By Muyiwa Adetiba
If you are reading this article, it means you have survived the year with its twists and turns. Congratulations. 2020 was the kind of year that nothing was guaranteed until the last hour.
As the pandemic raged uncontrolled from home to home, from country to country, and from continent to continent; as it took on princes and paupers, leaders and led, mighty and lowly; as it denied oxygen to economies round the world and brought giant companies gasping to their knees; as it severed inter country and inter cultural links; as the toll rose on relationships and mental health stretching fragile emotional threads to breaking point; and as the end to the destructive reach of the pandemic seemed not to be in sight, one couldn’t escape thinking in some dark moments, of the biblical ‘End Time’.
Of this ‘End Time’ which nobody but the creator knows the day or the hour, the bible says ‘two men will be walking on the field. One will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding wheat together at the mill. One will be taken and the other left’. It certainly felt like this in places last year. There were reports of couples living together where one would be taken by COVID 19 and the other left. Or two friends attending a choir practice where one would be taken and the other left. Or two colleagues at work where one would be taken and the other left. Or families having dinner where some would be taken and others left.
Not knowing the criteria for ‘the taking and leaving’– many victims had been careful – and seeing friends and associates fall victim to the pandemic left one vulnerable and fearful. This posed its own challenge on physical and mental health. Not knowing where to turn in the circumstances – a friend suspected he got infected at the hospital where he went to treat a different ailment – left one disoriented and in despair. Then of course there were plans for the year which got thrown out of the window. Many of us were full of business and personal plans this time last year. How many of them were fulfilled? At a point, the issue went beyond actualising plans to just staying alive. It was discouraging to see citizens of strong nations with formidable military arsenals fall like flies on the viral war front. And while man was locked down in fear and despair, it was instructive to see the opening up of the earth to its other inhabitants; to witness the freshness of air as it cleansed itself of fog, the lush greenery of the fields as the blades danced to the hidden music of soft breeze, the cleanliness of the seas as they got aerated again to give life to their inhabitants the sea creatures, the joy of birds as the skies opened up for them and of animals as they regained some measure of freedom while humans were caged inside their beautiful homes. It was humbling for man to learn for all his pretence that he doesn’t even control, let alone own the earth. These are lessons for now and the future.
The pandemic brought out the best and the worst in mankind. Nations closed their boarders and treated other nationals as aliens. Erstwhile allies turned on themselves in fear and distrust. The rallying cry was ‘to your house o Israel’. Yet for all the populist tendencies, for all the blame game, it was the result of international co-operation that saw to what now looks like a glimmer of light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. Chinese scientists first offered the scientific code of COVID 19 to WHO as early as the beginning of last year. Relying on this and other researches of previous efforts on viruses, scientists across board and race, worked hard to develop at least six frontline vaccines. These collaborative efforts shortened the process for vaccine development by as much as a third, giving the world three efficacious vaccines in under a year. The first two vaccines to scale the hurdle were actually developed by immigrants – to Germany and United States. One is even reported to have a strong involvement of a Nigerian – American. So much for protectionism and populism. The world will fare better when nations open their doors – and people their minds – to others. This is a message to Britain with its Brexit as well as the rest of the world.
While nations were trying to look out for themselves, some individuals were trying to reach beyond themselves. There were heart -warming reports of wealthy corporations and individuals who gave out so much to ease the pain of lockdown and the pandemic for the poor. Plane loads of drugs and relief materials were sent across the world by some of these people. Nigeria’s rich also rose to the occasion forming CACOVID which gave the first serious response to the pandemic in shelter, drugs and food. It is however sad that some of the palliatives were typically mishandled by politicians. More heart-warming were people who gave from the little they had. People all over the world – Nigeria included – came together in groups to lift up the more vulnerable. A particular young British footballer has been knighted for his spectacular efforts during these times. The call to look out for the needs of the poor and vulnerable around us is indeed a noble call. It came to the fore this year.
Life in the virtual world also came to the fore in a way that could never have been imagined a decade ago. Now, one can attend meetings and run the office in the comfort of one’s home. Going forward, physical presence at events will depend on choice since participation can be virtual.
While 2020 taught us to take one day at a time and to delight in simple things, it also showed us that the actual needs of man are small but his fears for the future are huge. These fears if not properly handled, lead to greed, covetousness, selfish acquisitions and expansionism. All these are antithetical to what God intended of creation.