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There is no need to travel. You are safe where you are – Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s Minister of Health

 You are safer where you are...  in everybody’s interest

By Chuka Nnabuife

Whatever lures a human being to consciously head for his death must be more than just a serious thing.  If a person should opt to die out of headiness or just nonchallance, his death is unfortunate but his action is very regretable. Even ignorance is not ample excuse for one heading blindly to death. For whatever reason, such a death is crazy, useless and unjustifiable. No known faith, prescribe heaven for such an end. But that is what many people now head for by heading out to the street when they have been told clearly that death is roaming outdoor with coronavirus as it’s agent.

Worse is that the people who disobey the stay-at-home directive in many parts of Nigeria and the world would likely contract the coronavirus and take it home to spread to those who obey before they die. Their dead bodies too, can transfer the disease to others as experts have informed.

So, anybody outside when he should not be, poses serious danger to the rest of our society. It therefore becomes incumbent on all of us to ensure that those who abuse the lockdown are reined in before they bring death to our homes.

Currently, there is a presidential directive to have people in their homes except those on essential duties in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja as well as Lagos and Ogun states since 23hrs (11pm) of Monday, March 30 in a state-of-emergency action to stave off the fast-spreading coronavirus disease, the COVID-19 pandemic from overwhelming Nigeria. Similarly, almost all state governments in Nigeria have replicated President Muhammadu Buhari’s order in their enclaves.  The lock down accross country was direly necessitated given the rate of spread of the pandemic.

From just less than 40 cases last Thursday afternoon, the number of officially recorded carreers of the very fast-killing COVID-19 has risen to over 151 as at press time. The stay-away-from-the-street order which governments have opted for as last resort was caused by global experts’, comprising the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) explanations that there is no alternative to preventing or curing the disease but to first stop or control people’s movement and contact with one another.

At very huge economic loss, the federal government and state governors therefore established the lockdown, to control population movement while the whole world is now engrossed in intense quest for a cure of disease which no one, anywhere has found yet. The control on movements was necessitated by the nature of the COVID-19 plague which is contracted by touching surfaces where carreers would have left the virus or body contact between persons.  The fact that the disease can also get communicated to an unsuspecting person through such human not-easily-controled acts as coughing, sneezing, touching, shaking of hands, hugging, exchange of personal effects such as  handkerchieves, towels et al further made the lockdown necessary. The government also urged citizens and sojourners to observe social distancing of at least one metre and non-crowding of venue even while in their homes. Hence, for the safety of citizens, the authorities went for the lock down among other measures.

Evidence of the difficulties the governments had to struggle through before making the orders is in how long it took the states and federal government before they pronounced it. The directives came late because of a consideration of the difficulty a large chunk of the populace would face such as in daily feeding, healthcare and exercising the tenets of their faith. Also the authorities tarried a while given the need to get citizens prepare, no matter how little, for a crucial period that would challenge their resilience and resolve to choose life against death. There was also a perceived cautious wait by the state to see if the COVID-19 pandemic will die naturally, with time.

But the plague got worse globally, killing people in hundreds of thousand even in the most developed countries. Hence, the cautious heads of the states and the federal government could not restrain themselves from asking people to stay at home. Much like deciding between landing on a rock and a hard ground, the nation and the states had to take a path that was less calamitous of the two.

Basically, the general lockdown across Nigeria as in other parts of the world is to save the lives of the people. It cannot in anyway be sadism or a display of insensitivity to the hardship the people would suffer as a result of restriction of access to their sources of livelihood or means of joy. It is not a disregard of the people’s comfort or insensitivity to the fact that there are many citizens who live from hand to mouth or by what they earn day by day. We are in an emergency situation. Truth is that the nation is in a war situation – a biological warfare against a strange mass-killing disease that we should not handle with kid gloves. Else, it will kill all of us, including those who complain now that the lock down causes them hardship.  

 As things stand currently, Nigeria, and the entire Africa may not be able to contain COVID-19 if it spreads to the hinterlands. We are lucky that most of the confirmed cases currently are in major cities. What I do not want to imagine now is what we can do if we allow it to spread to areas outside the cities and suburban areas. It could lead to an unprecedented massive death toll.

Our health infrastructures, across country – facilities, faculties and bureaucracies – certainly, do not have the capacity to rise to the kind of challenges the coronavirus disease can inflict on us soon if we do not act decisively now. Our economy also lacks the requisite depth to survive it. Whilst our political culture would rather undermine than encourage effective response to the emergency. But those who lead, and us must take decisive action not kid glove ones now else we are all damned.  We need not look too far to see the doom imminent. Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, the United States of America present clear pictures of the doomed destination we are heading as we favour a cozy path of no pain. China, on the other side, presents us with the rewards of a country that spared a short while to pass through requisite pain and are now escaping the death row. We must take the bitter pills of suffering for a while and give our leaders the balls to take effective stance and save us.

A walk around  town in this dire lockdown time show our people, including the people who one thought should have known the demands of the time, behaving like confused and disgruntled children of Israel in the Biblical journey from Egypt to The Promised Land. Complains everywhere. Of hunger, discomfort, indiscretion as well as all forms of hue and cry. Almost everyone cries of money, food and flaws in the anti-COVID-19 fight. People ‘escape’ from their home to pubs, parties, churches, mosques, markets or just hikes as if they are doing anyone a favour by heeding the stay-at-home.

Wealthy citizens and firms appear to be lurking around in corners and mocking the state as if they are sure they will be saved if the foreseeable doom happens whereas elsewhere, like in China, their contemporary’s aids help the society escape COVID-19’s death blow. Clerics and demagogue politicians throw spanners into works to set state and citizens in clash. Yet the plague is on prowl. Yesterday alone almost 40 cases were ticked, raising Nigeria’s number to 174 cases. Pray, what was the figure only the day before?   

The summary is that we will be heading for the doldrums if we do not arrest the COVID-19 saga now that it is in the cities. We may opt for the foolish path of thinking that the disease is not in existence like many in our society, after seeing the thousand dying daily on television still do. We may opt to cheaply settle our political scores by blaming one government figure or the other for one trivial matter or the other. We may even join those who spread or heed the devilish propaganda of people who spread all manner of messages on social media to dissuade people from heeding governments’ lock down. We may yell about hunger and forget that in a war or warlike situation, life and survival matters most.  We may join those who strive to tag the leaders of government as devils for ordering stoppage of crowded religious worships.

The truth is that the lock down is right.  There is no better option than it now, and if we kick against it or encourage people to do so, we bring big harm to all of us. That is the most important part of the current headiness that every concerned citizen should note.

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