The world currently is under a big threat. This is no longer the big news. Rather, the big news is that the threat posed by Coronavirus has become so complicated that it has thrown most countries into a quagmire. The response of some countries has been according to their peculiarities and others have been just imitations, whereby such governments are running after what they see happen in the developed countries. Some of my friends described the act last week as “cut and paste.” What this means is that there have been different results for different nations.
Some of the countries, believing in the strength of their organization, took the path of no lockdown or restrictions. It is especially the case with the Scandinavian countries. Denmark for instance since early last week ordered the resumption of studies in all her educational institutions. Germany managed the crisis so well that so far the victim ratio has remained tolerable. Last week also, the talk of opening all facets of the society including her football league was high and pervasive. The strength of that nation is in the ability of her health system to dictate and arrest the invasion of any ailment, Coronavirus inclusive. In Britain where the damage has been so much, the method of their reaction has been interesting and instructive. The leadership has been stable, calm and very systematic.
The British had a lockdown quite alright but they could take that part because the system is a structured one, the government could provide food directly to the targeted groups, they improved on the social welfare allowance, placed moratorium on mortgages and debt repayments. It was from that country I learnt that serious countries go after a plague and not wait. The British gathered a team of scientists from across the country, gave them a base at Cambridge University and charged them with the responsibility to study the virus and provide quick solutions. Some of these experts went to China to understand firsthand what was happening and to collect samples for the experimentations; it was from one of the experts that the world got to know that the Coronavirus that hit England is of a different strain from the one that plagued China and some parts of Asia. They were emphatic that a process of mutation had taken place.
By early last week also they were mooting the thought of relaxing restrictions and opening the society to their citizens once again. Russia didn’t go the way of lockdown but it closed its international borders, reassessed the health sector and put all the systems on high alert. Japan and South Korea said their countries could not afford an economic lockdown because it could amount to a case of double jeopardy. After Italy, America is the next worst hit before Spain, but America only went on selective lockdown. In spite of the high casualty figures, by last week there were still arguments whether there should be general lockdown, continuation of limited restriction in some states or total relaxation of all restrictions.
In the American case the world could see a classical example of democracy and a real concern for the welfare of the citizens. Like we have seen in most Third World countries, because health is involved all manner of restrictions are being imposed and pursued with tyrannical zeal. Public officers are enforcing the laws with a kind of zealousness never applied in the execution of public policies, because if they applied the same tenacity in keeping citizens to their houses, the great backwardness and underdevelopment we see would not have been. In some of our states, the dreaded virus is yet to consume a victim but more citizens have been dispatched to untimely death, a consequence of brutality by law enforcement officials. In the American case, citizens come into the street to protest and to say what they want.
Even with the high casualty figure in that country, citizens in some of the states poured into the streets to no restrictions and to demand relaxation of those imposed already. The placards were very instructive; one said, “Even Pharaoh freed slaves during plagues;” another had this one, “Freedom trumps safety”, a very creative allusion to President Donald Trump, liberty and also the need for safety. What they are saying is that the fight can go on without compromising freedom available to citizens. This inference is captured more vividly by one of the placards with the inscription, “Live free or die, give me liberty or give me death.” America like Britain has given emphasis to upgrading the hospitals, pursuing other containment measures including going for the ultimate solution, which is the production of locally made vaccine. The central government is more inclined to relaxation of already placed restrictions in some areas than adding to it and that is because they know that health is important just as the economy is very important. A healthy man must eat else he goes by way of hunger virus.
A critical review of our approach would throw up the conclusion that our leaders left substance to chase shadows; in times of deep societal crisis, the leadership must be calm, calculative and driven by sound reasoning. This way the led gain reassurance and their confidence is rebuilt to assume that whatever threat is facing the society is definitely not to death and that with careful and reasoned approach the challenge would be reversed within the shortest possible time. This is not what our leadership has done, they have been high on fear and hysterics; they have spoken of bigger fears than they have done of systematic solution. At the time they should have closed the international borders, they didn’t, but when they did there was no conviction to it. They ordered the lockdown in the society which is okay but to stretch it for more than two weeks in a society where about 70 per cent live at subsistence level is akin to committing genocide.
The threat is of a huge nature yet it took so much time for the President to offer leadership. The President and the governors have taken to broadcast and avoiding forum and sessions where they can talk and questions would be taken. Our fight back system has become like a money making venture, when the federal government gave Lagos State N10 billion naira to fight the virus and failed to give the other states. It was an approach that was bound to reproduce itself in higher number of victims across other areas, whether such victim were true or not was of no consequence.
Nobody is placing emphasis on equipping the health workers and the hurriedly established isolation centres. No emphasis on insurance scheme for those on the frontline or special hazard allowances. Nobody is giving so much emphasis to local content. Though local professionals have said they have a solution, but in our traditional style nobody is looking their way. Innoson’s company in Nnewi had said with little funding they can produce ventilators. No one is listening; we all are waiting for imported ones including vaccines that will be produced by developed nations. We are waiting until developed nations say they have opened their societies then we react. That is not reasonable, even Ghana has shown us we can be independent in our choices and decisions.