The sleaze of COVID-19

IT is not only the antiseptic smell of hospitals that should worry you in these times of coronavirus. You should also be bothered  about doctors who infect you with drunken unawareness and wicked greed. They are many in Abuja, from the Villa to the ministries and agencies where COVID-19 has become big business. People are dying in their hundreds abroad. The people here are scared and confused but money, just like power, has made dumber those in charge of our affairs. A drunk doctor who was summoned to treat a troubled patient got there and held her hand but couldn’t get himself to do a thing: “Drunk. Drunk. In my honour,” he said and made to leave. The patient was surprised at how this doctor knew that drunkenness was her ailment by merely holding her hand. A tipsy doctor drafted to treat a drunk patient sounds almost like a blind teacher in charge of a class of the deaf. That is the government of Nigeria – the current health emergency has proved that.

The whole world is frantic about defeating coronavirus and reopening their lives. Is that the song you hear from Nigeria? What drives our drivers is the pandemic sleaze that flows from the disease. The sharks are eating the small fishes to live big. I am thinking particularly about vulnerable doctors and cries of inadequate and unpaid allowances.

You heard Health Minister, Ehanire, saying he was “not aware” that doctors are supposed to take hazard allowance. To this minister, “screening for temperature” is all that doctors do for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients which is “the standard job they do every day.” And he is a medical doctor. Where did he train? All doctors in Nigeria should be ashamed that this came from their ranks. If this is the stuff in charge of the health sector, then, good luck to all of us who depend on his judgement for our health. You also heard the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, who gleefully announced that until now, he did not know what the ordinary patient sees everyday in our hospitals. “I can tell you for sure, I never knew that our entire healthcare infrastructure is in the state in which it is until I was appointed to do this work.” That is what Mustapha said. And they say his office is the engine room of government! Now, combine the sickness of this two with President Buhari’s ‘not aware’ malaise that made him sign a pardon paper for Chief Anthony Enahoro who was granted same 54 years ago. How did the president feel on Saturday when the 1966 gazette started cascading online? Or he is still unaware even now?

These days that both doctor and patient are inmates of COVID-19, you should be interested in what your leaders take to be sound and sober. There is a big problem where inebriated drivers lead. They always see the way in the bush and won’t know what they should. You also heard a Special Adviser to Buhari on the ghostly identities of receivers of the government’s multibillion naira conditional cash transfer scheme. “They don’t want to be addressed as poor people; that is why we cannot publish their names.” That is what she reportedly said. You claimed the poor and vulnerable are suffering, so they deserve not pity but help. And because they suffer even more in this season of lockdowns, each of them has taken N20,000 each. But in every street and on lips of the real very poor people, there are questions on who has impersonated them – where are the beneficiaries? Where is the list? It is an official secret. Government!

Now, the National Assembly leadership came in. Were they drunk with the kind of hard stuff which unsure boys take to look big girls in the eyes? Even in their high moments of power drunkenness, Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara never accused our president of promoting fraud. The leaders of the National Assembly last week joined wailers to describe Muhammadu Buhari’s Social Intervention Programmes as a cocktail of scam. Because the big misfortune of COVID-19 has wrestled the president to the ground, miserable irritants are now mounting him. Featherweight people now do things that make you wonder if they had not prescribed for themselves the Ogogoro treatment – especially in this season of sickness.  Only persons who would eat their yam before it is pounded behave the way Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila did last week, asking rude questions. They said billions have been spent on the programme and that the National Social Register is a ‘scam’ and needs to be reformed and be made ‘more inclusive’.’ Politics is a very funny game. Because naira in its billions is involved and billions of very poor Nigerians are being settled, some upstart sparrows beautified with the feathers of Buhari are now demanding answers to questions that should never have been asked by anyone.

Now that we are discussing sicknesses and cures, did you also watch the viral WhatsApp video of that serious woman holding a white bottle?

“Mamaa!  Good evening, ma, what are you holding?”

“I am holding Ogogoro,”

“Ogogoro? Why are you taking Ogogoro?”

“I am taking Ogogoro because of the sickness.”

“Which sickness is that?”

“Conila Festus….”

Do not blame her. These perilous times demand that she be in the ‘spirit.’ That is the best treat she could give herself – because she knows she has no helper. And she is very sensible in knowing her station. Desperate times require desperate measures; bad diseases need very hard drugs. To escape the COVID-19 disaster, what people take are as varied as the tribes of babel. For some, it is Vitamin C and chloroquine; for some others, hydroxychloroquine or even ivermectin is it. Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State spoke about his carrots, blackseeds and honey treatment.  Do not judge the Ogogoro woman; she may be holding her own homegrown solution to the scourge of coronavirus. After all, our medical husbands have stridently told us to always use ‘alcohol-based sanitizer’ to purify our palms.

This and that other woman in the social media who vowed to go whoring with anyone holding a N500 note, are they also on Buhari’s list of the poor? If they are not, who then is? The Ogogoro woman is not walking alone in her choice of prophylaxis. People in power also do things that suggest their taking bad stuffs either to cheat, forget things and get going or to terrorize us. They misbehave and insist we must not talk about the bad manners and about how badly our ‘doctors’ are treating us. We should always remember that we are “not medical scientists.” Wole Soyinka who tried it, you remember what he was told? They are too drunk with power to know that William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Act II, Scene II) contains at least one example of how drama was used to attack deleterious malaria, the scourge of 16th century England. Because a slave trembles and is in ‘apparent delirium’, Shakespeare makes sure he is offered wine to relieve him of his ailment: “…He’s in his fit now and does not talk after the wisest. He shall taste of my bottle…Open your mouth: this will shake your shaking . . . if all the wine in my bottle will recover him, I will help his ague.” Ague was that era’s English name for malaria. Imagine Shakespeare, an ordinary dramatist, jumping into a medical discourse. He even wrote prescriptions and made his patient drink his drug. He did not know the limit of his wisdom, knowledge and expertise. And, worse, medical history and historians use him as their epidemiological compass. If he were in Muhammadu Buhari’s Nigeria, we would have given him the Wole Soyinka treatment. We would have reminded him of the fiction he writes, and cremated his poems and plays – then use the ash to appease the gods of our arrogance.


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