The second wave of coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is already hitting the world. It’s therefore time Nigeria reviewed the success rate or otherwise of a disease pandemic with a death toll as high as 1 million and infection cases exceeding 52 million globally. The alarming issue is that dear country suffers from the debilitating syndrome of selective amnesia, especially, on matters that have to do with the collective. If it affects everybody, it’s everybody’s problem. Therefore, it is nobody’s problem. Even, if it’s a tragedy, Nigerians are always prepared to move on. We are like a society that relishes laissez-faire approach, tilting towards less-stringent rules, which smacks of indiscipline. It’s almost like saying we are not disciplined.
A dreaded disease came and we were supposed to wear nose masks for personal safety. Yet, it became an uphill task, even, for government to enforce it. The health managers and infectious disease experts came up with the social distancing and limited gatherings, among other safety protocols. But then, here’s a man who has to beg for menial jobs, on a daily basis, for him to take care of his family amidst a conservative leadership at the centre that is so detached from these simple but verifiable facts.
Well, the problem is that people are distracted. When a man is hungry, he doesn’t have time for little pieces of unenforceable rules or the ability to process unintelligible civic responsibilities. What probably occupies his mind at that material time is what and how to secure something to eat! Asking such a soul to social-distance in the face of hunger is like pleading with him to commit suicide quietly. This, unfortunately, is the sordid narrative of many in the society; and could have foreboding consequences. So, when the government lays down rules for COVID-19, many people understand that those rules are meant to keep them alive. However, hunger kills faster than COVID-19 pandemic.
In one of his immortal works, Mahatma Ghandi famously argued that ”there are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” This may also explain the phenomenon of looting that has now gained currency among the ‘significant majority’ of the mass population of Nigerians. If we may ask, when did it become a fashion for Nigerians to go out en masse to loot a warehouse? All in the name of a protest gone awry, how come a sizable proportion of Nigerians decided to throw caution to the wind at the same time? In my neck of the woods, it’s often said that being a slave is better than being a thief. So, when did stealing become fashionable in our culture? Even, when our cousins up-North did not know what to do, they stole a tractor, balkanized it, and each looter went away with his or her portion, according to his or her ability and/or fancy. Aren’t these warnings too grave for governments across board to ignore and what’s stopping them from healing this culture collapse before it’s too late?
The point here is for the society to look beyond the imposed regulations, which are meant to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. After all, laws are made for man, not man for laws. Coronavirus regulations or rules – be they stringent or soft – are put there to ensure that the people live. But you don’t obey certain rules which are personal to you or your health only to, at the end of the day, be starved to death. People will go out and look for food, if they can find, and wherever they can find it. Peradventure they die on the road, so be it! And that’s exactly what’s happening! So, where lies the pride and purpose of the state as the sovereign power that protects the citizenry?
Yes, Nigeria’s response to Ebola disease was commendable; and God assisted us. But, if anybody wants to doubt the havoc coronavirus can wreak, such a person should go and check the tally of the numbers of death in the USA, a country that’s has been setting records no country wants to set. Only last Monday, President-elect Joe Biden inaugurated a committee of experts to look into it and address the pandemic. The United Kingdom and France are also not finding it easy. Already, there are restrictions in parts of those countries even as very different Yuletide celebrations are in the offing. And, as if the gods are angry, Germany is now streamlining the number of people coming into the country.
The second wave of COVID-19 infection is most likely to come; and may have already been with us. For instance, in Oyo State, a tertiary institution was shut down, recently, over the ”resurgence of cases of coronavirus in the state.” It’s therefore a disease for which we cannot afford to lose our guard. But, what are our preparations? Thanks be to God for the way He dealt with the disease pandemic in Africa! Had it spread like it did in Europe and America, only God knows how Nigeria would have survived it, because we do not have the capacity to deal with such a huge health challenge. If a man has a disease and he has to spend N1,000.00 daily to buy drugs so as to stay alive, then, one can be sure that, at least, a third of Nigeria’s population will be gone in a month or two.
Looking at issues from different angles, there’s no doubt that Nigeria is in troubled times, which by normal societal standard, will soon be forgotten. Take it or leave it, Nigerians will soon forget the ‘unfreedom’ and the repression that protesters encountered at Lekki Toll Gate. Whether 2, 10 or 100 people were allegedly murdered, they will soon be forgotten. This collective, or, partial amnesia is Nigeria’s major challenge because people move on as if nothing has happened. Within the government, those who are responsible for the safety of lives and property are allegedly busy chasing money and allied largesse they can get from COVID-19 palliatives, interventionist measures and gifts. If our leaders are fighting over the distribution of resources, instead of finding means of effective disease control, what other motivation is needed for government to have legitimacy crisis? Is that not enough to destroy the people’s confidence in governance? Since this is not a time to become less vigilant, what stops our government from passing legislations that will not only change the trajectory of the disease that has put our world in worst shape but also help put money in Nigerians’ pockets?
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
abiodun KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State
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