Opinion

Ode to a dying year, 2021

By Owei Lakemfa

Many parts of the universe entered 2021 with the contentment that President Donald Trump, the American billionaire whose many crooked business deals also saw him to the White House, was leaving in 20 days.

His welcome departure, in reality, had no fundamental effect in American policies across the world. Joe Biden, who replaced him, only had a different style, but maintained virtually the same policies, including its partisan involvement in the unending wars in places like Yemen and Syria. In fact, in some cases, such as the unilateral imposition of bullish sanctions on countries like Cuba and Venezuela, Uncle Joe simply piled more.

In the cat-and-mouse game between America and China, the former under Trump, on January 13, banned all cotton and tomato products from China’s Xinjiang region on the basis that they were produced through forced labour. The America-China 2021 Games are closing under Biden with his signing the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act on Thursday, December 23 which reinforces the Trump ban.

Some European countries began 2021 with lockdowns over the advent of the Alpha variant of COVID-19 and they are closing the year with another series owing to the appearance of another variant, Omicron. The hope of the World Health Organisation, WHO, is that humanity will rein in COVID-19 in the new year, 2022.

Kim Jong Un of North Korea set his agenda for the year with his January 9 announcement that his country is developing new nuclear-powered weaponry. That country pursed its dreams with single-minded dedication through the year.

Not a few Nigerians are in a hurry to see the back of 2021. In many respects, it has been nightmarish with inflation running at 16.91 per cent, the highest in contemporary times. The food inflation rate was 19.5 per-cent in September 2021.

The following month with the increases in the prices of gas, lubricants, non-durable household goods and transportation, inflation was 19.63, 19.33 and 19.07 per cent respectively in Bauchi , Gombe and Jigawa states.

The spin doctors of the administration do not like this reflection in the mirror and have sought to attack the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS statistics.

Ironically, under what was touted as the ‘clueless’ and non-performing Jonathan administration, the rate of inflation was mainly tucked at single digit. Given the uncertainty of the 2015 elections, it rose from 8.05 per cent in 2014 to 9.01 per cent the following year when the then retired General Muhammadu Buhari and his party stormed the stage with the battle cry of ‘Change’. With that, inflation shot past 15 per cent and on the average, has refused to climb down.

The ‘Change’ introduced by the new ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, came at very high costs both in economic and social terms and far more in human lives with bandits and kidnappers virtually overrunning the North West, especially Zamfara, Sokoto and the President’s home state of Katsina.

Also affected are states in the North Central, especially Niger, Plateau and Benue states. For instance, in the first half of 2021, bandits and terrorists killed 3,295 persons in five states: Borno 920, Zamfara 765, Kaduna 648, Benue 504 and 458 in Niger. The Kaduna State Government said in the follow up quarter of July –September, 343 persons were killed and 830 abducted.

One of the most disturbing reports came from Sokoto State which is not in the top five states with killing fields. Senator Ibrahim Gobir informed the Senate that on October 17, 2021 bandits at the Gorony Market massacred over 120 persons. He said in six villages in the area: Kwarangamba, Garki, Danadua, Katuna, Kurawa and Dama, the bandits imposed taxes of between N1 million to N20 million on the people.

The penalty for failing to pay the ‘taxes’ is death. Senator Gobir added that the bandits have imposed rulers on some of the communities. For instance, in Gangara, one of the towns run by the Turji Gang, the deputy gang leader, Dan Bakkolo has replaced the traditional ruler, while another bandit leader Dan Karami was installed the traditional ruler of Makwaruwa.

The year 2021 had begun with a spate of abductions mainly in the North West. The bandits concentrated on the mass abduction of students. On Wednesday, February 17, they kidnapped 42 persons, including students, staff and their families from the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State. Nine days later, they abducted 317 school girls of the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State.

A good development is that some of those who at the beginning of the year rationalised banditry, have begun to retreat. This is the case with Sheikh Ahmad Gumi who campaigned for amnesty for bandits on the basis that they are liberation fighters engaged in an “ethnic war” and are “… a population that is pushed by circumstances into criminality (but) are peaceful people.”

In more serious countries, government would have resigned for its glaring failure to provide basic security for the people. But what we have in Nigeria is government agents and those under the table scrambling for crumbs, declaring that the Buhari government has done fantastically well in protecting Nigerians. Fortunately or unfortunately, the President’s stay in the Presidential Villa, has an expiry date, but it is not in the new year; we still have 17 months to go. God Bless Nigeria. Amen.

It is understandable that many Nigerians have come to accept such killings, which include those of school children, as normal. However, the killing of a school boy in Lagos still sent shockwaves around the country. Perhaps it is due to the fact that 12-year-old, Sylvester Oromoni, was not abducted by bandits, tortured by those despicable fellows nor did he die in their hands. He was reportedly tortured by his fellow school mates.

While many have expressed concern that events and activities leading to the death of the child could have taken place within a school premises, a thoughtless adult who masquerades as a journalist decided to add to the pains of the bereaved parents and our collective pain by claiming the late child invited death on to himself and had in fact voluntarily participated in killing himself! Incredible the extent hunger can push people.

First, as a journalist and editor with many years standing, let me state that journalists are not irrational, unscrupulous and unfeeling beings who, like vultures, feed on carcass.

Secondly, I apologise to the Nigerian public that it has taken so long for the journalists’ professional body to expose this character and call her to order so she does not bring this noble profession into disrepute. There are two things that are factual about her: she is female and her mother was a woman, any other thing about her, needs fact checking.
Happy 2022 to us all.

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