COVID-19 and the Irony of “Nwa Ngene”

COVID-19 and the Irony of “Nwa Ngene”

Nwa Ngene is a small stream that ran through Fegge, Onitsha. My mother always tells of how they used to go there as small children to kill small fishes, wash their clothes, bathe, swim and do other playful things children do in that kind of stream. She said the stream was always dirty because, apart from being a “playground” for children, people walk through it when they want to take the short cut from Fegge to Ose Market. So Nwa Ngene is not where people fetch drinking water, officially, but those children bathing and swimming in the water still drink it, and people living around fetch from it for domestic use; but it is not considered hygienic anyway. However, my mother is always quick to remind me that they never drank Nwa Ngene. But then, Anambra people have this adage that says, “A gbarusia Nwa Ngene, e kulu Nwa Ngene nwuo”, which literally means that “you will still drink from Nwa Ngene even after you polluted it”. This is a way of saying that the system one destroyed will be needed by one later.

The “Nwa Ngene” irony brings our mind to what is happening in Nigeria today – the destroyed system is now giving solace to those that destroyed it.

Everyone knows that Nigeria is battling with a lot of challenges – the education system is substandard; the medical sector is in a sad state; finance is a mess; judiciary is a joke; power sector is epileptic; everything is crumbling. In fact, Nigeria has been stripped of her dignity and left bare to be mocked by other nations; thanks to our past and present leaders and some public office holders.

Education in Nigeria is considered, or is rather known to be of low standard. This is not to say that Nigerians are not intelligent, because that will be a fallacy. The problem is that our education sector has been short-funded and is therefore not as effective as it is supposed to be. It is not considered important enough to be given utmost priority in the national budget. Even the little funds earmarked for it are stolen by public officers, who wouldn’t mind seeing half-baked graduates released by our schools because their own children are studying in the best universities in the world (and their tuition and expensive lifestyles sponsored by stolen public funds). Today, our education system is going down the drain, instead of improving.

Graduates of Nigerian higher institutions are not considered good enough by many countries of the world. For instance, a medical doctor that studied and practiced in Nigeria cannot practice medicine when he finds himself in Canada. He will have to subject himself to further training, examinations and so on, before he is considered qualified to touch any Canadian citizen. This is because, over there, they believe that Nigerian medical schools are not of good standard. But today, those doctors considered unqualified by the Global North are the ones battling COVID-19 in Nigeria (and they’re doing great jobs at that).

Placing COVID-19, Nigerian education system and the medical sector side by side will give you a clear and valid instance of the irony of Nwa Ngene adage. If you have followed the NCDC reports on confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria, you will realise that the majority of the victims are “returning travellers”, some of whom are our top public office holders (past and present) and some of their relatives. There are still some unconfirmed tested cases and some yet to submit themselves to be tested even after exposing themselves to the virus.

But then, the irony here is that these top public officers had the chance of putting our educational and medical sectors in order, but they didn’t. Right now, those sectors they ignored are going to give them solace in their time of need. The doctors that will manage their cases are the ones trained in unfunded sub-standard Nigerian schools, which the officers said were not good enough for their children; and the hospitals they were taken to were the unequipped ones they abandoned for overseas medical attention. What a life!

As we wish our office holders quick recovery, we pray for them to use this period to note down what needs to be done to set our systems working properly. We pray to them to remember that in their time of need, outsiders were not there to help them. We pray that as they leave their sick beds, they should go back to the deliberation table and plan properly on how to move Nigeria forward. They should remember that there’s no place like home.

NB: NCDC also needs to check on returnees and public officers in other parts of the country before this virus spreads beyond control.

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