2020: New Year, Old Issues

Eric Osagie debuts in The Interview with his preview of what 2020 holds for Nigeria.

2020: The year we've been waiting for / Photo credit: happynewwishess.com
2020: The year we've been waiting for / Photo credit: happynewwishess.com

Hello, 2020! It’s a new year. Our year. The year we have been waiting for. But, wait a minute, have we really been waiting for 2020?

What have we done in preparation for the new decade, to make us look serious as a nation awaiting a brand new era? Were we really awaiting 2020?

No. Rather it’s 2020 that was waiting for us, to teach us some lessons we failed to imbibe in 2019, and the years before. 2020 is the year we take ‘re-sits’ of the ‘papers’ we flunked in the previous years.

Yeah, it’s a new year with old issues!

Before delving into a few of the old issues we need to tackle, to make the year meaningful for us, let me say that public commentary is hazardous business in any part of the world, especially in Nigeria where leaders don’t take kindly to unkind criticisms.

For a while, I had put a temporary halt to column-writing for obvious and not-so obvious reasons, in the place I last plied my trade.

I thought I could only return to this path when I kicked off with THISNIGERIA, my new news medium later this year.
Until my colleague and brother, Azu Ishiekwene, ‘roused’ me to do a write up on any subject of my choice for The Interview. How do I say no to Azu, without feeling bad?

So, here we go: 2020 is the year of bull fight between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the national Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

What do I make of the intractable crisis that has held the nation by the ears since the latter part of last year? Avoidable and unavoidable. What do I mean?

What about the anti-hate speech bill? An old issue rearing its head in the new year.
My view: it’s a toxic bill that should have no place in a decent society. In 2020, it should have a deserved burial

I know the two men fairly well. I worked with them in my brief sojourn in the Edo government house. From my close interactions, they have different characteristics, ideas and world view.

I remember in those early days in government when I hailed him as ‘Comrade Obaseki,’ he was always quick to tell me, ‘Eric, I’m not a comrade!’ Decode.

It wasn’t therefore a surprise, the inevitable clash with those who thought that Obaseki would be Oshiomhole in government.

I knew it was just a matter of time before the falling apart, because they are essentially different people with different backgrounds and orientations.

Am I then saying Governor Obaseki’s style is right or wrong?

No. Every leader adopts a style suitable to him as long as he’s delivering dividends of democracy to his people. The point is, it was extremely naive to expect the two leaders to have same style and same method.

Comrade Oshiomhole ought to have known that the man that succeeded him isn’t someone anyone could shove around. He swears he hasn’t been doing that; only that the governor had become someone else since he took over from him.

Obaseki, on his part, says he has literally been pushed to the wall in trying to defer to his old pal and associate.

I would not be dragged into ‘he said, he didn’t say.’ In my humble view, the clash would have been avoidable if boundaries were not crossed. A spirit of give-and-take if you like, would have made a world of difference!

How do I see the drama playing out? Of course, Governor.

Obaseki will return as candidate of the APC in the forthcoming governorship polls; Oshiomhole will most likely retain his seat as chair even though the battle will be fierce.

The party, I believe, will try to mend fences by finding a middle ground, because they won’t want to lose Edo State to the opposition. Mutual survival will triumph over mutually assured destruction. Self-interest is the first law in power game.

Also, in politics, everything and anything is possible. But things can never be the same again. When trust is broken, every other thing is lost!

2020 is the year when Nigerians will confront the issues of economic and social freedoms, old issues of 2019.

How are we going to fare in the new year? Will life be more abundant for the vast toiling majority with hyperinflation not abating?

With a new looming tax regime? With high electricity tariffs? With job losses that have heralded the new year in the banking sector and other sectors?

How will a potential war between the United States and Iran affect us?

Yes, oil prices will shoot up and put more greenbacks in our coffers, but we face a more difficult moment confronting the monster of insecurity: Boko Haram, ISWA and now, we have to watch our backs that there is no spill over when the two elephants fight.

What about the anti-hate speech bill? An old issue rearing its head in the new year.

My view: it’s a toxic bill that should have no place in a decent society. In 2020, it should have a deserved burial.

Written by Eric Osagie

Eric Osagie, a leading journalist, was the MD / Editor-in-Chief of SUN Publishing Company, He's also the author of The Big Interviews.

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