It is no longer news that the Coronavirus has moved from its index case which came into the country late February to 27 as at Sunday 22, March , 2020. Governments at all levels have taken drastic actions to curb the spread. Since Friday 20, 2020, almost all the states of the federation have closed down schools across the country. Public and religious gatherings of above 50 attendees have been banned nationwide. Some corporate organizations have also asked their employees to work remotely from home. The federal government had earlier shut the major international airports in Lagos and Abuja. As at the time of writing this piece, Nigeria could be said to have been under partial lockdown. This was unavoidable as the confirmed cases has been said to be 27. Thus, Media campaigns are heavy especially those that preach social distancing and other preventive hygienic measures.
Despite the government efforts at curtailing the spread of the virus, there are more imminent dangers of the disease spreading if more actions are not taken by both the government and the citizenry. As at Saturday 21, March, 2020, Nigerians were seen attending previously fixed private ceremonies which had in attendance more than 50 attendees. Not only that, some religious organisations also held programmes of large numbers. In fact, a pastor of a church was reportedly arrested in Osogbo for conducting church service which had members of congregation that were above the stipulated number. In Abuja, a particular popular church was also said to have insisted that its Sunday service would go ahead.
There are concerns that many worship centres open for service this Sunday defying the government directive. This disregard for the rule of law is more dangerous as it gives the virus the chance to penetrate and wreck more havoc. Global concerns of the virus spreading to Africa were high before it eventually came in. Stakeholders expressed their fears of the virus spreading in countries with failing health infrastructures. If the spread became extremely high, the health facilities could be overrun and more fatalities could be recorded. The novel virus had made nonsense of countries with developed healthcare facilities. Just on Saturday, Italy was said to have recorded 769 deaths from the COVID 19.
Earlier on Friday, The People’s Democratic Party had held a south west unification rally in Ibadan. The rally which held at a time government was taking serious efforts to combat the spread of the disease had come under heavy criticism. There were serious condemnation of the action of the party at a time state governments were considering closing schools.
In its reaction, the ruling All Progressive Congress through its Oyo State Chapter had chided the Governor Seyi Makinde-led government for daring to expose the state to such crowd at the time the general concern was public gathering. The party said “Few indices of the enormity of the pandemic will suffice here, for the populace to appreciate the gravity of maladministration going on in Oyo under the government of Makinde. China has 81,048 reported cases with 3,204 deaths, France has 4,480 reported cases with 91 deaths, Italy has 21,157 reported cases with 1,441 deaths, United Kingdom has 1,140 reported cases with 21 deaths, and United States of America have 2,952 reported cases with 57 deaths.” It further noted “likewise it was reported to have made great inroad to Africa with Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, South Africa and even Nigeria recording eight cases and most worrisome was a positive COVID-19 patient found to have being in Oyo for two weeks, only to be discovered in another state”.
Having come under heavy criticism, the governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, accepted responsibility and apologized. In a statement made available on his social media handles, the governor regretted any lapse in judgement. He said “I have received your complaints about the rally that was held yesterday, and I feel obligated to state in clear terms that we acted based on the information we had at the time. In retrospect, it should not have happened and I take responsibility for that lapse in judgement.”
Moving forward, the following suggestions should be followed by government. One, citizens should be encouraged to blow the whistle against those who are flouting government order. Phone lines of government officials responsible for ensuring total compliance should be made available to the citizens. Two, if the partial lockdown is not going to be effective, let the government go full blown. If need be, let there be a curfew. Three, every Nigerian must see themselves as critical stakeholders and should be concerned on the effect of an unmanageable spread. May the country and the world be healed!