COVID-19: Nigeria’s Test
Back in the days, when I was a student of Mass Communication, one of my lecturers favorite line was, “I will cripple you o”.
Now, Malam Sani Bello didn’t mean it as an insult or a threat but a means to create fun and make us see that we needed to work hard in order for us to pass his examination.
So also, has COVID-19 come to Nigeria to test our system or to cripple it if needs be?
World over, the cry from the epicenter of COVID-19 in Wuhan in China to Oshogbo in Nigeria is Coronavirus (COVID-19) and how it has infected more than a million people and claimed more lives that are in the six digit form and still counting. How it has disrupted economies and social lives of the inhabitants of planet Earth.
The case is not different in Nigeria, where the rate of infection of COVID-19 is steadily progressing even as the rate of patients recovering and fatalities too is increasing.
In the graphical representation, one can deduce that the three variables are increasing though at different rates.
Rate of infection is increasing geometrically compared to that of patients being discharged and fatalities recorded.
Some may think, this is good news. Well that is topic for another feature as I am not statistically inclined to analyze such.
Before COVID-19 came calling through the index case, those concerned and different stakeholders have been crying perpetually as regards the nation’s health care sector and how abandonment is slowly chewing at an institution which in time past was a yard stick in measuring healthcare internationally.
At the slightest headache, the country’s elite and political class would board private jets or pay at government’s expense to get the best medical treatments at the best medical facilities abroad, even though some end up being brought back in caskets while the masses are left at the mercy of what President Muhammadu Buhari while a Major General in the Nigerian Army once referred to as “mere consulting clinics”.
A reason why he and his beret wearing general colleagues sacked the democratically elected administration of Shehu Shagari on the 31st of December, 1983.
COVID-19 landed in Nigeria howbeit, after several warnings by concerned Nigerians for the Federal Government to shut down the country’s borders fell on deaf ears trapping the rich and poor, the governed and the government, the political class, the elite and the ordinary Nigerians in its viral grip.
Countries where our nation’s top guns usually visit are the worst hit and we were all forced to lockdown and observe safety protocols in order for us not be infected by the monster called COVID-19.
Did COVID-19 come to cripple our health sector the more or to provide a solution for a revamp? We never can say until the battle to defeat this virus from Nigeria is won.
Until then, will we know if truly we have learnt a lesson or two from this episode or if its going to be business as usual.
When the wife of Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister and Mr. Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom Prime Minister announced that they tested positive to COVID-19, there was strong out pouring of emotions and the whole world prayed for the both.
Daily, international media inundated and updated us with news of their progress but the case was quite different at home. From the time Malam Abba Kyari, the late Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari tested positive to the time he passed on, I saw Nigerians reacting with vengeance.
The outpouring of venom and hate was just too much. Compared to those who wished him recovery, those who wished him otherwise were tipping the scale.
On many occasions, bewilderment popped up on why the followership so detest the followed in this land flowing with milk and honey. The scenario followed when the Kaduna State governor and his Bauchi counterpart and other top government functionaries all tested positive to COVID-19.
The only governor who to my reckoning escaped such backlash was Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State who is well loved by all even across the board within his enclave.
Everything about Abba Kyari’s journey to the land of no return was shrouded in secrecy. I guess probably because we are still a society steeped in superstitions. Probably it was believed that revealing such would work against him. Therefore, there was a veil put about his health status.
For the first time, the media machinery of the Presidency went blank and many were left guessing as to the fate of the ‘all powerful’ Chief Of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari. Surprisingly, many Nigerians did not wish him well. Except for a few Nigerians who came out to describe the late Kyari as a very benevolent man who was a check even on his principal.
Many Nigerians didn’t wish the well to do, elites and the political class well because they still believed that they are the ones responsible for the problems confronting Nigeria 59 years after political independence.
Ordinarily, one would have thought that the fatalities and rate of positive cases would have been in the five figure sum since COVID-19 made landfall in Nigeria but surprisingly , it’s not the case though we cannot deny the fact that the rate of testing being carried out is abysmal compared to what is supposed to be.
Now that COVID-19 testing has assumed a different level, the above theory has been defeated as the recent tests shows that cases has risen to 23,298, with 8,253 treated and discharged while 554 died.
In the era, when some states decided to take the bull by the horn, shut down their land boundaries and declared lockdown, some states especially in the North denied the existence of COVID-19 and continued to live in denial until reality dawned on them.
The United States of America, United Kingdom, Italy and Spain should serve as good case studies of how ignorance and arrogance are a bad mixture for a cocktail. They don’t even have space to bury their dead again.
COVID-19 has been described in many quarters as a leveler. In its path both the rich and poor share the same fate. In the isolation wards and quarantine centres, there is no room for the rich or poor. They still receive the same treatment but one cannot say same on how the government is treating this pandemic.
They have tried much to rise up to the occasion but the Federal Government should know that at the end of the whole matter, the victory rests squarely on the dedication of the health workers some of whom have and will pay the supreme sacrifice, state governors and the resolute and determined stand of the average Nigerian to bear whatever is thrown at them just for this victory to be achieved.
Time and time again, it has been proven that Nigerians are resilient and very elastic. They have been indoors for more than 90 days. Though the lockdown has been lifted, many have died as a result of hunger and brutality from law enforcement agencies deployed to enforce the lockdown order and in some cases, many loosing their means of livelihood but still they carry on with life as if nothing is happening.
From the beginning of the last lockdown, to minimise transmission of COVID-19, there were many faults on the part of government. Virtually every promise it made and every directive it gave have been broken. Who is the culprit? Government!
Our government talked of palliative. Which palliative? They talked of food distribution to the poor. Where was the food? What were the criteria for the distribution? Who are the poor in Nigeria and where are the statistics to prove this?
Rather, the Headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Finance went up in flames, same with the corporate headquarters of the Corporate Affairs Commission. The Central Bank of Nigeria building in Jos, Plateau state too did not escape being gutted by fire. What really happened? Only time will tell!
News also had it that Governor Ikpeazu of Abia State tested positive to COVID-19 though he denied it. Kogi governor, Yahaya Bello says there is no COVID-19 in his state, yet the index case was confirmed dead by verified news sources.
Despite the series of lock down measures put in place in Osun, the virus is being imported and the cases are steadily rising though still controlled until recently when the state government threatened that it may be forced to impose another lockdown because within one week 45 new cases were discovered. What an alarm!
Churches, mosques, businesses, markets and even banks have opened but when will our schools open? The academic calendar as it is has been disrupted. Much concern on the part of academics, parents and students affected is what will happen to students that have entrance and certificate examination to seat for?
To make matters worse, the National Association of Resident Doctors gave the Federal Government a 14 day ultimatum after which an industrial action would be embarked on. The matter has been settled but not without threats being issued by some state governments.
Recently, 19 legislators in the Imo State House of Assembly tested positive to COVID-19 and the family of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has gone into isolation because his daughter tested positive to the virus.
Celebrities too are not spared from the agony of having to declare that they have tested positive to the virus. Chioma Davido tested positive to it. Peter of the famed P-Square too has come out to say he is positive. Chief Raymond Dokpesi of Daar communications and his family all went into quarantine due to covid-19 and many others.
The biggest news in the month of June is the death of the former governor of Oyo State, Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi who also died from COVID-19. The show surrounding his demise is also worthy of mention because after the sack of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the All progressives Congress (APC) Chairman by the Appellate court, the late former governor by the party's constitution was appointed as acting chairman.
He could not take up the mantle because he was incapacitated. It was around this time that his death was rumoured. Some sources even said he had died before it was officially made public but the truth was kept sealed because of the political implication it will have for his party the APC.
In conclusion, some states including Lagos have declared that another lockdown maybe inevitable due to the spike in COVID-19 infections. Citizens have started to react against it citing that the measure is fast going out of fashion.
They advised government to rather strengthen the closure of land borders and encourage more of precautionary steps and obeying safety protocols by the people.
Francis Ezediuno is a Nigerian journalist writing from Osun.