Except for the years of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-70), no other year has presented as many challenges as the year 2020, which drew to a close yesterday. We congratulate Nigerians for making it to 2021. There is an air of optimism, hope and positive attitude to make a new beginning. Nigerians should try to put 2020 behind them and move forward with determination.
The insecurity of 2019 followed us into 2020. Boko Haram terrorised us in the North East. Bandits and kidnappers constituted a constant menace in the North West. Kidnappers, armed robbers and killer herdsmen kept us in tenterhooks in the North Central region and Southern half of the country. As if these were not enough trouble, the COVID-19 pandemic then burst into the scene.
Like other countries of the world ravaged by COVID-19), Nigeria shut its borders, banned international flights and self-quarantined. Then the country placed itself under a lockdown which paralysed commercial, business and social activities, and forced even civil servants to stay at home thereby grounding the economy and worsening mass unemployment. The most urgent needs of the country became how to save lives, heal the sick and prevent mass infection of the populace, and mass deaths.
As frightful as the comparison may sound, COVID-19 pandemic has been compared to the “Spanish Flu” of 1918 in terms of the number of cases and the fatalities. It raised a dark cloud all over the whole world; it was a virus without cure, with no known therapy. It forced upon the world its own culture. Because it was transmitted through the air, the mask was found to be the only device capable of preventing the spread and providing some protection. It was also found that keeping distances of six feet between individuals helped to minimise infections and also protect individuals against infection.
Eventually, vaccines were produced, which will prevent the virus and in the last fortnight vaccinations have commenced all over the world, which would spell the end of the virus. Its death toll is 1.85 million and nearly 82 million were infected. The long-term health consequences of the pandemic are still being studied, but there can be no doubt that the pandemic turned the year 2020 into one of the years humanity would rather wish to forget.
The most urgent need of Nigeria in the New Year is to get Nigerians vaccinated against coronavirus. If the virus is controlled, it becomes possible for Nigerians to plan and be at liberty to pursue life’s adventures, which were impossible in 2020.
The security of life and property of Nigerians has continued to cause a great deal of anxiety among Nigerians. And until Nigerians see a definite change, they are unlikely to feel at ease. The government must find the courage to admit that it had exaggerated its successes in the war against Boko Haram by claiming that the terrorists had been “technically defeated” when the contrary is actually the case. We urge the government to constitute a real war council to review the strategies and plan a new offensive to convince Nigerians that the government has not given up on the war and that there is a path way to victory.
The bandits in the North West and North Central regions constitute a state within a state. Some of our state governors have confessed negotiating with them, which is a rare recognition if not acceptance of their status. If the government does not extirpate organised crime, it will rue it as part of its legacy.
To overcome the COVID-19-induced recession, there is need to increase productivity and employment. Relief in worldwide recession in China and the industrialised countries would no doubt raise oil demands and lead to increase in oil revenue. But the country must continue to invest in agriculture which has been the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. Our local rice production has not been able to bring down the price to what it was during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, now considered the golden age. Also, the foreign exchange rate has not been in favour of the Naira.
These are reasons to work harder, produce more, export more and reduce poverty. The government must step up on infrastructure development and continue to invest in power supply. Let it ensure that 2021 is a good fresh start after the setbacks of 2020. We wish our esteemed readers a Happy New Year.