Covid-19 and Corona Virus has turned to household terms. My 3 years old son exclaims `Corona Virusʼ on seeing anyone with face mask. This shows how common the term has become among anybody who is alive on planet earth since November 2019.
Ironically, while the name of this virus is on the lips of everyone, it is worrisome that many people in Nigeria claim to be unaware of the existence of this Virus, while others say it does not exist in Nigeria.
While you might find it laughable that people still do not comprehend, some facts behind their argument seems to excuse their ignorance. But whatever the case, the havoc being caused by the virus across the globe does not permit for such ignorance, as many lives have been cut short as a result of this pandemic.
What though are some of the fueling factors resulting in the disbelief of many as to the existence of the virus in Nigeria?
In November 2019 came a news of a possible outbreak of a virus that is very strong in the family of SARS. At that initial point, it seemed the virus was a China-only issue, and never seemed to bother many people. Fast forward to early February when the Chinese were returning to their different countries of residence in the world after their Luna New Year celebration. Many countries of the world placed a travel embargo on People returning from China and subsequently extended it to countries with major hits from the Corona Virus.
At this point, the pointers were clear that Covid-19 is more than a child’s play, and that something urgent should be done if we must scale through both as Nigerians and as humans generally.
Many people started expressing their fears, and called massively on the Federal Government to do something drastic to be able to stop the Virus getting into the country. Some labeled this genuine people as “wailers” while others called them out for according to them `Spreading panicʼ.
The Government at the time claimed they were prepared to handle the Virus. Some of us knew this would turn bad considering that Nigeria could not afford a containment plan as the country has its peculiar challenges that would affect whatever containment plan they had.
By mid February, reality hit us as the index case was confirmed by the Government. We were soon to find out that the Government was not prepared at all to handle this virus. The Italian who was confirmed as the first index case in Nigeria made efforts to escape from the isolation center as he had to suffer in the hands of mosquitoes and also had to battle heat.
The Government only after few days started to work on making the isolation center inhabitable. Only at this point did they start to consider locking down the borders, but the harm had already been done and there was nothing that could be done to undo it. The only next available thing is containment.
The kid gloves used in handling the borders left so many in doubt already. Could it be that there is no virus or to say the least, there is no Corona Virus in Nigeria? If it is real, why did they leave the borders open for those close to them to return before they proceeded to lock down the borders? Could it be that this is a stunt so that whatever palliatives given by WHO or any other body in the fight for this virus could be diverted? This and many other questions cast aspersions on the minds of Nigerians who are still coming to terms with the fact that their lifestyle will change soonest as a result of the Virus.
To further thicken the fears of these ones, when Chinese Billionaire, owner of Ali Baba sent items- both Medical and otherwise- to assist the Nigerian people, it was airlifted from Lagos that had the greatest number of patients to Abuja that had far less, a decision that till date I find difficult to comprehend. Several Billions of Naira was given to the Nigerian Government by Philanthropists to support the Nigerian people and nothing has been heard by the Nigerian populace.
To make matters worse, the Government had to impose Lockdown on the Country as a way of containing the Virus, a move that wouldn’t have been necessary supposing the borders were locked down on time.
While this Lockdown made sense to some people, to others it did not. Why would there be a total Lockdown where many of the Nigerian people live below poverty line? Many live a hand-to-mouth lifestyle, and many find it difficult to live on a normal day only to be locked down with no palliatives given.
The Nigerian Government was very quick to adopt the containment style of other countries, without first studying carefully what they did with the given measures. For instance, in the USA the Government locked down and used the period to do massive testing and made sure they covered a large portion of the population. This way you would say what the Lockdown period was used for. In Nigeria however, no such effort was made with the Lockdown period. Rather, we sat at home using the period to wish away the Virus without real effort to get something done.
Comparing the Nigerian situation with that of others, many Nigerians do not have what it takes to live a normal day life. These people were forced to stay under Lockdown with nothing to use for survival. The United States Population stands at over 331,000,000 people. They gave palliatives to the tune of $1,400 (over ₦450,000) per citizen. Meanwhile Nigeria with a population that stands at about 200,000,000 could not hand over a little palliatives to her citizens. A quick run keeps the registered BVN in Nigeria at a little less than 40,000,000 registered persons. Suppose the Nigerian Government decide to give out palliatives as little as ₦20,000 to individuals, that would amount to about 800 Billion Naira. Considering that the budget for the year stands at 10.5 Trillion Naira, would it not have been a good investment saving the life of Nigerians with part of that money budgeted for the year?
Rather than think in this direction, the Government choose to turn a blind eye to this part of the people’s plight. No mention of the money given by Philanthropists to support the fight Against the COVID-19. Proper accountability as regards this monies is definitely not out of place.
How would one not see the virus as a hoax and an avenue to syphon money given the above kid gloves handling by the Government?
To mask it all, a prominent member of the Federal Cabinet dropped dead as a result of the novel Virus, no social distancing efforts were made during his burial. A burial that was filled to capacity. How would the common man sitting by the sidelines believe that the Virus is anything real?
While we know this Virus is real, many others still do not believe it is. The Government has a lot of work to do beyond the jingles done to sensitize the public. The body language in the seat of power should attest to the existence of this Virus. As we work together to fight this virus, may we stay far from the scam associated with the virus as it is doing us more harm than good.
God Heal Nigeria,
God Heal the World.
Moses Uzziah is a political analyst. He is based in Enugu with his family