By Amarachukwu Okpunobi
Dear year 2020, I lift my writing pen to write this letter to you with grateful heart, yet burdened and heavy. I am not sure if I am going to express myself in a way you will understand my heart but one thing I am sure is that in a couple of days you will be a wrap. Let me remind you how you began.
We came into you with great expectations and appreciation. . When last year was about to go down, we were filled with hope, joy, and somewhat peace. Some of us, 2019 left with bitterness, they only hoped that you will be a comfort for them. A year for undeniable peace and unquenchable joy.
They hoped that you become a new page filled with great surprises. As December of 2019 drew closer, our aspirations and what we were going to be began to rise, so many dreams were given birth to. In fact it was days of renaissance. Dead hopes were brought alive, smiles filled our cheeks.
Lives were brought to earth and we loved that you will be great and good to us all. So many prophesies were made about you, some said it was a year of double blessings simply because alphabetically, your letters were doubled. While some said that you will be filled with bitterness and crisis, others had it that many will die.
I only hoped that you’ll give us your best and we enjoy the ride.
As the days drew nearer to the conclusion of the year 2019, your aura filled the atmosphere. Prices of food items went on the high side, still we survived. It was so good that a week after the celebration of Christ’s birth, you emerged. We were again so happy to wish each other a happy and prosperous new year.
We sang, danced and had merry. We were filled with thanks, most of us went for thanksgiving in the church while others paid homage to the deities they serve.
We began to return to our various towns of origin for the celebration of the new year. People got married, renewed their vows to each other and made their union stronger while some others saw reasons for a divorce. Festivity filled the air; each day had its own reasons to call for celebration.
We earnestly prayed that we do not see our end in you and hoped that our loved ones do not leave us too.
Gradually you began to unfold yourself to us. The harmattan was also going as the day went by. The aroma of nice stews were beginning to diffuse into an unperceivable zones and we gradually went back to what seemed to be our normal life.
Soon, the news of the emergence of the novel corona virus became the headline of every news both print and online media. At the onset, we believed that it was only for the white men till it began to hit millions, both on the white and the black man. Social gathering gradually were stopped and schools too.
Those of us who weren’t affected directly by the indefinite strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, were forced to go back to our homes.
They said it was far better to die in our homes than unknown lands. We were not to move in the streets. It became hard for us. Exams was put on hold, it was a halt for all of us. We missed our classes and lectures. We missed our afternoon recess time.
We missed our lecturers who made jest of us in the class and who we made jest of. We missed one another. They said we had to start electronic learning, even universities. Then we began to think of the fate of those in rural areas, those who had no access to technology, those of us who had the devices but can’t operate them.
What of our teachers who were illiterate to computer who still used their notes of ten years ago to teach us. Some schools that started it could not continue after few days because of lack of management and compliance of those who are being taught. Some of the lecturers said they weren’t ready for such development.
The course for electronic learning was defeated. Big thanks to media houses who began to teach on air, though it wasn’t easy for us to adapt but it was productive. In as much as it became hard for us ,it was also time to checkmate where we are, economically, intellectually and otherwise and also who we are.
They employed curfew and it became our brother.
Those who fell victim were used as scapegoats. Some slept behind bars, beaten black and blue, some bailed themselves and crime rate seemed to be at the increase then. We began to count the number of crimes daily. Social media was flooded with ugly incidence.
People only saw themselves by pictures that was posted or shared on their social media handles and by social media calls. We had our meetings online.
Everything began to move like we were in the cinema seeing a recent movie that was just released without a trailer. We watched in total dismay as we couldn’t predict the next episode. All we knew was that it was episodic, one part after another.
Then, we normalized the use of nose masks, hand sanitizers and social distancing. To make matters worse, we became brutal on our own lives. Prices of masks and hand sanitizers became inflated. Markets were closed and banks too. Food items were nowhere to be found, consequently we couldn’t buy them.
We weren’t complaining of how expensive they were but their scarcity. The Federal Government closed the boarders, fertilizers became scarce. The farmers were complaining and so was everybody. No planting and no yield. People were losing their jobs. It was days of self-creativity and survival.
We began to depend on the things and ideas our brain was able to create. We heard of other countries given their citizens palliatives to survive with, but certainly in my dear country, it was heard on the news except for the philanthropic individuals who took it upon themselves to provide for the masses as much as they could.
We thought it was going to end within days or probably a couple of weeks, but no, we were all stuck in this for months. Maybe that was what opened our eyes to seeing the brutality being mated on Nigerian youths by those who were supposed to ensure their security.
The hash tags, endpolicebrutality, endsars, endbadgovernance set the whole media ablaze both local and international. Even twitter created an emoji for us. Celebrities got involved too, it was a fight for all. We began to protest and also had prayer walks.
It was peaceful initially, it was peaceful. It was just a simply yearning of the masses for a better governance and nothing more. But it blew out.
Little did we know that it was going to turn sour. For the first few days, it was calm. We said it was to last for three weeks. But before the three weeks elapsed, things became ugly and went out of hand. Demolition of properties by angry mobs became the order of the day. Houses were burnt, banks too.
The youths were fired and killed. Some were severely injured. We prayed for divine intervention every day. It wasn’t a matter of who is safe but who was next. Our lives seemed like it had been timed by our fellow citizens. I remember the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre on 20th October 2020.
The helpless masses ran for their lives and yet the flying bullets pierced into their weeping heart and stripped them off their lives. They panted for breath but the little air they got was already contaminated by their decaying dreams being buried in their fatherland.
Tears filled our eyes and dropped like the rain. Our screens were stained with blood and the national flag turned a shield for straying bullets. Peace flew to the skies and of course, progress and unity were already out of the country before then.
We waited patiently for the speech of our dear president but it was taking ages to come. It was so easy for us to conclude that my dear country lacked a president. News had it that he wasn’t in the country, some others that he was preparing his speech and will soon show up on TV or probably his voice heard on radio.
And guess what, when he eventually did, we prayed he never did but that’s by the way. The youths then succumbed and went into their shells for hiding. Were hiding in our land, it was becoming bearable. But we weren’t giving up, we believed that it will get better. We kept hope alive.
We did not run away. We stayed back and bore the pain engraved in our hearts. We gradually returned to school and started afresh. We lived in fear. Each minute came with its own thought of fear but still we refused giving up, it was not an option.
Our education system was already going down the drain and coming back to school shun a light for us at the end of the tunnel. We weren’t getting the best from the education system but it was better we learn that way than we are layed bare with nothing. We wept everyday but it was tears of strength, power and perseverance.
Tears of hope and survival. Yes! We kept living. We celebrated our heroes. We mourned and lit candles for them and we prayed for a peaceful repose of their souls. They were the main heroes and heroines. They died why asking for our own good.
Here we are today, gradually living the space of year 2020 to move to 2021 yet with hope and faith. We survived you dear year 2020. We will tell our children of that year security was totally denied us. We will tell them of how the blood of our brothers splashed on us.
We will tell them of our struggles to rewrite our stories. We will tell them the stories of our survival. We will tell them all of it, every bit of it.
It’s few days to the year 2021, dear year 2020, you have severed us so much. Please I plead that you allow us match into the New year with good health. We do not want to lose our loved ones to you again, you have taken enough from us and we have learnt our lessons too. Do well to tell year 2021 that we survived you and we will survive her too.