Covid-19 grandstanding over religion

Since the outbreak of corona virus, people of all races worldwide have had varied but common experiences of death, sorrow, discomfort and tales of woes in general.  In Africa, the political class as usual has been maximizing opportunities covid19 provides to feather their nests.  Our political class in their management of  covid 19 are  typical example of what  our Yoruba native wisdom describes  as: “ Awodi jeun epe sanra”, which literally means “someone eating  forbidden diet in order to put on weight.”

Ordinary Nigerians shudder with unbelief as we heard of billions of Naira approved by the National Assembly and shared by the Central Bank to States and agencies to fight the corona virus pandemic.  Poor Nigerians wonder helplessly what has happened to the millions of dollars sourced as loans and foreign aids to fight covid 19. We look up to heaven for answer to the question of what has become of the billions of Naira donated by the private sector to assist the government.

As already observed by many informed analysts and reasonable opinion leaders, covid19 has revealed the inadequacies in our thought system and response to emergencies in Nigeria.  Nigerians complied with the lockdown in the past two months not because of fear of death through corona virus infection but the fear of our unfriendly and overzealous security agencies parading the streets. If what ordinary Nigerians experience daily since the outbreak of covid19 is anything to go by, the notorious contagious capacity attributed to corona virus should be given a critical study. The social distancing in the markets and other economic areas allowed to function has been non-existent, the dirty nose masks caked with sweat and dust average Nigerians have been wearing around are health hazards rather than a risk mitigating device against covid19. The single layered nose masks sown with ordinary cloth do not keep breath from oozing through, let alone prevent corona infection getting into the lungs of the wearer from potential carriers.

That Nigerians have not been dying in their thousands as a result covid19 epidemic is due to divine providence rather than the health measures and regulations thrown on the faces of Nigerians by the Presidential Task Force and the National Center for Decease Control.  Corona virus has killed about 100,000 people in United States of America as reported despite their superb health care facilities and remarkable public hygiene practice obtainable in the country. Two months of corona virus epidemic rage in Nigeria has claimed less than 200 lives, despite our poor hygienic culture, poor social distancing habits and consulting clinics we call hospitals. There seems to be a fundamental difference between the killer corona virus rampaging in Europe and America and the covid19 hibernating in Nigeria and on the continent of Africa.

The standards obtainable in and the number of the isolation centers nationwide are controversial. In Nigeria those in isolation centers are not on ventilators but they have the energy to walk around and protest lack of care and even escape. The palliatives provided at all levels of government are parlous and ridiculous. Yet billions of naira and dollars have been spent on covid19 management.

Many Nigerians are of the opinion that:  “Corona virus is a killer disease in Europe and America, but covid19 is a business disease in Nigeria.” Many  Nigerians are of the view  that a few persons  in different sectors of our nation are simply smiling to the banks using the covid19  tears of  sorrow of  ordinary Nigerians  to paddle the canoes of their legitimate and illicit gains  to safe harbor.

Covid19 pandemic has a double face in Nigeria, just like the Roman god called Janus.  It is both a bastard and a blessing.  A bastard because it has ruined many economic interests, wrecked businesses, significantly curtailed the freedom of the citizenry and destabilised  organised religious gathering and worship.  Covid19 has shown that our Televangelists and miracle workers are idols with feet of clay. Covid19 has demonstrated that it is no respecter of persons; it has confined our upper class citizens to Nigeria and sentenced them to the same health treatment as other Nigerians.

Without equivocation covid19 management by the civil authorities has further badly exposed them to Nigerians that they care little about our well being. The political leaders are disconnected from the populace; they live in their private selfish world that is completely insulated from the hues and cries of ordinary Nigerians.  A case in point is the safety protocols for burials in Osun State, reported in the Punch Newspaper of  Thursday, May 28, 2020, according to the public service announcement, those to bury their deceased  loved ones must not be more than 20 people, family to provide sanitizer for attendees, inform  the nearest  Divisional Police Officer,  the family must write letter of application with the death certificate from a government  hospital enclosed,  or letter must  be obtained  from the Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Health  and finally the Local Government Disease Surveillance and Notification officer must supervise the funeral. The regulation infers that all deaths at this period are corona virus related, which obviously is far off the mark.

Presumably, ministers of religion are included in the 20 persons approved for funeral ceremony. The embarrassing over kill in the regulations from Osun State Government is that the Local Government official should “supervise” the funeral, in what capacity please; as a priest, pastor or imam? This is obviously a needless intrusion into areas beyond the competencies of the designated government officials.

The requirements in a poor state like Osun with many impoverished citizens is like using a sledge hammer to kill mosquito.  The grandiose conditions portray a government that is not grounded in reality of the conditions under which the people are living.  The rules cannot be implemented for obvious reasons, the protocols involved and the Nigerian factors. The people who are struggling to eat three square meals a day have no time for such luxuries when burying a deceased person. Why make a rule which is extremely difficult for people to observe? Will the State Government bankroll the bills that will necessarily follow the burial protocols highlighted?  Saint Augustine rightly enthused: “A law may be just in its formulation, and be unjust in its application.” On both grounds of the statement of Augustine, the burial protocols  in Osun State as stated presently leaves much to be desired in a democratic dispensation.

In the attempt to curb corona virus in Nigeria, there has been an odious grandstanding from secular authorities against communal religious worship as if corona virus emanated from churches and mosques. The importance of religious institutions to shape human perception of reality and behaviours in the society has been undermined; markets and business centers have been adjudged to be safer environments where covid-19 can be controlled than worship centers.  Ministers of religion have been relegated to the dust bin of irrelevance in the society. They are not listed among the providers of essential services, but these ministers of religion go to the homes of the adherents of their religions to support families in difficulties or bereaved,  they visit hospitals to attend to the sick and the dying disregarding the threat covid19 poses to their lives.

The irony of the grandstanding against communal religious worship at this point in time is that, the politicians, health practitioners and Covid-19 administrators   pray in their homes to the God they have displaced from public domain.  If Nigerians have not been dying in thousands from exposure to themselves in the markets, motor parks and banking halls from corona virus pandemic. There are no reasonable grounds to suggest that the curve of infection will skew upwards if communal religious gatherings are allowed to resume. The crop of political leaders and administrators of covid19 will leave the stage someday, while religious leaders will remain longer with the people. The unnecessary secular grandstanding against communal religious gatherings under the pretext of covid19 management must be curbed.

Rev. Fr. Peter Oluseyi Adeyemi is the Parish Priest,

Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Pro-Cathedral, Lagere, Ile-Ife, Osun State.





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