No one ever envisaged a time when the rich and the mighty would be as helpless as the poor and the weak. In the last one week, with different countries closing their borders, the rich in Nigeria with all their affluence have been unable to leave the country as they used to do. Those who junket out of the country at the onset of flu have been confined to the country. The rich cannot go for their medical appointments; neither can they go for their vacations. They can’t go to Dubai for their parties, they can’t jump into the plane to Italy to fix their hair and nails; they can’t charter a jet to go and watch a premiership game or to see Serena Williams play, they can’t travel to Las Vegas to play casino, just as they cannot go to Mecca or Vatican for worship. Now, both the rich and the poor are home bound. That is the new reality. COVID-19 has made it clear to all that everyone is a local.
COVID-19 has revealed two things; the helplessness of man against nature and the wickedness of man against himself.
It is unthinkable that man, who conquered the airspace, the sea, the moon and converted the desert into a luscious field, suddenly turned jelly against the coronavirus disease. The disease has made mincemeat of men of power, wealth and royalty. It has struck men of means and power the same way it has hit those on the lower rungs of societal ladder. It did not spare the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson; it assailed the Iranian vice president, Masoumeh Ebtekar. Now, the powerful are really jittery because of their concern that COVID-19 will demystify them and rob them of the awe with which the hoi polloi have come to associate them. This is the rationale behind President Donald Trump prescribing chloroquine as COVID-19 antidote even when the medical authorities had not said so. The powerful find it hard to come to terms with the fact that, in the final analysis, they are as ordinary as the man on the street.
The rich and the powerful love to play God; they love to be seen as the sole determinant of what happens in their domain. But COVID-19 has proved them wrong. Even they are constrained now; they cannot do whatever they like; they cannot go wherever they want; they cannot see whoever they desire and cannot touch whatever they choose. The point is that the rich and the powerful do not have the final say. The one that has the final say is the Almighty who reigns and rules in the affairs of men. The one that has the final say is God, the creator of the universe. It is vain for man to try to play God. The hard lesson for those who think they wield power over others is that they really have no power. If a mere virus gives powerful men the jitters, where is the power they claim to wield?
A popular saying among all ages and races is that whatever a person sows, he will reap. This is a saying that has no respect for class or creed. Over the years in Nigeria, the leaders have failed to do what they ought to do and that has compounded the effect of COVID-19 on the people and the country. Ordinarily, managing the coronavirus crisis shouldn’t have been herculean, had we taken care of our health facilities. But the nation is in a dire strait now because we have failed over the years to do what we ought to have done. Now, conducting tests to confirm the status of anyone suspected to have the disease is a great challenge because our hospitals are mere consulting rooms. According to the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, even the State House clinic lacks basic drugs. If it is that bad up there, we can imagine the situation at any primary health centre.
South Africa, where the COVID-19 index case came a week after Nigeria’s, has been able to conduct over 10,000 tests, whereas Nigeria has not been able to conduct as many as 500. If we cannot conduct tests, how are we going to determine those who have the disease? If we cannot determine those who have the disease, how are we going to treat them? To treat COVID-19 patients, we need ventilators. Where are the ventilators in Nigeria? I heard from a reliable source that there are not as many as 50 ventilators in the whole of the country. So, how are we going to treat those who have tested positive?
How did we get here? We failed to do what we ought to have done. Those who ought to have fixed our hospitals ignored to do so, because they had alternatives in other places. Now, with all their money and influence, they cannot be allowed into other countries for treatment, because those one are overwhelmed by their own need for medical attention.
The most painful part of the whole thing, however, is that the victims of this misdeed are not just those who perpetrated the act; the poor and the weak who never tasted power also suffer along with those who pillaged the nation’s resources and rendered ineffective the health system. But that is on the surface. Going deeper, did the poor and weak not collaborate with the powerful and mighty to install ineffective and corrupt leadership in the country? If that is the case, are we not really reaping what we sowed? Now, our chickens have come home to roost and we have to stew in our juice.
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