The COVID-19 pandemic can be safely regarded as one disease that has seriously affected the way we live our lives like no other disease in recent memory. It has affected the way we move about and fraternize with fellow human beings. The disease has redefined the world of work that many workers now work from home. It has affected our mode of religious worship and schooling, trade and commerce.
The new normal arising from the pandemic is that we should learn to perform certain functions virtually or through online channels. Most bank services today are carried out online unlike before when people troop to the banking halls for every manner of transactions including money transfers and payment of bills that they can conveniently perform in the comfort of their rooms.
The pandemic has equally affected transportation, especially air travel to other countries which is yet to resume in the country. COVID-19 pandemic has equally affected governance to the extent that most government’s meetings are done through online platforms. The pandemic has led to so many crimes, especially robbery, rape and killings of people, as well as cyber-crimes.
The disease, like in most other countries, caught us unaware and highly unprepared. The state of our health facilities testifies eloquently our level of unpreparedness. It is commendable that despite the poor state of our healthcare system, we have not recorded so many deaths compared with countries in Europe and America. Africa till date remains the least affected continent.
The federal and state governments have played commendable roles in the fight to stem the spread of the disease with lockdowns, sensitization and precautionary measures. Without any vaccine yet for the dreaded disease and without any curative medicine in sight, the best way we can confront the disease still lies with more sensitization and keeping of all the precautionary measures against the spread of the disease.
We must continue with the wearing of face masks, keeping social distance, washing hands with soap and running water, using sanitizers and avoiding crowds, and working from home. Besides, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has made it clear that we have to live with the disease for so long until a vaccine is produced or a cure found.
In other words, the global health agency is reiterating that the pandemic has become a new normal which we must strive to live with just like other infectious diseases. Since COVID-19 pandemic has become something we cannot do without, there is urgent need to evolve new ways of doing things so that we cannot spread the disease as well as ensuring that the disease does not disrupt those things we should do for life to be meaningful. Interestingly, the government is gradually opening up the economy and other sectors.
Now, people can move about and go to the markets on specified days. Nigerians can now walk into the banks and do one thing or the other even though the queues are so long. They can now travel to the hinterland to bury their loved ones. Some people can marry as well. Goods and services can now freely move about without much extortion from the security agents who man the highways. However, there are two areas that have remained closed since the advent of the pandemic.
These are schools and worship centres. Apart from some schools that are using the online platforms to reach their students, many schools, from primary to tertiary institutions have remained closed since the disease came to Nigeria. The reason for this state of affairs for the schools and the worship centres is understandable. Considering the large number of people that will converge at these centres and schools when they are reopened, government is being careful in handling the issue of reopening them to avoid mass infection from the pandemic.
Despite these explanations, some religious people are becoming worried that markets are open and people go there with or without observing some of the precautions, airports are open, politicians are contesting elections, yet the worship centres and schools have been asked to remain closed in Lagos and some other states. Even the planned reopening of religious centres in Lagos was later postponed when they have made elaborate plans to welcome their worshippers. When the federal government mooted the idea of reopening schools for final year students, especially those taking the WASSCE, which is done throughout West Africa, parents and major stakeholders were elated that the students will be back to school on August 4 to enable them take the examination.
Taking the examinations will enable those who passed this year’s UTME to enter the university and other tertiary institutions. But the joy of the parents of the affected candidates was cut short when the same government reversed itself and insisted that the final year students in unity schools and other schools under the care of the federal government will not take this year’s WASSCE because the government did not consider it safe for them to return to school. It urged state governments to see reason with it and do the same. But the fate of WASSCE candidates in private schools was not considered. Also, the interest of those running private schools was probably not factored because they will lose a lot of money having been closed down for so long. Many of them can no longer pay their workers salaries. The situation is indeed precarious.
More problematic is the fact that Nigerian students will lose this year’s WASSCE if the federal government’s decision on the examination is not rescinded forthwith. While the pandemic has come to stay with us, we should not abandon every activity because of the unseen enemy. The closure of schools and worship centres should not remain indefinite. The government should put measure in place to enable final year students return to schools on August 4 and write their WASSCE as previously planned. If other countries in West Africa are doing the examination, Nigeria should not be an exception.
The Lagos State government should also tidy up the guidelines that will enable worship centres to reopen even if it means having a skeletal service on their days of worship for a few people. If the final year students are allowed to take WASSCE, the government will be in a better position to anticipate when all schools will reopen. Before then, all schools must embrace online teaching in addition to interactive classroom teaching. Since private universities have embraced the new form of learning, state and federal universities must follow suit. ASUU strike should not be interminable.
Happy Birthday to Peter Obi
On July 19, former Anambra State Governor and the Vice-Presidential candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) during the 2019 general election will be 59. We join millions of his numerous admirers to remember him for his development of the politics of Anambra State as well as redefining governance in the country in general. Obi’s lifestyle in and out of government is worthy of emulation. Those in government should learn one or two lessons from Obi on prudence in governance, especially now that the emphasis is on reduction of cost of governance.
His public speaking engagements have enlivened the national socio-economic discourse in recent years. As Nigerian democracy evolves, the need for people like Peter Obi in governance increases. Obi has remained a reference point in Nigerian politics because of his astute political vision and accomplishments while piloting the affairs of Anambra State.
As you celebrate this great milestone, it is our prayer that God will continue to strengthen you and give you the grace to do more in the service of the nation, God and humanity.