A Virus And Its Victims

We get the news from other lands everyday about the tragic deaths from coronavirus. We have almost exhausted the safety measures copied from those places. Yes, the deaths in our domain have not hit the roof, but we have lost people too, at home and abroad. They are not the only victims of the virus. There are also scores of victims among those of us still living. Trouble is that the victims do not know their status. No, I don’t mean the positive or negative aspect of it. That is being taken care of by the World Health Organisation, WHO, and its local collaborators. But the WHO and other concerned bodies and individuals have warned that the Armageddon is on its way to Africa. When they issue such warnings, it is certain that attention is always on Nigeria. And this is more because of our population.
Added to that is the poor state of our health system and the lackadaisical attitude of our leaders.
The fear is always out there that, in the event of a major catastrophe in Nigeria, the spillover effect on the rest of Africa and, in fact, the western nations may be too telling.
But it would appear that those of us for whom they are so concerned care little about our welfare. Imagine that we paid little attention to the rules given out for us to keep the virus in check. In fact, some members of the political class mostly act like comedians, even when they claim to be battling the spread of the virus or show concern for the interest of the governed. It is sad that some of them appear more to be interested in making money from the tragedy that stares us into the face, should the virus continue to multiply. And the report of the review of the initial lockdown is not something to cheer about. Now, cases are on the rise. So are deaths, a development that could have been avoided.
That is apart from the fact that the imperfection in our health system has been exposed, and health workers put at risk. At least Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, and chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, testified to that, a fact that had been on the shelf for decades. Another frailty the virus has exposed is the depth of our leaders’ ineptitude. It was like we were sleeping when the rest of the world was running to close their gates against coronavirus. Or maybe we did not understand the language spoken by other humans. Recall that we had to break eardrums to convince President Muhammadu Buhari to speak to us on a pandemic that had stepped into our passage. We knew we had a government that was hard of hearing, but it was just that we didn’t know how bad it was until Covid-19 happened. The presidency became a victim of the malady that has bedevilled the world.
Even more saddening is the allegation that some leaders have been playing politics with the process, resulting in governors of opposition parties complaining about being denied support because of party differences, even as governors too have had to contend with allegations that party loyalty comes into play in the distribution of palliatives. Suddenly the avowed commitment of political leadership fell apart.
What can we not trivialise? After all, the virus, as dreaded as it is said to be, is still surpassed in the claiming of human lives by bandits, Boko Haram and Lassa fever. Not to mention the malaria scourge. Is it not the norm that if death has not visited the leader’s homestead, it is the act of God? The unspoken words in official quarters are, “how many people have died of coronavirus that some people are lamenting about government inaction?” But it was convenient to use that as an excuse to take a massive foreign loan. So, how do we believe that the reason, of wanting to battle the spread of the virus with the loan, is not just a smokescreen? Perhaps, the lethargy of the federal government to the spread of the virus at the beginning was deliberate, so that a spread would be a selling point to get financial support offshore. Could our leaders be scheming to use our pathetic situation for their advantage?
Honestly, we marvel at the demonstration of crass ignorance about the effect of the pandemic that has locked the whole world down, resulting in a near economic paralysis everywhere. But leaders hitherto not known to be bothered about economic development have turned ambassadors of a better economy. That in itself would have been a good thing. Except that they do not consider the wellbeing of the people they govern. And, perhaps, as born-again economists in government, they now see their campaign as the most important, while the rest of the world is seen as doting on an “insignificant virus”. In this group is Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, who, at a press conference, upbraided political leaders and advocates of “kill coronavirus” for balancing on their heads the “light” issue of coronavirus when the economy takes a plunge for the worse. Hear him: “There are so many merchants now marketing COVID-19 as if that is our priority. Our struggling economy that Mr President is trying to revive, we’re further killing it”.
He made a point of the media being dominated by news of the virus, which for him was such a distant phenomenon we had no business shutting down our economy for it. That is why officials of the National Centre for Diseases Control, NCDC, had to flee Kogi State as a result of the hostile welcome they got from the governor.
Mr. Governor is welcome, and his views and radical actions well taken. But does he think that the numbers of deaths announced each day in Europe and America, and now pitching about 200 in Nigeria, are mere statistics? Has he asked himself of what use would a flourishing economy be in the event that scores and scores of people die avoidable death? He should check the records since the advent of this disease and find out the stand of President Donald Trump of America and what songs are being sung in the White House now. He should also check out for the initial stand of the Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro. Brazil parades an unenviable record of highest number of deaths in Latin America. With death rates so far around 8,000, Brazilians wish their leader had been wiser. Yet, in Nigeria, where the capacity for testing has been, in the least, very embarrassing, some in the position of leadership think more of how the attention given to coronavirus has impeded efforts at growing the economy they had clobbered serially.
What cannot be denied is that many of our leaders have little respect for human lives. Rather, what is paramount to them is how much flows into the public treasury for them to administer. The unfortunate thing is that the administration of such resources also does not have much impact on the citizenry. Mr. Bello should please learn from the experience of the United States, Brazil and even our own Kano State and allow reason to prevail by giving a chance for preventive measures in his state. He should, at least for once, do that in the interest of the poor people of Kogi state, who he swore to protect.

Igbona Market Photo
Buyers and sellers at Igbona Market on Thursday evening.
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