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COVID 19: Africa go survive the ‘viruses in power’

No doubt, the virus called Corona is in power around the world, killing innocent lives and rendering big nations helpless. COVID 19 is an unexpected game-changer, and its memory will linger on just like the Spanish flu that ravaged the world in 1918 with scores of deaths and economic effects.


Nigeria go survive. The world will survive the Coronavirus. Africa go survive the viruses in power, ravaging her people whether we like it or not. Veno Marioghae, a Nigerian singer, released a song, Nigeria go survive in 1984 when there was a clamour for social amenities. In the song, Veno said we go survive even if they drink or steal our oil. She reminded us of our endowments- the cocoa in the west, rubber in Benue, palm wine in the east and groundnut in the north of Nigeria. Her song was a ray of hope for the deprived Nigerians when it was released with encouragement for Nigerians (Andrew don’t check out) not to check out of the country. Three decades after her song, there are still deficiencies in social amenities and failure of institutions in Africa to protect her people from her leaders who have been enriching their pockets and families to the detriments of the majority living in poverty.


The pandemic called COVID-19 is a virus that will expose the deficiency in Africa’s health care system and social amenities. Coronavirus is levelling the ground between the rich and the poor, the majority and the influential minority in power.  The Andrews cannot check out for medical tourisms to enjoy the facilities of the developed world. Spain, Italy, UK and USA where the leaders would have flown to with the taxpayers’ money are struggling to cope even with their advanced medical capacity.


Now that we are all locked down in Africa, and the world cannot help with aids and grants, the next song is which way Africa and Nigeria.


Which way Nigeria? Sonny Okosun’s song released in the same 1984, highlighting the social injustice. In the song, Okosun said we made mistakes during the oil boom, some people have many things while many have nothing, we gained independence many years, and we are yet to start. It appeared we are not learning from history and the ravaging virus is not this one that affects everyone equally but the one we developed and encouraged with our decaying values. Even with the Coronavirus, it is still a case of George Orwell’s animal family. All animals are equal, but some are more equal than the other.


Take Nigeria, for example. The 131 people tested positive, 8 discharged and 2 dead as at the time of writing is a good figure for a population of 200million people. The fear is the state and capacity of Nigeria’s healthcare system to cope with the increasing spread of the virus imported into the country through inevitable travelers and indiscipline on the part of the people who refuses to be tested at the point on entry. The healthcare system is grossly inadequate for half of the population, and its quality cannot be attested for by those who are responsible for building it. If not for the global presence of Mr Corona, the Chief of staff and the governors tested positive so far would have been airlifted abroad for treatment. Even as it is, they would have a preference above the people they are to serve. The available testing kits and spaces in the hospitals will be for the very important personalities as we call them. Now that the foreign medicals which are the first option and the desired one is not available, the available is now desirable. It is a battle of influence for the available COVID19 facility.


Africa and Nigeria have survived lots of self and leadership inflicted havocs like civil wars, corruption, poverty and killings before the COVID-19. I am sure we will survive this notwithstanding how it turns out. Are we going to learn or change? Will the songs Nigeria go survive and which way Nigeria still be relevant in the next three decades?


From the Abacha loots to the huge dollars found with Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s ousted president, to the uncovered institutional corruption and leaders’ greed, we have enough resources to build the best healthcare system for our people. We are endowed with enough resources to support our population in times of need like this. The social media clamour of some day-dreaming people for the government to credit the bank accounts of the 40million Nigerians with bank identification numbers (BVN) with money to cushion the effects of the lockdown is doable except for the reaping impacts of our ‘viruses in power’ (VIP). We have been ravaged with the effects of the viruses in power in the past, in the present or in the future. Our money is with the few we have elected or selected and created a system to protect.  Now that no one can take a medical vacation, they will grab the few available facilities as if the lives of the rulers are superior to the lives of the electorates.


At this trying time, we cannot but thank the private sectors and the corporate world that is taking the lead to save lives in Nigeria. Whether they are allies to the VIP or benefitted from government policies is not relevant. What matters is their availability to fund and support the course to save humanity with their legitimately earned resources. The names on the list of the committees of the Private Sector Coalition against COVID19 are heroes and the very important personalities of this time. All the companies and their shareholders that are contributing to save lives are essential friends of Nigeria. Imagine these private sector personalities have the fund they have invested in providing employments stalked in foreign accounts like some of our VIPs, the benefits of their support at this crucial time of need would have been lost forever.


We cannot deny Lagos as the Centre of excellence given the response from Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his team. Lagos is now the new medical tourist centre ahead of the seat of money and power- the almighty Abuja. Even before Abuja could gather her thought, Sanwo-Olu’s team knows the way to go. We can claim Abuja stole Lagos’ curfew agenda and stepped Lagos down for Abuja to make the announcement. Afterall the big brother must be relevant at this time. And the President must do his most important duty- to show Nigerians he’s alive and healthy to read speeches prepared by people who needed the power than him.


With Nigeria’s five hospital beds per 10,000 population and less than 25000 hospitals according to the ministry of health’s health facility census a decade ago, there is need for the lessons of the COVID19 not to be ignored.


No doubt we need strong institutions. We cannot rely on the current political structure and most of the personalities in power who are entrenched with the use of religion and ethnic sentiments to remain relevant for their benefits alone. We need people like the private sector leaders with different agendas and mindset aside from getting rich to be the people power to survive any coming virus after COVID19 and to tame the virus of hunger, unemployment, poverty and all other poor indexes in Africa.


The private sector-based economy is not enough to help Africa. A private-sector mentality in governance in terms of efficiency and accountability is the chloroquine against the virus in power. We need people who are not poor, do not need to steal the commonwealth of all with richness in private sector experience and records to show for it to be in power. Though the current system will not allow anyone to make changes, we must however change the people and the mindset to see the change required. Imagine only one house of assembly member clamouring for the reduction in the unproductive jumbo pay for members or in pushing for the buying of made in Nigeria cars from Innocent in Nnewi for the members. That lone voice will be silenced quickly by the other VIPs and the party on whose platform he was elected. We need quantum change and replacement of the VIPs with a new one who will put Nigerians and building institutions ahead of the 2020 Toyota Camry purchased for few at the cost of 6 ventilators to save lives or ahead of 2023 elections when the promises of 1999 campaigns were yet to be delivered.


After COVID19, the average Nigerians whose lives have been saved needs the private sector people to go beyond donations and crisis support. We need new VIPs to replace the effects of the past focus on religion, power and money in a system that deny many for few.


Howbeit, Nigeria Go Survive. We will survive Coronavirus and the Viruses in Power.


Which way Nigeria go survive is the question waiting for an answer.


Babs Olugbemi

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