2021 began on a Friday in Nigeria with many making their habitual New Year resolutions and convincing themselves they will plough the course of the year. Most often than not though, many of these resolutions will be reneged on before the middle of the year. The circle will continue the following year with renewed vigour of honoring their resolutions to the latter.
As the harmattan began to hold sway in the month of January across much of Nigeria, President Buhari shook up the top military command, appointing new Generals at the helm of affairs in efforts to mitigate the advances of bandits, ISWAP and Boko Haram. Six days earlier, history was made in the United States as Kamala Harris became the first female and African American Vice President after she was sworn into office along with President Joe Biden for a 4-year term.
A military coup d’état the following month in Myanmar that saw Aung San Suu Kyi removed from power was the first of several coups that took place in the course of 2021. This coup in faraway Asia somewhat set-off a chain reaction of coups, particularly, in some African countries, which included Mali, Chad, Niger, Guinea and Sudan.
Meanwhile, back home, the first of several kidnappings of school children began with the Kagara abduction in Niger state and the abduction of 317 schoolgirls in Zamfara state 9-days later. This was followed by the abductions in the College of Forestry and Greenfield University in Kaduna state, Tegina, Kebbi, and Chinkun. All of a sudden, the kidnap-for-ransom “business” seemed to be thriving at the expense of innocent school children.
The same day Pope Francis met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf Iraq in March, the first ever meeting between a pope and grand ayatollah, President Buhari publicly received the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, urging Nigerians to follow his lead. However, data from the World Health Organization will later reveal that Nigeria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world with 2 out of 100 Nigerians fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
The following month, in April, “strong man” Idriss Déby, President of Chad, is killed in clashes with rebel forces after 30-years in office. The death of the senior Déby brings to an end one of the several era’s of a “sit-tight African president.
The icing on the cake for April, however, was when history was made by our very own Ngozi Okonjo Iweala who assumed office as the first female and African to head the World Trade Organization. With her unique pedigree, experience and humility, among other impressive qualities, Nigeria will not be at a loss in having her as President. However the question remains, will she run for Office of The President of Nigeria if called upon? “One can only hope so!”
As pregnant clouds gathered in many parts of the country preparing to unleash a torrent, the 2021 Israel – Palestine crisis began on the 11th of May with Israel hitting the Gaza Strip with airstrikes. This occurred after Israel began displacing Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah Neighborhood of East Jerusalem. Towards the end of the month, Nigerians were forced to mourn for a National Hero when Nigeria’s army chief, Lt-Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, was tragically killed in a plane crash.
For lovers of the round leather game and supporters of the London football club Chelsea, it was triumph, tears of joy and celebrations on a bright night at the tail end of the month as they beat fellow English club Manchester City in the final, 1 – 0, to lift the UEFA Champions League for the second time. With Nigeria having a considerable number of Chelsea supporters, mass celebrations far into the night made one think that it was the Super Eagles that had won a major tournament.
June began with the social media platform, Twitter, removing one of President Buhari’s tweets and suspending his account. Two days later, the bird app operations in the country felt the full ire of the Nigerian government. Twitter operations were suspended with the government arguing that the company engages in activities that “are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.” Almost 6-month later, Twitter operations are yet to be restored and many Nigerians have resorted to VPN to access the bird app to get their daily scoops.
10 days into the month, Bandits literally unleashed their macabre bloodletting for 2-days in Zamfara state killing over 53 people. However, not all the news that came from the North was centered on killings and kidnappings. A daughter of the soil, Amina Mohammed, was reappointed for another five-year term as Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations. The former minister, thus, became the third woman and second African woman to serve in the role.
The following month, football lovers were once again treated to an epic tournament, the UEFA Euro 2020 hosted by an unprecedented 11 different countries. It was won by Italy’s Azzurri beating England on penalties. The highlight of the match was that racism was very much still around. Thus, it wasn’t unsurprising when racist abuses and chants began to target the 3 Black English players who missed penalties during the shootout. The result of that match still haunts the likes of myself. Yours Truly will probably have to therapy to get over England’s loss.
Back in Nigeria, towards the end of the month, a military plane was shot down by bandits in Zamfara state. But thankfully the pilot escaped. The gallant pilot Abayomi Dairo successfully ejected and sought refuge in nearby settlements awaiting sunset One cannot even begin to imagine what his fate would have been had the bandits got to him before he was able to find the base.
August saw the conclusion of the 2020 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo Japan. The Olympics were originally scheduled for July-August 2020 but were postponed due to Covid-19. The United States came in tops followed by China and Japan. Nigeria came in 74th with a single silver and bronze medal. For a population of over 200 million, many sports pundits concurred that Nigeria’s performance was indeed extremely disappointing.
Like a blockbuster Hollywood movie, images of Afghans falling from the skies while trying to hang on to the wings of a plane in an apparent effort to flee the Taliban left many horrified around the world in mid-August. Images of the Taliban’s celebrating inside the country’s hallowed presidential palace signified the capitulation of Afghanistan to the Taliban 20-years after it was removed from power in a US-led military invasion.
The “mber months” began with another West African coup in Guinea. Guinea’s President Alpha Condé was detained by an elite military unit led by a former French legionnaire, Lt. Col. Mamady Doumbouya, who seized power. In an ironical twist, images of Doumbouya holding an umbrella for President Conde on a sunny day flooded social media. This brings to mind the saying that “the saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.”
In Nigeria about 60-people were killed when an airstrike hit a fish market in the village of Kwatar Daban Masara in Borno state. The country’s 61st anniversary was overshadowed by challenges such as general insecurity, rising unemployment, disunity and high cost of living. The dreams our forefathers had for Nigeria upon independence is still yet to be materialized.
As many Nigerians were ushering in the new month of November with prayers, gratitude and beseeching favours from their creator, the nation reverberated with the shocking news and screaming headlines of a building collapse. A 21-storey building, under construction, collapsed at Gerrard Road in Ikoyi, Lagos state. By the time the dust settled, about 42 people had died.
It was not the first time that this sort of incident had occurred. Since 2005, at least 152 buildings had collapsed in Lagos state alone. As if the Ikoyi incident wasn’t saddening enough, another two storey building under construction in Badagry, also in Lagos state, collapsed barely two weeks after, killing four people.
In the same month, researchers in South Africa brought the Omicron Covid-19 variant to the world’s attention. Instead of applauding the noble efforts of South African scientists, the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom led the world into blanket travel bans on southern African countries that later included other African countries like Nigeria.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez aptly called it “Travel Apartheid”. Many discerning observers noted the colonial undertones of the Omicron related travel bans on African countries.
On a Tuesday, the last day of November the sad news of the death of Sylvester Oromoni made headlines. His death was attributed to multiple internal injuries he reportedly sustained after being beaten by fellow students who were bullying him at his boarding school in Dowen College Lagos. His death brought to light once again the insidious menace of bullying that is fast becoming a culture among students across secondary schools in Nigeria.
In the last 365 days, the world has literally been through the ringer. And as we bid farewell to 2021, one can only hope and pray that 2022 to better days, peace and prosperity for most of us. “Here’s to a toast as we end our sprint down memory lane in this… 2021 Year In Review!”