Anybody reading today’s discourse is likely to know that the world is currently being ravaged by a plague named Coronavirus. As it is, no part of the world is spared, not even Europe and America. In fact by the time I was writing this, Italy and Turkey had registered the highest casualties, surpassing even China, which was the first country to come under attack. America, France and Germany, all three of them very developed nations with sophisticated healthcare systems have not been finding things easy at all. The casualty rates in these countries are not just alarming, it has happened at a rate the world is surprised.
The epidemic which the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared to be a pandemic is a non-issue for people like us; this is because as long as the world exists the human race must expect such developments once in a while. It can come by way of natural occurrence or through reckless acts of men. Many of us don’t know this and many who know don’t want to publicly acknowledge this, that everyday an unseen war goes on between nations. Countries fight for political, economic and even social superiority and dominance and nothing is withheld in prosecuting these conflicts, including weapons of mass destruction. Biological warfare has been with us for over 400 years; this is why for some of us what is important is how countries react, especially the seriousness and systematic approach they apply in the search for quick and sustainable answers.
The current threat started from the Chinese city called Wuhan, a town that harbours that country’s biggest and most sophisticated military laboratory. The virus to an extent appeared unique and its effect very devastating, so even if the Chinese created it, am not saying they did, they were obviously shocked and thrown off balance by what they had on their hands. But I commend their approach; in the midst of a terrible situation the leadership was calm and inspiring in their reactions. We saw initiatives and creative ones at that; they began with streamlining their information and communication channel; this way there was uniformity in the information given or taken, this way they were able to remove confusion, conflicting statements and positions that only could provoke fear.
They brought in this reassurance tactics which seemed to have passed the message to the citizens that, ‘Yes, but the country has a terrific situation on its hands it did not amount to a death sentence.’ They began to take practical actions to show that one could be hit by the disease but even at that the nation has capacity to reverse situations and to keep her citizens alive and healthy once again. Against what was a common occurrence, the Chinese government accessed virgin lands and within a space of seven days built up several one thousand bed hospitals of international standard as quarantine centre for Coronavirus victims. While this went on many Nigerians made a joke of it and not a few predicted the buildings could collapse and become a new source of trouble. As you read this those hospitals are standing and serving the purposes for which they were intended. The last is what I describe as the final solution – research and discovery of appropriate drugs for the virus, and trust them they found one and as you read this, China is winning the war against the deadly virus. It is even instructive that in the midst of their own calamity, Jack Ma, a Chinese billionaire and founder of Alibaba.com could find the comfort to spend millions of dollars to procure medical materials for other nations including Nigeria, our country. We received it, what a shame!
America’s initial reaction was to tacitly mock China; they were accusing the Chinese of incomplete disclosure and at each turn demanded full disclosure of the effect of the virus on the Chinese people. Those who are verse in international politics know what this means. If China is terribly devastated what it will mean is that China that has increasingly been seen as equal to America, the world super power, would henceforth be seen as having not attained that level, such acknowledgement has economic implication too. America that thought it was invisible and perhaps immune to what was happening in China woke up one morning to find out that the enemy was not as far as they thought; in fact the virus was now within. Nevertheless, I like their reaction. They raved up the health system and began the search for their own ultimate answer to the menace. As you read this they have found a drug which President Donald Trump has said they will ship abroad to help other nations hit by the Coronavirus. Hmmm, making money from peoples’ miseries and that is the way it has been as Muamar Gaddafi of Libya once told us: “They will create viruses themselves and sell you the antidotes, thereafter they will pretend to take time to find the solution, when they already have it.” This is the unequal relationship the developed world has created between us and them.
For our country, we began from nonchalance and then entered the hysteria mode. Now we are in the panic mode. Our governments don’t act in proactive manner. Otherwise some of the epidemics won’t find a ground here. The officials at the National Centre for Disease Control operate in the manner of civil servants; they come to work in the morning, do routine jobs and go. It is also possible we don’t plan until crisis times otherwise most of these viruses are not new except that they come in a slight different version. Ebola was not new and yet we had no clinical solution. For months Coronavirus was there, tearing away at Chinese. A country as rich as Nigeria with highly qualified scientists would have gone after the virus, collected samples and given us simple answers like if the virus can thrive here even if they could not find the drug. And I don’t know why our scientists can’t find answers to such diseases.
Prof. Maurice Iwu and another lecturer at the University of Agriculture, Umudike, have come out to say they have answers but typical of us, none of us including government is looking at them. But if the news were from China, Israel, America, Cuba and other such places abroad, every one of us would begin to clap including the mad man on the street. Now see what we are doing, we are running on the panic lane, every one of us running for his dear life. Members of the National Assembly, some who refused to be screened at the airport upon from foreign trips, have no closed shop and adjourned plenary. Governors are barking out orders from different perspectives. Churches, schools, markets, businesses have been ordered to close and citizens to stay indoors. The question is, after the lockdown, what next?