The title of this piece is partially borrowed from The Merchant of Venice. It is actually a 16th century play authored by the legendary William Shakespeare.
It tells of how a merchant in Venice, Antonio, defaulted on a large loan provided by Shylock. And the Jewish moneylender wanted nothing but a pound of Antonio’s flesh. It was written somewhere between 1596 and 1599.
What is playing out in Nigeria’s COVID-19 situation is nothing but awkward merchandising. Ours is bloody, more than the mere “pound of flesh” in The Merchant of Venice. We turned it over to be a lucrative industry of no small means. What a cash cow!
We appear to have been wired for absurdities, distortions and frivolities. These is the hard stuff we are made of. And we care less. We heedlessly display these traits in abundance at any given opportunity.
COVID-19 couldn’t have been an exception. It is amazing we could treat the rampaging pandemic in such a trivial, unserious manner.
For COVID-19, money is the tonic. Nobody doubts coronavirus any longer. It exists and is very much with us. The greedy among us are making a huge scam out of it. Their bank accounts keep on swelling unchallenged. It is becoming more scandalous, just as the COVID-19 Presidential Task Force (PTF) daily briefing is receding to boredom.
We are pained to the marrow. We are being swindled helplessly. As long as funds flow, COVID-19 will continue to thrive and prosper at the same time. I seriously align. If the money dries up, the pandemic will disappear with the speed of light.
Those figures being churched out from the PTF’s factory no longer scare us. We are not fixated anymore. We will not give attention to their words of discouragement. They are not helping matters. And we do not care a hoot.
We are being frightened to prepare for worst times ahead. They keep on playing small gods. They vow these perilous times will not end so soon, that we are in a long distance race. They are happy dampening our morale.
They keep on rolling out fire-brigade initiatives. These are largely reactionary steps, instead of being pro-active. They are very complacent, taking things in their stride. That is why they go back and forth, neither here nor there. They are determined to break our strong resolve to survive the pandemic. But we are resolute. With or without them, we will come out of this pestilence stronger.
COVID-19 has become a viable factory. That is what the PTF has turned it into. The only raw material of the factory is money. And it is rolling in ceaselessly in all denominations.
That is why abhorrent and abominable actions and inactions are being carelessly thrown up and celebrated. So sad. One of such distorted actions is the “ongoing” home feeding for schoolchildren.
What sense do we want to make out of this? Despite the huge outcry and criticisms, the Federal Government is “forging” head. It insists the weird policy must be implemented to the very letter.
This is how Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq explained it: “The model is to give food ration to the households where these children come from. We have identified them, we know their communities and we know all the households.”
The masterminds have a tall ambition. The minister was confident it would work out. Her excitement knew no bounds: “We are reaching out to 3.1 million households.
“It is in that place where we are going to keep the food ration that we will distribute the vouchers and then they will come to pick up their own ration.”
Umar-Farouq believed the programme would be hitch-free, almost without hiccups, no setbacks. She swore: “We have done all the processes. Food ration will be distributed door-to-door, with vouchers allocated at specific collection times to avoid over-crowding.”
The vouchers will be redeemed at designated, distribution centres. With this, the minister and her team went to town. The first port of call was, of course, Abuja. They were undeterred, restive and restless.
This home feeding is also one reason COVID-19 may be here with us for a long time. That is why it has attracted severe attacks. The African Action Congress (AAC) said: “It will be an uphill task to locate these children in their respective homes, as most of them are resident in rural areas.
“We are shocked by this ill-conceived, irrational, undigested and not properly thought out programme when there are better and creative ways to manage the concerns and needs of Nigerians amidst COVID-19 pandemic. It is outrageous, embarrassing and a mockery of our national intelligence.
“It is inconceivable that Umar-Farouk, who earlier described the programme as a disaster, will now be so passionate about it and going the extra mile of extending it to schoolchildren at home.”
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) agreed: “We are completely shocked that this same person who only few weeks back admitted that she was unaware of how to proceed with the school feeding programme had surprisingly told the bewildered nation that the school feeding programme that is ravaged by administrative and operational corruption of monumental proportions would go on.”
We are convinced the programme, like others before it, is simply a drainpipe. It is to siphon taxpayers’ money to enrich some unscrupulous individuals.
This factory is clearly not in our best interest. Stop supplying the factory with its raw material, which is money. Then its deadly product, COVID-19, will be out of our market.
We wonder aloud. In other climes, authorities are honest with thier citizens. You see where they are treating their COVID-19 positive-tested citizens. When they die, you equally see military trucks especially in Italy, conveying the dead from mortuary to the graveyard. Here , they only release figures. No more, no less.
So? Come, let us reason together. Let us kill COVID-19 even now. Or its absurdities would continue to be our lot. And these absurdities are staring us in the face.
If we refuse to kill the COVID-19 factory, the factory will kill us. Money is the raw material, the clear language it understands. That makes it highly lucrative and viable. Stop pumping funds into the industry. That is the way to stop the rising figures. It is the way to go.
Let us dare to try it. And we will be exceedingly glad we did.