Since the beginning of the year, there have been great worry and anxiety globally because of the outbreak of a disease code-named COVID-19, caused by Corona Virus. What started in Wuhan in Hubei district in China has become a pandemic affecting hundreds of thousands leaving tens of thousands dead.
And up till now, no known cure for the disease has been developed. The only cure now seems to be to maintain good personal hygiene and observe social distance to avoid contracting it from infected persons.
Although, the world is not new to epidemics but this very one has generated more concerns than the previous ones due to increased human mobility and inter-connectivity that has made information dissemination easy so much so that what is happening in any part of the world is reported everywhere real time.
In Nigeria, the casualty rate is in the neighborhoods of tree hundred with about five deaths recorded so far. And to stop the further spreading of the disease the government has expediently declared lockdown in FCT, Lagos and Ogun State where there are reported cases of the disease.
And to enforce the lockdown the government has deployed security operatives to the streets to restrict movement. Markets, business centres, schools, offices and even worship centres have been closed down. To cushion the effects of the lockdown public-spirited individuals and philanthropists are said to have made cash and material donations in their localities.
The President in his lockdown speech has also promised to give palliatives to the poor and the vulnerable.
He also said that the school-feeding programme to pupils would continue.
It is as amazing as it is terrifying. For a moment mankind, everybody forgot about wealth and social status and vainglory and focus attention on combating the Corona Virus – a micro-organism that has scared and harried man in spite of his brains and fabled technological feats.
The world has been shut down literally. Businesses and human activities have come to an abrupt halt. The bubbling and bustling that usually go on at city centres and event venues are now no more, world over. Celebrities have temporary forgotten the limelight, the glitz and the glamour.
Our glamorous ladies care no more about beauty care but health care. Our men have forgotten about Premier League and its hullabaloo and avoided drinking joints and clubs and hibernate at home like octogenarians. But while men fret and panic about the Virus, the lower animals and other living organism are free in their ecosystem.
So, the panic about COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated that man is still human: weak, frail and fragile despite his much touted big brains. The concern for life during this period has shown that health is obviously the most treasured human asset and not wealth or social status.
In Nigeria the disbursement of the palliatives to the people has generated issues among concerned Nigerians. In the Presidential address, this was mentioned but without any clear way of identifying and paying the announced conditional cash transfers to the weak and vulnerable. But, after four days it was announced that a whooping sum of a hundred-billion Naira has been disbursed to the people prompting insinuations of lack of transparency in the process.
How was this humongous sum distributed and into which accounts in so short a period? How can the government that pronounced lockdown be sharing money to people in a crowd? Is it not contradictory? How can the government continue the School Feeding Programme when the schools are closed?
I am not accusing anybody of any wrongdoing but I am only reacting to insinuations in some quarters that the distribution of government largesse to the poor was not transparent. I sincerely hope nobody is trying to benefit from this unfortunate situation. It is unethical and morally reprehensible to do so.
Also, there are unpalatable reports and video footages about brutality from overzealous security operatives enforcing the lockdown order. This should not be so. Our security men should learn the rules of engagement in a situation of this nature. Our hungry hapless citizens do not need further harassment. Those who want to be brutal should be sent to Sambisa Forest to battle insurgency.
Expectedly, we have read different versions of the conspiracy theory about the origin of the killer virus but I am inclined to think that they are all hypotheses that have no evidential basis; history of human epidemics is as old as human history itself, remember. But, be that as it may, one thing is certain the world was not created by human technology therefore human technology – nuclear, chemical, biological and artificial intelligence cannot destroy the world. Our own Bob Marley, the Reggae legend, told us almost half a decade ago that we should not fear atomic energy and all that destructive human inventions for none of them is going to stop the time.
Again, it is interesting to hear some of our pastors who used to reel out prophesy at the beginning of the year, make unsubstantiated insinuations about the origin of the dreaded virus when they could not see it during their annual rituals at the cross-over night. And some of them could not care much about the welfare of their poor and indigent followers only to demand tithes and offering from people that are locked down at home.
Another interesting part of the COVID-19 is that for the first time in history our globetrotting government officials feared to travel abroad on medical tourism. It points to the fact that our government as a matter of necessity should invest more on health services. The government should also pro-actively prepare for emergencies at all times in order not to be taken unawares and to curtail casualty rates in the event of future epidemics.
The health workers and volunteers who labored to fight the deadly scourge in spite of the inherent risk of contracting the disease deserve kudos. In laudatory terms, I must also commend well-meaning and public-spirited individuals who made donations to help the affected and the vulnerable Nigerians survive the debilitating effects of the lockdown. In particular, I must eulogize Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (GCON) the former Vice-President, the Wazirin of Adamawa, who set the tone for the donations.
It is also worthy to commend some individuals like Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to the President, His Excellency, Bala Mohammed, the Governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Atiku Abubakar and many other high-profile personalities who willingly submitted themselves for test and admitting contracting the deadly virus and going into seclusion to avoid spreading the disease. To me, it is a sign of humility and integrity worthy of emulation.
Finally, I enjoin everyone to support every effort to curb the disease. Our researchers should research more. Those who are religious should pray for this plague to go away while the rest of us should comply with every directive aimed at curtailing the spread of the disease.
Maintain good hygiene, maintain social distance, and report every case to health authorities. And I pray that the Almighty Allah, the merciful and the Benevolent will heal our compatriots who have contracted the disease.
Once again, I say stay safe. We will all survive it.