‘These are the times that try men’s soul’, these were the words of Thomas Paine in 1776, at the early days of American War of Independence .What would have been his submission if he were to be alive today? Covid-19 has ravaged lives, livelihoods, causing great shock, social disorder, and economic downturn in huge dimensions across the world. The negative impact of COVID-19 has become jeopardy, running antithetical to governance and scientific ingenuity. While countries relax lockdown measures to cushion the effect of Covid-19 on the economy, it is clear that a definitive discovery of a vaccine will bring about social and economic confidence.
The figures of fatalities have rippled across the world. For instance, In the USA here, COVID-19 has caused over 105,770 deaths with African Americans mostly being badly hit by the scourge. Brazil has witnessed 29,341 deaths while Russia is yet to grapple with over 4855 deaths. Neither the UK with 38,489 nor other European epicentres–Spain (27,127) and Italy (33,415) have been spared. While the fatalities have remained high in the West, it would appear all the states in Africa seem to have put up a miraculous resistance with 4,223 deaths.
Our fatality is still low no doubt, even though a single death is devastating, but these number of deaths alone has put paid the fact that the idea that Africans are immune to the virus has become a farce. Therefore, as peoples of African descent, Africans-in-Diaspora and Africans at home we need to take strong measures to stay safe. My earlier clamour for social distancing and compliance to guidelines on staying safe would seem to have been engaged with a pinch of salt. This has led to community transmissions in some places.
That said, let me use this means to commiserate with families who have lost their loved ones as a result of these scourge. I’m aware of the number of fatalities we have recorded in Kano, Lagos, FCT, Jigawa, Bauchi, Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Oyo, Abia and even our dear state; Anambra. I send my heartfelt condolences to the leadership of these states and pray that God will continue to give them the wisdom to navigate through these rough times. This is also a veritable opportunity to condole His Excellency, President Muhammudu Buhari on the death of his Chief of staff, Mallam Abba Kyari who passed on in the service of the country. It is important to again like I have always done extend kudos to the presidential taskforce, the NCDC, the Federal Government and our state governments for their efforts so far.
Going forward, I expect Nigeria to be in the form of exploring the localization of the search for a cure, given the abundance of trado-medical and nutritional knowledge that thrives amongst the myriad of cultures that make up our country. The collaboration between the traditional and the modern hands of medical practice is paramount at this time. It is important for Africa to seek proactive solutions due to the prevalent poverty and lack of adequate health infrastructure in the continent– which may lead to gross fatalities. This position is informed by the fears of The United Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), which predicted in April that between 300,000 and 3,300,000 African people could lose their lives to COVID-19.
My fears for my homeland are further heightened by the problematic distribution of relief materials to less privileged Nigerians, as well as the lack of compliance to the rules borne out of disinformation, mistrust and survivalist urgencies, which may make it impossible for governments to flatten the curve. The dearth of medical personnel is also a huge challenge. Likewise, it is traumatic to see our people scamper for relief materials in an age where a quality population database management system would have provided the basis for distributing these materials to our people.
I have been informed that the Governor of my home state; Anambra State has been proactive in safeguarding Anambrians from COVID-19. Judging from his antecedent as a problem solver, I can authoritatively say that my Governor is a fighter and I believe the Lion in him will surface again to continue to offer courageous leadership this difficult time.
Despite the number of the active cases we have today, he has continued to marshal strategies to curb the virus in a state filled with itinerant and economic drive. It’s worthy of commendation that My Governor has also set up two fully functional testing centres to help ramp up testing and slow down the rate of community transmission in our state. I urge everyone to give him the cooperation he needs by submitting to the laid-down guidelines. In the spirit of unity and cooperation, nothing has made me more proud in recent time than the way our people sent a very strong message that we can always do it when we come together. Anambrians, gallant men and women, irrespective of party lines, made provision of relief materials to the weak and vulnerable. I’m sure from our record that we surpassed the federal government.
The Bishopric and clergy were not even left out in the effort to give succour, hope and relief materials to the people. In fact it was almost taken to the level of competition and I can say that this kind of competition is healthy. It’s this kind of competition that we need for community development and Governments must work towards mobilizing the wealthy like in this case towards bigger projects that can have positive impact on our people. This distribution of palliative by private individuals is a litmus test and has proven that there’s nothing we cannot do when we come together.
Most enviable is the large heart of his Excellency, Mr Peter Obi, who has shared relief materials across Igbo land, while also bolstering the work of his party to do more for the people. What Mr Obi and others did including my humble self were achieved through a passionate, people-centred and visionary leadership of our dear Party, PDP. The wisdom of our party to share palliatives worth more than 120 million Naira is commendable. But I’m amazed more by the intention to build a testing centre. Nothing can be well thought out as this, no political party has done this in Nigeria and it portrays us as defenders of the people.
This is really going to be a difficult time. I’ll advice the Governor to engage the best hands for the daunting task to navigate our local economy through this challenging time.This period call for the engagement of the best if we hope to come out from this shock early enough. The governor must try to go a step further to begin to galvanise Anambrians-in-Diaspora who will contribute to milestone developments through strategic and transparent means. He must ensure deeper cooperation, understanding and must try to accommodate variegated opinions. This is a time when we must cooperate with government and all the stakeholders responsible in keeping the Nigerian populace safe and healthy.
This is also a time for government to give every stakeholder and citizen a higher sense of patriotism by deploying proactive steps in further developing the nation for the sake of the people.
Dr Godwin Maduka, A Medical Practitioner, writes from Las Vegas.