In October, 2014, David Shukman, a reporter for the BBC News, wrote a glowing article titled: ‘Ebola Outbreak: How Nigeria is Beating the Killer Virus’.
It is the kind of piece that will make any Nigerian up his collar in pride. ‘ A nightmare scenario of Ebola raging unchecked among millions of slum dwellers in Africa’s largest city has given way to a rare example of a victory over the virus’, Shukman wrote.
Although the usual stereotypical adjectives used to describe Nigeria and Africa made their way into the article, Nigeria’s potent victory over Ebola was too pungent to be diminished by those adjectives neither could the triumph be underrated as what could have been a national disaster was averted by a citizen troop led by Dr Amaeyo Adadevoh and the team of health specialists who stopped Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer from escaping isolation and generously spreading the disease.
The Nigerian authorities complemented this courageous act of the citizens on the front line by identifying and tracking down everyone who might possibly have had contact with Patrick Sawyer. In the end, Nigeria had about 19 confirmed cases with 8 deaths. The casualties were our heroes and heroines who chose to be as truthful as they could about facts and travel histories as well as isolated themselves and so saved the country from the kind of tragedy that befell countries like Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Nigeria is a vast land of possibilities. It is a fertile soil where anything planted on it grows. Show the citizens love,truth and commitment (the late President Musa Yaradua could have told this story better) and they will multiply and give it back in full measure, pressed down, shaking together and running over. Give them lies and they will pour it back in torrents – the evidence are there on twitter with the #BuhariChallenge as just one example.
COVID-19: WHERE IS BUHARI?
So here is Nigeria, right in the middle of a global crisis that has brought super powers and better endowed nations such as Spain, U.S.A. or Italy to their knees save that Nigeria with a population of 206.14 million is not only ill-prepared but tragically is without executive leadership as the President cannot be found at a moment of unprecedented crisis. Where is the President? Nigerians gathered from the news that an Abba Kyari who is Chief of Staff to the President went about duties not assigned by the constitution and exercised presidential roles of issuing directives to the speaker and- (it appears), senators of the National Assembly to subject themselves for testing of Covid-19. A few days afterwards, Kyari tested positive of the virus but not before he had the chance to infect others. The members of the House of representatives who should be at work would rather convene to share vehicles than make the laws required for exceptional measures to be taken to address the exigencies of the pandemic. While there are foreign grants, donations by individuals and corporations, there is no visible coordination of these resources. No one is talking about how to cater for the welfare of the citizens. There is no conversation about food banks or psychosocial support for citizens through jingles and messaging. NCDC appears to be too overwhelmed to continue with contact tracing. The morale of medical personnel is left unaddressed. The risks to mitigate the lockdown is not in the conversation neither is there any coordinated effort on how to flatten the epidemiological curve to reduce case burden and to buy time for comprehensive addressing of the virus.
There is no education on early detection, early reporting, early case investigation, early treatment or early social distancing. And by the way, these five earlies are important indicators for whether we will win or lose the fight between human existence and this dreadful virus.
In the midst of this melee, the
Vice President who is constitutionally empowered by sections 145 and 146 of the Nigerian Constitution to step in if and when the President is enfeebled or otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office for any reason at all, is no where to be found. Nigerians have the right to ask and the time to ask is now: Where is Vice President Yemi Osinbajo? Why are we unable to hear from him or have him lead the presidential task force against Covid-19? Nigerians deserve to know. How can we watch other countries pull together their best assets in this monstrous fight while here in Nigeria, we are left to roam like sheep without a shepherd and with each state struggling to battle with the virus in the manner they know how? Surely, the victory against the Corona Virus cannot be won without strong executive leadership that can coordinate the assets and actions required.
THIS IS A FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES.
We are in a fight for our lives. The situation is like the Cameron and Landau Titanic story. The ship is ill-fated. The sky is cloudy. We can almost see the ship approaching a collusion with an iceberg and it seems that the lifeboats would be so few that many could die of drowning or hypothermia.
As at 28 March,2020, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control confirmed 97 cases of Covid-19. With only 5 testing centres in the entire nation, it is no coincidence that the figures tally closely with Lagos, Osun and the Federal Capital Territory, where these testing centres are located. It is reasonable to therefore assume that in other parts of the country, there is an infection rate higher than those recorded and because most persons may be asymptomatic, the virus will spread far enough before they are detected. This is dreadful.
Like the builders and officers of the Titanic, we are now on borrowed time for the fight of our lives except that unlike the Titanic, there will be no Jack and Rose to kiss romantically. There will be no sigtune signaling the end of the movie. There will just be us and the reality of what we could have avoided if we don’t act now.
Gloria Mabeiam Ballason is the C.E.O. House of Justice and Principal Partner, Mive legals. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org