By Adewale Adeoye
1) With a whole British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Intensive Care Unit, (ICU),the Queen of England in isolation, no doubt, Coronavirus is dangerous to any living human. It looks like the Third World War, the difference is that the soldiers are in trillions, in every continent, every country, every community, every street yet the soldiers cannot be seen with naked eyes. I have no doubt that many great countries will fall and new powers will emerge after COVID-19/. In Nigeria, the COVID-19 battle will take a long way to subdue. At present, we are in a difficult moment: Coronavirus is attacking peoples’ health, their savings, their wealth, their beliefs and even their freedom. Coronavirus is attacking our values, our time honoured culture, our religion and our community spirit. It has come to glorify individualism. Even after winning the COVID-19 fight, the legacies of the virus will remain for a long time.
2) It is important to commend the efforts of the Lagos State Government, (LASG) assisted by the lasting institutional strength built since 1999. We have at least a high percentage of recovering and discharged COVID-19 patients. Lagos has been helped by Experience, Hardwork and Indigenous knowledge.
3) Too bad, Nigerians themselves will slow down the battle. We are still held captive by the triple evil of Ignorance, Indiscipline and Superstition.
• Ignorance: many people are not aware of the grievous consequences of COVID-19. In Nigeria many believe it’s a foreign disease, an affliction of the white man or of the rich or of someone who has travelled abroad. This is false. Even if we trend this logic, the rich people have drivers, cooks and gardeners who would visit their one-room homes, their wives will visit the markets and they will meet their equally poor friends in remote and urban areas.
• Indiscipline: We generally lack discipline which account for failure to obey the stay at home order and the refusal of many people to be contract traced, obey social distancing and live hygienic life.
• Superstition: Our people are ruled by timeless beliefs many of which are unfounded. Predictably, many Nigerians will not report to NCDC, even if they feel the symptoms. They will rather go to faith-institutions as if God is opposed to science. Many COVID 19 patients will not report to the authorities for many reasons. They fear dead patients will not be released to their relations, they will be cremated. Nigerians have spiritual attachment to burial grounds of loved ones. They want a grave yard they can relate to with the future. Many COVID-19 patients will rather go for quacks and mystic homes where there is diagnoses or where available the diagnoses are unreliable. They do not want their dead relations to be cremated. LASG has a crematorium, and has said individuals can take their corpse, to be buried under supervision, but many are still scared. It is likely many will not go to hospitals simply because of these factors, yet at their own peril. The consequence is that even after lockdown, millions of Nigerians will remain at great risk of exposure to COVID-19.
4 There have been political over dramatization of instances of recovered COVID-19 patients. While this is a good narrative to remind the people that COVID-19 is not a death sentence, it also sends wrong signals that COVID-19 can easily be demystified or managed sometimes using unorthodox means.
5 Nigeria will not have the full grasp of her situation until the end of April or early May. This means we have to be on guard. With oil prices down to 30 dollars, with the political class not ready to make sacrifices, with Nigeria not ready to decentralize so as to unbundle bottled up energies and potentials necessary for mutual competition by rival indigenous nations, the greatest challenge will soon no longer be only COVID-19 but the negative fallouts like uprising, threat to laws of the land in the desperate quest for survival, loss of jobs, economy meltdown, which will increase an already spiraling crime rate due to the loss of profit by many companies.
6 Social uprising should be expected. Two things may happen in this context: If the uprising is organized and compelled by ideology, a new opposition movement may emerge in Nigeria that will shake existing order, unless the current leadership goes back to the drawing board to reconnect with the people through a new definition of power and politics that will put first the interest of the people. The other angle is that if the resentments are not organized, Nigeria may witness a rise in violence and even anarchy.
7 A great leader is known in time of national crisis. Germany and Korea emerged stronger and more prosperous after the Second World War and the Korean War. Rwanda became stronger after the genocide. COVID-19 is another wave of genocide against cultures, economy and livelihood. It is war in itself. Only great leaders will be able to turn the adversary into grandeur. I do not think we have the capacity in Nigeria, not with the present state of affairs. If we are ready, we should realize that the most important security for Nigerians is not the number of soldiers or police, neither is it the number of fighter jets. The real security is FOOD, SHELTER AND HEALTH. Across the world, nationalists will emerge, leaders that want to protect their borders, natives will rise against immigrants as resources of nations drop. New laws will make travels more difficult and even for leaders seeking healthcare. Many Nigerians abroad will face opposition by owners of the land who think their jobs are being taken.Nations will be tougher against foreigners. The old slogan: No place like home will strike many hearts abroad. If anything, COVID-19 thought me you are nobody if you have no house in your town or village no matter what you may achieve.
For Nigeria to breast the tape, The state and Federal Governments must cut down expenses on political office holders, invest heavily in public health and agriculture. The states should be allowed to handle these key areas, let the Federal Government mind it’s own business. FG should stay off agriculture, food production and public health except on advisory levels.The handling of COVID-19 shows clearly the destiny of Nigerians is mostly in the hands of their State Governors.
8 The State and National Assembly must make laws for social security which will mean every Nigerian must be insured against economic and health hazards. The rich needs to pay more tax, the banks and Communication service providers who declare billions of cash every year must be compelled by law to invest in public health, housing and food production, a certain percentage of their profit. The times ahead will be tough. Only good leadership will save us. I urge Nigerians to grow tougher in their determination to break the imminent post COVID-19 economic, cultural and political brick walls.