Covid-19: Keep our house in order and fit for purpose
Covid-19 has ushered in a new kind of wisdom where things we take for granted are outlawed. Even cuddles and handshakes are tabooed. In frustration, we became experts of a sort, deciphering the cacophony of opinions and conspiracy hacks, of tales and lessons learnt. Deep down we all knew our lives and communities would never be the same again, more so in Sub-Sahara Africa where human needs and challenges have always been greater.
In Nigeria, this pandemic has added additional hardship to an already burdened nation. Bear in mind, according to the World Poverty Index (17 May 2020), approximately 102 million Nigerians (that’s roughly 50% of the population) live below the poverty line. Don’t be misled by Mr Lai Raufu Mohammed, our Minister of Information and Culture who would probably swear that poverty in Nigeria to be a piece of fake news.
What Covid-19 has exposed further was our economic vulnerabilities, unpreparedness and an absolute lack of vision and leadership. It highlighted our moribund health and social infrastructure, which has resulted in millions of people living in sub-human conditions without any government-backed social protection. While our nation is awash with brilliant scientific minds and doctors, our government’s rationale to pandemic crisis management was a ‘copy and paste’ approach. You see, we have always been quick to copy Western directives but inadequate to match neither the palliatives nor social security offered by these foreign countries.
Let’s reflect briefly on our ongoing or concluded lockdowns (as the case may be in many quarters). Fact one: in the absence of conventional employment opportunities and guaranteed monthly income, daily wage-earning by hustling becomes the only available ‘honest option’ left for hardworking Nigerians - to put food on the table. The lesson - any pandemic or crisis-induced lockdown now or in the future without adequate state aid is tantamount to a death sentence for many individuals and households.
Secondly, the social and cultural nature of our society makes it also an uphill task for our people to keep apart. Despite our ever-present desire to destroy and bring each other down, we are close-knitted by blood, hardship and toil – that’s how we cope. With our population density and lifestyles, the practice of social distancing is very un-African, therefore, unrealistic and practically impossible to maintain.
Without a functioning social system and state support to help cushion the impact of Covid-19, there is a high possibility that hunger and starvation are likely to kill more people in our country than the pandemic itself.
The grim reality of this pandemic and its aftermath can never be overstated. If one needs proof, ask Mrs Gates. She had seen our future and concluded that our continent would be littered with our dead – in other words, doomed. Sorry, Madam, as good your intention may be, we don’t need any reminder. As you are already aware, we have been losing almost half a million Africans yearly to malaria. Death and exploitation no longer bother us.
While the jury is still out on the origin of this virus and its motive, it has proven to be no respecter of status. Though our effort at containment lacks efficiency, for the average Nigerians, the consolation is knowing that our so-called untouchable cabals and those supervising our decline into a failed state were unable to escape to foreign climes from its scourge.
Maybe, just maybe, there are lessons to be learned by our rulers – keep our house in order and make our nation fit for purpose.