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2022: War, Strikes, Inflation and Elections (I)

In the future, historians will come to describe 2022 as a sort of pivot in history; marking the end of a turbulent era and catapulting…

In the future, historians will come to describe 2022 as a sort of pivot in history; marking the end of a turbulent era and catapulting us into another catastrophic. The beginning of the year met us hopeful that we had finally gotten the COVID-19 pandemic under control. Travel bans were lifted, work places were becoming busy and life as we knew was beginning to return to normal. And then, just as we were heaving a collective sigh of relief, major war returned to Europe and the world was thrown into crisis again. There were failed power grabs in São Tomé and Príncipe, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and against Mali’s military junta. I guess it was a continuation of a trajectory set in 2021, a year that saw four successful coups in Africa (Chad, Guinea, Mali, and Sudan). 

However, it is not all gloom and doom. There was some good news. Nigerian Tobi Amusan broke a 16-year record at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The first person of colour was elected as prime minister in the British government. Qatar hosted a brilliant and magnificent world cup. Most notably, the COVID-19 pandemic eased in many countries. But overall, 2022 brought more bad news than good news. 

The year 2022 started on a sad note in Nigeria. From 4th to 6th January, over 200 people were killed by bandits in Zamfara State. This was the deadliest terrorist attack in recent Nigerian history. For two days, armed bandits laid siege to the towns of Kurfa and Rafin-Gero without an intervention by the government. Five different settlements were destroyed by bandits. A survivor recounts that the bandits were shooting “anyone on sight”. 


As is customary of my favourite trade union, ASUU; they embarked on yet another one of their infamous annual strikes on the 14th of February, to “press home its demands from the federal government”. I am sure the date- Valentine’s day- was chosen solely because of the immense love they have for Nigeria’s educational system. The strike lasted for eight months during which some lecturers turned to Uber drivers and others migrated to greener pastures. So far, ASUU has said only 10% of the demands they ferociously fought for, has been met. They shall live to fight another day. 

Aluta continua! Victoria Acerta! Or maybe not. 

Late in 2021, U.S. and British officials began warning that Russia would invade Ukraine. Many European leaders, including Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky himself, dismissed the idea of war. But on Feb 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, and sanctions imposed on Russia by Western states led to surging food, fuel, and fertilizer prices. As Russia bombarded key cities in Ukraine, videos shared on social media showed Africans being prevented from boarding trains out of the country to make space for Ukrainians first, according to Africans fleeing. More than 1,300 Nigerian citizens were evacuated from Ukraine since the Russian invasion and they came back with horror stories too gory to relieve. 

And while we watched the war on our screens and political analysts competed with each other in educating on us on how the war in Europe would affect the price of bread and why we should all be having nightmares and peeing in our pants, tragedy struck in our backyard. 

On March 28, 2022, an Abuja–Kaduna train was attacked in Katari, Kaduna State. The train left Abuja’s Idu station at 6 pm and was scheduled to arrive in Kaduna’s Rigasa train station by 8 pm. According to eyewitness accounts, the train was bombed twice before the armed bandits opened fire on the passengers. Approximately 970 passengers were on board and sixty-two passengers were abducted in the attack. At least eight people were killed, including Amin Mahmoud, a youth leader of the APC, Chinelo Megafu, a medical doctor, Tibile Mosugu, a rising lawyer and Barrister Musa Lawal-Ozigi, secretary-general, Trade Union Congress, TUC. 

It was a devastating time for Nigeria. I remember how shocked and horrified we were as the details emerged of the victims abducted and killed. We cried and we prayed. And we cried and we prayed. We reached out to loved ones and commiserated with them. We shared hashtags and raised our voices till we were hoarse from speaking out. The Nigerian military issued threats, made promises and bamboozled us with sweet promises. The government was doing their best, they assured us.  Donations were made, ransoms were paid and gradually, slowly, painstakingly, the last of the passengers were released seven months later.   

Alhamdulillah. May we never witness such dark times ever again. Ameen. 

April marked the beginning of Ramadan and once again Northern Nigerian turned into a religious, charitable region where people converged at sunset as food was distributed freely and happily. Relaxation on travel bans meant that Muslims all over the world could travel freely to Saudi Arabia for lesser hajj after a two-year COVID hiatus. Trust Nigerians, we no dey carry last. By the time the last ten days of the month of Ramadan approached, the streets of Kano were visibly empty. All the rich Alhajis had travelled to Makkah. Afterall, the Laban and Ajwa are not going to eat themselves. 

When I describe Nigerians to foreigners, I tell them that my country is a secular one. That it is made up of both Muslims and Christians. Sometimes, I romanticise it a bit and say we live in perfect peace and harmony with each other. And to a certain degree, I largely believe this fallacy. However, the lynching of Deborah Samuel Yakubu, in May, proved to me that we are still a far cry from attaining religious tolerance, talk more of peace. Deborah, a Christian, in  Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto, made a blasphemous statement against the Prophet Muhammad on a WhatsApp group. In what was clearly jungle justice, a mob of fellow students stoned Yakubu, before dumping tires on her and burning her body beyond recognition. Her statement and consequent lynching were both condemnable acts. 

It’s like the proverb: Two wrongs don’t make a right. 

And as if that was not enough bad news, On June 5, 2022, a mass shooting and bomb attack occurred at a Catholic church in the city of Owo, Ondo State. At least 40 people were killed and 58 injured. Till date, no group has yet claimed responsibility. Some said the attack was caused by gang rivalry, others postulated that it was ISWAP, while a few pointed accusing fingers at the herdsmen clashes. The truth is we still do not know who is responsible for the tragic event. 

Whoever it is, may they never know peace. 

This year was marked by several election processes. In June, former Secretary to the State Government Abiodun Oyebanji of the APC won the gubernatorial election by a 30% margin over first runner-up and SDP nominee—former Governor Olusegun Oni. The general election was noted for its logistical organisation and peaceful voting, despite a turbulent campaign period marked by several notable interparty clashes. By the early morning of 19 June, collation was completed and INEC declared Oyebanji as the victor, as was highly anticipated. 

A surprise was, however, in store for Nigerians in the Osun State gubernatorial election which took place on July 16, 2022. The incumbent APC Governor, Gboyega Oyetola lost by a 3.5% margin to the dancing Senator Adeleke—the nominee of the PDP. Instead of bad news, and for a pleasurable while, social media was awash with videos of the new governor displaying enviable Michael Jackson like moves. You have to admit it, the man can dance and his videos provide much needed entertainment. 

Laughter, really is the best medicine. Or is dancing the best medicine? 

The review of  year 2022 continues next week.


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