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#Covid-19: Nigeria And The Leadership Question

On the 11th of January 2020, China reported the first novel coronavirus related death of a 61-year-old man who had visited the animal market in Wuhan. Twelve days later, exactly on the 23rd, China took a proactive measure by imposing a strict lockdown in Wuhan, suspending flights and trains and shutting down subways, buses and ferries in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.

On the 21st of January after, a man in his 30s from Washington state, who had travelled to Wuhan, was the first diagnosed case of the deadly Coronavirus in the United States. A day before, Japan, South Korea and Thailand also report their first cases.

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On the 5th of February, more than 3,600 passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship were quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, Japan, while passengers and crew undergo health screenings. The number of confirmed cases on board the ship would eventually swell to more than 700, making it one of the largest outbreaks outside of China.

On the 14th of February, Africa recorded the first confirmed case on the continent in Egypt. Nigeria did nothing, the government made no pronouncements of proactive measures to fight the impending danger. On the 27th of February, the first known and confirmed case of coronavirus was recorded when an Italian citizen tested positive for the virus in Lagos, Nigeria. Consequently, on the 9th of March, the second case of the virus was reported in Ewekoro, Ogun State, of a Nigerian citizen who had contact with the Italian citizen.

The Lagos State government and the neighbouring Ogun State swung into action with measures aimed at containing the pandemic. The NCDC has also played its part based on its mandate to control diseases. But our borders remained opened without clear procedures to screen passengers and isolate both foreigners and Nigerians citizens coming from the already infected countries. The Nigerian government announced the closure of land borders on the 23rd of March when the virus had found its way into major cities, claiming its first victim and infected top government officials. How could a nation with the largest population in Africa, with obviously poor health system be so careless?

As at 26th of March, almost a month after the first case was discovered, Nigeria now has “officially” recorded fifty-one (51) cases, however, unofficial sources suggest that there many more infections than reported. Using Italy as a case study, as at 23rd of February, Italy had only five confirmed cases of virus and zero death. Today, a month later, there are over 74,386 cases and 7,503 deaths.

Judging by the timelines of the spread of the virus, Nigeria had all the opportunities to proactively minimize the spread, but just like every thing else instead of being prepared we chose to react. Between February and now, we did not make provision for isolation centres in the six geo-political zones, no deployment of healthcare practitioners or ventilators in readiness for the worst.

The government should have proactively shut down the borders over a month ago, even before any case is detected, and make special arrangements to quarantine Nigerian citizens returning into the country, in order to curb the spread of the virus. It is a known fact that Nigerians are everywhere, China, US, Europe, UK and all the infected countries. Almost every politician or well-to-do family has their kids studying abroad, perhaps the more reason why it was difficult for our politicians to take the right decision at the right time. Leadership is about responsibility; it is about taking the hard decisions in the interest of all.

Now that virus has succeeded in penetrating the highest and the low, maybe we will learn to take pragmatic and proactive decisions for the sake of the majority above the sentimental comfort of the privileged few. As for the masses, it is time to be cautious and observe all the known precautions to stay alive. Covid-19 is a pandemic, no one is immune.

Stay safe and be responsible

God Bless Nigeria!

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