OPINION | Lessons So Far from COVIC-19

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By Hon. Josef Omorotionmwan


William Shakespeare remains ever relevant, “What the great ones do, the less we prattle of”. The loquacious President of the US, Donald Trump, was perhaps one of the first leaders to observe that a disease should be associated with its origin. That was when he advanced the logic of calling the Corona Virus (alias COVIC 19) by its Chinese bearing – Chinese Virus.

Trump’s observation came at a time when COVIC 19 was already spreading in geometric progression; and because of his initial flip-flops, no one was taking him seriously – at a time when, to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “This President is behaving like a commentator in a fame of football”.

Come to think of it, from time, diseases have been known by the name of the place where they first occurred: Ebola was named after Ebola in the remote part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lassa Fever takes its name from Lassa, a small town in Borno State, Nigeria where the disease bearing rats were first found.

Of course, those countries are in Africa. China is not in Africa and that probably explains why the COVIC 19 is not credited to Wuhan where it started. All the same, this is not the time to dissipate energy, fighting over women cloture.

Today, COVIC 19 is a war – call it World War III, if you wish. Again, what’s in a name when COVIC 19 by any name would still remain a pandemic? But the good news is that this war is winnable and we must win – by the grace of God. We are already winning.

In COVIC 19, Wuhan stands out as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. For instance, Nigeria claims, and quite rightly, that all her initial cases of the pandemic were imported. Is it not also true that all initial cases worldwide, except Wuhan’s were imported? In contrast, the same cannot be easily said about other diseases where the indigenous animals are transmitting the diseases to the indigenous population. This forms the basis on which some countries are allegedly waiting for China in court.

We have seen something like this pandemic before. It was in 1959. The world was smaller. People were fewer and mass communication was almost zero. Young chaps, we were then. We were in the secondary school in Onitsha in the then Eastern Nigeria.

While we were on holiday back home at Oghada, there was an outbreak of influenza, presumably throughout the world. The general atmosphere was hazy and dry, accompanied by vital signs of common cold, coughing and sneezing; and all the rest.

The world was in the dark. Before then, there was only one radio at Oghada. It belonged to the headmaster of St. Thomas Catholic School, Mr. GOE Akpata. That big box of a radio had only one station – the BBC. That radio could have been a piece of ornament – apart from the station identification, which came up clearly at the top of every hour, every other sound went with the cranky waves.

On the proposed school resumption date, I was dropped at Abudu on a bicycle – with my wooden box and a salt bag of garri, only to find that there was no movement of any kind. It was a lockdown of that era – no vehicles, even the ARMELS Transport, were on the road.

This little boy new nothing of the working of the telephone or anything telegraphic. Before returning to Oghada, I approached Chief Aiyamekhue Obaseki to help contact my school. Seeing those cranky wires that ran parallel to the highways of the time, I thought it was just a question of facing the desired direction and taking into the air Chief Obaseki educated me pleasantly and advised me to go back home.

Various reasons were advanced as to the cause of the influenza. Some said it was a struggle for supremacy between the Americans and the Russians. To a particular religious said, it was the approach of the Armageddon.

Back home, news from every direction harped on the need for personal hygiene and sanitation. The use of IZAL was advised for sprinkling around the household and in bathwater. It was the sanitizer of the era.

After about two weeks, news began to reach us that the coast was already clear. We then returned to school.

This, too, is a passing phase. How quickly it will pass over us will depend on our attitude towards it. We have come a long way from the remote past when government efforts were deeply appreciated by the citizenry to a new era where governments are hated and despised by most, even if they choose to work off their heads.

In the particular case of Nigeria, governments are trying but the people are not responding commensurately. Government says to the people: There is danger in the air. This COVIC 19 is real. If we handle it carelessly, it will wipe all of us out. Let us help you to help yourselves. This disease is spreading like a wild fire in the Hamadan. Let us help you to run away from it. Isolationism and social distancing will help you escape. Therefore, go home and stay in your fattening home. Within available resource, we will ensure that you do not suffer unduly during the period.

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Yet, Nigerians are either not listening or they are not hearing. To them it is business as usual. They are mingling and moving freely. As I write this piece (Monday March 30 at 11pm) heavy “Igbadun Party” is digging ahead down the block and they are boozing like there is no tomorrow. This embarrassment is happening everywhere. But why is it difficult to convince people that there is life after COVIC 19 and that the lives they are being begged to protect are theirs?

It bears repeating that while this passing phase lasts, we should remind ourselves that we must be alive to fully enjoy. We should therefore remain disciplined; and do what the authorities want us to do.

I got my money in seven working minutes. In times like these, let us remember that anything that affects all must be approached by all. This period of COVIC 19 is a period of sober reflection. It calls for empathy and bending backwards when necessary. Strict constructionist is out of it. People must render service with s smile and a human face.

The third day into the stay-home order in Edo State, this writer was already broke. I remembered that I had an account from which I could withdraw N20,000 without closing the account. It was an account with Bank ‘A’ but Bank ‘B’ was nearer and more convenient.

Armed with my ATM card, I went to Bank ‘B’. it was a mad crowd. We were scattered all over because of the social distancing requirement. It got to my turn after an hour or so. It was the beginning of more problems. When I inserted my card into the machine, my account was debited but no money came out. I waded through another mad crowd to get to the banking hall of Bank ‘B’ only to be told to go to Bank ‘A’ where my account was domiciled.

At the very height of sarcasm, the schedule officer in Bank ‘A’ told me that I have to wait for seven working days. As she was saying that, she was walking away, suggesting that I had been summarily dismissed.

Have you ever seen an angry man? I asked, “Seven working what?” I can’t remember when last I barged on any table but I did this time around.” Look, if I don’t get my money in the next seven working minutes, something is going to happen here!” my voice was low but high enough to get the Manager rushing down from his cubicle.

He saw my rage and asked, “Oga what is it?” I hadn’t finished explaining when he reached for the desktop, looked at my account and asked me to sign on the dotted line. I got my money within seven working minutes.

Humility costs nothing but means a lot. All bullets are not necessarily fired at the war front. In the COVIC 19 War, there are specific roles for everyone. Like the gallant soldiers that we are, we shall bond together to defeat the common enemy; fall in line, obey commands; play well our roles; salute the colours and move ahead. Victory is assured.

Tough times don’t last but tough people do. Before the advent of the COVIC 19 Edo State had reached a breaking point in political acrimony. If nothing else, this lockdown has provided a soothing punctuation from all that and who knows, if the permutations are right, this could be the beginning of a lasting peace.

Again, there has been no better opportunity to catch up on those books you have been pushing aside. And for those who want to use the small window to sharpen their writing skills, they will soon find that writing provides a rewarding experience. It is not just a job but an adventure. Sweet, indeed, are the uses of adversity.

Cause and Cure: So far, no one is willing to tell us the real cause(s) of this pandemic. In due season, the advanced nations, so called, will have a lot of explaining to do about all their nuclear testing and the possible leakages there from in which process they turn the rest of us into pawns and guinea pigs. We are the slaves and they are the slave masters.

Here and everywhere, authorities are speaking from two sides of the same mouth: in the morning, they would say there are no known cures for the pandemic; and in the evening, they would announce that some people who tested positive have been treated and they have been discharged after testing and retesting duly negative. What further cure are you looking for when you have seen a sick man get well? The good news here is that this pandemic may not be as fatal as we are being made to believe. But, people, it doesn’t hurt to be careful. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Stay safe.


April 2 2020

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