This must be the question on the minds of many. If a high profile member of the elite, a former Managing Director of the Mint could be a victim of Coronavirus, then what fate might await less well to do? As a former MD, he could access the very best, could mobilise influence and could tap on many sources.
Suleiman Achimugu’s death also raises similar questions about the capacity to contain the pandemic. How ready is Nigeria?
The atmosphere in Africa’s most populous country is not one of downcast citizens but a nation of rib cracking yabbis of the virus and the pandemic it has caused. Not many are wearing facial masks, for instance. This is both in low and high density spaces. The roads are not as full and chaotic in Abuja, for example which might be due to the closure of most schools but eating places, supermarkets and pharmacies are thriving. The H-Medix selling point in Wuse 11 was filled with normal shopping and pharmaceutical purchases as early as 9 am.
The social media is the dominant space for circulation of both serious, funny and alarmist messages, all from sources claiming authority on the issue. Certain pattern of information such as the symptoms are stable here. Others contradict each other, especially those with exaggerated claims about what happened or did not happen in China. Theologically informed dissidence is a permanent feature of the totality of the stuff on social media.
Surprisingly, there are not much analyses on factors that may hinder attempts at controlling the pandemic in Nigeria. There are very little expert analyses of the possible elite, cultural, environmental, religious and global health governance hindrances to containing the virus. It follows that there are also not much of how each of these variables will help either. This showed most in the way the Federal Government simply copied the approach of lockdown without much thinking.
In industrial societies, the goods are available. The production of particular goods can even be decreed during emergency and the industrial system will be re-arranged to fulfill state order. That has happened in Italy in state take-over of the health arrangement. That is not possible in Nigeria because even if it is proclaimed, there is no industrial back up. People in industrial societies can stockpile or buy with credit cards. In Nigeria, majority of the people MUST come out everyday to be able to feed, a point that considerations of lockdown approach doesn’t appear to have reflected upon. In most industrial societies, there are very little differences between the making of an average household and the public schools, for example. In Nigeria, the concentration of children and parents in one room apartment means that the approach of closing schools did not receive much reflection by the government of the day. This is almost certain to be repeated if and when the pandemic spreads into the rural communities. The communal style of drinking from one cup at village meetings is unlikely to feature in the containment tracks as if communal living is the same across the world.
How does someone in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city who suspects infection go about getting in touch with the health authorities? Right now, this is nearly impossible. There are about seven different contact telephone numbers. None of them is ever picked, especially those belonging to the Lagos basement of the management process. The most widely circulated numbers in this regard includes 080097000010; 08052817243; 08033565529; 08059758886; 08028971814; 08023169485. Aside from the 12 figure toll free line, there is another one, (08099555577) which permits text messages and yet another one for those outside Nigeria, (+234-7087110839). It is possible some of these lines are on now but not so between 4.. pm on Sunday and 8 am today. There might be other numbers in existence beyond the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, (NCDC) and whatever the basement in Lagos is all about.
What about the doctors? Chances are that only one out of five might have anything authoritative to say that are not already out there in the open space. Four out of five that someone contacted yesterday responded unhelpfully, were as fearful and panicky as everyone else. But there are, indeed, doctors with excellent knowledge of what is going on generally and what a particular approach is called for in every case. The question that arises is, how much of expertise is available should the pandemic overwhelm Nigeria? This is considered an important question since only the worst case scenario is the concern. The role of expertise will only be one of the issues to be analysed if, for any reasons, the pandemic is unable to overwhelm Nigeria.
Is the pandemic forcing the Nigerian power elite to overcome their fragmentation in favour of how to come together to deal a decisive blow on the threat? Femi Falana, the Lagos based Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN) has sent an open letter to the federal authorities imploring them to look towards a particular Cuban medical product. There is no knowing if there is a collective reckoning with this as a clarion call and it is even unclearer what the Federal Government is thinking about that. Heavily criticized and largely delegitimized, President Buhari being personally on top of the situation can be ruled out.
It is not surprising that, the CNN is reporting that, in the emptiness, Nigerians are swallowing Donald Trump’s claims about chloroquine hook line and sinker and paying for it. The global network reported earlier today that three Nigerians overdosed on the drug. The development cannot but echo powerfully in the ears of global health governance managers who must, silently, be wondering how a country that has got everything is simply incapable of making something out of such extraordinary kindness to it by God but always quarreling among themselves.