On Sunday, March 22, 2020, Nigeria recorded 10 new cases of Covid-19 in Lagos and Federal Capital Territory making a total of 25 cases in the country. The government says the problem is not beyond control. At least this is what officials tell the nation.
There is no doubt that the government is making the frenetic move to allay the fears of Nigerians from the harsh reality that awaits them. It is good that the government settles the nerves of the citizenry. However, there is no pretense that Nigerians should “hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” While we engage in a debate to find a solution to the problem of coronavirus pandemic, we should expect tough times ahead.
China, the country where the deadly virus first appeared is now ahead of the world in the fight against the disease. The epicentre of COVID-19, China is now in a celebratory mood for not recording any new original domestic cases of the disease for 3 consecutive days, since Wednesday, March 18, 2020. This represents a very symbolic moment for China and the world. It gives hope to mankind that Covid-19 can be contained.
BBC news correspondent in China, Stephen Mcdonell, who interviewed people who are whiling away in a park enjoying the new air of freedom from compulsory isolation due to the pandemic, reported that Chinese people are happy and confident that their government is capable of eliminating the coronavirus in the upcoming months.
A lady told the reporter in a sarcastic tone that China would see how other countries could fight the coronavirus in their countries. The ability to subdue and cure COVID-19 will be the cynosure of claim and counterclaim of supremacy between America and China for years to come. As it is now, China has the upper hand in the race.
Nigerians should have cause for concern. It is scary and disturbing to see countries like America, China, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain among other so-called developed nations or the first world, (this is how they want us to call them) grappling with coronavirus.
It is beyond imagination that these countries are yet to contain the spread of the virus despite their claims to power, wealth, science and technology. Despite the lockdown, use of face mask, a supply of relief package to citizens in need, a social safety net to cushion the pains of an economic meltdown caused by the outbreak, statewide restriction of movement, provision of facilities for isolated suspects, well-equipped laboratories, state of the art hospitals and well trained medical staff, the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus has shattered and disoriented Europe and the United States.
Even though our situation is not as bad as Italy (where 973 people died in 24 hours), or France(One of the hardest-hit countries), or Spain or some of the afflicted nations in Asia, our behaviour and attitude towards handling the pandemic is our bane. While these countries we see as the worst-case scenario for coronavirus have what it takes to contain the situation as time will prove in due course, the vagaries of nature will determine ours.
As usual, we will depend on the government's organized prayer sessions in mosques and churches across the country. I am not disputing the power of prayer in an extreme situation such as this. We should pray and then follow the prayer with action at the same time.
I am worried because there is a likelihood that the preventive measures that worked in other countries such as stay at home order, social distancing, and hand washing are alien to us. Another problem is, families who live from hand to mouth (we have a lot of them in this country) have to go out every morning to struggle for food to feed members of the family for the day. It is difficult also to trace all the people who had contact with infected persons. More worrisome is the belief in the deceptive notion by ignorant Nigerians that “there is no disease in Africa.”
Poverty, ignorance, and superstition are the albatross on the neck of the government and its relevant agencies to contain the virus in Nigeria. Oil price crash following the outbreak of COVID-19 sends Nigeria’s stocks stumbling, forcing CBN to “adjust” the naira to 380 to a dollar, a move that sends shockwaves that prices will rise and businesses will crumble.
The government will find it difficult to meet its commitment to the people. State governments may not be able to pay salary. Unless or until we think of out of the box solution to our dependence on mono-economy, Nigeria may never have a quick fix of her economic problems, even after the coronavirus pandemic.
We are not ready for a calamity of this magnitude that’s why we are caught unawares. The government is doing its best but does not have the resources to fight coronavirus. It is necessary that we must heed to the advice of medical experts and the consensus of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), in this period of national emergency. We should respect the rights and responsibilities of good neighbourhliness which is hinged on love, trust, and giving.
This is no time for a trivial religious squabble between the two dominant religions in the country. People should shun zealots and marabouts who claim to have a cure for the virus. The rich should assist the poor among us. Now is the time which our strategic grains reserve should meet the emergency food needs of our people. Nigerians from all walks of life should unite in the fight against COVID-19. Where necessary, the government should not hesitate to enforce compliance on measures it believes will contain the spread of the virus.
Saleh Bature is an Abuja based journalist, social commentator, and advocate of dialogue. You can reach him via email at [email protected]