As long as 2020 was – some swear it was more than the usual 12 months – it really is coming to an end, with many impatient to usher in 2021 and experience better times. For many all over the world, the year will be unforgotten for many reasons. COLLINS KAINENE chronicles some of the moments that made this year an unforgettable one.

The COVID-19 Crisis

True, by December 2019, most of the Eastern world was battling with a virus-like illness. By the time the year rolled to an end, China alerted the World Health Organisation of 27 cases of “viral pneumonia” in the central city of Wuhan. Authorities shut down a wet market in Wuhan the next day, after discovering some patients were vendors or dealers.

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At January 2020, a 61-year-old man had reportedly succumbed to the new virus. This prompted preliminary lab tests cited by Chinese state media. By January 13, the virus was first detected outside China, as a Chinese woman was quarantined in Thailand.

It sounded far, until February 27, when an Italian in Nigeria tested positive for the virus. Thus, Nigeria recorded her first case of COVID-19. A Nigerian who had contact with the Italian tested positive in Ewekoro, Ogun State. Thus, the novel virus gained ground and ensured a six-month lockdown, from March to August.

Meghan Markle, Prince Harry Abandon Royalty

Before the world went into lockdown in March, in January, the complicated, shaky relationship between Prince Harry and his newly wedded wife Meghan, took another turn when the couple announced that it wished to no longer be treated as royals and that it would like to start an ‘ordinary life’.

Many moves were made it change its mind but the Sussex royals’ decision was one of the first ‘unusuals’ of 2020.

Vanity Fair wrote at the time: “There had been plenty of reports that the couple wasn’t happy, and in an October interview with Tom Bradby, their friend, and journalist with ITV, they both admitted that they had been struggling with the pressure that came along with being in the royal orbit. “Still, the abruptness and finality of their announcement came as a shock to nearly everyone involved, including the courtiers and aides at Buckingham Palace.”

US Election: Trump Loses, Biden Wins

The November 4 United States of America’s presidential contest had the world gasping for breath as the election initially appeared too close to call between incumbent President Donald Trump and his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. The election, one like never before was characterised by melodramatic developments ranging from alleged voter fraud to conspiracies.

In the end, Biden won, Trump lost. But the president is not conceding yet, insisting there were widespread electoral frauds. Governmental authorities in charge of electoral matters, however, claimed that the 2020 election was the “most secure in American history.”

Nevertheless, ‘Stop the Steal’ still reverberates in the States. After it became obvious that the election had been won and lost, the world finally heaved a sigh of relief. But Trump is not backing down yet and as they say, it’s not over until it’s over.

Australian wildfires

It was also a year of environmental extremes, beginning in January with unprecedented wildfires across Australia. Out-of-control blazes and bushfire smoke killed several hundred people, destroyed thousands of homes and devastated ecosystems. Despite disruption to fieldwork-based research, biologists raced to document the inferno’s impacts on biodiversity, and archaeologists investigated the damage to thousands of ancient Indigenous sites.

Monkeys run riot in Thai city

As the world began to go into lockdown in March and face the consequences of Covid-19, animals who had no idea what was going on began to reclaim their rightful place on Earth.

Soon enough the internet was awash with videos of marine life returning to the canals of Venice and deer venturing into towns in Japan. Some of these videos remain pretty unclear regarding whether they were actually a result of lockdown or not. However, footage of monkeys swarming and taking over a city in Thailand was undeniable and quite frankly terrifying.

Pentagon releases UFO videos

In any other year this probably would have been the biggest story on the planet but it happened to occur in 2020 so it was reduced to just something a bit weird.

Even with that in mind, it is still staggering that the Pentagon released actual footage of a UFO and now it’s just out there in the public realm for everyone to see. UFO enthusiasts didn’t know whether to cry or be completely elated.

George Floyd’s murder pops a can of protests

“I can’t breathe!” were some of the agonising final words that a black American man, George Floyd, managed to utter under mortal knee-on-neck choke by policeman Derek Chauvin. The chokehold lasted almost nine minutes. The man died. The town he lived in shortly thereafter was thrown into mourning, uproar, and destruction. There were protests across the US with an acrimonious chant, “I can’t breathe!”

Both whites and blacks took to the street to protest not just the brutality against Floyd but also against other blacks in the country. Sooner, the protests took global forms and expressions.

In Lebanon, after a port explosion that killed 158, Lebanese protested against the country’s political elite. Belarus Opposition supporters held a mass rally in the capital Minsk after a disputed election.

In Thailand, schoolchildren, wearing white ribbons and, raising three fingers, also took to the streets. There were anti-government demonstrations in Zimbabwe to protest against corruption and economic hardship. In Brazil, ‘Stop Bolsonaro’ protests banged pots and pans, calling for the president to resign. In Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands demonstrated against Beijing’s new security laws.

NDDC Probe and that ‘collapse’

After hemming and hawing, the director of the NDDC Interim Board, Prof. Daniel Pondei finally appeared before the National Assembly’s public hearing committee on the financial frauds going on in the commission.

After facing a barrage of questions and being unable to answer them, Pondei finally rolled his eyes, dimmed them, let his body down and rolled off his seat before the eyes of the committee members who were waiting for him to reveal the correct amount the commission spent on COVID-19 palliatives for staff (well, before he ‘tuned out’ he did say it was N1.3 billion and not N1.5billion).

Godswill Apkabio and Joi Nunieh’s Dirty Slap

The NDDC saga would not just go away, would it? Just before Pondei’s ‘surrender’, a former NNDC boss, Joi Nunieh and the Niger Delta Affairs Minister Akpabio got into it (they even dragged Nyesom Wike into it at some point, right?).

“Why did he not tell Mr. President what he did that I slapped him? I am the only Ogoni woman, Nigerian woman that has slapped his face. I slapped him because of his plan B…Why was he jealous that I was married for the 20th time – does he want to be my seventh husband? Even if I married 80 times… I did not even marry four times.”

So what made her slap him? Would we ever know?

 

Akpabio, NDDC and NASS ‘Thieves’

In a self-indicting testimony last July, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, told the House of Representatives Committee on NDDC probing allegations of mismanagement and illegal spending by the commission that the agency under his watch parcelled several contracts for members of the National Assembly, contrary to the provisions of Code of Conduct for Public Officers.

He said: “Just look at your chairman, (Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo). I have records to show that most of the NDDC contracts were given out to the National Assembly members. The two chairmen of both committees can explain to you. Who are even the greatest beneficiaries of the contracts? It’s you people at the National Assembly.”

Not done, he added, “We have records to show that most of the contracts in NDDC are given out to members of the National Assembly but you don’t know about it, the two chairmen can explain to you. I was a member of the NDDC committee. So, I know about it.”

Prior to his appearance before the committee, Nunieh had said of Akpabio: “He told me, as he did to my predecessor, Mrs. Akwagaga, to change all the dollars – $120 million in the account of the NDDC at the time to pay for his contracts, the de-silting contracts that he got, the water hyacinth and all.”

 

COVID-19 Palliatives turn up on the streets

People said there was hunger in the land. The state governments said they stored palliatives in anticipation of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. But the rumbling, empty, hunger-stricken stomachs of the poor did not allow Nigeria’s governments to sleep as images of heads carrying cartons of noodles (‘palliatives’, they call it now), sacks of wheat, garri and other foodstuff went viral. It was a riotous crowd that demonstrated their hunger for palliatives and anger that they were “hoarded” by their governments. Nothing was spared in the warehouses. They were called looters but the people insisted they only took what belonged to them. It did sound like kettle calling pot “black”.

Nigeria’s #EndSARS Protests

On October 8, 2020, nationwide protests, #EndSARS, engulfed Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. It was considered the culmination of the pent-up angst against police brutality in the country. Unlike previous protests in Nigeria, the protests were allegedly orchestrated mainly by the country’s youths rather than politicians or politically exposed persons.

The initial images of the protests were idyllic and enchanting. After several days on the streets, creating barricades and sometimes grinding many cities to a halt, signs of violence began to emerge. What began as peaceful protests took another shape as new elements of unidentified persons began an orgy of violence: vandalism, burglary, arson, and looting took over.

Warehouses were attacked and looted. Homes of prominent politicians were attacked and burgled. Media organisations were also attacked.

Just in the thick of the protests at Lekki Toll Gate, the invitation of soldiers to disperse protesters at the place left a trail of shootings and alleged killings, sparking outrage and condemnation. A few days into the protests, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad was disbanded but a new tactical team was immediately established to the consternation of the protesters.

The Federal Government said it had acceded to the #EndSARS five-point request. Currently, many states of the federation have set up judicial panels for victims of police brutality to seek redress.

That Recession

Still grappling with the COVID-19-related economic shocks, Africa’s biggest economy (well, that’s the hype around town) slipped into recession in November; for the second time in 5 years, by the way.

Oshiomhole Lost His Chair

The National Chairman of the ruling All Pressives Party, APC Adams Oshiomhole finally lost his coveted seat as Charman. After many failed attempts to unseat him, those wanted him out at all cost used a purported suspension by his ward as a predicate to get a federal high court to order him out of office. In March, an effort to seek redress in court fell through. The court ruled that APC should strip Oshiomhole of his position pending the determination of the case. The final attempt to get him back into the party’s hierarchy failed in June after the appellate court ruled there was no justifiable basis for an appeal against the court ruling suspending him.

…and ‘his’ state

Disqualified from seeking re-election as the governor of Edo State by the All Progressives Congress (APC) by the machinations of the Almighty Oshiomhole, Governor Godwin Obaseki did not give up. He defected from APC to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to set up a grand finale with his former boss’ new-fave, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.

In the re-match, they swapped places (political parties). Against all political permutations and supposed ‘federal might’ on the side of Ize-Iyamu, Obaseki strolled to the state government house for second term.

The Supreme Court Magic

The Supreme Court put a smile on Senator Douye Diri’s face in November when it upheld his election as governor of Bayelsa State. The court, in a unanimous judgment, upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which had earlier upturned the judgment of the election tribunal that sacked the governor and his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo.

The Supreme Court gave the verdict shortly after it dismissed six appeals seeking the nullification of the election of Diri and Ewhrudjakpo, following the withdrawal of the appeals by lawyers to the appellants.

Following the withdrawal of the appeals, the seven-member panel of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, dismissed the appeals and affirmed the election of Diri. The Court of Appeal, in a judgment on October 2, had upturned the judgment of the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that nullified Diri’s election.

The appellate court had in its decision by a five-man panel of justices, voided the majority judgment the tribunal delivered on August 17, which ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh election in the state within 90 days.

Umahi’s carpet flight

Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, a shameless admirer of President Muhammadu Buhari, finally followed his heart into the arms of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Accused of jumping the ship in the hope of clinching the 2023 presidential ticket, Umahi said: “Anybody saying I asked PDP for a presidential ticket is being mischievous, because, even if PDP promises anybody the presidential ticket, how does it work when over 8,000 delegates will be electing the person and such a promise cannot happen with more than 10 or 20 people?”

‘Hand of God’ drops

His blistering, dribbling speed was mesmerising; his vertical limit was no impediment as he looked up, head raised to the heavens and hand matching the level of his head, in anticipation of an inadvertent pass, Argentina’s Diego Maradona nailed the coffin of England in the 1986 World Cup.

“It was the ‘hand’ of God,” he reportedly responded when asked if his goal was a handball (touching of the ball with the hand or arm, constituting a foul in football). So, the man died. Maradona died on November 25, 2020. He was born on October 30, 1960.

Ukrainian jetliner crashes in Iran

The beginning of the year also witnessed a dramatic escalation in hostilities between the US and Iran, after a US drone strike killed Iran’s most notorious spymaster, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Qassem Soleimani.

This culminated in Iran’s military “unintentionally” shooting down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed killing all 176 aboard. The plane was shot down hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on two military bases housing US troops in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani.