The smallest and deadliest terrorist: Reflections on coronavirus (3)
Last Sunday I argued that coronavirus donations from some popular pastors are infinitesimal compared to the huge sums of money and assets they have been extorting from church members over the decades. But intellectual almajiris and brainwashed faithful have praised them for their “kind gesture” without realising that the gesture is not really borne out of genuine concern for the underprivileged. Rather it is a clever marketing strategy to attract more converts, tithes and offering to their churches when normalcy eventually returns. On the issue of prophesy and miracle healing, none of the so-called men of God predicted Covid-19, and up to the time of writing not even a single authenticated case of coronavirus patient healed by any of them has been reported.
Of course, prophesies and episodes of supernatural healing advertised on television are fallible guesses and stage-managed miracles respectively, packaged to satisfy delusionary expectations of believers who earnestly desire quick solutions for the problems of life. The few cases of genuine cures are placebo effects or about illnesses that the body’s incredible power of self-repair can heal on its own – oftentimes the sick person purportedly cured miraculously suffers a relapse. Clearly, Covid-19 has exposed self-styled men of God for what they really are, namely, a cabal of wily charlatans exploiting the gullibility of believers for power and mammon.
The negative consequences of the global economic shutdown are immense: the losses would likely run into trillions of dollars. Although the situation is still evolving and accurate figures are unavailable at this time, already millions of workers across the world have lost their jobs and innumerable number of small businesses crippled. Economists believe that things will get considerably worse before they get better, thereby reinforcing the intimate connection between public health and the economy. Expectedly, badly governed underdeveloped countries in Africa and Latin America will be hit very hard.
Based on the fact that the fundamentals of Nigeria’s economy are quite fragile and very weak, a situation worsened considerably by gross incompetent leadership and plunging crude oil prices, Nigeria’s economy this year will be far worse than it was in 2015 when the present government came to power. Consequently, the hardship ordinary people are facing now and will face after the pandemic might have been defeated is better imagined than experienced. The knee-jerk approach of the federal government to the pandemic is a matter for serious disquiet. For instance, the authorities failed to act proactively by closing airports immediately the coronavirus infection was declared a pandemic by WHO probably because top politicians, government officials, their families and cronies were expected to return to Nigeria from overseas.
When the airports were closed eventually, the asymptomatic returnees transmitted the virus unknowingly to others. Since the country’s health system has been in shambles for a long time the country was unprepared for the pandemic. As the number of infections and deaths is increasing gradually, doctors and other medical personnel are complaining about serious deficiencies in the supply of testing kits, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), and ventilators. The states lack well-equipped isolation centres and hospitals. Upon all this, the manner federal government’s financial palliative for “poor” Nigerians has been implemented is flawed ab initio due to poor conceptualisation, shoddy planning, and lack of relevant data.
There is no clearly articulated definition of poverty as a classificatory socio-economic category, whereas the process of distributing the money is prone to gross abuse and corruption. It is quite disturbing that in distributing the funds, President Muhammadu Buhari continued his atrocious policy of favouring the north over the south, particularly the south-east, from where the money being shared is derived. I have said this before and I will repeat it again: Buhari governs Nigeria as if she were the Fulani Republic of Northern Nigeria. That south-east received the lowest allocation at a time millions of people living there are trying hard to cope with mounting psychological, physical, and economic challenges arising from Covid-19 clearly indicates that the President regards Ndigbo as the lowest class of citizens in Nigeria.
Another depressing aspect of his incoherent approach is the selective lockdown he ordered. Lagos state is locked down by presidential fiat; but the ports and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) facilities are functioning without adequate precautionary measures against coronavirus infection. Does it mean that the government is unaware that operations at the ports and NNPC’s facilities must lead to contact with foreigners from coronavirus-ravaged countries who would then become vectors of the virus here? At the state level, governors are implementing poorly coordinated measures to deal with the situation. But none of the states is prepared should the rate of infection increase dramatically as was the case in the US and Italy.
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African governments are just applying measures recommended by mostly foreign experts as the most effective ways of minimising the spread of Covid-19. But staying at home and social distancing cannot work very well for prolonged period especially in sub-African countries as a result of their peculiar economic and socio-cultural circumstances. Now, wearing of appropriate face mask and enhanced personal hygiene are very important. Yet I believe that, based on what is known about Covid-19, exploring timer-tested indigenous remedies for treating respiratory issues holds some promise for preventing and managing the disease. In a highly informative essay entitled “Herbal Lockdown of Covid-19: Solution to the Pandemic?” Olukemi Odukoya, a colleague and Professor of Pharmacognosy at the University of Lagos, makes a strong case for the use of traditional medicinal herbs in tackling coronavirus. She has put together an untested but promising tincture comprising papaya leaves, garlic, ginger, capsicum and xylopia complex which can be tried for dealing with the pandemic.
If the federal government is serious, it should encourage without delay efforts of Nigerian scientists and researchers because their research findings might be what the world has been searching for to defeat the novel coronavirus. Needless to say, at the moment Nigerians are lucky. For some reasons yet to be clearly understood, the rate of infection and death from Covid-19 in Nigeria is still quite low compared to several countries outside Africa with first class health facilities. Nonetheless the number is increasing steadily. Government must find creative and less disruptive ways to ensure that the drizzle does not become a deluge. As the Igbo would say, emee ngwa ngwa emeghara odachi (a stitch in time saves nine).
What lessons can the world learn from Covid-19 pandemic? In my estimation, the most important lesson is that all human beings, irrespective of what differentiate us, belong to the same human family and must look out for one another. Coronavirus is a leveller that does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, gender, socio-economic status, and educational background. As a result, individuals and countries must learn to live in peace knowing full well that what unites us is more potent than what divides us. Second, given the noticeable improvement in air quality in several cities across the globe, humanity must radically modify the mode of production and parameters for judging economic and social development. Excessive production and consumption paradigms that drive contemporary global economy are extremely harmful to the natural environment and to humans and other members of the biotic community. Therefore, the world must shift from overproduction of inessentials (particularly for military purposes) to more responsible production that satisfies human needs without destroying the environment. Moreover, the worldwide lockdown demonstrates that much of the hustle and bustle going on everyday is unnecessary.
It has compelled billions of people to reconnect with themselves, their families and loved ones. More significantly, people are learning the usefulness and skill of being alone without being lonely,the benefit of staying in one place without running from pillar to post in pursuit of material things they do not really need.
Reading interesting and educative books is a very productive way of spending the lockdown by keeping the mind active. It is also a time for introspection and productive soul-searching to ascertain what really matters for the good life and put aside the inessential. If utilised properly, lessons learnt from the coronavirus pandemic can lead to profound lifestyle and attitudinal changes which will benefit the world in the long run. Concluded.