Femi Akindele
by on May 7, 2020
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Some reactions to the behaviour of people in Abuja and Lagos post-COVID-19 lockdown on Monday exposed the dishonesty of Nigeria’s political elite. I use the word dishonesty advisedly given that some of these comments in fact tend towards outright hypocrisy.
An argument put forward by one political gladiator took a hit at the Nigerian and his considered propensity for hypocrisy. It posited that Nigerians clamoured for the relaxation of the lockdown and that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), good man that he is, listened. The promoter of this argument then went on to imply that the disrespect for social distancing as seen in many images that emerged on Monday was an abuse of the President’s gesture and that Nigerians, in their ingratitude, would hypocritically blame the President if their unbecoming behaviour leads to a spike in the number of coronavirus infections as it is likely to.
On the surface of it, this presents as a really sound argument, one which as you would expect, got the applause of many of his social media followers. Where I stand however, it is a faulty argument that condones government’s abdication of one of its vital roles, showing a lack of understanding of the psychology of men.
Here is the thing: the human being is essentially what they are -base and primal in nature, regardless of where they are. They are only refined and regulated by a socialisation process, which includes government through the instrument of law and justice, religion and in a lot of instances, the influence of the family. Human beings be they in London, Kinston, Washington, Siberia or Melbourne return to their base, selfish, inconsiderate instincts in the event of the failure of any of these regulatory institutions. That, to my mind, is the sort of thing we saw on Monday.
For instance, it is fundamental for every healthy person to want to move around, sometimes even when they have no reason to; and this was what Nigerians many of who had been on lockdown for the preceding five weeks did on Monday. The question of how they behaved on the first day of government’s relaxation of the lockdown or whether the relaxation was expedient at all is however a different thing entirely. This latter point is strengthened by not just the attempt to paint the Nigerian as an unusual human being but the fact that many of the managers of this emergency have themselves suggested that there is enormous danger for which the country is ill-prepared, ahead.
Just a few days before the presidential decision to relax the lockdown, the Director- General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, raised the alarm about the emerging insufficiency of bed spaces for cases of COVID-19 patients in Lagos State. Now, Lagos is not just one of the epicentres of the disease in Nigeria, it is in fact, the state with the most switched on and competent managers in the country. So, if Lagos is beginning to have this trouble, one can only imagine the prospects in other states. Gombe State aptly actualised our imagination on Tuesday when a number of supposedly positive cases broke out of the isolation centre in a protest against alleged poor attention. That is not to speak of the frightening situation in Kano and Jigawa states as well as the increasing rate at which health workers are getting infected.
More importantly, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and other experts are upfront about the fact that Nigeria has not reached the possible peak of the infection. It is also clear that the country is finding it increasingly difficult to deal with its current situation and that a large-scale outbreak, which the social interactions evidenced on Monday portend, would be disastrous. So, government, knowing all of this, should, without any second thought, have ensured that Nigerians remained at home while it does its best to fulfil its role, which includes seeing to it that the people do not go hungry. This was what the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, communicated to his people in no uncertain terms on March 23.
Hear him: “Tonight, I want to update you on the latest steps we are taking in fighting the disease and what you can do to help. Without a huge national approach to use to fight this virus, there comes a moment when no health service in the world could cope – there won’t be enough ventilators, enough beds, enough doctors, enough nurses. So, it is vital to slow the spread of the disease because that is the way you reduce the number of people needing hospital treatment at any one time. From this evening, I must give the British people a very simple instruction, YOU MUST stay at home, because the critical thing you must do is to stop the disease from spreading between households…You should not be meeting friends, if your friends ask you to meet, you should say no; you should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home…If you don’t follow the rules, the police will have the powers to enforce them including through fines and dispersing gatherings…We will stop all gatherings of more than TWO PEOPLE excluding the people you live with…”
Just as Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York State of America had trouble getting his people to understand why they should stay at home, Johnson had it tough until this address stopped their recalcitrance. Five weeks later, pressure came on Johnson to relax this lockdown. He boldly turned down the request of the British people. It is just the nature of human beings!
There could be legitimate arguments about the strength of the economy of the UK and its ability to provide palliatives to its people relative to Nigeria, but none of these takes away the fact that the preservation of lives is a predominant responsibility of governments. Given what government saw about the dangers associated with relaxing the lockdown therefore, the most advisable step would be to reconsider and firm up the strategy for the distribution of palliatives to Nigerians.
Government also needs to do something about the effective enforcement of laws in Nigeria. It should start with officials of government subjecting themselves to these laws like every other citizen. It was clear for instance that the five-week lockdown was only effective for one or two weeks. After then, compromises became the order of the day and people literarily went anywhere they wanted, while many law enforcers looked the other way at the right price.
Then, government must pay attention to its messaging. As we speak, many do not believe that there is anything like coronavirus in Nigeria, while some think it is heaven’s way of punishing corrupt leaders. How do you explain the purchase of face masks which have been worn and tested by God knows how many people on the streets of Lagos for instance?
It is true that Nigerians are spectacularly bogged by the dual evils of poverty and ignorance, (circumstances largely imposed on them for no fault of theirs) but they are not different from any other set of human beings across the world. If government is resolute about the relaxation of this lockdown, it must as a matter of urgency step up advocacy all around the country, talking to people in the most minute units as to the role every individual can play in saving Nigeria from this scourge. It must also improve national capacity to test, trace and treat all infections within a reasonable time. This pandemic should be a training school for leaders and citizens on how Nigeria will survive.
One rare disposition in the human beings is the deliberately desire to die. If Nigerians are made to see that this virus truly exists that it is non-discriminatory and the specific role everyone must play to save lives, government might just get better cooperation.
By Adedokun
Source: https://punchng.com/covid-19-anything-wrong-with-nigerians/
Tags: coronavirus
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