This is one period we will never forget in the annals of our contemporary history. No other event in the next few years will define our collective fortunes in the future as much as this pandemic. On all sides, we are being confronted by the hydra-headed invincible enemy that threatens the lives of hundreds of our citizens and the livelihoods of even more. Everyone is feeling the heat. We are all dancing to the beat of a situation that would have been better managed if the welfare of Nigerians was taken seriously in the years before. The time when we ought to be enjoying the shade is when we are distributing the seeds, more so, wrongly.
Unless we are determined to deceive ourselves, we cannot say that public funds have been put to the best use during this period. We have stretched our limited resources so thin in the name of giving palliative to the poor and vulnerable Nigerians. This is not a condemnable scheme in itself but in reality, what we have created is a platform where the money goes from hand-to-hand in an atmosphere that defies all the safety guidelines that we have been encouraged to adhere to. We have created bigger problems by trying to resolve one. The failure in this regard is largely due to the absence of a useful national identity database. My recommendations on this matter are highlighted in the essay, National Identity and the Question of Poverty.
The experience of the recent weeks has not left us without the expected do-as-I-do-not-as-I-say disposition of government officials. When you expect a considerable level of decency or exemplary leadership, they take the bar even lower. And then there are also the ones who put their faces everywhere like we are in the election campaign heats. The level of denigration of the common man is so despicable that one would not expect it to come from their so-called leaders. If some had their way, they would have put their faces on the distributed grains so the beneficiaries never forget to whom they are to be indebted.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are in trouble. But the trouble is not in the mere fact that we are not in the best place; no country is. The trouble is a lack of sensitivity to our new reality. We are spending money we don’t have with complete disregard to transparency and accountability. And in the midst of all, the citizens are the ones paying the higher price. This experience is the best appraisal we will ever get on the much-mouthed economic diversification with all the numbers in the cloud. If the noise about the diversification had any substance, the recently-approved $3.4 billion emergency loan by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would have just been an option, not the only option. The crude oil that didn’t let us think has now given the biggest surprise. I hope the lessons are being taken.
Business, or better put, politics, as usual, will not take us further than this, except to a total collapse. Many may argue that we are already in a state of total collapse. That may be largely true but we have a great opportunity before us to recalibrate our national bearing and prioritize the things that matter. Nothing can be done now but that doesn’t excuse the fact that we can start to alter our national beat to one that the majority of Nigerians can comfortably follow. We have a great opportunity to rewrite our history. Now that we are in trouble, let us, more than ever, be determined to ensure that we will come out of this stronger and be committed to the enhancement of the welfare of Nigerians. Let’s get serious as a country. Enough of self-deceit.
When this COVID-19 episode becomes history, Nigerians will not forget. We will remember the jokes that were made about social distancing and lockdowns. We will remember how we begged our leaders to show leadership. We will remember how we copied the right things, wrongly. We will remember an important lesson that we cannot run from the woes we create. We will remember that we are only as safe or comfortable as our neighbours. We will remember the loved ones we lost during this period. We will also not forget those who went beyond the call of duty to bring succour to their fellow countrymen.
––Samuel Akinnuga, Lagos.