Coronavirus is called novel because it is new and has trumped up unique issues and circumstances not ever seen before. It has attacked lives and not spared livelihoods worldwide. It has separated families even unto death. Demystified the purported greatness of individuals and countries. The greatest individuals and countries on earth seem to be the worst hit. Shamed scientists who have struggled to find a cure or vaccine for it for months without success prompting US President, Donald Trump, to ask his scientists to consider injecting or ingesting the covid-19 patients with disinfectants to clear the coronavirus internally the way they clear them externally. Embarrassed doctors and nurses who watch helplessly in tears their patients die before them without an iota of idea of what to do. Rubbished the myth of wealth which saw their owners die in front of them with little help to render. Established the inviolability of the scriptures that vanity upon vanity, all is vanity.
Life has been defined as the period of animate existence of an individual. It is the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally. Livelihood, on the other hand, is a means of supporting one’s existence, especially financially or vocationally. Therefore any situation that attacks one’s livelihood directly affects one’s life because livelihood is the means of upholding one’s life. Without food, there can be no metabolism which leads to growth and sustenance of life. Without livelihood, there may not be food to eat except one gets help from external sources. So when Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”, it is simply saying that the government is under a duty to protect both the lives and livelihoods of the citizens. Security there means lives while the welfare there signifies livelihoods.
The first reaction of governments all over the world, including Nigeria, against the virus was to lockdown their countries in order to mitigate the rampaging effects of this virus on the health of the populace. Let us be clear, we are in a war against an invisible novel enemy called coronavirus. As is with any other war where the modus operandi of the enemy is unknown, there is a need for an intelligence gathering to understand the enemy and know how to tackle their onslaught against the people. So the initial lockdown by countries around the world, including Nigeria, was the right thing to do in order to understand the coronavirus and ways to deal with it. This initial lockdown was useful as it has helped eliminate some myths initially associated with this virus. At the outset, it was believed that the black men were somewhat immune to the virus, this has been debunked as more blackmen die from the disease in US and in other places. It was earlier believed that it will not survive in our tropical weather. This has also been debunked as people died from the disease in Nigeria and other tropical countries during dry season. The lockdown is also needed to help countries like Nigeria which have moribund health care services to build and equip emergency hospitals to treat patients of covid-19 which will inevitably skyrocket with time. Also it will help countries acquire testing kits for the proper diagnosis of the virus carriers.
These lockdowns have dealt heavy blows on the livelihoods of the citizenry. For the avoidance of doubts, the virus does not directly attack the livelihoods of the people, it attacks the lives of the people. It is not like the locust which attacks livelihoods but spare lives. Governments all over the world are sacrificing livelihoods in order to preserve lives. We must note that there’s a limit to the extent we can sacrifice livelihoods in order to preserve lives because eventually we need the livelihoods to preserve lives. So an equilibrium should be maintained between the two. The lockdown cannot go on forever before it gives way to the hungervirus which is more sinister. In any case, no greatest army in the world can lockdown a man with children who do not have money, light, water, food in the house. He will prefer to die fighting outside, or go mad or simply commit suicide. President Buhari acknowledges this situation when he said in his broadcast of Monday, 27th April, 2020, “Fellow Nigerians, for the past four weeks, most parts of our country have been under either Federal Government or State Government lockdown. As I mentioned earlier, these steps were necessary and overall, have contributed to slowing down the spread of COVID-19 in our country. However, such lockdowns have also come at a very heavy economic cost. Many of our citizens have lost their means of livelihood. Many businesses have shut down. No country can afford the full impact of a sustained lockdown while awaiting the development of vaccines. In my last address, I mentioned that Federal Government will develop strategies and policies that will protect lives while preserving livelihoods”.
This is the crux of the matter. How to secure the lives and livelihoods of the people. Let us state unequivocally that being infected with the virus is not a death sentence. We have identified four classes of effects on the people. The first 25% of the people will not be infected at all by the virus. No matter how fierce a war is, it cannot consume everybody. These are the ones that have divine providence over their heads to whom God has emphatically declared in Isaiah 41:10 “fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness”. The less religious simply refer to them as the fortunate and lucky ones. The next 25% are those that will contract the virus, but due to their natural immune system, will not fall sick. Their natural antibodies are strong enough to vanquish the virus without outside help. Unless tested, they might not even know they have the disease. The next 25% are the ones that will fall sick after contracting the disease but will recover after being treated. The last 25% are the people who will fall sick and may die or recover after protracted struggle with the virus.
So we have a situation where the battle for survival in the population is from the 25% of the people. So far, the highest number of deaths in any country is about 10% of the confirmed cases. Let us be clear, the death of one person is a death too many, so governments at all levels must endeavour to take all reasonable steps to secure the lives of everyone. However, since the lockdown cannot be forever and indeed should not be, each individual must endeavour to take personal steps to avoid contracting the disease as the lockdown eases. The most pleasant place to be is to be among the first 50% above. Pray hard to God, obey all the guidelines as provided by the NCDC, and build your immune system. The guidelines by the NCDC principally include physical precautions like regular washing of hands with soap and water, using sanitizers, face masks, hand gloves, maintaining social distancing, while boosting your immunity involves good diet, good exercise and good rest. Most importantly, if you do not have any serious business going outside, then stay at home. Work from home if you can. Life has no duplicate.
We must not pretend that we will follow the same model like the rich countries in fighting covid-19. Whereas US is investing about $4 trillion in paliatives. On the contrary, with the crash in international oil prize, our government has to borrow to even fund 50% of the 2020 budget. With about more than 80m persons below the poverty line, it will be an invitation to hungervirus for the government to embark on continual lockdown of the economy. However, the government must ensure a gradual, phased and careful easing of the lockdown to avoid an uncontrollable spike in new cases of the coronavirus. It is a thoughtful decision by the President to grant residual powers to the governors to vary national guidelines to suit their local circumstances. The Federal Government must be ready to lockdown any state that adopts a laisser faire attitude to its response to the covid-19 pandemic, until it takes care of infected people. Above all, governments at all levels must develop their testing capacities to ensure that all cases are quickly detected and all those exposed traced and treated. We have to start reopening our economy even as we continue working hard to protect our lives. Maintaining that equilibrium is the only reasonable way out.