By Casmir Igbokwe
Coronavirus is worse than an earthquake. The disease does not discriminate, be you a very important person or even a virus in power (VIP). Initially, Nigerians thought it was only meant to torment the Western world. Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, the wife of the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, came down with it. We moved on as if nothing happened. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, went into self-isolation, we shrugged our shoulders. The virus also knocked down Prince Charles and the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. But when the news went viral that the virus had entered Aso Rock, Nigeria’s seat of power, some of us exclaimed, ‘chai!’
Suddenly, our VIPs came back to reality. If this virus could hit a man as powerful as the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, then nobody is safe. If it could make a whole governor like Bala Mohammed of Bauchi or Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna to go into isolation, then there is a serious problem. Suddenly, there is this realisation that life is ephemeral. Many of us went back in supplication to God. Some asked for forgiveness of their sins. Some realised that money, power, knowledge and many other things we consider very important are vanities.
The wife of the Ekiti State Governor, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi, put it this way: “In the over 30 years we have been married, my husband and I have never slept in separate beds, if we are home together. The fear of coronavirus has changed that for now.” Her husband, Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, is still in a happy mood having tested negative to the virus last week.
The worst is that there is nowhere to run to. Worldwide, more than 500,000 people have contracted the virus first detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Advanced nations like the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, France and many others are worse off. In the US, over 100,000 people are down with the virus. Billions of people have had their lives disrupted. Health care systems even in wealthy nations are overwhelmed. Many nations have had to shut their borders.
The alarming thing about this disease is the exponential rate of death it engenders. Over 25,000 people have died across the world. Italy alone accounts for over 9,000 deaths, with 919 dying in one day. One of the notable victims of this pandemic is Somalia/African football legend, Mohamed Farah. He died at a Northwest London Hospital last Tuesday.
So far, advanced nations have found it difficult to contain this disease. How then will Nigeria cope if it escalates? For many years, we referred to our hospitals as mere consulting clinics. Over the years also, we budgeted billions of naira for the health sector. Yet, nothing much has changed. Primary to tertiary health care centres are in a shambles. Thanks to coronavirus, we now know that many of our hospitals don’t even have ventilators.
The president of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Francis Faduyile, lamented that, in most of our hospitals, there was severe inadequacy of critical care facilities like purpose-built intensive care units. According to him, these ICUs with ventilators/artificial respirators make the difference between life and death in complications from Covid-19. The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, denied this though. According to him, there are enough ventilators in hospitals in Nigeria.
Nevertheless, it is in times of crisis that you know effective leaders. They reassure their people and calm their frayed nerves. They motivate and provide for them. For instance, since this coronavirus started, US President Donald Trump addresses his people almost on a daily basis. Last Friday, Trump signed $2.2 trillion (N827 trillion) financial stimulus package for Americans. Each American is expected to get $1,200 (N451,000) in addition to $500 (N188,000) per child. The package includes some payments to the unemployed, airlines and small businesses with less than 500 employees. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, despite testing positive to the virus, is directly in charge of the war against Covid-19. Many other world leaders are directly involved in the efforts to combat this pandemic and have vowed $5 trillion to stave off global economic collapse.
In Nigeria, the question on the lips of many had been, “where is our President?” Though he was reported to have tested negative to the virus, many people didn’t believe the story. They wondered how that could be possible when his Chief of Staff, Kyari, tested positive. Speculations ballooned that he was coughing, that a ventilator had been smuggled to Aso Rock, and that he had been moved out of the country. At this point, Nigerians expected their leader to address them and reassure them. They hungered for real information.
What we got instead was a counter-attack by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina. He lampooned the President’s critics, saying they had diseased minds full of evil and good only in peddling lies against Buhari and his regime. Last Friday, the Presidency also released some pictures of the President purportedly in a meeting with the Minister of Health and some other officials. The photographs also became objects of another round of speculations on the social media as some Nigerians said the photographs were not recent.
We faced similar scenarios during the late Umaru Yar’Adua years as President. His handlers then were playing hide-and-seek with Nigerians on his state of health. Today, nothing much has changed.
Thankfully, as this piece was about to go to bed, information came that Buhari would address Nigerians on Sunday at 7pm. Though the address came rather late, it is better than not talking at all.
Henceforth, the President should take charge of his government. He should curtail the excesses of some power-mongers who have hijacked the seat of power and only tell us what they want us to hear. Kyari, for instance, went to Germany earlier this month to hold talks with Siemens officials on improving electricity supply in Nigeria. It was there he contracted coronavirus. Pray, what is the business of Buhari’s Chief of Staff with improving our electricity supply? Is he the right person to lead such a delegation to Germany? Recently, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, had cause to complain bitterly about Kyari’s overbearing attitude on security matters.
My prayer is that this coronavirus should not do much harm to Kyari and other VIPs like el-Rufai. May it show them mercy! May it teach them the virtues of humility and good governance! May it push them to engineer the building of standard health facilities in our communities and states! May it remind us all that humanity is one, whether you are white or black, Fulani or Ibibio, African or European! What afflicts one afflicts the other. And may the good Lord tackle all the viruses attacking us as individuals and as a nation!
Re: Coronavirus, Abule Ado tragedy and vanity of life
Dear Casmir, the motto of the Boy Scout movement is “be prepared”. At the time of Ebola fever, Jonathan claimed we weren’t prepared for that. Boko Haram started, security advisers said the same thing. Now the same is being said of Covid-19 even when an ex-General is President. I laugh. The Igbo say “exigency is the true test of agility.”
– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215
May the souls of the Aniakors rest in peace. That is what we see in a government that shuns proactive actions. Now a new sheriff is in town (Covid-19) that does not know rich man, president, governor, senator, reps. No strongman in the face of corona. At the mention of it, everybody shivers. No more overseas medication. Let our leaders stay and face their damage. There is confusion everywhere, rats and lizards on the run. With this, our leaders will know that there is no difference between the led and leaders, and understand the futility of life and shun evil because, whatsoever you sow is what you must reap. Also, the evil men do lives with them nowadays. Coro-coro, you are too much.
– Smart, Abakaliki, 08134774884
Dear Casy, APC evil and nepotistic government is the Covid-19 that has ruined Nigeria since 2015, but Nigerians didn’t realise it. Since 2015 that APC took over government, it has been one coronavirus to the present one. Check government budgets of more than N20 trillion without any infrastructures put in place, the theft of our national revenue, the 30 million job losses, the naira devaluation, the cesspit of corruption from the Presidency, National assembly, Judiciary, states and local government, the invasion of Fulani terrorists and murders in their trail, the Boko Haram war that ruined us and the general poverty, with the leadership that has no idea and capacity to solve these viruses. May God save Nigerians from this latest one. For Abule Ado, my heart goes for the victims. Buhari would have paid them a visit but the tragedy didn’t hurt his people. He only cares where Fulani and their cows are involved. God save us.
– Eze Chima, Lagos, +2347036225495
As a patriot, a veteran and a spirited citizen of the land, you’ve said it all in today’s menu. Keep the flag hoisted. Nothing do you!
– Anonymous, +2348037408332
The fear of coronavirus is the beginning of our leaders’ wisdom. They should provide good health facility for the citizenry. This so-called coronavirus has made our leaders to work together irrespective of party and religious differences. Kudos to our leaders for their proactive action taken against coronavirus.
– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535
- First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, March 30, 2020