OPINION | Still on COVID-19: Between Running and Clean Water

*Running water
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By Hon. Josef Omorotionmwan


This strange world will not stop being a stage for continuous learning. What you thought you know yesterday would easily have expired today. In our last essay on today’s subject, so proudly did we use the Corona Virus and the COVID-19 interchangeably, assured that they were the same. We have since been proved wrong. The experts have since pointed to the dictionary meaning of the word Virus – Venom as produced by poisonous animals, which cause diseases in the host organism. The relationship between Corona Virus and the Corona Virus Disease, COVID, is akin to that between HIV and AIDs. HIV does not kill, it causes AIDs. It is AIDs that kills. Corona Virus does not kill, it causes the COVID. It is COVID that kills. At a more elemental level, mosquitoes don’t kill, they cause malaria and it is malaria that kills.

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown: President Muhammadu Buhari in focus. We join in thanking and congratulating the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, PTFC; the National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC; the Frontline Health Workers and, indeed, all Nigerians, for all the efforts on the fight against COVID-19. In the particular case of the Presidential Task Force, it has displayed extra gallantry that one even begins to wonder when the members ever have time to sleep. We salute you.

All the same, to whom much is given, much must also be expected. Like Ceasar’s wife, we expect them to be above board, with every pronouncement coming from the Task Force bearing the weight of law. In further easing the lockdown rules last Thursday, the Task Force said, inter alia, “People 65 years and above, should not be allowed into the worship centres”. What a sweeping generalization! Legislations that cannot be fully enforced ultimately breed cynicism and with time, they lead to the loss of faith in the entire system. When the citizen is put in a situation of picking and choosing which laws to obey and which to discard, there is the undermining of faith in the process of law-making and enforcement.

Let’s look at this rule closely. The day after the pronouncement, President Muhammadu Buhari who is clearly over the bar, was at the Aso Rock villa worship centre. In terms of real enforcement, who should we hold responsible for that? Who should have disallowed him from entering into the worship centre?

Again, most of the churches and mosques are virtually owned by people over age 65 and the same applies to the entire leadership of those centres. Tell me, who should be placed at the entrance to disallow, for instance, Pastor Enoch Adeboye from entering into any of the branches of the Redeem Christian Church of God, RCCG? Why must a law abiding citizen be made to feel that he is a law-breaker?

Admittedly, the intention here is to protect the elderly citizens who are more vulnerable to the pandemic. But in crafting the guiding rules, you should leave it at the advisory level.

From the very beginning of the COVID-19 campaigns, experts have advised that we must wash our hands regularly “under running water for at least 20 seconds”. Somewhere along the line, President Buhari came up with his own version, “Wash your hands regularly with clean water”. This is understandable. Reference to running water is a reference to pipe borne water, which is a responsibility of Government. The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly exposed this as one area where Governments, over time, have failed abysmally. Buhari’s “clean water” is a cover-up for Government’s dereliction here.


In the beginning, what we had here was sleeping water – neither clean nor running. At some strategic points we had earth ponds. We constructed connecting gutters that carried water to the ponds – along with all the iniquities and impurities – whenever it rained. We went there with the calabash, pushed the iniquities aside and fetched our drinking water. You needed to hear our parents justify this water as cool and energizing. This water was cooled in clay pots and as a latter day development, we dropped alum into the pots to push the impurities down, thus giving us our pure water.

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The alternative was a luxury. The Ameebo Stream and the Orhionmwon River confluenced at Ogbahu – some four kilometers away with the sloppy hill leading to that water source. It was before the advent of the jerry can. Sometimes we broke the calabash on our way from the river and that was like a capital crime of that era.

The search for water has been an ongoing struggle. I spent my Udoji Award in providing the first concrete well in our compound. When it rained, all the water from the roof was directed into the well. It was a big improvement over the earth pond. This soon became a flash point for others in the community.

Over the years, the community made various attempts to get water, without success, each time loosing colossal sums to contractors for the failed contracts. That was before the arrival of Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP/Edo South). During the campaign for the 2015 elections, he promised that no matter how low the water table was, he would give us water and he did! He probably emptied a good part of his Constituency fund on this project. Like the Dells the American R &B Group that made waves across the world in the mid 20th century once proclaimed.

They said it couldn’t be done but we did it. Thank God Almighty.” We also thought it couldn’t be done but Urhoghide did it! Although mitigated by Urhoghide intervention, the community’s suffering is still far from over.

This unpleasant narrative with water runs across all aspects of Rural Nigeria. In our particular case, we have sleeping water. In some parts of the North, they have no water at all – running, clean or sleeping! At the inception of the First National Assembly in 1979, this writer was the Secretary of the Business Committee, House of Representatives. One fateful day, I was preparing the Order Paper for the next day. The Late Hon. Eguaseki Ogida (NPN/Oredo) brought a motion calling on the Federal Government to provide good water throughout the federation. Then came Hon Sule Lamido (PRP/Kano) who later became the Governor of Jigawa State. He wanted to be a co-sponsor of the motion but insisted that the word “good” be deleted from the motion. What he wanted was “water” not “good water” why would anyone be looking for good water when there is no water at all? A big argument ensued between the two legislators – in the then Bendel State, there was some water – clean, running or sleeping. But in some part of then Kano State, there was no water at all! Till now, nothing has changed.

We owe it to Providence that the COVID-19 pandemic has not ventured into Rural Nigeria. Otherwise, Nigeria would have long become the epicenter of the world in its casualties.

For a change, let us emulate the good examples of other climes where Authorities would employ every situation to maximum advantage, using what they have to get what they want. Such would use the opportunity of this COVID-19 to flood the entire country with pipe borne water. After COVID-19 has left us, they can point to the provision of water across the land as the benefit from that disaster. Then our President can talk straight about clean and running water without any fear of contradiction. What shall we be remembered for?


June 9, 2020

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