Thinking of the Regular Nigerian in Times of COVID-19

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Iboro Otu expresses his concern for the plight of the average Nigerian in this season of the COVID-19 pandemic

These Western people sef, their addiction to data just amazes me. How they try to simplify problems and solutions so everyone gets it – from the market woman to the professor – is simply wonderful. Seems they don’t need a Minister of Information, apparently. The data speaks for itself. I’ll share a rather simple example.

My birthday is on April 14th. Thank you. The CDC estimates that 2,214 Americans are expected to die on the April 15th from Coronavirus infection. I mean, just imagine the audacity of their preparations and resultant figures? It’s simply miraculous! They tell you to the last decimal; how much has been put in and what to expect from it. This, my friends, is called effectiveness.

I heard it through the grapevine that N100 billion has been shared amongst Nigeria’s most poor, bandied around online, supposedly, as what the Nigerian government distributed amongst 2.2 million households. I don’t know how true this figure is so don’t quote me. I’ve tried to find sources online to validate this without much success. The information is inconsistent. Who got what, how they got it and where one can get more is left to the Lord. This, my friends, I’m sure you know what this is called.

The British Prime Minister is in a known public hospital on oxygen. The world is receiving by the minute updates on where he is located and the state of his condition, same as every other British citizen at the moment undergoing treatment for Coronavirus. I can only wish Boris speedy recovery and pray he gets well soon. In the meantime, we don’t know where sick Nigerian leaders are, if any. I’m forced to rely on Kemi Olunloyo for information – I didn’t mention any names so please don’t give yourself ideas. On the other hand, however, last I checked, Akwa Ibom State government was contesting results from the NCDC that had indicated there were five Coronavirus patients in the state, opposing the results almost at tribunal level. Yes, it’s that bad.

When I watch soccer (especially World Cups), I don’t know about you, but the elimination pattern appears as if it’s determined by economic standing than anything else. The worse-off countries get kicked out first, leaving behind the ‘better prepared/best equipped’ first world ones.

Now, where I’m I going with all this? Pattern. Pattern will speak volumes about anything. On Nigerian streets, it is a common expression that someone behaving in a certain manner ‘dey form pattern’. In my native language of Ibibio, there is also a saying that goes that a big man’s house can be determined even by looking at the house keys.

Leadership and responsibility is a pattern that reflects themselves in any part of any society. For example, you can tell everything about Nigeria by just studying our roads. From how we get served in restaurants, to how we queue for buses and the kind of buses available. From the examination halls and how we prepare for exams, from how we are treated in our hospitals and the healthcare available. Just take a pick. You can tell almost everything about Nigeria by studying an average Nigerian. His economic position, how he conducts himself, when he turns up for anything; everything! An average Nigerian is Nigeria. Would any Nigerian want to be an average Nigerian? If someone said to you, ‘may your life be like the life of an average Nigerian’, would you take offense? Is being an average Nigerian a curse?

You see, somehow over the years we have found a wonderful formula for complicating very simple things and simplifying very complicated issues in this country. Somehow, by conscious effort or otherwise, we have found a way of making simple governance a thing about voodoo Mathematics while making brisk and simple preparations for complex extinction level events like Coronavirus. A further hurried example of this is building for politicians and others, gigantic outfitted public edifices while our schools, hospitals and research centers are left in ruins. Or our perusal of videos and images of governors stocking warehouses with noodles, garri, rice, and dolling out wads of cash to God-knows-who, as preparation for what is coming, if the Lord allows it. We play too much in this country!

Right now, I’m locked in, so my own na sidon look, I’m an average Nigerian, sorry. If I’m bothered about anything, it’s that our farmers have all left their farms at the mercy of thieves and herders. So, I’m wondering, who is securing their livelihood and farmland during this time of lockdown? What will the price of commodities be once the lockdown is over? If you thought things were expensive before the lockdown, wait until the markets open and there is nearly not enough to go around.

My summation is this: for Nigeria to move in the positive direction, the life of an average Nigerian has to change in every aspect. The standard of living of every Nigerian must be elevated; how he lives, what he eats, his education and the opportunities available to work and earn a living to support his family. If the government cannot do this, it is the responsibility of Nigerians to change that government. The government must account for the life of every Nigerian to the last digit. So that on my birthday, someday in the future, 2031 maybe, I may read about the exact number of Nigerians that voted in the presidential election, to the last accuracy.