Following the outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus, the world is practically grounded, almost everything and everyone is at a standstill.
Medical personnel world over are now sought after just as every serious-minded nation is working round the clock to ensure the safety of her citizens, irrespective of their class and or beliefs.
However, in Nigeria, it is an entirely different scenario. Despite the huge sums assigned to health yearly, the covid 19 pandemic has shown how bare the country’s healthcare system is.
Year after year especially in the last five years, the Aso rock clinic, which supposedly attends to the President of Nigeria, his family, and other top office holders is assigned huge sums for drugs and maintenance of the hospital but covid 19 has shown otherwise. About two years ago, First Lady of Nigeria, Hajiya Aishat Buhari stunned Nigerians when she alleged that the hospital had become a shadow of itself and didn’t have syringes to administer injections. Nothing happened.
Following the outbreak of corona virus in Nigeria, the President’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari tested positive and some truth came out. He is alleged to have been flown to the Lagos treatment centre, as against the Aso rock clinic that has been receiving huge budgetary allocations for its maintenance and many asked why.
State governors are running helter skelter to provide functional isolation centres, forgetting that they had told us that they had built state of the art hospitals in their states.
Now, the authorities have discovered that because of the dangers of the virus, this is not the best time to travel abroad. No office holder wants to travel abroad suddenly! No country is willing to allow them.
Nigeria has over 170million people though some claim it is over 200million persons, with less than five million medical doctors, and less than 100 functional hospitals controlled by the government.
Assuming that about a thousand people contract the covid 19 virus, where will they stay? Where will the patients be kept? The heat is on already
Obviously the state governors have realised that their failure to equip hospitals may have caught up with them. Until recently, the norm was medical tourism as office holders always absconded abroad to treat themselves as though the people that voted them in are lesser beings.
Nigeria is touted to be the giant of Africa, a no mean feat. Yet the country lacks the capacity to conduct the needed covid 19 tests. Now, office holders have realized that they need to wait hours, if not days to confirm if they have contracted the virus.
Coincidentally, the virus appears to choose high office holders in Nigeria, especially governors, a situation that has made the people across different social media platforms to joke that corona virus is only after high political leaders and not the masses. But even the masses are at risk.
Is it not suicidal that Nigeria has less than 500,000 ventilators for her massive population? On newspapers and television stations, Nigerian governors regale people with how they have constructed the biggest hospitals in their states, fortunately covid 19 has exposed all that lies.
Lagos State appears to be the only state equipped to confront the challenges posed by the virus, while others are trying to set up theirs, in March 2020, even when the scourge broke out in 2019, most of them ignored calls for adequate measures to confront it.
However, government alone is not to blame. Due to the repeated calls for people to stay indoors for two weeks, the price of commodities simply skyrocketed by over 500 percent!
A pack of facemasks sold less than N500 in January and February, suddenly jumped to N500 for just a piece! This is not caused by government but unscrupulous business men and women who see the huge demand for facemasks and surgical gloves as business, and not opportunity to serve humanity!
Of course traders are not left out because the prices of foodstuffs have not just quadrupled, they are almost out of reach for many people. Call it man’s inhumanity to another and you may not be wrong. There have been repeated calls for financial support from government to Nigerians already verified by their bank accounts but that may never happen, as the government has ignored such moves.
Unfortunately, the bulk of Nigerians are daily earners, who get a living via daily transactions, especially millions of women, who daily transverse several kilometres to and fro trading places.
So many educated Nigerians have been reduced to labourers because of lack of jobs, they too have been affected by the covid 19 epidemic, for fear of being infected.
Yet, Nigerian politicians supposedly form the highest philanthropists during electioneering period when they move from community to community, trying to outdo themselves in who has grassroots support.
Just days ago, members of the House of Representatives received expensive choice cars imported, despite several calls against such moves, especially in the face of the havoc wrecked on the world economy, Nigeria inclusive but alas, they refused.
World over, organizations and individuals are donating to government to help treat victims of corona virus infection and to find a permanent cure for the virus, but not so for members of the green chambers. It is probably only in Nigeria that the elected feel that they are doing their constituents a favour by offering services and good governance.
The covid 19 epidemic has shown how unprepared Nigeria is to confront emergency situations, despite her huge resources, in manpower and deposits. If only other developed countries will pass a law that prohibits office holders from Nigeria from assessing healthcare from them. That way, we are sure that hospitals in the country will be equipped with the necessary manpower and equipment. If developed countries will pass a law to safeguard their healthcare system, any politician from Nigeria should no longer be allowed to spend more than a week holiday abroad, then Nigeria officials will immediately develop every sector. Lagos state government has shown that with commitment, it can organise a hospital from start to finish within one week, to cater for corona virus victims.
The days ahead will be tasking for the nations but more tasking for Nigeria. Until the people unite and demand good governance, corruption will continue to hold sway, because one thing is sure, the covid 19 experience has shown that the world will not remain the same way again, how prepared is Nigeria and her people to adjust to new realities is a poser for another day.
•Blessings Duru of Alliance for Africa writes from Owerri, Imo State