By Festus Yisa

While it is a non-debatable fact that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the fall of many, it has also resulted in the rise of several others. One other fact that would also forever be boldly etched in the annals of history is the unsurprising proof by Nigeria, as a state/people, that we have collectively chosen to tenaciously cling to the chalice of failure, no thanks to COVID-19.

President Muhammadu Buhari 

Although attributing failure to the captains of the Nigerian state has become a cliché; it is also imperative to examine how much even the masses have contributed a fair share in facilitating the sinking of the Nigerian ship in the “Bermuda”, particularly in the face of the deadly virus that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide.

In other climes of ideals very far away from Nigeria, the losers from the COVID-19 pandemic range from the deceased to the infected, down to the millions of employees who have lost their jobs as a result of this ugly incident that has literally brought the world’s economy to a standstill. On the other hand, the winners include its survivors, likewise the producers/suppliers of essential goods and products such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), ventilators, hand sanitizers, food stuff for palliatives and so forth. What a fair play with winners and losers!

But back here in Nigeria, the winners and losers from this virus comprise a mixed grill of uniquely peculiar, deceptive, kleptocratic, ignorant, gullible, corrupt, arrogant and confused Nigerians, to mention but a few adjectives to qualify them; a people who arrogantly reject screening and quarantine upon their return in the country; a people who flag off the beginning of their end by delaying the closure of the country’s borders (if there are any) and international airports when the virus was already staring them in the face; a people who dubiously become overnight millionaires by commendably locking down some coronavirus hotspot states in the country with a promise of palliatives but end up sharing infested and dirty rice to some of the masses while they smile to the bank for diverted funds; a gullibly ignorant people who either believe that the coronavirus is a scam, or even if it is not, their God(s) would protect them from contracting it irrespective of their hygiene and lifestyle; a people who unpatriotically storm the roads without any essential cause, and bribe their way through some of the security checkpoints to and from their destinations; a people who neither maintain  social distance nor avoid mass gathering at the burial of a COVID-19 victim – Chief of Staff to their President, Late Mr Abba Kyari; a people who hastily and unwisely move to ease a lockdown when the COVID-19 infection curve is still ascending; a people who have tested less than 1 percent of their entire population for COVID-19, yet have ran to ease lockdown.  What a tale of unanimous failure!

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I can bet that this may not augur well with many, but I belong to a pragmatic school of thought which strongly advocates for a bold line to be drawn between religion and governance. This is because, if institutionalized pari parssu, history and research have shown that interference tends to be inevitable since both ventures are premised on very different and conflicting principles, hence hampering the smooth running of a state, empire or enclave, as the case may be.

To buttress this point, cast your mind back to the gullibly ignorant group of Nigerians I mentioned earlier, who irrespective of their hygiene and lifestyle, believe that their God(s) will save them from COVID-19, or who even believe that the pandemic is a hoax. Such persons ignorance and religious beliefs apparently do more harm than good to governance in the wake of the fight against the novel coronavirus.

In another instance, navigate your mind to Kano State in which the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging and colossal, hence prompting President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a total lockdown therein, only for that decision to be reversed following the appeal by the state governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, arguing that if not, it would amount to extreme hardship on the masses, particularly the Muslims observing a month of fasting (Ramadan) as this, according to him, would hamper their ability to obtain food stuff in order to break fast. Although in all fairness, his argument is very plausible and a contender for preeminence, it however, falls short of greater good, which at the moment is the bid to curb the spread of the deadly virus. But alas! Here comes another tale of failure whereby, good governance has once again been sacrificed on the altar of religion.

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By and large, President Buharis directive on the gradual easing of the lockdown and introduction of an almost dusk to dawn curfew come May 4, 2020, is rather hasty, untimely, faulty and wrong in its totality. The substitution of the lockdown for curfew, forces me to wonder if the novel coronavirus moves about or spreads only at night. From another fair standpoint, the gradual easing of the lockdown must have been informed by the need to rescue the countrys already shambolic economy that is on a COVID-19-induced top gear speed imminently heading for the rocks. But I still wonder if it is correct to prioritize the health of a country’s economy over that of its citizens.

Furthermore, as lofty and practicable as the Presidents phased and gradual lockdown guidelines appear – as published by the Boss Mustapha – led Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 – the uniquely peculiar nature of fellow Nigerians cannot, will not and shall not ever allow for the smooth workability of those guidelines. How many Nigerians will religiously agree to wear face masks, wash their hands regularly, maintain social distance, avoid mass gatherings, and refrain from nonessential intra and inter-state movement?

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As fellow Nigerians step out on Monday April 4, 2020, I can bet my pound of flesh that in a fortnight, the figures of the COVID-19 cases would have risen to unimaginable numbers; the biological bomb would take an untold toll on every section and class of the citizenry; accusing fingers would be pointed from every direction: While the government would be attempting to exonerate itself by claiming that the lockdown was eased based on public outcry, the masses would be accusing the government of depriving them of palliatives during the lockdown, hence their resolve to die trying rather than of hunger.

In the end, it would be engraved on the marbles of history that the failure by the Nigerian state in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic was a collective one, orchestrated by the followers and the followed.

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