At a recent webinar, the audience was asked to answer this question: “What are the lessons to be learnt for nations following the outbreak of COVID-19?” This question forced me to think deeply about this virus from a non-personal angle.
At the initial stage of the new coronavirus pandemic, my house-help and I were a tag team. She agreed with me that we had to observe and adhere to all the protocols advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Federal Government. She would often go overboard and use sanitisers on every single thing coming into our home. Unfortunately, with many months passed and no respite in sight, she is now fed up. With the publicity that ensues from recent COVID-19-related deaths, she now insists that the pandemic affects only the rich and is God-sent to rid Nigeria of those who are the country’s problem. From being a convert months ago, she has now become an unbeliever!
Indeed, my help is not the only COVID-19 doubter.
Driving through the streets of Lagos, penultimate week, one could see clear evidence of quite a number of residents openly flouting the WHO COVID-19 precautions. Especially in public buses, it seemed as if it was business as usual. Street traders did not have masks on and even those who did, wore it on the chin. One could see groups of people sitting awfully close to each other without observing social distancing rules.
I guess for some, it is better to be out there earning a living, rather than staying indoors and dying of hunger or allowing poverty in through the door. Yet again, knowing our reliance on local remedies and the trado-herbalist, it is possible that some may believe that local remedies could save them. That could explain why I saw an unusually large number of street hawkers peddling a riot of concoctions: ogogoro, dogonyaro, agbo, etc.
Of course, seeing these persons, it is easy to condemn them for not observing the precautionary measures. But the truth is that these measures are easy to abide by when there are near- to medium-term support structures in place.
Indeed, we often complain about the many ills of our country, but looking out of my window, it dawned on me that our country is not a people-friendly state in the way one insists that organisations must be people-friendly. The state does not really provide much support for its citizens: poor, old, or vulnerable. Yes, feeding the poor and providing them with bread, cooked food etc. is good. But a structured welfare package is better. People need food, but they want to be able to cook it themselves, they don’t want to stand on a queue before they can eat. What about shelter, bills, medicines? People want jobs and they want financial stability.
Reading international journals and listening to mainstream news outlets, we are regaled with tales of financial woes. Businesses going bankrupt, laying off thousands, etc. But the impact in the more civilised jurisdictions on unemployment and poverty is being cushioned by financial bailouts put together by their respective governments. That is what Nigerians also need, otherwise people are going to take their chances against COVID.
Had we known that such a time like this would come, perhaps we may have done better as a country. Perhaps we would have done more for our health and education sectors especially. The fear of contracting the dreaded virus is real and frightening but more worrisome is the fear that our healthcare system may fail us. Especially when one considers the toll that this virus has taken on the health care system of countries like the U.S. and the U.K.
At such a time as this, I bet many would have wished that we were in the era of the likes of Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Michael Opara, Dr. Majekodunmi, etc.
On Facebook, I joined “The Nigerian Nostalgia 1960-1980 Group”, where posts focus on our history between 1960-1980. Some of the stories and photographs shared, take one back in time to the period when Nigeria was on the path to greatness. A time when we had progressive and selfless leaders. We once had good schools and universities. Our forefathers and mothers believed in quality education. Some of them gave up their children for a short while to seek quality education abroad and they came back to build the nation. But with our premier universities run down; our polytechnics now merely glorified, washed out secondary schools; institutions critical to our sustainable development now ceremonial entities, all of that sweat has been wasted.
What really would it take to focus on and fix education? If we fixed education, we would have many problem-solvers. To help us solve healthcare issues. To solve drainage and drought issues. We would have engineers to solve our transportation and road issues. To solve many of our problems.
So, for me, lessons learnt are that a functional education system will get Nigeria out of the quagmire it is in now. We will need to fix education and all our knowledge acquisition centres, from primary all the way to universities.
Until we do, I fear that the saviours of Nigeria may not yet be born.
About the Author: Lande Omo Oba is a lawyer and everyday girl.
Source: Premium Times