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Monday, September 25, 2023

A Path We Must Not Travel Again

It is so sad that the COVID-19 pandemic got us napping in Nigeria, it exposed the cesspit called healthcare system each successive government have bequeathed to us as a people.

Would it be too outlandish for each of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria to have a well equipped and functioning primary and secondary healthcare centres? This pandemic exposed the stupidity of wealth, the global lockdown forced everyone, low and mighty to depend on the ill equipped and poorly funded sector. But do we really have to wait until such a time as now to realise that though Nigeria may be probably on the lowest ebb of income take home globally, a good and affordable healthcare system will place its people on the positive scale of good living standard. Definitely, this scourge will be over, we must however have a national discourse to help evolve a healthcare system that can withstand any future global disruption.

Never again should we as a people allow our leaders to take the nation for a ride. I know, we are in for a low key or “no key” anniversary of May 1 Labour Day and June 12 Democracy Day, we however expect government at all levels to make policy statements in the first instance, on what and how they intend to repackage the healthcare delivery with given time frame. This is not too much to expect. Other countries facing worse Covid-19 challenge are already talking about a post Covid-19 system, he can’t be caught napping again.

Politicians will always play politics. It has become a global norm that the safest and surest way to handle and contain the spread of the deadly virus is through observing social distancing, accompanied with a lockdown. China achieved the historic feat in Wuhan, the world epicenter of the virus spread by enforcing a strict lockdown of the city, little wonder they are out of the coronavirus crisis, while other countries with weak lockdown and social distancing observance are battling to keep the figures low. We must see the fight against the coronavirus as a matter of life and death, not time to display populism in governance.

The question must be answered, what do we intend to achieve with the lockdown? It shouldn’t be just to be seen acting busy, we have to have a system that will reduce community spread. Such effective lockdown will not give room for the temporary suspension of the lockdown enforcement, like we’ve seen in a couple of states for some religious and mundane activities.

Examples abound that the federal and also the state governments have not been firm enough in their approach towards winning the fight against the pandemic. Yea, we all agreed we failed to act firm enough before the first case was imported into Nigeria, that now is history, what actions are we as a people and as government taking in the now, to contain maximally the spread. Frankly speaking, every average Nigerian, if not all, are eager to be back to work in a safe and secured environment, so, let’s do whatever we have to do fast and effectively. It’s no time for the half baked approach of lockdown as witnessed in all the states. It is about choosing whether to live or to die, if we must LOCKDOWN, let’s have it TOTAL, even if it’s for 7 days rather than the self weakened 14 days we imposed on ourselves.

I’ve tried, though without success to rationalise why a lockdown should be suspended for citizens to attend the Friday Juma’at service or the Sunday service; playing the politics of religion with such issue as fighting a deadly virus. In Rivers State for instance, after the governor created an allowance for Easter Sunday service within the statewide imposed lockdown, the catholic church issued a release advising its members not to congregate for Sunday service because of the need to observe social distancing. That action by the Catholic mission is an example of how the people can correct the errors in governance. I hope other Christian and Moslem leaders will understand that a Covid-19 positive case can congregate with others on a Sunday or Friday thereby endangering others.

A similar mistake emerged from Katsina State, the government, in the midst of a lockdown also asked the people to observe the congregational Friday prayers at the mosque. As I write this CONVERSATION, the governor hurriedly reimposed the lockdown he lifted a few hours earlier, after some Covid-19 cases were discovered in the state. Assuming those positive cases had attended the Friday prayers with others, imagine how many lives that would possibly have been affected, just because someone fails to understand the dangers in the times that we are in.

We can go on with many examples of our state Chief Executives, from Cross Rivers, the governor was seen in a virile video saying that as long as you wear face mask, you no longer need to social distance; I wonder how he came about his much talked about scientific prowess. On the opposite end, Lagos government has showed a measure of firmness, we’ve seen the prosecution of violators of the lockdown order. Presenting grave implication of how tight the Lagos lockdown becomes, is how its very close neighbour, Ogun State handles its lockdown. Both states are potential threat to each other if there becomes a spike in Infection cases in either state; the must jointly execute mutual containment strategies,maybe this will be the right time for them to have the “Amotekun” kind of collaboration.

The path we must never travel again, is that route of weak response strategy of containment and weak healthcare system. But we desire the new path that demonstrates will and capacity in government actions. It is sure too early to suspend the lockdown, but a 7 day total and national lockdown will be more apt, we the people will support it, because we prefer to be lockedown and safe than to be free to move around and be endangered. The next presidential action plan that should be immediately unveiled to work independently of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, should be an advisory council on healthcare, with the mandate to help evolve a 3 year plan to jump start a dream healthcare system.


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