Written by Chuka Nnabuife
Soon President Mohammadu Buhari and many of our state governors may be forced to call for the ending of the sit-at-home situations in several parts of Nigeria in succumb to the pressure being mounted by very vocal pressure groups in our populace who make heady arguments against the lockdown.
The situation in Kano curently presents us with a sample of what lies ahead of us in Nigeria’s on-going contest against coronavirus. What is emerging from the frontline northern state hints that we could be having a bazzar of the disease soon. The signs are evolving but they are somewhat clear manifests of something that must be nipped in the bud before danger spreads everywhere.
With the Kano situation emerging when many Nigerians are complaining that they have given the coronavirus enough time to match its palaver, the matter may be overshadowed by a visible increase in hurry to see an end of the ongoing stay-at-home order in most parts of Nigeria.
But wisdom necessitates that we examine the Kano conundrum before we conclude on the lockdown. From just one COVID-19 positive case about one week ago, Kano State now has well about 80 index cases. The number is rising, even when the state is yet to commence community testing.
A major source of concern is the huge population of Kano and the vast tentacles of tradng contacts from the city state. Merchants in Kano have direct contacts in all states in Nigeria as well as with traders in most major and sub-urban cities in Sub-shara and nothern Africa.
Experts now fear that there is a high community-spread of the diseases. This presses a panic botton on the states and in Nigeria but a more serious worry is in what could happen from Monday when the second round of two-week-long stay-at-home order made by President MuhammaduBuhari on Lagos and Ogun State as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja as part of the measures to shave off corona virus will expire.
Despite the lockdown directive, the level of coronavirus spread across the nation has been increasing with states like Kano showing that the move to control and contain the virus in the three areas to avoid its spread to the hinterland is not succeeding.
Though, for the first time, Lagos recorded a 24-hour stetchwithout a new COVID-19 case, last Tuesday, more and more states in the hinterland are reporting coronavirus cases, and experts are alerting of indications of community spread of the diseases.
Speacialists’ fear of the spread of the pandemic to interior areas is largely predicated on the traits of the disease as a rapid spreader with extrovert tendencies. The fact that the disease has no cure and people as well as authorities in hinterland surely, do not have healthcare facilities and resources to fight the virus are also cause of the experts’ fear. But we now have the dreaded COVID-19 in 22 of Nigeria’s 36 states.
Speaking during the Presidential Task Force’s (PTF) daily interaction with the media, yesterday (Wednesday, April 22), Secretary to the Federal Government (SFG), Boss Mustapha, who is the chairman of the national action team noted that the disease has already began to spread in communities which was what the country wanted to avoid.
COVID-19, he emphasised, is a disease that “spreads like wildfire”. So there is a big task for the PTF and everybody in the nation. What further confirmation does anyone require to know that there is danger?
Same yesterday, Director-General of World Health Organisation (WHO), DrTedrosAdhanomGhebreyesus noted that the global pandemic is in its most dangerous stage but unfortunately, his agency has sensed that the world is currently in a precarious stage of political distractions and inertia which could hand the populace over to COVID-19 to devour. He urged nations against relaxing on measures they have evolved against the pandemic.
The WHO had, last week alerted that Africa may become the next epicentre of the pandemic after Europe. Monitors of the health situation are already hinting that Kano may make the projection come to fruition.
Indeed, nobody who loves Nigeria or Africa would wish a fulfilment of the forecast notwithstanding that it came from WHO. Experts dread the pandemic for many reasons. The coronavirus ailments’ has an unusual rapid ability to pass from person to person. What also worry eepidemiologists and medical specialists is that so far, it has resisted serious studies on possible cure which means that whenever a medication comes, COVID-19 would have killed many before it would get to the hinterlands.
Again, the sociocultural properties of the interiors of Nigeria pose their own challenges. In the communes and villages, the local populace may not be able to maintain the required social distancing required to avoid contracting it. Not many in the communities have access to running water, soap and sanitizers or general personal hygiene which is vital in breaking the chain of the COVID-19 spread. So, it is easy to reason that thousands of deaths may have been recorded in communities before succour could come. No wonder there are already reports of mass burials in Kano, and all manner of concoctions touted as cure for coronavirus which the federal Ministry of Health and other relevant authorities have warned against, have now flooded the streets across the state. Although the governor of the state has refuted the claims of mass deaths as a result of COVID-19, informing that the results of an on-going forensic test on the bodies are still being awaited, whether the large death toll turns out to be of the virus or not, the developments show how the interiors could be turned upside-down if the disease spreads there.
However, the most intriguing part of the current developments is that some heady people among us want everybody to roam the streets freely without bothering if it encourages community spread of COVID-19. They are very loud and unequivocal about their call. Their motivators have so whined youths and a significant section of the populace, even in the same hinterland to call for abrupt end of the curent lockdown in Lagos and Ogun states and in FCT, Abuja.
Mobilisers of the street forces are so powerful and influential that earlier this week, Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC) stated that it will not recommend another extention of the lockdown. It has to take the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) calling on President Buhari last night to extend his stay-at-home order in Lagos, Ogun and FCT by another two weeks. This time the NGF urged the president make the lockdown, nationwide.
This raises the hope of people who have seen that it is important to extend the stay-at-home order given the reality on ground but do not know whether political forces will let health professionals’ wisdom prevail. But one cannot bet that there would not be marches and protests on some streets tomorrow, citing the harshness of hunger and poverty as excuse for beckoning death.
Someone would wonder why taking a reasonable decision like keeping people at home to save them from death would be difficult for government in Nigeria. An easy route in appraising it would be blaming it on leadership. But that is half truth. Nigerians’ approach to place is “do or die”. We seem not to mind about people dying in hundreds or thousands as long as we push our political positions and secure power. Sometimes partisan politics consumes our heads, conterminates our hearts and sets our minds on unimaginable defaults. It becomes so much so that we forget ourselves and get subsumed in the purpose of our partisanship to the detriment of our lives’ mission and sanity.
We go out to harm ourselves just to score cheap political goals.
Matters get worse when elections are near the corner. We literally leave our reasoning faculties, including the one called ‘common sense’ on our overnight pillows and step out for the day with nothing but raw drives, guarded by no sense and just guts.
Issues around the current global push against the Coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19 have shown that politics weighs more than health, well-being and even life in some human beings’ scale of preference. Though there are similar obsessions elsewhere, in Nigeria the signs of political intoxication are too many. People, leaders and followers inclusive make decisions that involve humans’ life and death, with mindsets guided by their political persuasion. There seems to be shadowy manipulators of our people who more intent on using the pandemic to score points for themselves, their candidacy, candidates or the partisan parties they promote for next polls.
Nigeria’s case of the politicisation of the anti-COVID-19 campaign is alarming.
Mindset seems the real plague here not the pandemic but if we bend down and monitor what is now happening in Kano we will foresee where we may push our land to with such poisonous approach to a life and death issue. There is no wiser decision than having people stay indoors now.