By Femi Akintunde-Johnson
Last week was the 13th week since the Nigerian effort to confront the seemingly unstoppable surge of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The disease supposedly originated from Wuhan (China) late last year, and has since strolled across all borders of virtually every nation on earth.
The disease is so widespread and devastating that international news channels that used to feed us relentless menu of sop stories all over world, especially from the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa, have hardly had any news, except the vicious and suffocating effects of COVID-19 right in their backyards, sacking usually bubbly cities and dragging once proud metropoles to their sorry knees.
Nearer home, the news amongst Nigerians have changed from the uncritical braggadocio of the Blackman who believed that somehow in the unsearchable schemes of the Almighty Creator, he has made the pigmentation and climate of the Blackman domiciled inside the pistol-shaped African continent, impervious to the threats and attack of the pandemic.
Our numbers have moved up, mercifully still in less alarming multiples, within the past three or four weeks. Our governments, especially that of Lagos and Ogun states have responded admirably swiftly to challenge the spread, and motivate their residents to respond in similar agitation as the disease coursed through the ignorance and foolhardiness of January, 2020…when many Nigerians tagged COVID-19 an Asian disease easily contracted in the Western hemisphere.
The speed and vitality of few states have somewhat galvanised the Federal Government to act… though some Nigerians still feel the restrictive and precautionary measures by the Federal Government were not only belated, but haphazard…a sign of official slackness and perhaps mild negligence.
When the airspace was shut (by the way, planes are still landing, as at March 25, as we say on the street, “perse perse”) and some states started issuing orders and notices that were geared towards restrictions of free movement, in aid of “social distancing”, and usually untouchable places of public interest, like churches, mosques, government offices, banking halls, etc, were “advised” to suspend “operations”… the message sank home that “e don happen”!
To add pepper to its drastic menu, and deter some of our people who find occasion to spit on the face of government and its orders by exercising their rights to die or live as they want, enforcement task forces went around shutting off recalcitrant event centres, night clubs, worship centres, and such places where more than 50 people could gather (it was sensibly cut down to 20 people – and one would hope that it should be further cut down subsequently).
Many celebrities and socialites (today’s influencers) have either tested positive or have declared themselves in self-isolation. Some markets, bus stops, and places where crowds often gather have been fumigated, in Lagos State. Trust Nigerians, more terminologies and pet-names are being churned out as people find ways to amuse and titillate one another in a period that is both frightening and, potentially, near hopeless.
We read about developed nations having massive challenges in coping with the health needs and emergency situations of their citizens, despite the sophistication and capacity of their public health services…. It is tremendously overwhelming to merely imagine the scenarios in developing nations where less than 10% of their huge populations can barely be fairly well served, even in moments of tranquility.
Sadly, Nigeria is in that second category. Therefore, it is the primary responsibility of every government, corporate body and citizen, to conduct our affairs and moderate our activities in a way that prevention and precaution ought to be of extreme premium.
We cannot wait for government to tell us to stay away from parties, ceremonies (however essential and vital), fun spots, events and whatever spaces that people (who are not your immediate family) gather. We must stop ourselves from endangering the lives of our loved ones and innocent strangers that we co-mingle.
The delicate “innocence” and voracious intrusion of COVID-19 can make the ignorant assume that the well-bred, good-looking, well-dressed (even in protective gears) and such togas of respectability, combined in one man or woman, would not have the virus. Or that only the elderly, and those with precondition ailments are at serious risk. Please, be assured that the virus has advanced beyond such infantile delusions.
While the economic cost of income-less hibernation, as a byproduct of outwitting COVID-19, is understandably worrisome, and governments must device some palliative measures to assist the most vulnerable amongst us – especially those who earn their daily bread in the true meaning of that phrase, we must unite in true goodness, to display acts of magnanimity, kindness and love. Hunger, idleness and desperation to provide for families will make the most law-abiding citizens search for “food money” wherever it can be found, irrespective of the present danger of contamination or infection.
It is thus critical, for those amongst us who are privileged not to be frightened by the thought of “until further notice” in the staying-at-home regime, as means of defeating COVID-19, to stretch hands of help and enablement to families in dire straits…you don’t have to break your “curfew” to help those in need. Technology is our great friend here. There are millions that can be reached via social media who can be touched with strains of godliness in sacrificial giving and extension of gifts, especially cash and food items.
As we continue in our “civil disobedience” against a crushing evil enemy (also known as Coronavirus), it is vital that not only do we survive the days ahead with as few casualties as possible, we must emerge from the ongoing pestilence with recharged vigour, enhanced appreciation of our humanity, more profound understanding of social and emotional intelligence…and an undeniable realisation that we are one and same before God, irrespective of our positions, status, accomplishments or stature.
We can choose to live as one…or die as one. Does it not profit our future and enterprise to live as one giant family… unbreakable by the most paradigm-shifting phenomenon in