BY VICTORIA N. IKEANO
To say that Nigerians are not overly excited as such about the coming year, 2022 given their experiences since beginning of the decade is not an overstatement. Nigerians welcomed the new decade at exactly 12.00 a.m. on that fateful day full of expectant joy. Churches and mosques were filled up and there were various events, official corporate and state ceremonies to officially bid 2019 goodbye and usher in the brand new decade. Nigerians poured forth their petitions/wishes for a prosperous new decade to the Almighty. But alas, even before year 2020 had ran its course, Nigerians were already wishing it to hurry off. We were eager to consign it to the waste bin of history to be recalled reluctantly, only in memory. It was about the most challenging year in living memory since our country, Nigerian came into being and for its inhabitants. Those challenges centred on a new disease named ‘corona virus’ a.k.a. COVID. Actually COVID, like a thief in the night surreptitiously crept in towards the end of 2019. It manifested fully in 2020. Thus, the new decade that started in 2020 literally welcomed us on a bad note of COVID, a new ailment that almost turned our world upside down, consequently changing the way we do things with restrictive new rules for socializing.
There was a worldwide lock down that hit all nations not least developing countries like Nigeria to the marrow, destabilizing everything. You can thus comprehend why Nigerians wanted year 2020 to jet off their calendars in the quickest possible time and why they more or less kept vigil for 2021 welcoming it with full outstretched hands; like a people thirsting for water in the unmitigated hope that it would come with plentiful water to relieve our parched throats. In a review of year 2020 in a piece I titled “Adieu 2020 …Never again” I wrote inter alia, “For Nigerians that mostly live on daily income basis, it was hell of a sort as they were grounded. Small, medium and large scale businesses, the unemployed, underemployed and even the employed were adversely affected as prices of consumer goods and others skyrocketed… The naira was devalued with concomitant debilitating results. Inflation was at an all-time high in 2020’’.
Suffice it to say that our hopes for this year, 2021, were virtually torn to shreds. Prices of goods and services have been rising in geometric proportion since this year, way beyond the 2020 levels which we considered to be at an all-time high then. The Naira devalued last year amidst lamentations has further depreciated in value this year vis a vis its purchasing power and in comparison to those of our major trading partners. The Central Bank of Nigeria sometime this year introduced the E-naira, electronic naira to help indirectly curb inflation somehow. However, Nigerians are now more concerned about keeping body and soul together that they hardly cast a glance in that direction. The speculation arising from hints from the federal government itself that retail price of fuel could be increased to N300 per litre is adding to the anxiety about year 2022 in terms of what it holds for the citizenry.
Insecurity is no less pervasive as it was last year. In fact there are new dimensions to it this year. Kidnapping is now rampant nationwide. For the first time, train services on the Kaduna- Abuja route were suspended because of an explosion on the rail tracks. Indeed, more influential, prominent Nigerians are dying from kidnappings, outright assassinations than from COVID this year. Last year COVID dealt a big blow in the ranks of the elites. Not anymore this year. They are facing another form of threat from insecurity in our land. Imo state this year joined the league of states that are ravaged by insecurity. More students are kidnapped this year 2021 than in 2020 and more ransom paid. Nigeria’s then serving Chief of Army Staff alongside some other officers was killed in a plane crash this year, on active duty.
The fact that primary elections will hold next year to pick parties’ presidential and other flag bearers for the 2023 general elections adds to the tension of 2022, particularly as it will be a new electoral cycle with president Buhari, several governors and lawmakers at all levels due to leave their current position as their tenures run out in 2023 while others seek reelection. For this reason, the struggle for party tickets will be a battle royale next year. Our politicians are already lining up their arsenal. And more money would be poured into the economy via campaign spending. This will be good news for political jobbers.
Although President Buhari visited his doctors in London a few times this year, he participated and attended more international gatherings, this year especially those that have to do with attracting more investments into Nigeria and tackling the world’s common problems than arguably, at any time in his presidency. Apparently Mr. President is well aware of Nigeria’s dire economic straits and is eager to shore up its balance sheet. Overall, most Nigerians are adopting a ‘wait and see’ attitude towards the coming year. No matter what it brings for good or ill, the resilience of Nigerians shall withstand the challenges. We live in interesting times that beckon us to spiritual awakening.