Ayodele Okunfolami writes that COVID-19 is real
Because two of my sisters are practicing doctors in Nigeria, our prayers have doubled on them since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. They, like other health workers and first responders in outpatients, ICUs, ERs and isolation centres, are the front liners in this war against Covid-19. My heart and applause go out to each and every one of them. Thank you.
When news broke that coronavirus came into Nigeria through an Italian, I was sharing the incident with a doctor friend of mine. As we conversed, he told me one of his colleagues had told him that Nigeria would compulsorily report a corona case in order to be entitled to monies multilateral bodies were said to be sharing to affected nations. And unfortunately, my doctor pal’s coworker is not the only person with this mindset.
Government at all levels and private bodies have continued to use several channels to inform the populace of the reality of the pandemic and how they can keep safe. However, not a few Nigerians remain skeptic. These doubting Thomases may be convinced that Covid-19 is real abroad but not in Nigeria. They view the Coronavirus that the World Health Organization upgraded from being an epidemic to a pandemic as nothing but another scamdemic the Nigerian political class are using to enrich themselves.
They wonder how it is easier to locate the poorest of the poor who typically are without addresses for palliatives but can’t contact trace travellers with official passports and contacts to be tested. They ask how the school feeding programme is being carried out when schools are not in session but complain they don’t have enough beds for Covid-19 patients. They query the speed in which the social register increased by a million in two weeks but tests for coronavirus is still below 40,000 after three months. These things don’t sum up.
Word on the street is that since some index states got grants in billions of naira from the federal government to tackle the disease, other states don’t want to be left out and so are churning out inflated cases even if the illnesses are mild fevers unrelated to corona. The doubters question how Lassa fever that is claiming more lives is all of a sudden neglected to battle a virus they swear is not a black man’s disease.
Conspiracy theories floating the air makes matters worse. Are Africans pawns in the struggle for who controls the emerging world order? Is it a lab virus to depopulate the earth? Does it have any connection with 5G? Why the uncharacteristic rush by a hitherto absentee national assembly to repeal the archaic quarantine act for a new one that makes vaccination obligatory?
If you think the Thomases are the uninformed, you are wrong. Even a sizable fraction of the urban elite propagates the falsehood of the whole thing. This is being reflected in the noncompliance to the lockdowns, social distancing or wearing of facemasks in banks, shopping malls and other supposed corporate settings the elite patronize. But why are Nigerians like this?
About a month after the disease broke out in Nigeria, I made a social media post challenging those that insist Covid-19 is fake in Nigeria to go to any isolation centre of their choice without any protective gear to hug, shake and spend time with the patients and return to disprove the truth of the pandemic. I got three similar comments bemusing how right-thinking people would not believe what they claimed was as clear as day. The irony of this oxymoronic scenario is that this threesome belongs to the vocal majority that cry foul when the judiciary makes its judgements, disagree with census figures that gives a section majority, perceive election figures are predetermined against the voters wish and say NTA never tells all. Following this, I asked one of them why he then believes the NCDC and doesn’t those other Nigerian institutions. Why cherry pick what (not) to believe?
Although life is not metrical, those that doubt Covid-19 have remained consistent and true to themselves at least. They believe that Chibok girls was another hoax to dispossess a sitting administration, that Dapchi girls was stage managed to affirm a sitting government, that those plane mishaps were not crashes but masterminded to eliminate some personalities, that those Abuja fires were not accidents but deliberate deeds to cover up fraud, that a former president’s eyes were that of cattle while the current is a double, and on and on. They even believe the entire Nigerian project is a scam. So disbelieving coronavirus in Nigeria aligns smoothly into their disbelief system.
However, these Thomases should not be blamed. The inability to lead the conversation, engage the people and be transparent in dealings by those in authority have led to rumours and fake news making the communication managers mainly debunking already viral false information. And when they do speak, it is muddled in contradictions. The foggy explanations on the whereabouts, identity and mission of the Chinese 15 and the messy quarantining of the Benue index case only adds to the potpourri of cynicisms. Why does it appear as if some states are discrediting the work of NCDC priding in their contestable zero positive patients? And why did NCDC, a supposedly data driven agency,
unprofessionally retract some of its figures in seeming apology to some states?
Beyond what is being heard, the inaudible is louder. We have all lost faith in the government at one time or the other. Our belief in the government protecting us keeps eroding as we moved from hiring private security, to installing more fortifying home burglaries to avoiding living in certain areas. When we couldn’t get drinkable water straight from our kitchen sinks that makes us all to drill personal bore holes, our belief in the government watered. We enrolled our children in extra moral lessons because their undermotivated teachers and underequipped public schools couldn’t give them the optimum. We are now moving them from private schools to school overseas. It is the same with the health sector where we now trust alternative medicines and prayers more than teaching hospitals. Even those that use the pulpit to encourage us to believe in Nigeria have their children in Canada.
Those that doubt Covid-19 Nigeria doubted it long before the index case was reported in our shores. Distrust in the government is subliminally becoming a religion in Nigeria and daily press briefings or campaigns by elected officials washing their hands with water flowing from golden faucets won’t make proselytes of them overnight. Good governance will.
So, if you encounter one of those people that don’t believe in coronavirus, just spare yourself arguments. Socially distance yourself from them because their carelessness may infect you with either the reality of the existence of the disease or the reality that you are the one living in deceit.
––Okunfolami wrote from Festac, Lagos