The Blessings of COVID-19, By Osa Director

  • Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, COVID-19, the global pandemic has initiated different patterns of behaviour and responses by political leaders across the world.While some have shown exceptional and inspirational leadership, others have been misfits, andoutrageously inept. It has been a mixed breed of the serious, the lazy, and even outright comical.Whereas the brilliant responses by some leaders have put a shine on their personal and country’simage, several others were exposed as clueless and unprepared. Sadly, the knee jerk responses by most Nigerian leaders put us in the bracket of shame andunseriousness.As most of our political elites and ruling class are won’t to do, the initial response to the ravagesof the global pandemic was flippant and phlegmatic. Perhaps, many of them believed the pedestrian and scientifically unfounded argument thatCOVID-19 was a Whiteman’s disease; therefore, we were going to be naturally insulated fromand immune to it. A wishful thinking!When the disease made its first landfall in Nigeria with an Italian being the index case in thebustling commercial city of Lagos, the sober reality dawned on everyone. The leaders and governed, the rich, the poor, Blacks and Whites living in Nigeria were allawakened to the potential devastating impact of the virus without a cure as yet. Several conspiracy theories have been spurned around the origin and potency of COVID-19. Itranges from the outlandish to the bizarre, which is only possible in mythical realms.However, of all the theories, scientific and sociological weaved around the disease, a factremains unfazed: the pandemic is an imported disease! It was imported into the country by theelites. Those who have the financial muscle and capacity to buy travel tickets at will to foreigncountries interact with the high and mighty there, shaking hands and faking warm embrace arecertainly the rich, who imported the Coronavirus into Nigeria.Therefore, of all the conspiracy theories about the COVID-19, one can safely say that it is adisease of the elites. They imported it into Nigeria. Hopefully, we pray and hope it remains an elite disease for obvious reasons. If the pandemic isallowed to spread into our rural areas and engineer a community-to-community transmission, thedeath toll currently experienced in Italy, Spain and the United States of America would be achild’s play. It is in our nation’s collective interest that the disease remains with the elites and and spreadamong them.
  • After all the rich Nigerian elites constitute less than 10% of our population, while the lowestrung of the society, including the middle class, if that class still exists, account for the other 90%and above.At the end of this season which shall surely pass away, the people will be glad that the powerfulelites imported COVID-19 because the nation will be better for everyone at last. The ravages of the Coronavirus have created a level-playing field for all Nigerians. Practically,we are all equal before COVID-19, even more equal before it as we are before the law. Irrespective of gender, tribes, religions and social status, Coronavirus is a respecter of no one!The virus is a social leveller. No one is safe or spared its pangs when it decides to strike.Importantly, COVID-19 has made leaders, or is it rulers, who usually jumped around the worldwith taxpayers’ money, and with the flimsiest of excuses not only to stay back in Nigeria, butforced to stay back indoors. The ruling class for once is being compelled willy-nilly to confront the monster they created inour society over the years. Since the nation’s political Independence on October 1, 1960, successive administrations,military or civilian, never made serious attempts at true nation building by way of infrastructuraldevelopments. Not when they could hop on flights to Europe, America and Saudi Arabia fortheir medical and other needs.Our hospitals without exception have been described as mere prescription units, bereft of modernmedical equipment and facilities even when we boast of the best of brains in the medical andallied professions globally. They cannot perform magic with bare hands. Therefore, it was not surprising, again, when theSecretary to Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, said he never knew the state ofour hospitals were in such deplorable conditions until his adhoc appointment as the head of thePresidential Task Force on COVID-19. He was just being charitable. Most of our hospitals are mortuaries and consulting outposts, atbest, that is.Although, a very courageous and commendable admission by a member of the ruling class, buthe disappointingly recanted later, saying he was misquoted. Was he ashamed? Was it guilt? Buthe didn’t need to. Sometime earlier before Mustapha’s remarks, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, had gone tothe COVID-19 Isolation Centre at University of Abuja Teaching Hospital for inspection. Ahmed was livid with rage and charged at the hospital’s authorities for doing a shallow job. Thehospital was in a mess, and he said so without mincing words.The messy and deplorable state of our health facilities seems shocking to these political elites,but not the vast majority of Nigerians who have no options but to patronise such hospitals. Ourpolitical class has been so disconnected from the people for so long. COVID-19 pandemic has brought them to earth and the harsh realities of our health facilities,and of course, the state of infrastructural decay in the country generally.
  • This is one of the blessings of COVID-19 to Nigerians. The rich, the poor, the have and thehave-nots, the rulers, and the governed are all forced to ‘enjoy’ the monster created over theyears by our wayward political actors (military and civilians) since Independence almost 60years ago. A Daniel is coming to judgement at last. If anyone is sick now, with all the money and privatejets at their disposal, they will be forced to patronise our hospitals, drive through our roads andlive like a normal human being created by God with all the frailties!At the end of this pandemic, Nigeria will never be the same again. Everyone, including thepolitical actors will have learned a bitter lesson, that there is always a day of reckoning foreveryone. And it comes without options as COVID-19 has proved to be. At such times we are all forced to confront our common humanity and manifest destiny. Noescape route! Just no choice. Face your demons. Hopefully, our political class will begin to act in the national interest and fix this dilapidatedcountry for the good of all, especially in their own enlightened self-interest. That is a blessing of COVID-19 and a grave lesson, if not a fatal reality check for our politicalclass.Certainly, if Nigerian leaders fail after the pandemic to develop this country with adequatehusbandry of our human and natural resources, then we will stand condemned to eternaldamnation. Pity!
  • Osa, a journalist and lawyer, writes from Lagos.