2020 was a unique year in many respects. It may be the year that witnessed the first worldwide lockdown owing to the rampaging murderous effect of a merciless pathogen called coronavirus or covid-19 which the US President, Donald Trump, loves to christen the Chinesevirus to reflect the place where this virus originated. The virus is believed to have originated in Wuhan Province, China, through the medium of a bird called bat, towards the end of 2019 but was globalized early in 2020 and arrived in Nigeria on the 27th of February. In the history of mankind, I am not aware of any event that crippled the whole world like this coronavirus. The Olympic slated for July in Japan was postponed, so also were all the global and local sporting activities on earth, including Nigeria Professional Football league. When they started, they played with no fans in attendance. The movie and music entertainment world, including Nollywood, went into coma. Every school closed down. Aviation shut down. World economy jumped into recession in weeks. N1.5 trillion of Nigeria budget was wiped out on account of a dismal fall in oil price from about $57 to $21. US economy within a month went on life support requiring more than $3 trillion bailout to keep it alive.
In Nigeria, which is rated the most religious country on earth, churches and mosques were banned from holding services. Even the Vatican, Mecca and Jerusalem closed down worship centres. All ceremonies in Nigeria, including marriage, burial, birthdays, festivals, etc were banned. The most disturbing statistics was the toll on human lives. Globally as at 30th Dec., 2020, the total cases of infected people worldwide stood at about 80,182,793, total deaths 1,755,141, US total cases 18,897,780, deaths 331,495, Nigeria total cases 82,747, deaths 1246 and so on. With those staggering figures, the whole world was virtually locked down throughout the year, with everyone, from the Heads of Governments to the least persons on earth, placed on coronavirus house arrest. Honestly, even the devil could not pull this feat because some men of God would have angrily put him in a cage by now. There must be some elements of truth that this might have come from a power above the devil. It proves that God rules on earth.
2020 witnessed the overt manifestation of systemic racism against the blacks in America and around the world. On May 25th, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US, a white Police Officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt, in broad daylight, on the neck of a black American man, George Floyd, for about 9 minutes, on the suspicion that he bought something with a $20 counterfeit, until he died. Earlier in 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, a young African-American, was killed in Georgia by three white men while jogging because he entered an uncompleted building, owned by a white, to take a look at it. An Atlanta police officer fatally shot Rayshard Brooks at his back in a Wendy’s parking lot, Atlanta, killing him instantly for daring to escape from questioning on drunk driving. At Kenoshe, Wisconsin, in the later part of this year, Joseph Blake, was shot at the back 7 times that left him permanently paralysed for no explicable reason.
This lopsided, jaundiced criminal administration system that is manifestly skewed against the blacks attracted stiff resistance and protests from the blacks and moderate whites all over the world which led to the internationalisation of the black lives matter movement to protest police brutality against blacks. It was even an offence for a black man to be a journalist to report the events of the riots as Omar Jimenez, a CNN black journalist, was arrested and handcuffed with his hands at the back while live on air reporting the events. A replica of such resistance was mounted here in Nigeria in the mould of #ENDSARS PROTEST to resist and reject police brutality in Nigeria. It has never happened before in this magnitude in Nigeria. It led to the acceptance of the 5 point agenda of the protesters by the government and the assurance of the implementation of the agenda.
This conspiracy was more pronounced in the case of Akinwunmi Ayodeji Adesina, former Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and the 8th elected President of the African Development Bank Group. He was elected to the position on May 28, 2015 by the Bank’s Board of Governors at its annual meeting in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. For his achievements, all 55 African countries endorsed him for re-election for his second term as the sole candidate for President of the AFDB. But for daring to industrialize Africa, through ensuring that Africa improves on its raw materials and becomes a net exporter of manufactured goods rather than slavishly importing everything it needs from advanced countries, he attracted the ire of Donald Trump, the US President, who “trumped” up 16-count allegations of fraud against him, without facts, evidence or documents. The Chairman of the Board of Governors and Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors exonerated him of all the charges in accordance with the rules of the Bank. Yet United States rejected this acquittal and insisted on going outside the rules, laws, procedures and governance systems of the Bank to nail the AFDB President. It appeared that when it concerns Africa and the Blacks, the rule of law didn’t matter, what mattered was jungle justice. The same scenario is playing out with the confirmation of Ngozi Okonjo-Iwuala as the DG, World Trade Organisation, where the Donald Trump’s US is the only obstacle to her confirmation.
The US Presidential election in November trumped up unprecedented assault to the legitimacy and supremacy of the America’s democratic system. A sitting US President, Donald Trump, lost an election with over 7 million votes and was trounced in the electoral college votes but rather than accepting defeat and conceding to the winner, the incumbent rejected the election, daubed it rigged, filing more than 50 frivolous cases, within 34 days of the election, channelled towards overturning the presidential election. He is still fighting till date to void the election to the embarrassment of America. He has castigated the Supreme Court and the entire judiciary of the US, Democrats and Republicans, for not allowing him truncate America’s democracy. Sad!
The year witnessed the tragic painful passing on the global stage of great athletes like Kobe and Gianna Bryant, Father and daughter, of the American basketball hall of fame, through a tragic helicopter crash that shook the world. Maradona, the Argentine football living legend suddenly died of heart attack. The entertainment family in Nigeria got its share of the passing of great entertainers. The rainmaker, Majek Fashek, caved in to the cold hands of death after protracted illness. The saddest to me personally was the tragic demise of Chico Ejiro, Nollywood prolific Producer and Director, on Christmas day. Most of the above mentioned died suddenly, accidentally and relatively at a young age, calling for more prayers as we commence a new year.
As a young graduate, fresh from youth service, with a burning desire to be an actor, my first point of call was Zeb Ejiro’s production at Ijeshatedo, Surulere. They were the producers of the soup opera, Ripples, which was already three years on air before I arrived the scene to be auditioned. My attraction to Ripples was that it was one of the few surviving operas on NTA Network. I used to watch it at Nsukka, my hometown, before graduation. To my surprise, I was considered to be a very good prospective actor, after I was auditioned, that necessitated the creation of a role, Capt Mark, a young Pilot, for me to act alongside their best actors on TV then. Chico Ejiro, younger brother to Zeb Ejiro, was an undergraduate then and joined us as part of the production crew whenever he was not in school. I recall with tears how he would come to Olodi Apapa, my humble abode then, to give me my shooting schedule for Ripples in those days of absence of GSM and I will make eba and soup and both of us will eat it from the same plate with so much love. Anytime I receive my little pay from Ripples, he will remind me he was still in school and I will share a little with him. One day we were together in a restaurant, opposite Ripples office, happily eating and drinking and Chico called me “Capt Mark, you know, in this our industry, you can make fame and become famous but there’s no money in it.” I cut in sharply and rejected his submission. I told him that I am a child of destiny and anything I get into has a way of changing and exploding out of the ordinary and trigger a revolution that will bring the needed fortune to all the practitioners so that everyone will begin to benefit from it. He looked at me intently and wished me well.
Within the next three months, I was invited to be auditioned for an Igbo home video film. Every known Igbo speaking actor of note was invited for the audition. When the Executive Producer and writer, Mr Kenneth Nnebue, saw me and my performance on stage during the audition, he was marvelled. He screamed, “When I was writing this film, this is the kind of guy I had in mind. Please everyone should start calling him Andy”. That was how I landed the role Andy Okeke, the Actor of Living in Bondage. The name got stuck with me till date. The movie came out with a bang and created instant millionaires. It also gave birth to the industry that is today known as Nollywood. I was catapulted to limelight and started calling the shots as to whatever I chose to be paid. My new status did not go unnoticed by Chico Ejiro who made it a duty to meet me just to remind me of my earlier prediction. He simply retorted, “Mark, you said it”. Even recently when I was the Chairman of AGN Constitution Drafting Committee, he still came around and after our selfies, we remembered with nostalgia our earlier days and the closeness we shared. This explains my personal loss and pains over the unfortunate demise of Chico. He produced and directed many films with one of the least, if any, scandals in Nollywood. May his soul rest in peace.
As dark as all these may appear, there is hope. You may not share in the benefit of this hope if you don’t have faith. Hear what God said in Isaiah 43:18-19, “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert”. God will spring surprises for you in 2021 that will make you recover all you lost to the devouring power of this pandemic. The only problem is the possibility that you will be so fixated to the losses of 2020 that you might not know and recognise the divine day of your visitation in 2021. It is a regular saying that when one door closes, many other doors open but a fixation on the closed door will blur the vision to unmask the open doors. Congratulations! At least if you are reading this message, you are alive and survived last year. God that kept you alive will build you up again.
Don’t even think that 2020 was unsavoury for everyone. Some online big tech and trading companies doubled and tripled their earnings. Meetings, seminars, academic works and trading went online. Zoom was booming as work from home became the order of the day. The black lives matter movement acquired international recognition and led to genuine reformation and pledges of reformation by major institutions of the world against systemic racism. It also led to the greatest mobilisation of blacks to participate in the US presidential election which resulted in the wholesome defeat of Donald Trump who is perceived in many quarters as racist. The endorsement of Joe Biden by the black US Congressman of South Carolina, Jim Clyburn, helped turn the fortunes for Biden and enabled him win South Carolina which propelled him further to win the Democratic Party presidential ticket. The massive participation of blacks in the US election resulted in a Biden’s presidential win. Joe noted this show of love and is reciprocating now by appointing blacks into cabinet positions hitherto thought to be a no-go area for blacks, principal among them, is the Secretary of Defence. Despite spirited challenge against the nomination of Akinwunmi Ayodeji Adesina for a second term as the President, African Development Bank, by US, he still won his re-election battle and today He remains the President of AFDB. So shall it be to all those that will seek your downfall, untimely death or untimely termination of your job in 2021. They will not succeed but you will prevail. Vaccines have been produced to tackle the coronavirus and soon the world will be restored to normal. Happy New Year and welcome to a new beginning.