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2021: Nigeria’s “Annus Horribillis’’?

The British Monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the only person in the world who “owns” a language. It’s called “Queens English”, and although…

The British Monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the only person in the world who “owns” a language. It’s called “Queens English”, and although these days it’s hardly ever written, let alone spoken, every once in a while, Her Majesty reminds us that the language contains words derived from Latin origins. In 1992, she used the phrase “Annus Horribilis” to describe an uncharacteristically, disastrous and unfortunate year in which unpleasant things happened. Queen Elizabeth II said,“…1992 is not a year which I shall look back upon with undiluted pleasure”.  She further said, “I suspect that I am not alone in thinking it so. Indeed, I suspect that there are very few people or institutions unaffected by these last months of turmoil and uncertainty”.

In the opinion of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), 2021 was an “Annus Horribillis” for Nigerian workers who endured socio-economic downturns, hyperinflation, widespread hardship, governance reversals and the COVID-19 pandemic fallout. The NLC Christmas message titled “Hope Beyond Despair” voiced concerns over a looming hunger epidemic predicated upon most farmers being unable to plant crops due to clashes with herdsmen. They concluded that 2021 would be remembered as the year in which Nigerian workers were confronted with the reality of increases in prices of essential and basic utilities, commodities, services, staple food items, cooking gas, cement and other building materials. The NLC Executive challenged the government to solve the problems of today instead of continuing to make promises and paint pictures of a rosy future. It’s trite that every cloud has a silver lining and so it is with 2021.  

The upside to the unrelenting suffering can be found in an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Chinua Achebe’s legendary novel “Things Fall Apart”. The piece in question refers to Okonkwo remembering a tragic year when everything went wrong and people even committed suicide in despair. He reflected upon how, despite the fact that the troubles of that year had been enough to break the heart of a lion, he personally didn’t sink under the load of depression and anguish. He knew he was a fierce fighter and concluded that “Since I survived that year, I shall survive anything!” This is the “optimism” with which Nigerians must face 2022. Indeed, 2021 is a good indication that the nation is liable to survive anything!

There is no disputing that despite official denials our nation is deeply divided socially and economically as well as poorly governed. Nowhere is the tragedy of how Nigeria is governed more evident than in the total disregard of poor, weak and vulnerable citizens. Political office holders revel in luxury at public expense, going about their merry way attending weddings, birthday parties, traditional title bestowing, and other frivolous social activities while the nation earns the distinction of being the poverty capital of the world in which the majority of the populace manages to somehow survive below the international poverty line. Over the past year, unrelenting criticism has trailed the president and his ministers. While they do undoubtedly deserve some reprimand, perhaps the real lesson to learn from 2021 is the absolute ineffectiveness of the National Assembly (NASS) as a check on the excesses of the Executive. They have long cemented their reputation as an unjustifiably expensive rubberstamp institution, which hasn’t done itself proud in any way shape or form.

The House of Representatives continues to reveal itself as one of the hindrances to national progress and part of the problem, not part of any solution. Their aversion to enhancing citizens’ rights, detecting economic crimes through oversight functions, reducing the “entitlements” of political office holders and encouraging the nation’s intelligent and well-educated youths to participate in the political arena is legendary.

The Senate rather than being a place for vibrant young minds who can conceptualise a better future and legislate for it, has cemented its reputation as a retirement home for ex-governors and other former public office holders many of whom caused the nation’s woes in the first place!

Taking into account geriatric leadership and the lack of innovative ideas in the three arms of government, many predict that the upcoming year may not bode well for Nigerians. The planned increase in fuel pump price is predicted to cause hyper-inflation, greater unemployment as more businesses close down, strikes, protests and hyperinflation. There is a real and present danger of an increased exodus of highly qualified Nigerian doctors emigrating to greener pastures.

Throughout 2021, experts in almost every field warned the government to desist from its ill-conceived policies and relentless borrowing, but complaints and warnings proved to be a waste of time. It’s evident that public opinion means little or nothing to those currently at the helm of our affairs.

In 2022, Nigerians should remain hopeful that better days are around the corner. What is important is that the incoming 2023 administration should have the capacity and personnel to pick up the pieces and rectify the mess left behind, but this is dependent on proper electoral processes. The last hurdle to ensuring the next government surpasses the current one is to implement a properly inclusive electoral system. The first step is to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill and encourage direct primaries. Democracy is supposed to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The politics of delegates is a guaranteed means of ensuring the continuation of money politics in obtaining nomination. For far too long, the electorate have been asked to delegate their powers and the results have been disastrous. As the current administration winds down its affairs in 2022, they should be concentrating on social as opposed to infrastructural legacy. Signing the Electoral Amendment Act, maintaining fuel pump prices, not increasing personal taxes and reducing official jaunting and insecurity would be a good start. If these are tackled then in one fell swoop, 2022 could easily become an “Annus Mirabilis” (a wonderful, miraculous or amazing year) instead of following 2021 as yet another “Annus Horribillis”.

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