Nigeria’s COVID-19 blues and other stories

“It is very tiresome on the body, as well as scary on the mind.”

Few years ago during the Ebola crisis my friend Dr. Chris Kwaja had done some work for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on health security, public health emergencies and those big sounding words that we academics use in rattling small minds or making a matter complex in the first place before we give a solution, so let me open with his thoughts.

“The governments and communities caught in the Ebola epidemic demonstrated an inability to act in a timely and proactive manner, indicative of generally low levels of emergency preparedness and response capacities. To address these shortcomings, the ECOWAS early warning mechanisms on conflict should be expanded to include tracking early warning signs on public health emergencies.

ECOWAS should also commit to strengthening the Ebola coordinating centre, which is based in Conakry. Specifically, ECOWAS should support the centre in the areas of collecting and analyzing real-time information on disasters, as well as planning for the deployment of experts and equipment.

ECOWAS should strongly support Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in designing and implementing recovery programmes. The programmes should address issues of resource mobilization, resilience, strong and effective governance institution development, and effective and efficient health care system development, and livelihood restoration.

Governments at all levels must invest in personal and community hygiene through the implementation of sustainable water, sanitation and health systems (WASH).

The Ebola epidemic provided a grim reminder of West Africa’s dire need for ECOWAS infrastructure capable of responding to emergencies in a timely and proactive manner. As ECOWAS reflects on its successes, challenges, and outlook for the future, this public health infrastructure must be made a priority…

Just remove ebola in the above paragraphs and replace with COVID19 or replace ECOWAS with Nigeria, or leave it as ECOWAS, are we surprised. I doubt, the truth is that we are never ready for anything whether it is ebola, Lassa fever or COVID19.

With the COVID19 pandemic there are no easy answers, on the contrary it has exposed us bare for who and what we are, as a people and those that lead us; do you know that a paint bucket is cheaper than same paint bucket when it is used as a measure to sell local cassava grain (garri)?

That most people do not believe that there is nothing like COVID19 in Nigeria, they tell you blatantly that the virus is everywhere but Nigeria, and they are adamant, ask them, they ask, how come all these governors that were tested positive all become negative in less than 14 days with the exemption of the governor of one state in the North, people ask, why is it that their wives, kids, drivers and closest allies are safe.

In most states they have resorted to fumigation, and the ordinary man cannot understand, because no one took out time to explain all the antecedent drama that followed each states’ fumigation, including a state that used “hypo and water” and fire truck vehicle for the exercise. Compare that to fumigation done everywhere but Nigeria. Our ways are just exceptional different, a nation and her people, the place where instead of a hearty empathy message like “get well soon, be strong mate” when you visit someone in the hospital in Nigeria, you go…”na wetin kill my brother last month be that”.

Not many people understand the gist surrounding the palliatives and the billions being disbursed to ghost persons, and so it is with the “audio monies” that was and is being donated. It is obvious that we have no preparedness in terms of food security, a robust economy and all that bedroom dance of diversification is what it is, mere bedroom dance, for a nation that can barely produce just panadol for her entire citizen.

The fact remains that more Nigerians have been killed extra judicially than COVID19, even as intra, inter state killings and kidnappings with community robberies have also increased alongside the fear of the times. There are no standards, and really very little in terms of guidelines at the isolation centers, even as Nigerians grumble that no one is getting the Conditional Cash Transfer. It is with the lockdown that several locations have been gut in fire, Dugbe market in Ibadan, CAC office in Abuja amongst others.

As it is with us, people are lying about their travel history and medical history, no one wants to be maligned for having Coronavirus, so people even attempt to escape from isolation centers. Our security agents that beat up citizens defying the lockdown are not in any form of protective gear. Even as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control NCDC and several states present conflicting COVID19 results.

A trader asked me, why are our big men not observing social distance, and why is Mr. President not wearing face mask, and everyone around him, wears one? She asked, is this COVID19 not just for the rich people, she asked COVID19 and HUNGER20 which kills faster? My quick-fire answer was madam, stay at home, be safe, if you have to be outside, wash your hands, don’t touch your face with the hands, if you must sneeze, do it like this, not like that…

The questions are plenty, the solutions very few, but our COVID19 experience in Nigeria has not been palatable, graciously the death toll has not reached and will not reach alarming rates, If we start serious community testing, are we ready if there is an pandemic like outbreak in Nigeria, this disease has continued to expose the bankruptcy of our polity, will leadership brace up, are we as a people ready for the now and aftermath of all these…I simply nod my head in deep thoughts as Bob Marley’s Natural Mystic plays in the background

There’s a natural mystic

Blowing through the air

If you listen carefully now you will hear

This could be the first trumpet

Might as well be the last

Many more will have to suffer

Many more will have to die

Don’t ask me why

Things are not the way they used to be

I won’t tell no lie

One and all got to face reality now

Though I try to find the answer

To all the questions they ask

Though I know it’s impossible

To go living through the past

Don’t tell no lie

There’s a natural mystic

Blowing through the air

Can’t keep them down

If you listen carefully now you will hear

Such a natural mystic

Blowing through the air

This could be the…–Only time will tell

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