Agun community, in Lagos State, the COVID-19 and the EndSARS were the two key happenings that opened his eyes to see the wide gulf between the government and the citizenry.
“During the lockdown period, most people expected some succour from the government. But so little nothing came. So, I’ve now realised never to rely on our government for anything.
“Our governments at all levels are very unreliable. And this is one serious lesson that I have learnt, and I’ve been telling it to people who care to listen. The only plan governments have is their interest.
“The EndSARS also taught me that anything can happen. It’s not going to be business as usual for people in government. The aftermath of the EndSARS protests taught me that one needs to be more security conscious and to be careful about the places I go to at night time,” he said.
For Monday Ubani, a lawyer, lessons have been learnt in the outgoing year.
He said: “There are basic lessons, things God has taught us with the COVID-19 pandemic. One of them is the issue of our health sector which we have neglected overtime. It’s a lesson for us to fix our health sector and it’s also a lesson for us to fix our educational sector because a time would be coming that nations of the world would not be interested in accepting us. We must fix our social service systems too. We have the resources, and the human capital and the market. That is one lesson our leaders should learn.
“Also, I’ve learned so many personal lessons. The year 2020 taught me that one needs to be friendly with their family members because, during the lockdown, one couldn’t go out. People were stuck with their children and wives.
“If you didn’t have any relationship with them, then it meant you would be in trouble because there was no place for you to go to. I realised the importance of maintaining good relationships and having a cohesive family.”
2020, not total gloom
However, Ubani says the year 2020 is not all about gloom and doom. He maintained that even with all the strange things that happened, many people had a fruitful year and were thankful. To him, 2020 is ‘the year of the Lord’.
According to him, despite what happened – the COVID-19, EndSARS protests that rocked many parts of the country – Nigerians have many things to thank God for.
“The West predicted death for the African continent, especially Nigerians. But God showed His mercy on us. People were not dropping dead on the streets even though we were not even observing the social distancing protocols.
“Then the EndSARS protests got to a stage where infiltrators hijacked the process. Nigeria was almost thrown into anarchy, but God intervened and stopped it from degenerating.
“I am not ignorant of the deaths that occurred and are still occurring with bandits and Boko Haram insurgents in the North. But God has also taken care of some security lapses here and there.
“So for me, it’s the year of the Lord because God has been kind and magnanimous in protecting us – me and my family. We are all alive and I thank God for the preservation of life.”
Mrs Adesuwa Onyenokwe, popular broadcaster, and publisher of TW magazine, is insistent that 2020 is amazing because out of adversity she realised the potential she has.
“I didn’t know that I could work from my home without even stepping to my office for eight straight months. I discovered to be more friendly with technology by doing most of my work virtually. I even trained virtually and my meetings were virtual too.
“The only thing is that my butt hurts more! I have elbow scratches because you put your elbow on the desk doing Zoom meetings. But I think for the fact that COVID-19 kept us at home, the fact that it made us realise our mortality, then I think it is the best thing that has happened.
“COVID-19 changed my perspective that it is not about how much you have, but how you value what you have. Value for me was going out, dressing up and looking good. But I realised you can survive without it. And it’s a good thing to realise that one can survive by being your best self, in seclusion. And technology made it easier for us to be able to do the things that I do. To me, COVID-19 is one of the best things that happened in 2020. I believe that it made us take our health seriously.
“Sadly, people lost their lives in it. But people learned a lot of lessons from it.”
For Ndidi Obioha, CEO of Enthyst, 2020 was an eventful year that made her see how people believed in the existence of God.
“The lessons learned from 2020 is slowing down and reflecting. It drew me closer to God spiritually. I had time to reflect. What matters most to me is seeing the end of this year. I was going too fast. And at a point, I asked someone if God brought this COVID-19 pandemic because of me? If I had not slowed down, maybe could have ended up dead.
“Events (of the year) made us more innovative. We now got into this Zoom thing. We realised we could organise parties through Zoom. It just made us think out of the box. However, my testimony for the year is, being alive,” she noted emphatically.