In elementary public health, it is common knowledge that the benefits of disease prevention far outweigh those of disease treatment, both in terms of cost and the improvement of quality of life.
This would have easily been applied by the Nigerian government in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to save money and the lives of its citizens. But as expected, those in the helm of affairs would prefer us to have a taste of the virus before appropriating huge sums which will eventually be cornered by them and their cronies for their aggrandizement.
With Nigeria’s weak and convulsive healthcare system, the government had all within its powers to save the nation from the present global commotion. In the first place, COVID-19 could have been prevented from entering the shores of Nigeria or worse still, the index case could have been well handled to prevent the progression or impact of the disease in the country while mounting robust surveillance and combative measures in our ports of entry to manage every suspected case without jeopardizing the safety of the larger society.
Although the present measures set up by the government are commendable, they came as mere afterthought aimed at “softening” the impact of COVID-19 while spending much on treatment and control of the further spread of the disease. With over 1000 cases of COVID-19 spanning through 40 African countries with over 20 confirmed cases in Nigeria, it’ll take concerted efforts to overcome this disease both in Africa and Nigeria.
While across the globe are taking full responsibility addressing and continuously updating their citizens as COVID-19 pandemic surges on, Nigeria’s Buhari seems to be missing in action. President Buhari seems to be mentally removed from any situation that does not serve his interests, even when the safety and wellbeing of Nigerians are at stake. His antecedence shows that he is bored with Nigeria’s problems and can no longer summon empathy. His inability to visit the site and victims of the recent Lagos explosion is a typical example. Also, his belated visit to Benue in the wake of the 2018 massacre of over 70 citizens allegedly by his kinsmen, the Fulani herdsmen came after a continuous outcry by individuals and civil societies.
The world over, governments are issuing incentives in the form of tax breaks, delayed tax payments, interest rates cut by financial institutions, cash handouts, stimulus packages, subsidies on foodstuffs, special allowances for frontline medical personnel, loans are restructure and reschedule with moratoriums, leniency in facilitating the import of raw materials, parts, and accessories with the suspension of stamp duty tax, rents are waived, essential services are provided at no cost and delay land-use fees for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Till date, no word even an unofficial address came from president Buhari despite the COVID-19 global crisis, soaring security challenges, devastating fire outbreaks and disasters in Nigeria. Tireless efforts by public health experts and other high-risk medical personnel working directly with COVID-19 patients and suspected cases were not even commended by Mr. President.
Measures taken to protect our lives and our fragile businesses, and the stepwise distribution patterns of the purported 1.1 trillion naira released by the Central Bank of Nigeria as a result of COVID-19 were not even explained in detail by Mr. President. Also, the “fraudulent” reduction of the pump price of petrol to 125 naira ONLY in the news further lays bare the hypocrisy in government while making Nigeria a joke and a laughing stock.
Incentives were not given to the citizenry by the government despite the closure of schools and the restriction of gatherings (including businesses) in line with global protocols of social distancing to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus. Unlike sane societies, Nigerians are always treated with disdain by their leaders across board and the government and those in charge of affairs are always not prepared for emergencies.
Hypocrisy in both government and governance is second to none in Nigeria. Despite the social distancing policies spearheaded by the government and their banning of social, business and religious gatherings across the nation, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu still called on all Nigerians to attend a public lecture where he intends to speak on Saturday, March 21, in Abuja. “Please find time to join us at the Barewa Old Boys Association, 2020 Annual Leadership Lecture, where I will be speaking on Media and Democracy: Challenge of Journalism.” He went further to write “His Excellency, Governor Nasir Elrufai is expected to chair the occasion, with the Ministers of Defence and FCT as special guests.”
Mr. Shehu’s open invite came despite the three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Federal Capital Territory and the raging suspicion of more suspected cases in and around the FCT and its environs.
This clearly shows the insensitivity in the corridors of power. Both Nigerian leaders and their handlers have little or no regard for the safety and wellbeing of the citizens.
The president’s refusal to address the nation portrays him and his handlers as leaders lacking in knowledge and understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If schools and places of worship are closed, what benefit will a public lecture be in spite of a global crisis? Or is the public lecture an essential service?
It is now well understood that Nigeria has a devious and double mouthed government that don’t practice what they preach.
Though late Mr. President can still address the nation as we await to hear reasons for his protracted silence amidst global crisis and chaos.
God bless Nigeria.
Reuben Rine, a public affairs commentator/analyst