Days leading to December 31, 2019, and beyond, were masked in prophecies for me. Cowardly prophecies; they only showed their faces at night. I grew familiar with a particular body temperature that came with them. I recognised the faces of the sweat, even if they had dried off my skin. I knew their impending threat because they came with sleep paralysis sometimes. Sleep paralysis always gave me the prototype of death; it taught me that statement is a fallacy: “He died in his sleep, he died a peaceful death”. There is nothing peaceful about dying that could justify why “rest in peace” is the default wish of the living to the dead. Those were the same words I said to the 17-year-old cousin I lost in October 2019. He was a sickle cell patient.
I would wake up on some days, with my head filled with unfathomable symbols from my dreams, with only the colour “red”, sounds of gunshots and slashes from metallic objects, being the residue of the dreams my memory could shelter. I would jump off my bed at some midnights, to perform ablution, say as many Ayatul Kursiy’s as my tongue could carry, roll my fingers on my chaplet to say words of prayers, perform Tahjjud and other acts of devotion as my mum had taught. Suratul Falaq and Nas are also very powerful for tendencies of jinns and witches, “Try to always recite them before you sleep,” Mum would always admonish. The weird feeling got worse when one of the horrible words I learnt growing up as a child, started finding its way into my head, uninvited, undeserving. “Thantophobia”: Fear of death or losing someone close to your heart. I usually tried to stop the flow of my imagination of losing a loved one, but unsuccessfully. A huge irony; I couldn’t tame an imagination that was born and nurtured in my own mind. So, I learnt, the fact that something is within you doesn’t mean you have control over it.
The year 2020 initially restored my hopes in the black people as a superior and magical race, in the wake of the Coronavirus’ outbreak, and considering how it had ravaged other parts of the world, even the “Super Powers”. The thantophobic feeling was already dissipating. “Coronavirus is scared of African Sun,” My elder would say jokingly. We would laugh over Trevor Noah’s comedy of how Ebola Virus would flaunt its “territoriality” to the face of Coronavirus if the latter attempted to set foot on the African soil. Trevor Noah’s comedy only came back funnier, not just when “COVID-19” started hitting our screens and news headlines, but when it started chasing us like a mad dog, and it became our responsibility to run from it, and give it its space in the name of “Social Distancing”.
The year shot an arrow of ambivalence into my career as a legal practitioner focusing on litigation. It started on a promising note; gamut of cases to battle, string of clients to earn victories, cornucopia of law courts to deploy legal fireworks and ballistics in. But, COVID-19, in the wig and gown of lockdown, presided as a judge, over the “court of earth” where law courts were on lockdown, in an unprecedented way. As a business inclined person, diversification and saving for the rainy day made a deeper sense to me. Niyi Osundare’s Eating Tomorrow’s Yam made more sense.
Amidst the nationwide lockdown, panoply of deaths and tragedies that basked in the sun of 2020, The Big Brother Naija TV Show was ushered in. It stood tall as an icebreaker; it was an unsuspecting rogue that stole the attention of a sizable number of people, especially youths, locally, and internationally. Hunger was the mantra of countless Nigerians, but they couldn’t stand the hunger that would starve their DSTV and GOTV subscriptions, or the votes of their favourite housemates. These are loud bells that should ring in our heads, that Nigerians are naturally inclined towards entertainment. If brilliant circumspection would worship the smartness of our government, they should see the Entertainment industry as the most promising industry. With the feat of Big Brother Naija TV Show, I learnt a great deal that the Entertainment industry may fetch more into the coffers of the government than the Oil industry; entertainment inclination lives in Nigerians, they don’t force it.
Perhaps I am a prophet, with a name in no scripture, with no congregation, with no temple, but only saw signs that foreshadowed the deadliness of 2020. From COVID-19, to the #EndSARS protests, to ASUU strike, poor leadership, to spate of deaths, none was anticipated when we rained confetti on the way of 2020. Perhaps, the year wanted its full accord whenever it was called. It wanted to be called Two Thousand and Twenty, not “Twenty-Twenty”; such a demeaning nickname. So I agree with the Pidgin English aphorism: “Na overhyping kill 2020.”