Nigerians, arise and pray. All people of faith, let’s pray for divine intervention against the ravaging scourge of COVID-19. A new reality has dawned in our country. The reality of the looming danger and anarchy is already here as the reported daily cases of the lethal virus is now well above a hundred, despite lack of mass testing. Nigeria only tests those with symptoms or the well-connected or those with what we colloquially referred to as “long legs”.
But we must ask the questions: How did we get here since COVID-19 did not emanate from Nigeria or Africa? For months and weeks, Nigeria had the ample opportunity to stop the dreaded virus from reaching our land. I mean, our President, General Muhammadu Buhari, by sheer incompetence, refused to act swiftly and criminally neglected to act at the right time.
Coronavirus came from somewhere. The world was alerted early enough, yet, as Emperor Nero went to sleep under the burning flames of Rome, President Buhari dozed and napped leaving our airports widely opened, allowing flights from China, Italy, France, Germany, USA and Britain, etc. from January until March ending.
Knowing more than anyone how broken and horrible our healthcare system is since he never treated even headache in the country as he always jets out to London, the best way to check the lethal virus was to act early by closing all ports of entry into Nigeria.
As Ghana did, Nigerians returning home should have been evacuated from the airport to isolation centres where they would remain for at least 14 days undergoing a series of tests. In Ghana, in a group of 100 passengers who were isolated, 20 tested positive for COVID-19. Imagine what would have happened if they were allowed free entry and only told to self-isolate as Nigeria did? Today, Ghana has conducted over 50,000 tests, second to South Africa which has since gone far above 100,000, while Nigeria, with 200 million people, has so far conducted less than 10,000 tests.
Had President Buhari acted early enough and shut down all international flights on or before March 1, 2020, just days after the first index case from Italy, by now there won’t be any active case of the virus in the country. Mauritania just celebrated being coronavirus free because its leadership acted responsibly. This is the bitter truth which many of us don’t want to be told, simply because we are either Buhari’s party members, his kinsmen or we are his worshippers (Buharideens). But Coronavirus is blind, it knows no political party, religion, region nor race. In fact, it is even status blind. Now everyone is in for it.
Tragically, Buhari’s government also failed to procure testing kits, face masks, ventilators and other protective equipment for health workers. Nigeria had only 2000 testing kits until the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma donated 20,000 and the government has not procured additional testing kits. A country of over 200 million people, with the poor health system, ought to have been proactive and by now we should be conducting mass testing in all the 774 LGA, 8000+ electoral wards and 120,000 Polling Units.
All our institutions with national spread such as the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Independent National Electoral Commission, National Population Commission, National Identity Management Commission, among others should have been mobilised to coordinate distribution of testing kits to every Electoral ward as ballot papers and electoral materials were distributed during elections or population census.
Traditional rulers, community and religious leaders should also have been fully mobilised to sensitise the people and lead the way. President Buhari should have led from the front by holding daily press briefings and address as leaders all over the world are doing. Unfortunately, he has remained aloof, totally detached and isolated from the reality at hand. He only delivered a RECORDED address after so much pressure. How on earth can a general leading a battle tuck himself into his closet — far away from the war front and only sends recorded speech to his troop? Can he expect to boost their morals that way? Can he expect victory?
Sadly, we play politics with everything in Nigeria and defend the indefensible. People who are victims of poor governance and incompetence of leadership are always the ones defending their oppressors and keep raining insults on anyone who dares to say the truth. During his second RECORDED address, President Buhari said COVID-19 is a matter of life and death and that it is not a joke, but he took it for a joke and failed to provide the much-needed leadership.
By now, Nigeria should have procured millions of testing kits, facemasks, established isolation centres in all the 774 LGAs and deployed all our national resources to fighting this pandemic in addition to proposing a N1 trillion COVID-19 emergency supplementary appropriation Bill which should have been forwarded to the National Assembly for approval – which would have been approved in a day.
Nigeria seems to have a low infection because tests are not being conducted. How can you know the number of infected people if you don’t test? There were instances where people who had symptoms called the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) repeatedly but were not attended to, most were told to just self-isolate and wait, wait and wait to no end. A lady returned from Britain in Abuja, when she started developing symptoms and called the NCDC, she got assurances that they would come but nobody went. She self-isolated for one week and couldn’t because apparently she was living alone and had to go to the market to buy groceries. Can you imagine? Tests are reserved for the high and mighty. Another person even drove himself to their offices in Abuja requesting to be tested but was turned back. At the moment there is a total collapse of leadership on both the state and FG in Kano leading to unprecedented deaths of mostly the elderly.
Sadly, up to this moment, no mass testing is being conducted because there are no test kits. Nigeria has only 13 testing Centres. Samples taken in Markudi, Benue state, Potiskum Yobe state and Daura Katsina state had to be transported by road to Abuja which takes days.
If the United States of America and the United Kingdom where Buhari treats himself with their advanced healthcare system could be overwhelmed by this lethal virus, why should the Nigerian government under him allow COVID-19 to reach our borders when he had the chance to stop it? Why? Why? Surely, posterity would be very unkind to Buhari. It will judge him harshly for how he ran Nigeria incompetently – it would hold him responsible for any death, hardship and loss of livelihood as a result of this pandemic.
Now that the reality of his negligence and incompetence is rapidly manifesting with the skyrocketing number of infected people and deaths; no amount of lockdown can work. Whether Nigeria is shut for one year, it is already too late. We are Africans and our culture of communal living, abject poverty and Illiteracy creates a fertile ground for COVID-19 to have a field day.
You cannot lock people under severe hunger and starvation with no any form of support and expect them not to revolt. It is a matter of time that people would surely free themselves from this cage no matter how many are killed by the security agencies in the name of enforcement. We have seen this in Jos where women defied the lockdown and protested. If the lockdown continues, the entire country may descend into unprecedented anarchy.
For now, we can only pray to the Almighty God to have mercy on us. To look upon us with His eye of mercy, to help and rescue us not only from the pandemic of COVID-19 but also the plague of clueless, inept and incompetent leadership.
Mr Hassan wrote in from Abuja.