Without a doubt, the statistics about COVID-19 are still not good as the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths continue to rise. No matter the gloomy figures being recorded, the fact is that the number of infected people who have recovered from COVID-19 is far, far higher than the number of people who died from the pandemic. Of course, it has caused global economic disruption and the world is reeling from the horrendous effect, but one fact is that the ‘dignity of man’ is being gradually restored as the various governments strategise on how to reopen their battered economies.
I would not know the number of readers of this column who received phone calls from friends that ran like this: “I called to check on you and your family. I hope you and yours are keeping safe? How are you people today?” Such gestures went a long way and touched people deeply, warmly. With the coming of COVID-19 and its impact by waking up people to the urgent need to keep a tab on other family members, neighbours and colleagues. Checking on one another strengthened many dying relationships unconsciously, especially among family members. It brought about the fact that all humans have become equal for once in a lifetime. Greetings in public places now come with decorum as the five magic expressions which include ‘Please, Excuse me, Sorry, Thank you and Pardon me’ have once again come into the language collection of most people. When these words are applied, relationship with others seems a lot easier, because anger and bitterness have been caged to some extent. It has reconnected people back to sanity and morals. The unnecessary show of arrogance in public places has greatly reduced.
Make no mistake about this, the rapid harvest of death occasioned by COVID-19 made it clear that no country is greater than the other. Every country now sees the importance of other countries. It is noteworthy that the pandemic hit the acclaimed world powers the most. Most Africans who felt life was better enjoyed in foreign countries have come to realise that good and bad things happen everywhere. They are now residing in their own various countries, appreciating what they have and not fighting over airplane to visit other countries. When such massive tourism is made, it boosts the economy of other countries while it cripples African economies the more. Surprisingly, no one is scrambling to fly out for summer holidays. Families who considered it compulsory to travel out every summer are stuck here, alive and surviving. Usually, February and March are the designated months to book tickets for summer holiday, which is not a bad idea anyway, but these months passed and people are still living happily here. Before COVID-19, it was difficult to convince some people that foreign countries do not have blueprint ready-made answers to all challenges. They are ahead in some cases while others are better in some quarters. Africans have excelled and failed in some endeavours while foreign countries have the win-win goal and loss.
Obviously, blacks do not regard whites as being superior anymore. Instead, there is rather mutual respect now. There was this story about some siblings who made it back home from America during the beginning of the lockdown and met their family members running away from them. What was the reason? Even after their 14-day isolation in Lagos before they travelled to their village, people came saying that they came back with COVID-19 and they did not want to be infected. The former practice of running around a US-returnee to get a dollar gift ceased immediately. It will take some people time before the rat race of rushing off to the United States and other foreign countries for holidays and schooling will start again.
When Madagascar, a third world African country, produced its COVID-19 remedy which worked for them in their own little corner, Nigeria among other giants who are not on the same radar with Madagascar became interested in their solution. Now, the country through the mercy of God broke a record that world powers now reckon with. Can one say the table has not turned in favour of such a tiny country? If the borders and airports become relaxed now, Americans, Europeans, Italians, etc would battle for a ticket to visit and stay in Madagascar, to enjoy the beauty of the country, spend their hard currency in the country and generally the economy of the island nation while relishing the local. Remember how the South African singer, Yvonne Chaka Chaka popularised her native brew, Ou-com-boti, and created excitement about it.
Before COVID-19, hotels, casinos, brothels, nightclubs, eatries, bars and other social joints that were almost taking over the entire life of human beings within and outside Nigeria have remained closed for the last three months, yet people have survived without eating in such places. There was a loud outcry when two hotels were demolished in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, to show the effect of the pandemic. The flagrant disregard of the regulations issued by the Rivers State government to curb the spread of the Coronavirus compelled the governor to order the demolition of the erring hotels, to serve as a deterrent to other offenders. The period of the COVID-19 also made many politicians who would not ordinarily look into the affairs of their constituencies to beat a hasty retreat. For once, most politicians remembered the people in their wards and gave them palliatives in the form of foodstuff, medications and money.
COVID-19 exposed the deep decay in the healthcare infrastructure and became a wake-up call for the federal and state governments to make huge investment in the health sector. In most African nations, the ban on international travel placed by various countries in response to the pandemic denied the political leaders and administrative elite opportunities to engage in their pastime of medical tourism. Now, instead of frivolities, pharmaceutical experts have been asked to engage in intensive research for the best of drugs. It is the earnest hope of Nigerians that long neglected healthcare sector will get priority attention going forward. Building and equipping hospitals should become item in the budget of both the federal and state governments.
In the course of the lockdown, congregational worship in churches was suspended. The reaction of some ministers of the gospel, who complained against the closure of churches, drew the ire of many people who felt such ministers were insensitive to the reality of the times. Some were even called out for their comments. There was no known report that any minister prayed for a COVID-19 patient and the person recovered. People will henceforth look at ministers of the gospel with some degree of reservation.
The truth of the matter is that most people have finally come to accept that truly that it is God Who heals, and not medical doctors. Yes, some people were already attributing healing powers to medical personnel in some homes. Really, the pandemic humbled some countries. All saw the Italian and Thai presidents break down in tears. They led their people to kneel on majors roads while praying to God. In all, God is the ultimate who turns things around for all to see. He is the unchangeable God!