THE world would not be the same after coronavirus, and Nigeria definitely is part of that global community that the deadly virus is going to reshape.
As the global community reels under the yoke of the disease that has challenged medicine, religion and politicians across the earth, one basic fact has come out: only an organised society can attempt to manage this scourge. Nigeria we know is not organised like most countries in Africa.
But for effective leadership by Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State, the place would probably have been locked down by coronavirus now. About 127 indigenes of the state returning from Abidjan, Ivory Coast were apprehended in Ogun State and the Governor of the state called his Osun counterpart that he was ready to send them back. But Oyetola pleaded with him to let them come into the state but with police escort.
He ordered they should all be quarantined in a school in Ejigbo. But some of them were alleged to have bribed some of the policemen and escaped to join their families without being quarantined before some of the escapees were arrested.
About 14 among those tested from the group so far have been positive. As at March 26, Ivory Coast officially had only 80 cases and 14 out of the tested among 127 people who left that country are carriers!
Which shows clearly that you cannot rely on data by most African countries. I grin when I hear the ridiculous numbers Nigerian authorities are churning out. It is all explained by this joke about Burundi. It was said that the country is the only one in Africa without a single case of coronavirus and their health minister explained that the reason is that they don’t have test kits.
I made the point to two friends who said Africans are not dying aplenty of coronavirus. I told them that they are but we don’t know because we are used to people dying without finding out the causes.
The point in coronavirus for this column this week is that it has exposed our system for its inherent weaknesses and badness, but it has in another sense brought out some good sides of us.
Starting from the bad sides. While any normal person would agree that it’s a very reasonable line of action to control mingling of people in this season, our leadership slept for three months of the commencement of the scourge and woke up suddenly on 28th March to shut down FCT, Lagos and Ogun states in 24 hours with military fiat as if they were cantonments. Ogun modified the lockdown by five days even when the President claimed he had already discussed with the states concerned.
We have seen the hardships caused by the lockdown in Abuja and Lagos. Bauchi that tried its own lockdown for 14 days reopened the state in 24 hours as it had no palliatives to give its people. It took the Federal Government 72 hours after the President’s broadcast to start realising you can’t shut cities wholesale. They started announcing exemptions an organised society would have thought through before the diktat.
Another bad side was the uncivilised conduct of our largely colonial/feudal security forces who have no human feelings and have been using maximum force against the people to enforce the directive of the President. A man was reportedly beaten to death in Abuja by security agents as he looked for food for his pregnant wife. We have seen images of solders and police kicking, butting and whipping citizens with whips in the lockdown cities without any show of humanity. A careful look at the images of security agents involved in this uncivil conduct in the Lagos are has shown people from a different culture treating supposed fellow citizens so badly.
But thank God for some good sides. One of it is how good some of our citizens can be in a terrible situation like the one we are in currently. When the President addressed the country, he asked other states to come and learn from Lagos on how to deal with the pandemic. But the sad news was that Lagos had only three ventilators against coronavirus and it is doubtful if Aso Rock Clinic on which billions of Naira have been spent on paper has one. There are states that boast no more than face masks against coronavirus.
This makes the decision of the Church led by Professor Konyinsola Ajayi (SAN) not to resort to collecting tithe online its priority this time. The apple that did not fall too far from the tree his of late good father, Sir Olaniwun Ajayi led the Church to donate six ventilators to Lagos State. One of the equipment that was going for as low as $7,000 before this pandemic now costs between N13million and N30million depending on the quality you are buying. As I shared this good deed with Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) on Thursday, the brilliant luminary asked me to speak with Professor Ajayi as he committed to procuring three ventilators for Lagos State.
I spoke about the bad security agents beating citizens around cities in the midst of all that is going on but there exists a Mr Hakeem Odumosu, the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State who believes that the duty of law enforcement is to persuade citizens in times like this.
I have once testified about Mr Odumosu on this page months back when policemen who went to receive Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) apprehended Abagun Kole Omololu, the Organising Secretary of Afenifere on the allegation that he obstructed the road. The gentleman dashed from one end of the road to another as he was hit by the panic of siren.
He raised the alarm from his detention cell when it became clear he was going to spend the night in captivity, I reached out to Mr Odumosu and he came back to me in five minutes that it was not VP’s men who actually arrested the gentleman but the policemen who went to receive him and that he had already ordered his release. In less than another five minutes after, Abagun was speaking to me in freedom.
It was in that tradition, the CP carried on when he appeared on Seun Okinbaloye’s POLITICS TODAY on Channels TV last Wednesday to explain his command’s approach to the lockdown directives.
Instead of threatening Lagosians, he was full of commendations for their level of submission to authorities and maximum cooperation they have shown towards efforts to contain coronavirus.
He added that the police has a duty to persuade the people to continue to obey the directives as it is in their own interest and there is no need beating or harassing them as that is not professional policing.
He made it clear that sticks and ‘koboko’ are not parts of police instruments and that the baton they carry must be used professionally with phone numbers given for people who are beaten to complain saying, “You can even call me personally to let me know If you are beaten and I will ensure that the culprit goes through the disciplinary process”.
A thorough professional cop was on display defining modern policing as against the Police Force of the colonial era and feudal order that goes about treating people like animals .
Apart from Odumosu professionalism, there is also the succinct case for the state police we have been asking for. A police officer serving in his community cannot be whipping them in a season like this, he would use more of appeal and force as a last resort like Odumosu said.
I have always maintained that it would take some degree of madness for a policeman to set up a roadblock in front of his father’s house and be collecting bribes. We have to run this country on federal principles.
…Soyinka as Garba Shehu’s toothpick
IT was just two weeks ago that I was talking here about reckless abusive capacity being the condition to speak for this administration and wondering where the type of mien worn by my brother Olusegun Adeniyi had gone to.
The only Nobel Laureate this country has, Professor Wole Soyinka became a toothpick for Mallam Garba Shehu for expressing a different view on lockdown the President imposed on sections of the country during the week.
Shehu chose to make a jest of the discipline of Professor Soyinka which has earned him global acclaim just because he saw things differently from their prism.
They didn’t know that Professor Soyinka was a writer when against his “Sins of Buhari” had a “leap of faith” in 2015 to make Major-General Buhari electable.
I need not waste much space as the Professor has given back to the gentleman full measure. But we appeal to ‘Kongi’ to be on his height next time. If there are no people to deal with, this irritation such as this, his intellectual labour of decades would have been a waste.
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