By Eric Elezuo
When many had thought that the year 2020 had done the worse it could, they were jolted with the announcement, on Christmas Day, of the death of veteran Nollywood producer, Chico Ejiro, who was also known as Mr Prolific. Even as the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ was underway, not a few found the strength to mutter the expression, ‘what a year’.
His death was coming on the heels of the loss of billionaire business titan, Chief Harry Akande and Polo buff, Dapo Ojora. Both were just committed to mother earth. And not forgetting the Publisher of Leadership Newspapers, Sam Ndah Isaiah, who died at 58. He will be buried on December 28.
Without mincing words, the world has not seen a year so devastating, so hazardous and uncompromising as the dying Year 2020. It is not like hazardous events, and deaths were not recorded in other years, but it is believed that the trend of 2020 is quite different from all other years. From the reported missing star, which didn’t explode into supernovas before disappearing into the ‘black hole’ to the mysterious drones noticed in Colorado and Nebraska, and of a particular monkey snatching COVID-19 samples from three patients and escaping to a tree. There was also the accidental invasion of Czech Republic by Poland and the spotted asteroid seen heading to the earth among other inanities noticed in the folding year.
The year 2020 showed that it held little or no promises when on December 9, 2019, the dreaded Coronavirus, which was later renamed COVID-19, was discovered in the Chinese town of Wuhan. What started like a child’s play was later to metamophosed into a full blown pandemic, paralysing the world’s economy, ruin social and entertainment and religious lives of the people as well as creating a distance between one and another.
According to Science Direct, “the coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) is a highly transmittable and pathogenic viral infection caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which emerged in Wuhan, China and spread around the world. Genomic analysis revealed that SARS-CoV-2 is phylogenetically related to severe acute respiratory syndrome-like (SARS-like) bat viruses, therefore bats could be the possible primary reservoir.”
By January 2020, the virus had eaten deep into the fabrics of the society, causing nations to systematically declare unspoken sanctions against one another as international travels became totally restricted. No one wanted the other into his territorial space. Apart from the war declared on humanity by the virus, there was also a silent war declared by man against man; do not trespass into my territory. There were dire consequences for defaulters. The world was on lockdown!
While COVID-19 was warming up for its devastating blow, the world was hit with one of the very first of its series of blows when on January 26, 2020, a retired Los Angeles Lakers star, Kobe Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna, 13, were killed in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, Calif.
Bryant was among the passengers traveling onboard the helicopter. Nine people died in the crash, including the pilot. The other victims of the crash included John Altobelli, a longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College, a junior college in Costa Mesa. Calif., as well as Altobelli’s wife, Keri, and daughter Alyssa.
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. During the arrest Derek Chauvin, a white police officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, knelt on Floyd’s neck for about nine and a half minutes after he was handcuffed and lying face down. Two police officers, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, assisted Chauvin in restraining Floyd, while another officer, Tou Thao, prevented bystanders from interfering with the arrest and intervening as events unfolded. The death of Floyd sparked a series of protest across the world with the tag, #blacklivesmatter. It further exposed the fragile world to the coronavirus, which at this time was claiming thousands of lives across board with Italy and the United States of America accounting for highest number of death toll, running into hundreds of thousands.
In Nigeria, the matter of COVID-19 assumed greater seriousness when on April, one of the supposedly strong men of the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, who was the Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari died from complications from the disease. This was barely two months after the first case was reported in Nigerian, on February 26, 2020, of an Italian expatriate, who inadvertently recovered from the ailment.
Nigeria was not the only country that lost its CoS, as Guinea also recorded the death of Sékou Kourouma. He was the second high-profile death from COVID-19 within a 24-hour period after that of elections body head, Amadou Salif Kebe.
From then onwards, there was no looking back as the ailment claimed personality after personality, not to talk of ‘ordinary’ people who did not get a mention as a result of their status.
The peace of entertainment, religious and social circle of Nigeria was shattered on June 14, when the death of energetic wife of Founder, Trinity House, Church, Ibidunni Ighadalo, rented the air. She was one month shy of her 40th birthday.
On June 25, another Nigerian political heavyweight, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, bowed to the disease. He was 70 years. Abiola was a two term governor of Oyo State. A few days later, an accomplished industrialist who was also the Parakoyi of Ibadanland and the Chairman of Madandola Group, Chief Bode Akindele, also died. Shortly afterwards, Senator Kashamu Buruji followed suit.
In July, another heavyweight of the Buhari administration, Isah Funtua, joined the fray of fallen heroes. He was a notable force in Nigeria’s political terrain.
It is worthy of note that almost all the state governors had contracted the virus at one time or another. Some of them are Governor of Oyo, Seyi Makinde, Kaduna State’s Nasir El-Rufai and Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, Others are Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State among others.
Elsewhere, in July, Naya Rivera bowed out, just as the US Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at age 87. It was a moment of emotion as beloved Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman died at age 43, and Jeopardy! host, Alex Trebek died at age 80. These were men and women regarded as movers and shakers of world’s politics and policy makers.
The disease was no respecter of persons. It claimed the heavyweight and paperweight, the young, the not very young as well as the aged in its sweeping movement.
As at April, 2020, the virus had cleared over 1000 African personalities from former presidents, prime ministers and lawmakers, to entertainment icons and top sportsmen. The agony of the of the deaths was that most of these greats could not get the send-off they would have been accorded in “normal times.”
Dr. Anastasie Akamba, head of a district hospital in Yaounde, Cameroon, died from COVID-19. In the same vein, 56-year-old South African Queen Noloyiso Sandile, widow of the late King Maxhobha Sandile, passed away on 8 July 2020 following a short illness.
Ghana was not spared as it lost prominent medical experts in one fell swoop including an Orthopaedic Surgeon, a General Surgeon, a paediatrician and a Consultant Physician/Academic.
The casualties were Professor Jacob Plange-Rhule, Dr. Harry Boateng, a Specialist Paediatrician and Medical Superintendent at the Kwadaso SDA Hospital. A retired Orthopaedic Surgeon, Dr. Emmanuel Twagirayesu as well as Dr. Richard Kisser, a Consultant Surgeon with the Trust Hospital in the capital Accra.
On the political scene, Anthony K. K Sam, the Mayor of the Western Region’s oil-rich twin city of Sekondi-Takoradi had succumbed to the disease on Friday, June 12 before enigmatic leader, John Jerry Rawlings fell to the virus as well days after giving his mother a befitting burial.
Across Africa, and the world at large, the story remained the same; a tale of deaths and untold crises.
In Nigeria, while the government was relaxing the third phase of lockdown, the mother of all protests erupted; the #EndSARS Protests. These protests swept through the length and breath of the country, and leaving in its wake a tale of sorrow, tears and blood. Two weeks after the the protests kicked off, the Nigerian Army were accused of opening fire on armless protesting civilians at the Lekki Tollgate. Yet to confirmed reports said a lot of the protesters were gunned down. The incident has since come to be known as Lekki Massacre.
The aftermath of the reported shooting led to the looting and massive destruction of government property and public utilities, leading to more deaths of police personnel and civilians. At the end, it was estimated that over a trillion naira will be required to rebuild damaged infrastructure in Lagos alone, just as the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, announced that 37 police officers were murdered in the ensuing fiasco.
The long list of destroyed public and private property in Lagos were named as Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government secretariat; Palace of the Oba of Lagos; Lagos High Court, Igbosere; Oyingbo BRT terminus; Ojodu Berger BRT terminus; Vehicle Inspection Office, Ojodu Berger; Lagos State Public Works Corporation, Ojodu Berger; Lagos City Hall and Circle Mall, Lekki; numerous luxury shops in Surulere, The Nation Newspaper, TVC and Shoprite Lekki.
The #EndSARS protests resulted in another round of compulsory lockdown, and invariably another phase of economic lockdown. It was not therefore a surprise when the Buhari-led government announced another recession, the second in less than five years, and the worst since 1987. The country is yet to come out of the recession.
The year 2020 did not spare the sports industry as it claimed the arguably greatest soccer player ever, Diego Armando Maradona. The great Argentine star, who was known for his Hand of God goal against England in the 1986 Mexico World Cup, succumbed to heart failure. While the world was mourning his death, another world cup winning star Paulo Rossi was snatched by the cold hands of death. As if that wasn’t enough, Papa Diop of Senegal, who dazzled the world during the Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup also passed on.
On the good side, Napoli announced the signing of Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen from Ligue 1 side Lille on a five-year deal. According to French sports newspaper L’Equipe, the deal is worth more than $96m (81.3m euros) making him the most expensive African player of all time.
In like manner, British-Nigerian boxer, Anthony Joshua, knocked out Bulgarian boxer, Kubrat Pulev, in the ninth round of their world title bout at the SSE Arena, Wembley, to retain his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight titles.
In America however, the citizens succeeded in upturning the presidency of Donald Trump, handing it over to Democratic candidate, Joe Biden after an intense electioneering and equally intense vote counting which lasted for days; a novel occurrence in the history of America.
The intrigues of the year notwithstanding, it can also be noted that Nigeria’s Adewunmi Adesina was reelected as President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) after intrigues initiated by the United States to throw out the Nigerian hopeful. Again, Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has received a unanimous endorsement to become the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
This is a year that was ushered in with the best of hopes and pomp, but while many are short of words to describe 2020, some can only say, dis year sef.
The year 2020 has proved to be one year many won’t subscribe to its repeating. They said it was tense. The world wishes a better 2021!