Before you draw conclusions and unsheathe your moral swords, I will reiterate that I gave the headline considerable thought and made peace with it before the piece was finished.
Today Nigeria has a three-digit-figure record of confirmed COVID-19 cases with a potential to rise to five figures going by what the international scene has experienced in recent weeks. As scary as the statistics are, there remains the greater threat of potential unconfirmed cases roaming the streets without enough caution.
Having this information and knowing that over 90 people are currently battling the disease that has claimed lives within the borders of the country, one may be confused as to what I am thankful for exactly.
On Sunday, 29th March, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a lockdown in three States and the FCT in a bid to contain the spread of the virus, a move Nigerians accepted with their buttocks glued to their seats.
In normal times – as this qualifies as abnormal times – public opinion would have been divided between those who would defend the action as necessary, and those who would jump at the opportunity to declare the order unconstitutional. Granted, there have been backlashes from legal practitioners since the order was given, but the general opinion remains that the move was necessary.
Reflecting on this, it fascinates my attentive mind to see Nigerians paddling the same boat without political differences, tribal, religious or gender-based arguments. This is not to justify the move by Mr. President, but to celebrate the response to the welcome move.
There is also a reason to be thankful for the wake-up call that has been served on the leadership of the country as regards the health sector. Prior to this moment, the Nigerian health sector had failed by any standard, and was regularly under-funded; plagued by strike actions, lack of adequate equipment and poor infrastructure.
Today, national borders are closed to entries and exits, resigning us to combating the menace ourselves with the same health sector our leaders regularly run from when basic health issues come knocking. Isolation centres have been set up, the government has committed funding, and there have been donations by well-meaning Nigerians and corporate brands to the cause.
I am also thankful because Nigerians seem to be more aware of global happenings, more sympathetic to the superheroes in hospitals and more health-conscious. Before now, diseases have existed, nations have suffered calamities, people have been dying, but there is a new sense of awakening that came with the COVID-19.
Most optimists and religious fanatics will say that every bad situation is a learning experience, and that in all things give thanks, and I will agree with them on this one. Of the many lessons we could learn at this time, identifying and curbing the spread of disinformation is a major win for the country as campaigns are made daily to nip it in the bud.
Disinformation is a global problem, but chaos and panic are situations no nation can afford at this point in time, necessitating the need for its arrest and a solution to the problem. Now more people are verifying information and banking on credible sources to contribute their own quota to the fight against the disease.
For a second, we as a people could take a step back to reflect, to consider the approaches taken by the State and Federal Governments, religious institutions, firms and industries, businessmen, shop owners, stakeholders in sectors that remain open, the man who refuses a handshake, the woman who judicially uses hand sanitizers after touching foreign surfaces, the fellow at home from sundown to sunup and every other Nigerian to ensure the country is declared virus-free.
The long-term effect on the mindset of the average Nigerian appears promising. When all of this dies down and the dust settles, the nation’s response to health threats would be informed by the lessons of COVID-19, the demand for reforms in the health sector will also get some renewed backing, and personal relations could be so much better.
Some part of me is critical about the way things were allowed to go this far, but that’s spilled milk. Before the nation experienced its first case, we did not know where exactly the virus was or who exactly had it among arrivals into the country, but we knew exactly where it wasn’t – Nigeria.
If by some divine intervention we had foreseen this present situation, all arrivals would have likely been forced into a 14-day compulsory isolation, and then a closure of all borders while damning the consequences on the economy.
What we have in abundance now is hope. We can, as a nation, hope for an early end to this phase and thankfully anticipate a facelift on the Nigeria we have come to know. There is a poetic ring to the possibilities that lurk in tomorrow’s darkness, waiting patiently for the virus to pass with the night before rearing its head. Tonight we sleep, to awake to the dawn of a Nigeria to be proud of.