Unfortunately here in Nigeria, we elected a government that we are never ready to trust also, we seem to have a government that elect not to be sincere in governance; both the government and the governed acting at cross purpose.
Just before the president, Muhammadu Buhari announced the lockdown on some states, he was berated for not acting when other world leaders were imposing lockdown on their countries. A lockdown and maintaining social distancing was accepted as the universal best strategy to help contain the ravaging spread of the Covid-19 Pandemic. The numbers of infection globally was on the rise, so also was the death rate which spiked as people were free to move around, thereby transmitting the virus.
Lockdown on Lagos, Abuja and Ogun, as announced by Mr. President was celebrated, at least within the first 24 hours. Then, he was accused for acting beyond his powers, some public commentators disagreed with the president’s stance. Yea, we had the liberty to push our biases, at least the numbers of confirmed cases are low, we could still rationalise between law and national health emergency. Just before you say, the law will always be the law, France, Germany, Spain, Italy are other respected democracies which has total lockdown and also restricted gatherings of persons maximally, because the infection and death rates are huge. For them, it is an emergency, so the people understood that they must first be alive, then have a nation before you talk of law or peoples’ rights.
I said in my opening, that both the people and the government are behaving confused. We have a lockdown imposed (rightly or wrongly) and in less than 24 hours after, we completely lost the whole essence of the restriction. Let me quickly point this out. Such lockdown is assumed to be a strategy to contain the community spread and in our case in Nigeria, it was designed to restrict the movement of suspected imported cases, their contacts and to mop up.
Sooner than it was announced, the first sign of a problem with the whole process leading to the announcement emerged. One of the key state “dissociated” from it, the governor delayed its implementation in his state by 2 days. Rightly again, a 14 day lockdown should not have been ambushed, their should have been arrangements to provide palliatives for the people, especially the indigent among us. Two things are absolutely wrong here. First, it shows that Mr. President did not carry the affected state governors along in contemplating a total lockdown. Second, assuming (and I hope it is) the suspected cases were successfully lockdown in Lagos, Ogun State haven delayed its lockdown, created a window for the Covid-19 Virus to spread further unrestricted, especially because of its proximity to Lagos with high incidents, obviously the two governments acted confused, unsure of why they wanted the lockdown.
So, when states are at liberty to relax the lockdown on certain days, it tells us that the government is no longer sure of its intentions. Wouldn’t it rather be more beneficial to have a total lockdown for 7 days and achieve results, rather than the 14 days forced lockdown that looks more like a jamboree? The danger of this half baked process is that whatever advantage achieved on the lockdown days are simply rubbished when you create windows to relax it. The virus spread as people move freely. I heard that many states where we have the Governors impose lockdown and social distancing, have now relaxed it on Fridays and Sundays in some instances, so that the people can go to the mosques or churches. Which country fools itself like we do (playing religion with governance). The Christian Good Friday and Easter Sunday are not dates just discovered, didn’t we envisage it while contemplating a lockdown? when governments are not sincere with their policies over time, suspicions creep in.
If you still insist that we’re not a confused people and government, what will you say about a state governor celebrating his birthday in the office, with participants crowding together to be seen, in clear disregard of a social distancing order issued by the governor. How about the people who are suppose to protect themselves by maintaining social distance, but chose to celebrate a birthday party or decided to crowd up at the mosque or church, just as others see the lockdown as opportunity to socialise. For many, social distancing and lockdown is a favour too expensive to extend to government.
What is it we really want? We must understand that to have a nation is to first keep yourself safe, to have a church or mosque is to first keep yourself safe. In this circumstance, social distancing is not a luxury it is an essential to life. For the government, as we approach the end of this 14 days contraption, reflect if it has achieved its purpose and if you must extend it, decide whether what our economic realities can adjust to is a 5, 7, or 14 day total lockdown.