For too long, the Nigerian political class appears to have equated the future to a distant and imaginary moment in life that may never arrive, or at best, will only arrive after their earthly sojourn. This seems to be the only explanation and basis for their recklessness and impunity in governance.
Well, not anymore, since the terrifying and unwelcomed visitor, Coronavirus, unexpectedly ushered in the future, today, without any advance notice.
We have dared to peek into the ugly face of that future and do not like what we see. Not even the tea leaves that we have been reading, nor the babalawos, or the prophets and seers that we have being consulting prepared us for this early and unexpected arrival of tomorrow. Its visitation came like a bandit in the dead of night.
For starters, federal legislators should relinquish to the healthcare sector for upgrading and equipping our teaching and general hospitals, the N37 billion that they appropriated for renovation of the National Assembly complex.
The nation’s political elite – our self-styled stakeholders, who have been busy day and night, looting our treasury and stashing the spoils abroad in the name of their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren – suddenly woke up to a sad reality that “money won’t save you,” as aptly captured by the music legend Jimmy Cliff in one of his musical tracks.
In plundering the nation, the political class impoverished and pauperized their fellow country men and women. They destroyed economic and social infrastructure and tore the fabric that held us together as a nation. They sowed and nurtured the seed of divisive tribalism and ethnic chauvinism that is meant to hold us down while they have their way. They wrecked God’s own country; a country that flows with crude oil, gold, tin, natural gas, palm oil, groundnut oil, cocoa and some of the most gifted human beings that the Lord ever created. They polluted a nation with one of the most conducive weather on earth.
Deluded, they prepared a place for themselves and their loved ones to shelter abroad in calamitous times but corona, the lethal virus leveler, struck with a devastating swiftness; locking down every nation and spreading its deadly fangs, from the elite class and without discrimination to commoners and downtrodden. The scourge appears to be spreading with impunity among the elite/ruling class for a reason and to drive home a point. With the halt in international travel, there is no ducking or hiding place for the jet-setting elite. Not even the famed Aso Rock Villa security perimeter fence could keep the formidable virus at bay.
The once high and mighty now shiver and cower from this master leveler. They jostle with their servants and commoners at various university teaching hospitals and city general hospitals that they had continuously starved of direly needed functional funds. In those general hospitals, there are no ventilators, no face masks, no hand gloves, no functional wards, not to talk of isolation wards, and no equipped research labs that will aid the medical community to take care of the sick and fight the ugly onslaught of this virus invader. The pharmacy units are empty without vital drug stock. The medical personnel are unmotivated, underpaid, and in most cases paid in arrears, whenever funds are eventually made available for their pay. These doctors now get to make the ultimate life and death decision of whether to help the unpatriotic elites now flocking to them for care or give them a dose of their own brew. Imagine a payback scenario with your life ultimately in their hands. The ugly face of the future is a grim reaper and doesn’t portend well for Nigeria, unless we make a 180 degree turn around from our current attitude and inclinations. It is a stark reminder that the evil that men do will eventually always catchup with them.
With all access to foreign countries blocked, fleeing to other climes with highly developed, functional and efficient healthcare system for medical care is no longer an alternative. In any case, some of those preferred foreign destinations of choice are now epicenters of coronavirus, and flying there at this time, assuming it is possible, will be akin to suicide and the surest way to checkout to one’s own creator for the last and final judgment. Obviously, this is an unpalatable conundrum for the raiders of our treasury. We know that they are right now busy as ever calculating how to outwit nature, but the options appear foreclosed.
The realities and imperatives of this coronavirus pandemic leaves Nigerians with only one option apart from sudden extermination, without regard to tribe, ethnicity or economic status. For the first time, we are now faced by a common existential threat that requires us to close ranks in a nonpartisan manner for our common survival. Surely, coronavirus has the potential of becoming a seasonal menace rather than a onetime epidemic. It may also be the harbinger of other more deadly bacteria and viruses. Not long ago, we were warned by scientists about long-dormant ancient bacteria and viruses trapped in ice and permafrost for centuries in Iceland that are reviving and being released into the environment due to melting ice as a result of global warming. The ancient viruses may include some that have caused catastrophic global epidemics in the past.
For starters, federal legislators should relinquish to the healthcare sector for upgrading and equipping our teaching and general hospitals, the N37 billion that they appropriated for renovation of the National Assembly complex. We also expect that all the state assemblies should redirect similarly appropriated funds to the healthcare sector to cover the free care and treatment of coronavirus victims, as well as the upgrade and equipping of local hospitals. Further, funds earmarked by the presidency and all the state governors for their 2020 medical tourism should also be ploughed back into fortifying the local healthcare sector, since our destiny now clearly lies in the development of our own medical infrastructure.
Restructuring the country by the National Assembly to ensure more government efficiency and to reduce the huge overhead cost of governance should now proceed with great haste. More than ever, we need to jettison tribalism and ethnicity for merit system, cooperation, mutual trust and growth of nationalism/patriotism as the necessary key to drive progress and economic revival. The presidential and state governors’ security votes must be made subject to audit, and should only be used for pressing security matters. The unavoidable burden foisted on us by this pandemic is to develop a just and sustainable economy for Nigeria and for the common good of all citizens. It requires us to reposition our nation in line with countries such as South Korea, so that we will be in a much stronger position to survive the next impending natural disaster.