None of our prophets foresaw that year 2020 was pregnant with enormous disasters and unusual existential challenges. Humanity welcomed the year with the overused shouts of “Happy new year”. But not much was happy about the year. The history of 2020 is awful. It is a chronicle of deaths, destructions, sorrow, tears and blood.
The year started very well in Ondo state. Its early part marked the third anniversary of the Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu government. While seeking the mandate of the people of the state in 2016, Arakunrin Akeredolu promised a new dawn, progress and development. The people gave him their mandate to run the state for four years. After three years in the saddle, his government had put a significant layer of development. He had kept faith with his promise of good governance. It was time to celebrate and give glory to God.
The drums were rolled out. Life-transforming projects were lined up for commissioning. Among the projects were the Redemption Bridge and the Ondo-Linyi Industrial Hub, Ore. President Mohammadu Buhari was invited to be part of the glorious event. The president honoured the invitation of Governor Akeredolu and saw some of the laudable achievements that the state had been able to record in three years. President Buhari left the state with the impression that Governor Akeredolu was a symbol of progressive politics and pride of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Redemption Bridge was the Akeredolu government’s solution to years of carnages and gridlocks at the Ore portion of the Benin-Shagamu highway. The carnages and gridlocks were majorly as a result of the complex nature of the Ore intercession. Several precious lives had been consumed, limbs lost and manhours wasted on the highway. Before the construction of the bridge, the road was always thirsty for blood. President Buhari saw it and was happy and full of praises for Arakunrin Akeredolu.
The industrial hub is part of the Akeredolu government’s efforts to significantly transform the economy of the state. The Ondo-Linyi Industrial Hub is currently hosting no fewer than seven industries. More are still coming. President Buhari saw the hub and marvelled, hoping that other governors in the country could emulate Arakunrin Akeredolu.
The early part of the year also marked the launch of the Southwest Security Network codenamed Amotekun. The security initiative is a popular response to the growing insecurity in the southwest. It was hailed by the people of the region. Shortly after the launch, Amotekun faced a fierce storm. But it weathered the storm. This was due to the courage and candour of Arakunrin Akeredolu, who is the chairman of the Southwest Governors Forum.
By the end of February, it began to appear that the year would be a challenging one. The Covid-19 pandemic had increased its ravages across the world, instilling fear into humanity. It found its way into Nigeria through an Italian citizen. Immediately the index case was reported, measures were taken by government to prevent the spread of the disease. Part of the measures was the prohibition of any gathering of people that were more than 50 in Lagos state.
Governor Akeredolu was to be honoured with an award by the Vanguard Newspaper in Lagos. The management of the newspaper had done its investigation and found out that the governor had greatly performed. Arakunrin Akeredolu had accepted to physically receive the award. We had already set for the event but it was cancelled by the organisers because of Covid-19. That was when it dawned on us that the world was in trouble.
The state government introduced measures to ensure the pandemic did not get to the Sunshine state. Schools were closed. Religious and commercial activities were restricted. Some categories of civil servants were asked to stay at home. Curfew was imposed and boarders were closed. It was a terrible experience. It was as if the world was going to an end. But in early April, the state recorded its index case, a military officer who had just returned from India.
Initially, many thought the pandemic was a storm that would soon abate. No, it continued to rage – it is still raging anyway. It tasked man’s ingenuity and humbled religion and science. Covid-19 evaded the eyes of science for months. Yet, it is to the glory of science that vaccines have been discovered to wade off the scourge. But not until it had killed millions across the world and destroyed the wealth of several nations.
Covid-19 is just reminding us the awesomeness of God and showing us the limits of science and human knowledge. God is the sole owner of heaven and earth. He will hide from us what He wants to hide and reveal only what He wants to reveal. Up till now, scientists still don’t have the full knowledge of the behaviour of the pandemic. They are still researching. There is still much to know about the coronavirus that spreads the illness.
After having some respite from the ravages of the pandemic, people were gradually returning to normal life. However, protests erupted in the southern part of the country against the activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian Police Force. The protesting youths demanded the scraping of the unit. The federal government acceded to their demand. A new unit was created to replace SARS, but the protesters rejected it. They remained on the streets and kept on adjusting the list of their demands until the protests were hijacked by hoodlums. Some lost their lives while several public and private properties were burned down. It was a tough moment for Ondo state and her people.
In 2020, the state lost some of her prominent indigenes. The year recorded the death of Dr. Wahab Adegbenro, then Commissioner for Health. Adegbenro was a rare breed. He lived his life for others. The state also lost Prof. Bayo Ademodi who was Commissioner for Regional Integration. Others in the service of the state who departed the world were Alhaji Khalil Fawehinmi, Chairman, Ondo State Pilgrim Welfare Board; Mrs. Margaret Atere, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor. 2020 also marked the passing of Prof. Olu Aboluwoye, a vehement supporter of the Akeredolu government. The calamity of the 2020 spilled over to the second day of the new year with the loss of Barrister Tosin Ogunbodede, the Chief of Protocol (CoP) to the Governor, and his driver in a ghastly auto-crash. We pray for God’s intervention and protection in the new year.
However, 2020 was not all about ugliness. It had its flashes of beauty. It was a year when the jinx of bitumen exploitation and exploitation was broken in the state. The natural resource has been discovered in the southern region of the state more than 100 years ago. All efforts to tap the natural gift in the past failed. Another flash of beauty of 2020 was the peaceful conduct of the October 10 gubernatorial election. All the predictions that the poll would be violent collapsed like a pricked balloon. Governor Akeredolu was offered another mandate to continue with the development of the state. Despite the ugliness of 2020, we still have reasons to praise the Lord.
*** Oyewamide is Senior Special Assistant to Governor Akeredolu on Media and Publicity