These are certainly not the best of times for the Federal and State Governments in Nigeria regarding the handling and containment of the coronavirus pandemic that is ravaging the world. In the wake of the first confirmation of positive cases in parts of the country, the Federal and State Governments had announced measures aimed at containing the spread of the disease.
From partial lockdown, many states graduated to total lockdown, with the Federal Government also declaring such. It is now about three weeks into the lockdown in parts of the country; three weeks which the citizenry are beginning to find uncomfortable.
Consequently, mini uprisings have been reported in some parts of the country by the citizenry in protest against what they see as locking them up without food and money. From Jos to Warri to Lagos and Okigwe, stories of demonstrations, and sometimes, outright looting by citizens, have been reported.
With such developments, it is certain that further extension of the lockdown across the country will spell danger. But on the other hand, lifting the lockdown may also spell danger as the virus may not have exhausted itself. There lies the dilemma of governments across the country.
No one, indeed, could fault those kicking against being kept indoors with depleting resources. Many Nigerians live from hand to mouth. They depend on what they make daily to survive. Thus asking such people to stay at home for prolonged periods will make them desperate and frustrated, being that they will be left with nothing to eat.
However, that does not justify such people taking the law into their hands as that will only exacerbate the problem. It is a pity that such a situation has come upon the country because of the failure of the leadership to plan for the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has truly exposed the paucity of good leadership in the country. The long neglect of the health sector has meant that today the country has little or no capacity to provide healthcare to her people. Rather than do the needful, our leaders usually jet out abroad to have the best of medicare, leaving the masses to suffer at home.
Today that coronavirus has forced both the leaders and the led to stay back in the country, the sordid truth has been revealed.
So while everybody is staying at home, some people are not feeling the pangs and can afford to stay as long as they like at home. Those people are government officials and the rich who can afford to stock their homes full with whatever they want. It is however not so for the vast majority of Nigerians who are poor.
Thus when the government continues to urge people to stay at home, those hardest hit by it are beginning to feel the heat and resisting the directive.
So what does the governments across the country do? Will they terminate the lockdown and have life return to normal at the risk of having the virus infect more people? Will they keep extending the lockdown till whenever the virus is contained and run the risk of a total uprising by the hungry masses? This, indeed, is a dicey situation.
Given that the country lacks facilities to adequately combat and contain the coronavirus, and knowing the implication of not extending the lockdown, it seems like the country is sitting on a keg of gunpowder.
Perhaps this is the time to bow in supplication to God to help the country through this period. But while the country prays, we feel that it will be right in the interest of everybody to relax the lockdown a bit for the citizenry to have a breather.
We feel that it is more important to ensure that borders between states and between Nigeria and other countries remain shut, with only those dealing in food and drugs being allowed. However, such people must be tested to ensure they are not bringing death to the states they are entering.
Had the country reacted fast by shutting her borders, the virus would not have found its way into the country. But having done so, it behoves the authorities to remain vigilant at the borders while battling to contain the virus at home. This is the fastest way of ensuring that it is contained.
But while doing that, government should find ways of ameliorating the plight of the people by ensuring that palliatives reach them directly. This is also the only way to calm frayed nerves and avoid the inevitable.
The citizenry should also cooperate with government by observing good hygiene and social distancing whenever they have cause to go out.
It is our hope and prayer that this cup will pass over us and at the end open the eyes of the leadership to the need to make hay while the sun shines. This is what they owe the citizens.