By Uche Amunike
When the news of the coronavirus scourge filtered in, I never imagined it would end up being a global pandemic. I thought it was a virus that broke out in China and that having spread its tentacles to the United States, Italy, UK, Italy, Germany, France and Spain, would merely circulate in those countries and eventually be eradicated. How was I to know that death was lurking around the corner?
Well, I was proven wrong when the disease was brought into our dear country by an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria. He returned from Milan, (Italy) to Lagos in February 2020 and was confirmed to be infected with the disease by a part of the Laboratory Network of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, (NCDC) at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. He was actually managed properly by health authorities. However, since then, the number index has been on the increase and the Nigerian Government has, through the Ministry of Health, been strengthening measures to ensure a control of the outbreak of this killer disease.
Unfortunately, in the bid to fight and prevent this deadly scourge, a lot of things have changed, not just here in our dear country, but all over the world. Our airlines have been shut down for months now as it was clear that the more international flights landed, the more cases we recorded. A lot of people who came into the country from overseas are still stranded as a result of the shut down airlines while those that travelled outside the country from here, are equally trapped there. A lot of businesses are grounded. Economic activities have been crippled in the country and indeed, all sectors are affected.
It is indeed, a pandemic that has caused what can be described as the largest global recession in history, considering that over a third of the global population has been placed on lockdown. It is really so sad that a near-war situation as this is ongoing and the citizens of this country are at the receiving end as always.
Every country that has the interest of her citizens at heart provides for them, not just during war-situations as this, but regularly. It was quite very painful to note that when it was announced that families should stock up their houses with foodstuff in preparation for the stay home period, a lot of people did not have the funds to do that. They managed to buy the little amount of foodstuff their resources were able to get them and that was it. Nigerians struggled to feed their families.
People in the low and middle classes suffered to put food on the table. Most families could not afford three square meals because, they weren't sure what their fate would be if the lockdown was not relaxed. It became a major concern for everyone.
For the inhabitants of the city of Lagos, they had it really rough because if there was any state where the index rates shot high, it was mostly Lagos. Lagos went on lockdown before most states and the reason is obvious. The lockdown kept on being extended as a result of the rise in confirmed cases. This naturally caused a serious rise in crime rate. The popular one million boys as they were addressed made life hell for innocent people who had little or nothing to keep them going.
They came out en-masse and robbed houses even in broad day light. They harped on the fact that they were hungry and angry. It was a very terrifying period for Lagosians. They were the most violent group of young men and they robbed very boldly and armed to the teeth. Relief materials were distributed to the masses but it didn't go round. Most pictures on social media showed the sparsely distributed food items and it was such a national shame.
Relief materials provided by the government didn't go round, to say the least. However, if it was because they were confiscated by people in the corridors of power, as insinuated by residents in most areas of Lagos, it is not known to me. However, a lot of lessons should be learnt from this pandemic: we have failed institutions which is why the pandemic hit us really badly.
Let us look at the health sector, for instance. Nigerians are known to depend so much on foreign healthcare over the years. Our leaders never really got the health sector right. In a country where leaders flew abroad for health care, even for the simplest of diseases, what do they do now that there is a global pandemic??? Our country lost her Chief of Staff recently, the late Abba Kyari. If airports were not shut down, he would have been comfortably flown in a private plane to the country of his choice.
Then maybe he would still be alive today. The same goes for so many politicians who should be in the frontline advancing this noble causes. One of the reasons why it would be hard for Nigerians who lost loved ones to this pandemic to forgive the government for their losses is that they have refused, over the years, to strengthen the existing medical institutions we have available in the country. They rather prefer to hop from one country to another because they know that they have not done well in the health sector. It really is a shame and I hope lessons have been learnt.
I remember President Buhari was always being attacked on social media for his numerous trips abroad for even ailments as minor as ear infections. I wonder what he will do if he has an infection at this time. Nigerians are not daft and this is probably pay time for all politicians who have not bothered about service and accountability to their constituents. The die is truly cast at this time in the annals of our history.
Down east, markets in Anambra state have been closed for about four weeks now and have just been reopened by the government of Chief Willie Obiano. The very scary part of this pandemic, when you take Anambra state as a case study, is that people do not act like there is a pandemic. It will take a great deal of force to get them to do the very basic things like wearing face masks, making use of hand sanitizers, washing their hands frequently and maintaining social distancing. It scares me a great deal because I am still wondering how come there are still no cases of the virus in the state. I'm also wondering how come the government considered the option of opening up the markets in the state. How can the over populated Main Market, Ochanja, Bridgehead, Relief, Mgbuka and New Tyre markets be opened? It scares me a great deal because if one person gets infected with the dreaded coronavirus, the entire Anambra will be affected. It is cheaper to provide the masses with palliatives and waive their tax payments for now, no matter how much it costs than having isolation centres filled with victims they do not even have the capacity to take care of.
Education is also a major problem.
The state has embarked on online schooling during the lockdown period. The question however is, how many pupils took part in the lessons? How many times was there power supply to charge the phones with which to tune in to these programs? How many parents were buoyant enough to provide data recharges for their children to be a part of these programs? My heart honestly goes out to all the children of this generation who are in their final years of schooling, either in the university or in secondary schools.
The final year university students who should be writing their projects are being delayed because, they were supposed to have sat for their final year examinations in July and get set for youth service before the year runs out. All that is a mirage now. The final year students in secondary school who just took their JAMB examinations shortly before the lockdown are like people in limbo because they are yet to sit for their WAEC examinations. Of course, their JAMB results are almost of no use to them without the WAEC results. I could go on and on.
I was also on lockdown as FIDES had to close as soon as Masses were banned from being celebrated in the diocese. We had no choice than to sit at home for safety. For four weeks, we have celebrated Masses online, either on Radio or on our Television screens or Facebook live Streaming. Just last week, we were asked to resume work while observing all basic directives given by the World Health Organization in order to help prevent this scourge. I am thankful to God for that and I pray that with time, schools will re-open and life will go back to normal.
For now, we are still on lockdown and honestly can't tell how long it will last. I will however advise my readers to remember to wash their hands regularly, use their hand sanitizers regularly, eat healthy in order to boost their immune system, wear their face masks every time and maintain social distancing as much as they can. This too shall pass. God bless us all!!!