By Dr. Dons Eze
The tragedy of Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, which they say, originated from the town of Wuhan, in China, in 2019, is not only because at the last count, about 14.3 million people worldwide, were said to have been infected with the disease, while more than 603,000 others have so far died as a result, but also because majority of Nigerians do not believe that Coronavirus actually exists, or that it can kill.
Unlike during the 2014 Ebola era, we have not seen the same zeal and commitment with which the former Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, tackled Ebola, in the current fight against Coronavirus, in particular, where a non-medical doctor, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, is leading the fight, thus rendering the Minister of Health, Osagie Enahire, virtually redundant.
What they always present to us are daily frightening figures by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as number of people that tested positive of COVID-19, which do not make sense to many. In fact, my friend has told me that he was not interested in these NCDC’s daily releases. Perhaps, this accounts why many Nigerians no longer take any story about COVID-19 serious.
When Coronavirus was first reported to have arrived, many people took it with a pinch of salt, and believed it to be a “white man’s disease”, which would have no effect on “black man’s skin”, and which would not even survive in African soil, due to its climatic condition.
Later on, some people began to see COVID-19 as mere gimmick, fabricated by those in government “to make money”. And then, as “big men’s disease”, since only those in government, people who occupy high positions, who fly in and out of the country and dine with “Oyibo” people, had tested positive of the disease.
No doubt, Coronavirus is suffering the effect of contempt and cynicism with which many Nigerians hold the present administration, perhaps, due to their double talks. That is why the people hardly observe the necessary protocols for the prevention and containment of the disease, such as constant washing of hands, sanitizing, wearing of face masks and maintaining social and physical distancing, which is why COVID-19 is spreading like wild fire in every part of the country.
When Coronavirus was first reported as killing people in different parts of the world, in Asia, and in Europe, our government did not take the matter serious. They did not take any precautionary measure to contain the spread of the pandemic, like carrying out public enlightenment campaigns to educate people on the dos and don’ts of the pandemic, so as to ensure that the disease did not spread.
They left the country’s borders open to continue to let in people from all parts of the world, until an Italian flew into Nigeria on February 27, 2020, and was made an index case. That was when they woke up from slumber and began to take panic measures aimed at containing the spread of the disease.
By then, it was too late. The damages had been done. Coronavirus was already sitting pretty in the country, and spreading through many people who had been coming in and going out without restriction.
In their desperate bid to contain the disease, the government imposed a general lockdown on the country without preparing people for it, which some people argued could not even prevent the rising incidence of the disease. Even when they said they were introducing palliative measures to cushion the effect of the lockdown, it merely became an opportunity for some people to enrich themselves.
Due to pressures and agitations from several quotas that the lockdown be lifted, due mainly to conflicts between the needs of the stomach and suffering for a disease one was not even sure was real, as well as complaints over extortions by some corrupt security officials from hapless individuals who failed to keep to the rules governing COVID-19, the government was forced to ease the general lockdown.
Then, like birds let out of the cage, Nigerians went berserk. They became reckless, and refused to observe the necessary protocols for COVID-19. In Churches, and in Mosques, in markets, and at public events and ceremonies, like burials, there were no social distancing, no wearing of face masks, no washing of hands or sanitizing, etc.
Today, the result is there for all to see – almost 38,000 confirmed Coronavirus cases, and 805 deaths in Nigeria as at the last count, July 21, 2020. With this figure, Nigeria currently occupies third position in Africa, coming behind South Africa and Egypt.
But nobody seems to be worried. Everybody continues to live his normal life and going about his normal business. The only people who seem to be cheated are those in the education sector. This is because we do not take education serious.
In the morning, the father will be out, either to the office or wherever, to look for daily bread, and the mother will also be out to the market or anywhere. None of them will be wearing face mask, or they wear it in their jaws, to avoid any “wahala” from security officials, and they will not be observing social distancing.
In the evening, everybody will come back home to meet with the children who equally have been out in the field playing football, or gossiping with friends, or engaging in some immoral activities, because schools are not in session. Tell me why Coronavirus will not be spreading, even if schools are to be closed from now till eternity?
Schools are therefore not the only place one can contract Coronavirus. It is even more dangerous to keep the children out of school, because apart from Coronavirus, they may be facing a lot more other social and moral problems, since as they say, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”