Wednesday 27 May was a significant day for children worldwide. It was the day that these gifts of God are celebrated the world over. It was a time to bring to the fore issues affecting children globally. However, the day was significant for some other thing in Nigeria. It marked the third month of Nigeria’s index case of the Coronavirus, the pandemic that has infected over 5 million people across the world and has equally killed 358,000 others. On 27th February, 2020, the virus, which originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, sneaked into the country through an Italian man and the entire life of Nigeria has been put on hold. Since then, the cases have risen to close to 9,000 with 254 deaths. Schools have been closed. Worship centres were shut. The economy was locked down and is tilting towards a recession. Inter-state travels banned. Government acclaimed palliatives and social protection programmes were activated. All of these happened just within 3 months. A quarter of the year has gone down the drain!
The three states, FCT, Abuja; Lagos and Ogun States, which were hitherto considered the main theatre of the have experienced two phases of lockdown while other states have also been subjected to all sorts of treatment of lockdowns, either as total, partial or eased lockdown. As at today, the story has changed as some states that were not in the cast of the Coronavirus play are now playing lead roles in the Coro theatre of the absurd. At this period, almost all the 36 states of the federation are on the board, the numbers just keep popping up. All within 90 days, the economic and social flags were flying at half mast!
As part of an organization that has been helping people cope with the pandemic by providing relevant, relatable and data-driven information, I shared a graphic image detailing the numbers of confirmed cases, recovered cases and deaths with a senior colleague. This spurred some conversation between the two of us. The nuggets in the exchange gave some insights. The two of us were just looking at the entire response management of the government at all levels and the kind of cooperation they have got from Nigerians.
My Friend: (After receiving the graphics) This is not getting any better and we are moving to total ease of lockdown (He wonders).
Me: (Asking a rhetorical question) Do we have a choice?
My Friend: (Ruminating) No choice. Things have to move on and people have to be disciplined and take responsibility for their safety. I wouldn’t be surprised if most state governments close up their isolation and ICU centres and then private hospitals take over Coronavirus treatment at exorbitant prices (Suggesting an alternative strategy).
Me: (Assessing the situation) We have not shown any discipline so far with the manner we have conducted ourselves in the lockdown. People find their ways around despite movement restriction.
My Friend: (Judging from his experience) Yes, inter-state movement restriction was a total failure. Security officers are terribly compromised. Some state governors didn’t have on ground all the things they claimed to have to combat the pandemic. (Indicting politicians and security personnel)
Me: Yes. It is about if you want to die or live, just ensure you take responsibility for either (herd immunity).
My Friend: Exactly… I don’t see them loving the people they govern. To me, Just El-Rufai and a few others seem to be very passionate in handling the situation. Allah knows best. (Again, the politicians are indicted)
Me: It is a scale. We need to balance it. Governments will do their best. Citizens too must take responsibility as well. Or else, the effect is going to be devastating (preaching shared responsibility).
My Friend: Ooooh.. On citizens, I completely agree. At this point, individuals should at least be responsible for 70% of their own safety (urging people to be responsible). Till today, I talk with my neighbour who shares a fence with me on the phone. A cousin, with about 6 houses away from me, we have not seen for a month. My family house that is just about 9 kilometres away, I have not visited for weeks (highlighting the devastating effect of social distancing). We have to protect ourselves (justifying the need for caution).
Me: Methinks people need to see community transmission, and God forbid, some deaths before they get the damn consequences and severity of the virus (fear appeal).
My Friend: Yes, just as you said in the interview that all those putting up I-don’t- believe-attitude about Coronavirus, if they see an ambulance coming for a Covid19 patient in their neighbourhood, the reality of its existence would be done on them (justifying the reason for fear appeal).
As Nigeria counts down to the fourth month of the incursion of the virus into Nigeria and government is considering returning the national life to normalcy as expected by the people, there is a need to ensure all hands are on deck to ensure that that the need to relate socially is balanced by the need to stay alive.