2022: Nigeria’s year in review (2) 

“Despite the challenges and controversies that occurred in Nigeria in 2022, there were still some outstanding moments that happened. We are a little excited about these victories, especially noticing that many are long-awaited or coveted victories. The future looks bright for Nigeria, and we are here for it.”

The great writer Chinua Achebe once said that being a Nigerian is appallingly frustrating and unbelievably exciting. These few words sum it up quite aptly. Being Nigerian is, indeed, a bittersweet experience. On the one hand, we are undoubtedly some of the most inventive, humorous, and distinctive people on earth. But in truth, many of us would argue the bitter far outweighs the sweet, especially for those who cannot simply fly in and out of the country. How do we put the millions of sharp, creative young minds to good use when the nation is not set up for us to thrive? Fortunately, the general pidgin phrase, “Naija no dey carry last,” still rings true in particular cases. Hence, the unrelenting spirit we all seem to possess naturally has produced several notable stars, particularly in the country’s music, sports, and sociopolitical sphere. They have gone on to make us feel goosebumps with pride. With 2022 well gone, here are some of our favorite star moments.

Nigeria shines in sports

Despite the challenges and controversies that wobbled the Nigerian sports scene in 2022, it was still a memorable year with some outstanding performances. There were a couple of historical achievements worth noting in athletics, para-sports, and even football. Amusan’s exploits in 2022 were simply breathtaking, and they aided the fortunes of athletics in Nigeria. It was one record after another, one award after another for the inspirational ‘golden girl’ hurdler throughout the year. Though the 12.12 seconds world record set in Oregon and the World title that followed were the obvious choices for Amusan’s best moments, there was more to the year for Tobi’s performance. In Birmingham, England, Amusan retained her Commonwealth Games title with a new race record of 12.30 seconds. She also made it a successive Diamond League Trophy win with a new world record of 12.29 seconds, drawing the curtains on an incredible season that saw her win the Nigerian, African, Commonwealth, World, and Diamond League titles. Though she missed out on winning the Global Award as the Best Female Athlete of the year, she was undisputedly Africa’s best, as confirmed by the Confederation of African Athletics. Since her debut at the 1950 Commonwealth Games in Scotland, where Nigeria won a single silver medal, Nigeria has always strived for a medal platform in the multi-sport event designed for former British colonies. Team Nigeria had a historic outing at the most recent edition, held in Birmingham, with its best medal placement ever. The country won medals in various sports, including powerlifting and setting African and Commonwealth Games records in track and field. Team Nigeria amassed an unprecedented 12 gold medals with nine silver and 14 bronze medals, making the outing in Birmingham the most productive in the country’s history. Nigeria had previously won 11 gold medals in a single Commonwealth Games edition in 1994 in Victoria, Canada; 2010 in Delhi, India; and 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. Nigeria’s U17 girls won Africa’s first-ever FIFA World Cup bronze medal at the last U-17 tournament in India. After narrowly missing out on making it to the final, the Flamingos still made history with a 3-2 penalty shootout victory over Germany following a dramatic 3-3 draw in Mumbai. Before winning the Bronze medal in India, Nigeria, and indeed, Africa has never made it beyond the quarter-final in any of the FIFA U-17 tournaments for Women. We are a little excited about these victories, especially noticing that many are long-awaited or coveted victories. The future looks bright for Nigeria, and we are here for it.

Music breakthrough

Just as Nigerians were about to give up on their country, Nigerian music continued to impact and retain global recognition after successfully taking over the world in 2022. The beautiful thing about the Nigerian music scene is how talented they are and the influx of new talents. Artists like P Square, Tuface, D’banj, Wizkid, Davido, Olamide, Phyno, and many others have successfully held the fort Africa’s growing afrobeat industry. Artists like Tems, Ayra Starr, Magixx, Victony, Ckay, Adekunle Gold, Babyboy AV, Fave, Ruger, Zinoleesky, and Fireboy DML successfully introduced themselves to the scene in 2022. Artists like Burna Boy, Rema, Kizz Daniel, and Oxlade had their big break in 2022 with songs like calm down, Last-Last, Buga, and Kulosa. In ten months, Afrobeat star Rema’s calm down has earned the No. 1 spot on the 2022 Most Viewed Nigerian Music Videos on YouTube. A look at the video revealed that the Calm Down video had 306 million views as of Friday. Closely following is Last-Last by Burna Boy, which garnered over 140 million views, Kizz Daniel’s Buga with 107 million views, Kulosa color show by Oxlade with 55 million views. While the Eagles were not at the World Cup, it was not all sadness for Nigeria as four of its artists performed some of their hit songs at the competition. One of the artists was David Adeleke, with the stage name Davido. Although he did not perform live at the Mundial, he featured in the theme song of the competition alongside other artists. He joined Latin-American singer Trinidad Cardonna and Qatari singer Aisha to record the song titled ‘Hayya-Hayya’ (Better Together). Another popular song across the world at the moment is Buga and the singer, Oluwatobiloba Anidugbe, aka Kizz Daniel, stormed Qatar to perform his hit song at the World Cup. He wrote on June 22, God, I want to perform ‘Buga’ for the World Cup with a mass choir. A few months later, he performed not at the opening ceremony but during one of the games. Another Reggae-dancehall singer, Patrick Okorie, popularly known as Patoranking, also performed at the Al Bidda Park in the country’s capital, Doha, on November 28, 2022. The ‘Girlie’ crooner undoubtedly carved a niche for himself with his style of music. Last but not least is Chukwuka Ifeanyi, better known as Ckay. He also joined his Nigerian counterparts to perform at the tournament. It is apparent these young stars are out to take over the world, and there is nothing left to do but sit back, smile, and watch them do it.

Naira redesign

By December 15, 2022, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)  introduced the new redesigned Naira notes in 200, 500, and 1,000 denominations. Amidst speculations over the government’s intention, there is ongoing bickering between the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed. Recall that on October 26, the CBN announced its decision to redesign the N200, N500, and N1000 notes. Commenting on the developments, CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele said that introducing new designs of banknotes was imperative following the unusual circumstances in Nigeria’s financial, monetary, and security systems. The circulation of the new currency began on December 15, 2022, while the existing notes cease to be legal tender by January 31, 2023. There were speculations that the measure is to tackle the issue of counterfeit notes and recall large amounts of money outside the banks. It will also stifle access to money used as ransom by terrorists and kidnappers. But as soon as the Central Bank unveiled the new naira note, many Nigerians took to their social media platforms to voice their displeasure at what they termed as the mere color change. They argue that this is not an actual redesign of the naira note, as the Central Bank would have them believe. To them, it is an ink stain on an old banknote with no significant changes. But is it truly the case? We wait to see how things will flow.

A prophet rejected

Maybe you have heard the saying that a prophet is not honored in their land. The term is now ascribed to those whose talents and achievements are highly valued and appreciated by everyone except in their home. Despite the absence of the Super Eagles at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, a handful of Nigerians were assigned different roles in Qatar as the country hosted its first Mundial in the Middle East. One such Nigerian was Sunday Oliseh, the former captain and coach of the Super Eagles. He worked in the Technical Expert team carefully assembled by FIFA and headed by one of the world’s most respected managers, Arsene Wenger, Jurgen Klinsmann, Alberto Zaccheroni, Cha Du-Ri, Faryd Mondragon, and Pascal Zuberbuhler. A member of Nigeria’s first World Cup team to the USA in 1994, Oliseh was also a part of the Super Eagles’ France 1998 World Cup squad. Oliseh’s screamer in a 3-2 victory over Spain during the France 98 World Cup ranks high among the few goals the Super Eagles scored at the World Cup since breaking the jinx 28 years ago. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone, has it not? The sky is never the limit for Oliseh—just the starting point. With another highly anticipated career on the way, it is clear we won’t be hearing the last of this Nigerian icon any time soon.

Call to Bar ceremony

Amidst Nigerian Bar Association’s Protest, over 4,500 new lawyers were called to Bar on December 6 and 7. The 4,500 new wigs were admitted to the Nigerian Bar with pomp and pageantry at the newly commissioned ultramodern Body of Benchers Complex in Abuja. As the yearly intake into the legal profession increases, some have raised concerns that Nigeria may be producing too many lawyers. But others argue that with an average of one lawyer to about 37,000 people, Nigeria may not have enough lawyers yet. We (Jesuit priests in Nigeria and beyond) are not excluded. Our very own Rev. Fr. Enyeribe Oguh, SJ, was one of 4,500 new wigs licensed by the Nigerian Bar Association. So, seeing one of our own thrive right before our eyes gives me goosebumps. I think we can call this milestone a natural pain reliever. Congratulations on your admission to the Bar. We wish them all the best as they embark on this arduous but exciting journey. A few parting words to them, the journey of a good lawyer is not a sprint but a marathon – be patient with yourself. Your education chapter has closed, and now legal life begins for real.

2022 Electoral Act

On February 25, 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari performed a duty that went down well with most well-meaning Nigerians. He signed the Electoral Law Amendment Act 2022 into law. Given the complexity of the legislation, it was a memorable historical moment. With the stroke of his pen, the President signed into law the electoral legislation, which among other things, will ensure we cut off many forms of human interference that have always resulted in rigging elections in Nigeria. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which has stoutly fronted the technological reforms of our electoral process, now has legal backing to transmit results from the polling units to its national portal where all Nigerians view them live. If faithfully executed, we may have seen the last fraudulent acts that occurred in the recent Imo state by-election, where hooligans kidnapped INEC officials along with election materials. There should be no more need for ballot box snatching, result falsifications, or the use of military, police, other security personnel, and armed political thugs to alter election results at the collation centers. In other words, the notion that the collation center is the “real” place where elections are “won and lost” should be a thing of the past because the public will know the results in real-time. This landmark achievement will bring post-election litigation to manageable levels. The hope is that the technology-driven elections will eventually stripped-off rawness and violence. With more technological advancements, people will be able to vote from their homes, and the media will be able to announce results as they come in. We give President Buhari a thumbs up for signing this amendment into law, though we believe other leaders could have approved this well before now. As he reclines in the light of this achievement, we will never forget that he did not lead from the front to sanitize our electoral law. Some claim people pushed him to do it, but we should also know he could have maintained his veto if he wanted to do so.

Looking forward

As the new year begins, I would like to express my opinions on how we can rescue the nation from the myriad of challenges currently stunting its development and threatening its existence as one corporate entity. My appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari is to ensure the citizens there will be a free and fair election in February. The most fundamental principle defining credible polls is that they must reflect the free expression of the people. Hence, to achieve this, elections must be transparent, inclusive, and accountable, and there must be fair opportunities to compete in the polls. He should urge Nigerians to go out and vote for candidates of their choice so that his name would appear in gold. The government should also ensure free and credible elections in 2023 by enacting laws and resolutely addressing the seemingly intractable security challenges in various parts of the country, especially in the North West and North East, classifying and designating bandits who operate in those areas as terrorists. I, therefore, urge Nigerians to envision a year of progress despite the challenges arising from security and socio-economic issues. We must begin by thanking God that our country survived despite the security challenges and youth unemployment all over the place. We must appreciate the resilience of our people, who, despite the challenges, still believe in the country. We must not fail to commend, more or less, the Federal Government. It has done its best, but the best is not good enough for the country.

As we look back, we should remember that Nigerians have suffered in some way from deprivation, harassment, insecurity, natural disasters, hunger, malnutrition, discrimination, oppression, and disease. We look back with the hope that brighter days are ahead of us. The year 2023 calls for more courage and determination as we work to find answers to many lingering national crises. Let us remember that it is a part of the spirit of our country to come together in times like this and prove that we can stand as one indivisible nation. Hence, by being greater in our diversity, our national vision can remain viable to the ethos of being good people and working towards a great superpower. All that Nigerians are asking for is for governments at all levels to put things that will discourage our young ones from going into crimes. The government must flush out hoodlums giving children sleepless nights and provide adequate security for schools and public places this year. The people will appreciate it if the government could do better in 2023 by securing and protecting our schools from being invaded by kidnappers. When schools provide quality, inclusive and safe education, children can learn, build friendships and gain the critical skills they need to navigate social situations. In the best circumstances, the school puts children on the path to a promising future. It will also be an honor to see the Nigerian government treat teachers like kings and queens because it is teachers who made the presidents, governors, ministers, and senators what they are today. There is an African saying that teachers’ reward is in heaven, which means the prize for the daily sacrifices of teachers, toil, and hard work in shaping the minds and lives of the future leaders of the society can never receive their reward on earth. The saying seems to have taken literal meaning as teachers who want their salaries paid on earth get owed salaries, and when they pay them, the money barely gets home with them as they have to settle the numerous debts they accrued while waiting for their wages. Despite having the great responsibility of molding the future of Nigeria, the welfare package of the Nigerian teacher is among the worst in the country. They operate from not-too-friendly work environments with meager and irregular salaries. The plight of Nigerian teachers is pitiful, as many have died of hunger, diseases, and frustration. Our system has turned several of them into beggars such that the younger generation rejects the suggestion of becoming teachers in the future. The dignity for which we know teachers in the past is no more. The authorities appear uninterested in learning the appropriate lessons. If teachers are not appreciated and recognized, they will turn their noble job of inspiring the youth to higher academic excellence into creating ‘yahoo boys’ and ‘runs girls’ in our schools. So, there is a dire need to re-emphasize that the quality of education depends on the quality of teachers. If the teachers are recognized and treated well, it reflects on their products; the students on whom the country’s future rests.

Need for attitudinal change

This year, we need to change our attitude, particularly on voluntarism. The incongruous thing is that volunteerism has always been an integral part of the African culture, and Nigeria is not an exception (though it grossly neglected it recently). Long existed in care for the vulnerable and the elderly, engaging in group community projects and providing finance or other support to individuals, families, or communities in distress was a priority. The 2022 flooding episode in which over 600 Nigerian citizens lost their lives and thousands were internally displaced is a good case study for improving the status of the volunteering culture in Nigeria. While waiting for the government to act in this situation, Nigerians in the neighboring states could have volunteered to support the victims, which can occur in various ways, such as healthcare, food, and shelter. Although volunteering does not always address complex institutional problems, a people-centered development strategy and institutional volunteering can encourage direct participation in socio-political processes that set up formal rules and laws. It will also change informal norms and attitudes that affect how citizens view and interact with governing institutions. To be a high-volunteering country, we need to unselfishly give our time, expertise, and effort to improve our communities. Not only will the country benefit economically and socially, but it will also build trust among rural populations, thereby reducing insecurity. Hence, to foster a broader culture of volunteering, the Nigerian government needs to form policies that define the rights and responsibilities of volunteers and requirements for recruitment, selection, management, and support.

Our journey as a nation cannot be possible without our brave, high-spirited, courageous, honorable, and dashing gallant warriors. We pay a glowing tribute to the military, police officers, and other security agents who have lost their lives in the cause of protecting the nation against internal aggressors. We equally remember and commiserate with Nigerians who have lost loved ones because of insecurity in different parts of the country. Just as every unique death caused by any form of insecurity matters, every life of a Nigerian is significant. There is no doubt that Nigeria’s long-standing security challenges will continue even to 2023. The government must realize that victory on the battlefield is only one aspect of sustainable success. Hence, to end insecurity in our land, we must deploy multi-faceted solutions to address human security at the grassroots before it leads to insecurity.

Rev. Ma, S.J, is a Jesuit Catholic priest and PhD candidate in public and social policy at St. Louis University in the state of Missouri, USA.