By Issa Aremu
Perhaps no year in our generation has been so smeared like 2020! We are witnesses to a “Year abuse” as it were. Witness some smear newspaper headlines: “Year of Coronavirus”, “Year of Face-masks” , “2020: What a Year!” , “Year of Deaths”, “Year of Kidnappers”, “Year of Bandits” ad Infinitum.
Obviously 2020 was a year of “death expectancy” as distinct from life expectancy envisaged by United Nation Development Programme (UNDP). Every body must have known somebody who also knew somebody who sadly caved in to the Covid: 19 (2020 trademark!).
Same for banditry of varying hues and the cruelty it wrecked on lives and livelihoods. But even at that, an additional smear of the year of adversity will be one smear too addictive. Indeed serial smears and name callings of this year only further point to its significance and uniqueness in Gregorian Calendar.
The 193- Member States United Nations (UN) was founded in 1945 on the ruins of World War II. Does any body still remember that the 75th anniversary of the global body is ongoing as much as we all must dutifully wear the face mask against a rampaging Virus in 2020? United Nations in its 75 years is yet to successfully rally members states against the scourge of war as contained in its high-sounding Charter dealing with global peace and global justice. On the contrary, dis(United) Nations (apology to Fela ) has supervised more deadly wars than the WW1 and WW11, inclusive of forgotten wars in Africa.
But a single year: 2020 has energized entire humanity on preservation of lives and livelihoods on a scale never witnessed with unprecedented sense of urgency, sincerity of purpose. 2020 has reset the world to rightly allocate scarce resources from the wasteful weapons of mass destruction to worthy feverishly search for vaccine production. With all it’s woes, 2020 is the year of “vaccine sovereignty” as opposed to “vaccine dependency” as every nation searches saves its citizens’ lives first. Interestingly nobody saw this year coming.
2020 escaped all predictions of pundits, armed chair soothsayers and forecasters. The Israeli bestseller Yuval Noah in his thought provocative book brought to the fore : “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” with respect to religion, immigration, equality, justice, liberty and terrorism. Interestingly he conspicuously missed out on lessons from the bagful of past pandemics such as Third Cholera Pandemic (1852–1860), Flu Pandemic (1889-1890) Sixth Cholera Pandemic (1910-1911)Asian Flu (1956-1958), Flu Pandemic (1918) and HIV/AIDS Pandemic! 2020 has brought out the point: it’s not yet the end of history of afflictions for humanity. The annual Special Edition of the British Economist is my favorite “window” through which I peep into every new year with respect to trends and scenarios about global political economy.
Hamish McRae (Journalist and Author,) in an article entitled: “The long view: Lessons from a past attempt to look far ahead” made a bold attempt at visioning for the next 30 years last year. In the Economist’s (THE WORLD IN 2020) edition, he offered “five predictions”; “There will be 10 billion people in the world”, “China will be clearly the world’s largest economy” though it’s “ ageing and declining population” would make it insular, “Some three-quarters of the world’s population will be middle- class” , “The United States will remain the most vibrant, outward looking and wealthy region in effect winning the tussle with China for global influence”, “Technological advances will enable the world to give Decent lifestyle to most of its 10bn” .
No real prediction: Covid:19. Of course in the wake of Covid: 19 first and second wave resurgence, “visions” had turned to be mere fictions. “Nobody knows tomorrow” after all as a popular singer once put it. Year 2020 has truly demystified the “visions” of the “The British Economist’s “futurists” and exposed them for what they were: wishful thoughts! In the entire 142-paged edition, on what 2050 would look like, no single mention of the word: “epidemic” . Covid: 19 had infected some 82.1 million humans.
With 19.4 million infected people and a quarter of global deaths of some 1.79 million humans ( America’s 336 fatalities!), and an outgoing rouge President, (presiding over cemeteries), certainly the United States is far from being the “most vibrant, outward looking and wealthy region” in 2020 as predicted . In the new year, we must have a critical look at received wisdoms.
2020 shows that Africans must be weary of dictatorship of “suggestions”, “predictions” or “visions”. The latest “prediction” about Nigeria is the editorial comment of ““Financial Times of London of 22nd of December ” according to which Nigeria as a country ….” “is plagued with terrorism, illiteracy, poverty, banditry, and kidnapping and risks becoming a failed state if things don’t take a drastic turn”. The UK-based newspaper in an editorial titled, ‘Nigeria at Risk of Becoming a Failed State’ cited abductions and subsequent rescue of over 300 schoolboys in Kankara, Katsina State, which revived memories of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls abducted in Borno State in 2014 as signs of “a failing state”. FT was “even academic” with Nigeria. It offered a 101 definition of a failed state:. According to it “the definition of a failed state is one where the government is no longer in control”.
“By this yardstick, Africa’s most populous country is teetering on the brink” Really? Pray and let’s see beyond this simplistic smear of a country by FT! There is a new deadly variant of Coronavirus in UK in the last two weeks. This development had spiked the infection rates to some 2.3 millions and as many as almost 72,000 deaths in Britain. If we add the chaotic Brexit, hasn’t Bori Johnson government not lost control? Can’t we by FT’s rule of thump say UK is a failed state just as Nigeria lost control over serial abductions? 2020 has commendably exposed the fallacy of the Eurocentric patronizing selective concept of “a failed state” to explain the challenges of development in Africa. Please don’t get me wrong. I daily live the bitter experiences of insecurity, incoherent and self serving ruling elite, electricity failure, greed and corruption, policy dictatorships of IMF and World Bank.
But which country has no citizens watching their backs in the age of a pandemic and scandalous global bad governance ? With all the technological break through and celebrated artificial intelligence, 2020 has exposed the underbelly and gross limitations of our world. If the whole world got locked down and buckled to an ubiquitous Virus, does it make ours a failed world? As we move into a new year with all it’s old baggages, it’s time Africans were optimistic about the prospects of good governance, democracy, deeper democracy ( NOT any other forms of unelected governments) and development if the continent would eradicate poverty in the 21st century. The state actors and civil society in Africa must reject pessimistic received wisdom which often declared Africa countries “failed states” through magnified challenges of development.
2020 dramatized it all: It’s an open knowledge that the world is ravaged by a Virus pandemic. But nobody was eager to damn America “a failed state” for the mess it made of the Virus management just as it did for its 2020 elections the outcome of which incumbent Donald Trump is yet to accept. 2020 was a year most African countries got independence. 60 years after independence. The point cannot be overstated: sustainable development is only possible with optimistic perspective that must be critical of “Euro- centric concept of failed state”. Social science concepts are not value- free. If Africans say they are making progress, we possibly will work for more progress. But if all we assume is nothing but addictive failures, down loaded smears, then there will be resignation and despair, the unhelpful trade marks of underdevelopment. May 2021 promise better opportunities worthy of praises.
Issa Aremu mni