BEING A PRESS RELEASE BY
ENGR. BOLA BABARINDE
NATIONAL CHAIRMAN, APC SOUTH AFRICA
It is no longer news that the Coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) in the short space of a few months has become a pandemic that has left the whole world rattled and is impacting negatively on the global economy.
An outbreak that started within Wuhan, Hubei, China in December, 2019 has now become a global headache that has infected more than 500,000 people worldwide and has caused the deaths of more than 23,000 people.
How did matters get to this state?
While several accusatory fingers have been pointed at China for not properly containing the initial outbreak of the virus, it is equally important for countries all over the world to take a critically look at their own policies and approach to COVID-19.
An initial lackadaisical approach to the virus has enabled it to penetrate and become a pervasive presence in several countries.
For instance due to its “supposedly” late entry into African countries, it had started to become falsely believed that the Coronavirus could not affect Africans due to the hot temperature in a lot of African countries. It was also falsely believed in some quarters that perhaps there was some special immunity that Africans had against the virus.
However, with several cases of the infection now present in a lot of African countries that false myth has now been abandoned, as African nations have now also joined the battle to curtail the spread of the virus in their countries.
The battle against the virus on the African front is however facing challenges from the major factors of poor governance and corruption.
In Nigeria for instance, while kudos must be given to the Lagos State government for its quick actions to quarantine and treat its first index case which was announced on Friday 28 January 2020, there are fears that subsequent delay in taking proactive steps and making government policies at the National level has led the country to greater exposure to the virus.
Indeed as of today, March 26, 2020, the reported cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria have risen to 65 with fear that more cases may be identified soon.
A major hindrance to governance in Nigeria is its rather slow bureaucratic process. A more streamlined governance process, with oversight supervision properly spread within the Executive Arm of government in Nigeria will lead to action being taken more quickly concerning critical issues and cases.
For instance within the executive arm of government in Nigeria, the President can focus on the key areas of National Security, International Relations, Interior Affairs, the petroleum sector and energy while giving the Vice-President the authority to oversee the Health, Education, youth/women Empowerment, Finance and Works &Housing sector.
With this division of responsibilities, proactive action can be taken quickly on issues that affect all Nigerians.
Corruption is another endemic factor that is seriously affecting the battle against the spread of COVID-19 as it is obvious that several people may have circumvented the systems put in place at the points of entry into the country in order to prevent themselves from being quarantined or to avoid possible stigmatization of been seen as coronavirus carriers.
In addition, many do not also trust the healthcare system as over the years, the quality of the healthcare system in Nigeria has become very poor due to neglect, lack of funding and corrupt governments.
While it may be viewed as a bit unfortunate, the COVID-19 virus is however making it clear to the political class that it is always better to build one’s own nation rather than journeying abroad every time there is a need for medical treatment. The virus is showing no discrimination in selecting whom it infects as a few members of the political class in Nigeria have tested positive to the virus, the most high profile of which is currently Abba Kyari, The Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari.
This is therefore a time for the political class in Nigeria to go into deep reflections and see how they can make the nation better. The nations of the world are more concerned with their own citizens and would not take kindly to receiving COVID-19 patients from Nigeria.
Therefore, it is imperative that as an offset of this COVID-19 experience, the political class should sit down, map out constructive policies to improve the healthcare system in the nation and go ahead to implement such policies.
Our national and state budgets should focus on ways to improve the health and education of Nigerians, more recognition, respect and adequate remuneration should be given to our medical practitioners – majority of whom are now at the fore-front in other nations of the world, fighting to save the lives of the citizens of the nations they have emigrated to.
Research and development should be encouraged and well-funded in Nigeria with the results of such being given the right level of recognition and patronage in the country.
There should be reduction in wasteful spending on constituency projects allowance for the legislature and the jumbo salary of political office holders should also be reduced.
Nigeria should also look inwards and start to give due attention to our traditional medicines. The world is moving to green energy solutions and also focusing on herbal medical solutions. In China and South Africa for instance, traditional healers are well respected and given due recognition.
In addition, even though Nigeria is a secular state, order should be brought into religion and religious leaders should be held accountable to the laws of the land. Non-government organisations (NGOs) should also be properly monitored and regulated to be sure they are carrying out the activities for which they claim to have been founded.
In conclusion, the current COVID-19 experience has made it clear that every human is the same; there is no special medicine or treatment for the rich.
Everyone who gets infected has to be subjected to the same treatment, thus it is imperative that our leaders in Nigeria go back to the basics of leadership and create policies that will facilitate the emergence of a world-class healthcare system that all Nigerians can benefit from.