I recently wrote about the metamorphosis of the novel coronavirus infection from an imported disease to an endemic disease. As I stated in the write up, it was initially a disease of the elite, but it is gradually transforming to become a disease and catastrophe for the poor.
The lockdown in Lagos, Abuja, and Ogun States imposed by the Federal was relaxed on the 4th of May, 2020. In several states the lockdown order was also relaxed, but what is trending online from Abuja, Lagos, Ughelli, and the Onitsha bridge is anything to go by that Nigerians never really learn. There are large crowds everywhere pushing against each other. Many of them are not wearing facemasks. Even if some wear, they wear them on their chins. Many privately-owned means of public transport are still overcrowded.
Any time there is a fuel explosion after a fuel tanker falls, several people get killed in the process of scooping spilled fuel to go sell in buckets or jerrycans. After each explosion, one would imagine that people would avoid anywhere there is fuel spillage or leakage.
Read previous Lessons From COVID-19 here.
What are the factors responsible for the behavioural traits noticed today?
Someone posted a picture of hundreds of free roaming chickens let loose from their big pen. There was a big dash out of the pen to find food.
So what are the things wrong with us?
D1 Deliberate Underdevelopment of the Nation.
The colonialists in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, and several conducive climates planned to settle down in some of these nations; they had no intentions of leaving. But the West African Coast, particularly Nigeria, was not conducive for permanent residency. They usually went back home to the UK to see their families. The temperature was too hot and the deaths from malaria were too high then.
Claude Ake, the great writer on political economy, rightly noticed that all the rail lines and roads built by the colonial masters were deliberately constructed to carry raw materials to ports for export. Once the products were no longer relevant, such ports were abandoned. Towns like Burutu and Forcados are typical examples.
The nationalists, who took over power from the colonial masters, and the initial group of military administrators initiated some good projects like building Universities, the establishment of the Unity schools, hospitals, stadiums, and housing estates. They tried to establish industries and several employment generating ventures. However, at a point, during the military rule and subsequent civilian administrations, the reckless raping and looting of our common wealth became a hobby.
Some interventionist military gangs came in, but they eventually became worse than the previous ones. When another set of civilians came, they stole more than the previous ones. Monies meant for developmental projects were stolen and projects were abandoned, not minding the fact that the contracts were usually over-padded. Maintenance culture was zero, so we have inadequate, substandard, and ill-conceived projects. There is a lot of under-planning for a rapidly growing population.
D2 Deliberate Deceit
As said in one of my posts, Trust: The Missing Ingredient in Nigeria, the citizenry don’t trust the political elite because they have been deceived over and over by failed promises. The political class have found that if the citizenry are kept poor and uncertain, they become very easy to manipulate.
Those without brains now rule over those with brains. So you can see a professor acting as an aid to a young man he lectured in the university.
With deceit, deception, and dearth of development, there is desperation in a rapidly growing population of close to 200 million people. There are more than 90 million people living below the poverty line. We are the open-defecation capital of the world. Roads are very bad, and there is a lot of traffic congestion. Irregular electricity supply, poor schools, insecurity, and poor housing compound the insecurities. The retirement benefits of pensioners are not paid 5 years post-retirement, despite the comparatively poor pay.
This insecurity and the conspicuous consumption and advertorial living by the looters of the economy in a competitive country creates desperation.
There is also no social security buffer for the poor, aged, and childless in the society. So people want to steal to secure their future.
There is this mad rush to make it to impress. This has led to the festering ulcer of internet fraud among our youths. The desperation has also led to attempts to cross deserts and oceans to seek greener pastures.
This virus of desperation infects everything we do. From elections, to examinations, to our search for relief from religious activities, you can see the virus desperation manifesting.
Desperation leads to defiance and defective public and private conduct.
A nation of desperate people will be disorderly.
Desperation devours decorum.
Desperation is an assassin of due process and delayed gratification.
We are living in denial of who we are, our challenges, and the consequences of our reckless actions. Most times we are in denial that we are more than 150 million people with a lot of aggression and drive.
As a consequence of this denial, we underplan; we do not prepare for most challenges, taking into consideration our peculiarities and dispositions.
Did the government and the presidential task force on COVID-19 work out the modalities of the way banks will attend to customers today after the lockdown? How many branches of banks were opened? We are in denial that Lagos is more populated than more than some 70 nations of the world. Lagos is more populated than Togo, Lesotho, Fiji and several European nations. Did they take into consideration that 9 million to 12 million people will pour out into the city at once?
If we had trams, subway stations, and monorail, we would not have the congestion we saw today. If the rail line that caused several buildings from Mile 2 to Ijanikin to be demolished had been completed by now, it would have helped in the reduction of cars on the roads.
The people who packed themselves together like sardines are in denial that COVID-19 does not respect intelligence or stupidity. Only 300 asymptomatic people that mingled with the crowd today can infect up to 3,000 people, who can infect another 10 people each before the week runs out. That’s about 30,000 people.
When you hear a Nigerian say, “Inshallah” or “By the grace of God”, know that he/she has not prepared well. When you hear a Nigerian say, “It is well”, know that she is in denial. When he says, “Not my portion”, most likely, that is a sign of denial; the person has not put anything in place or taken the appropriate steps to prevent what he is afraid of.
What happened today is very frightening.
If we don’t take care, this virus will cause a scare. If we don’t respect the rules of handling epidemics, we will suffer the ruins of such recklessness. If we don’t rule over this virus, it will rule over us. Most people consider viruses the top of the food chain; there are valid reasons for that, and we must apply great wisdom in the way we treat this.
My prayers is that history will not repeat itself in Nigeria and several nations of the world including the US.
God bless you and stay safe.
Read next lesson: The True Nigerian Spirit.