By John Kokome
The horrifying experiences of the year 2020 will obviously not be missing, whenever the history of the 21st century will be written, if not for anything but for the fears and trembles it unleashed to the world. It is our hope that, the year 2021 will usher in hope, deliverance and restoration to the human race.
As the year was gathering momentum, there came the Taal Volcano, the second-most active volcano in the Philippines, near the capital of Manila, which began on January 12, destroying several homes including livestock and crops. The explosive eruption forced over 135,000 people into shelters for fears of a massive blast. This marked the beginning of a series of events to shape the year.
Few days later, more than 100 people were killed on January 14, by the heaviest snowfall to hit the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir in a century, as the devastation caused by the severe winter weather deepened, worries about the impact of global warming also became a source of concern.
On January 24, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake caused 41 deaths in Turkey’s Elazığ province, located about 550 kilometers east of Ankara, and its neighbour, Malatya province. More than 1,600 people were hurt, with 86 people hospitalized. However, several people were rescued from collapsed buildings, as reported by Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Authority.
In faraway Australia, an unprecedented bushfire engulfed the country killing about 33 people and an estimated one billion native animals with 2, 500 homes and a wilderness area almost the size of Greece was also destroyed. The catastrophe was termed “an ecological disaster” that threatened several species across the country.
As the world was still grappling with that, the worst outbreak of desert locust in Kenya saw hundreds of millions of locusts swarm into the East African nation from Somalia and Ethiopia. The effect caused panic in neighbouring countries of South Sudan and Uganda.
Then came the mother of them all, the invincible and deadly Corona virus (Covid-19) with over 79 million cases reported globally, with over 1.7 million deaths recorded. This forced countries of the world to enforce strict measures to prevent a further spread of the virus thereby leading to a lockdown of their respective economies and restricted movement in and out of their countries.
There is no doubt, that the events of the past weeks now spanning into months will forever change the affairs of mankind. The pathogen emanated from Wuhan market in China, notable for selling wild game. No one would have believed that one relatively unknown virus could bring the world to a standstill sadly enough, that is the stark reality before all humanity.
It was quite unbelievable to see how world powers were falling like pack of cards to this common and unseen enemy, which threatened the continued existence of the human race, with its invincible hands causing pains and death to nations of the world as well as destroying world economies.
However, we need no soothsayer to tell us that the world will not remain the same again after the global pandemic. China has positioned itself to take over from the US, should she fail to show leadership as expected by other countries. Just like every other country, the US also had its own fair share experience of the devastating effects of Covid-19 on its socio-economic and political life.
The rivalry between the US and China was further renewed, thereby leading to power scramble among world powers, this has eventually lead to more trouble for our already troubled world.
In the face of this global health crisis, one is tempted to ask what would be the place of Nigeria and indeed Africa in the emerging skim of things. How will Africa cope after the crisis? Will it usher in new thinking, and forward looking leadership that the continent has so much desired and longed for? Time indeed will tell! One thing is certain; Africa would be badly affected by this global crisis.
Countries have gone into recession, that may lead to depression with only the strongest expected to survive the economic tsunami that is about to hit the continent.
I dare say, this is a unique opportunity for African countries to do introspection and begin to address the shortcomings the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed in the healthcare sector, educational sector and most importantly the economic vulnerability of the entire continent.
This is the time for Nigeria in particular, to begin a holistic review of her existing healthcare facilities across the country. More so, measures should be in place to establish well-funded research medical institutes for times like this. The federal government of Nigeria should as a matter of urgent national importance, commence the process of upgrading all existing public healthcare facilities to cater for the medical needs of Nigerians irrespective of status.
In addition, government should activate a mechanism to help business owners across the country to mitigate the harsh economic impacts the lockdown must have caused them, in terms of revenue generation, as this would go a long way to cushion the effects of Covid-19 on businesses. One thing is certain we would overcome the pandemic.
However, the sudden outbreak of the Covid-19 has provided an opportunity for us as a nation to begin to address the infrastructural gaps that have long been begging for attention. Once beaten, twice shy, never again should we as a nation expose ourselves to both national and international ridicule, because of government inability to provide basic needs and amenities to her citizens in times of emergencies like this. The motto of the Boy Scout is “be prepared” as a nation we were obviously caught napping. Government needs to put in place strategic response mechanism to handle unforeseen circumstances in the country going forward.
On a lighter note, the efforts of the Lagos State Government led by the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his Covid-19 crisis management team is worthy of commendation, likewise the various health workers who placed their lives on the line to ensure the war against the virus is fought and won.
Another event that shook the world was the killing of George Floyd in the US by a police officer, which led to the #I can’t breathe protest in the United States of America, snowballing into protest around the world against police brutality amidst call for police reform in the US.
As the dust raised by Covid-19 in Nigeria was gradually settling down after the curve was reportedly been flattened, the EndSARS nationwide protest against police brutality in the country broke out in October, what started out as a peaceful protest took a new twist when hoodlums infiltrated the protest and wreaked havoc in many parts of the country.
October 20, 2020 would forever remain a sad reminder of the alleged killing of innocent protesters at the famous Lekki tollgate in Lagos. The protest led to the immediate disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) nationwide, and the setting up of judicial panel of inquiry by governors of the various state to look into petitions of police brutality and to unravel what led the wanton loss of lives and properties during and after the protest.
It is on record that various police stations across the country were razed down with several police officers losing their lives in the process.
Just when the world thought the worst was over, a sudden surge in the outbreak of covid-19 second wave gripped the world with a more deadlier propensity, yet again bringing the world to its kneel. However, there seems to be hope as scientists have recorded some major breakthrough in developing a Covid-19 vaccine to help protect people against the virus.
Although, we may still be in the tunnel, there is definitely light at the end of this tunnel. May God see us through this scary and very traumatizing time we have found ourselves. Let us keep hope alive, this too shall pass. Indeed, 2020 would go down memory lane as a year to remember. May the world, never experience another year like it again!
John Kokome, a Communications Strategist & Public Affairs Analyst writes from Lagos and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org