We Are On Our Own: COVID-19 And Nigeria.
In 1976, when Prof. Felicia Adebola Adedoyin wrote the national pledge for the Federal Republic Of Nigeria, nothing but the patriotic words could describe how she wanted Nigeria and her people to feel. The first time I felt it, I was 6, in the 5th row and 7th column of an assembly line, I placed my right palm over the farthest corner of my
chest. The words spilled through me, as pride glided through my bones, carefully exemplified by my green and yellow uniform, with my brown ‘Kotinas’ and white socks.
‘I pledge to Nigeria my country.
To be faithful, loyal and honest.
To serve Nigeria with all my strength
To defend her unity and uphold her honour and glory
So help me God.’
About eighteen years later, my eyes have torn the ocean into seven for her, looked down in shame at those that hold her highest form of power. I recite the anthem less strongly, as my shoulders no longer stand in pride but sadness. How do you serve a country that doesn’t care about you?
To be a politician, the one paramount requirement should be to recite the national pledge like I did when I was 6, with passion, truth and faith.
‘So help me God’! Now we know why Prof. Adedoyin ended it with that, she could smell the chaos in the air, taste corruption and every other thing that will bring the Giant of Africa to her knees, but one thing she didn’t see coming was COVID-19.
From the moment we heard about COVID-19, neither of us could tell that it was going to consume the world like wildfire, even when the cases increased and Federal Republic Of Nigeria, could have restricted movement in and out of the country or better still, quarantined people coming in. Oh no, haven’t you heard: ‘COVID- 19 doesn’t affect black people’, that was most likely the headline of the fakes news we all heard, including the presidential cabinet.
Nigeria wasn’t ready to acknowledge its total neglect and plundering of the health sector, but now the consequences are nothing but deadly. Despite 41days of lockdown in Lagos and Abuja,according to the NCDC; as at Tuesday 9th of June, Nigeria has 13,464 confirmed cases with 8,893 active cases, 365 death and 4,206 discharged.
Prior to the lifting of the lockdown on 4th May, 2020. On Saturday- 2nd May 2020, I woke up with the 6 year old enthusiasm, with concern for Nigeria and after watching some other countries jeopardize the opportunity they had to contain COVID-19 but they didn’t. I believed something had to be done.
I knew my voice wasn’t loud enough to reverse the ease of the lockdown, yet the ramifications of this decision was obvious, the lockdown should be enforced nationwide if the health of its citizens was the major priority, without overshadowing the people who survive on daily income, which would be a priority of each state government to provide relief packages, yet the feasibility is questionable. The economy seemed to be more of a priority, with millions disappearing into thin air.
I decided to seek out voices louder than mine. I reached out to a Nigerian representative of UNICEF, I expressed my concerns and hoped he would be able to help. He replied saying:
‘I understand your concern but we do not have the powers to cancel government
directives. Take all the precautions you can and educate those around you. Regards’
I wasn’t ready to give up, so I called a Nigerian W.H.O representative. At first, he thought I was the press, he said he thinks the face masks and social distancing would be effective to curb COVID-19 in Nigeria, with an emphasis on how he could do nothing about the decision of the Presidential Cabinet. I wanted to know if an online protest or petition could help sway the government. He wasn’t sure about it, but he thought it was worth trying.
At this point, all hope wasn’t lost. I was certain there was no way the Doctors in the front line would have advocated for the ease of the lockdown. With it, they were almost drowning, what happens when the herd is let loose and ‘Rona’ is allowed to play around without restrictions?
How about we call those in the front line- yes, NCDC! I got through faster than I would have imagined, and I couldn’t help but wonder what more we could do if some people didn’t decide to bury the countries riches under their mortal feet.
As usual, the callee wanted to know if I was the press, he made sure I understood that the call was being recorded. I asked him if NCDC was party to the decision of easing the lockdown, he clarified that they had nothing to do with it.
NCDC has nothing to do with the decision of the Presidential Cabinet to ease the lockdown? I was disappointed, I wanted to know if they thought the curfew would be effective, but at this point, he told me ‘The curfew is from 8;00pm to 6:00am’, I repeated my question but instead of him answering me, the automated voice resumed, I held on for about 30 seconds before I ended the call. The last resort now was for the online protest or petition.
Suddenly, the desire of the people dawned on me. For a petition or online protest to
be successful, we need at least 70% of the people to back it up. I remembered how the ‘Corona’ memes trended after the President announced the ease of the lockdown, it was funny yet if there was any voice that protested the ease of the lockdown, it didn’t overshadow people’s excitement to finally go out for one reason or the other. How can a petition be successful if at least 70% of the people want to go outside? The word of the day became ‘Protect yourself and educate those around you.’ And that sounded more like (OYO LA WA) ‘We are on our own’.
At this point, the voice of the NCDC representative echoed in my mind about the call being recorded. I wondered if I had done something wrong but I hadn’t , I do have freedom of speech. It was hard to hold that thought because according to Punch Newspaper, “Nigeria ranks 115th on press freedom index”, and that’s out of 180 countries, making Nigeria one of West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists. I’m not a journalist but a concerned Nigerian, but subconsciously I listened carefully to a knock on the gate but nothing happened, at least not yet.
What a time to be alive! Fast froward to Monday morning(4th May,2020), the streets of Lagos were crowded especially banks, with no precaution or any one trying to protect themselves, and the same happened in Ibadan; despite the fact that the city was not on lockdown.
The least that can be done now is, regulating crowded market spaces, public transportation, enforcing the use of face masks and that on its own is broad, I’m sure if you’ve stepped out you must have seen people selling cloth masks made of fabric and handling them in the most unsanitary way possible. Sadly, Nigeria has also chosen the path of violence towards curfew offenders instead of humane ways to deal with them.
It’s safe to say we were not ready for this, and still not equipped for the risks we are taking. 13,464 is the number we are seeing, I suspect the numbers are higher especially in cities that aren’t testing. Nigeria is currently below the threshold of testing when compared to other
countries, currently 79,948 samples have been tested and we have about 190 million people. After easing the lockdown, we’ve gone from 2,802 cases on 4th May, 2020, to 13,464 cases on 9th June, 2020.
Since you and I are on our own, we have to try our best to protect ourselves: don’t step out except you have to, maintain social distancing, don’t forget to wear your face masks, use your hand sanitizers, wash your hands with antiseptic soap, sanitize your phone, gadgets, sanitize or wash outer containers of groceries, your handbags, the steering wheel, and avoid touching your eyes or face with your hands.
Despite the fact that we are on our own, we all are in this together. Stay home if you feel unwell, and if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention.
Every precaution you take goes to waste, if those around you aren’t following the right precautions, so you’ve got to take it upon yourself to educate those around you and help them follow the right precautions because literally speaking, your life – our life, depends on it. May God Help Us!
For more details on safety guidelines, check https://ncdc.gov.ng or call 080097000010
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WRITTEN BY; MARIAM ALAYANDE