The general consensus is that COVID-19 has changed the world forever. As governments across board begin to ease the lockdown occasioned by the pandemic therefore, there’s an urgent need to interrogate other areas, where this pandemic, which has for some time taken this wide, wild world hostage, has been ‘good’, especially, to Nigerians. Already, the disease virus, which has traversed 188 countries and territories, has led to more than 11,170 cases of infection and 315 deaths in Nigeria.
To start with, COVID-19 has come to teach us how to be conscious of our hygiene by taking sanitation seriously. Even, at the market level, where it used to be ‘anything goes’ before the advent of this disease, we cannot say that because the pandemic has taken a bow – when it eventually does – our iyalojas and babalojas will have to go back to their old ways.
For commercial bus drivers, who normally have their vehicles overcrowded, this is also the time to do more of obeying manufacturers’ instructions on the number and weight of passengers. So, COVID-19 or not, these are salient issues to look at so that we can have a new normal after the pandemic must have been subdued. We don’t have to go back to the old normal.
That we have these lockdowns may also have saved lives. Death tolls on our highways increase as the volume of traffic increases. We probably may never know: but for the lockdown, many people might have travelled and had accidents on our hostile, horrible, and impassable roads.
Visionary leadership deals with the ability to think through an identified problem, listen to wise counsels and take responsibility. We have said that government should invest in science, invest in education. Now that poverty has even become a pandemic in our land; and now that ‘Baba rere, baba ke’ has abandoned his duty post, it amounts to cyclical malady, of sorts, to just hope that coronavirus will disappear tomorrow, and we have nothing that can be described as a strategy. It’s therefore time Nigeria worked out a miracle that must ensure that Nigerians survive the next COVID, which may, of course, include, but not limited to, economic woes and natural reactions.
Arising from COVID-19, the initial fear was that Nigeria might not be able to pay the salaries of her workers, if states continue to depend on the central allocation. But, as things stand, nothing is going to be doable in the country, unless something drastic happens. Well, that’s the thinking of some of us when, instead for labour to clamour for increased productivity, it was calling for minimum wage. With what is now staring us in the face, even the old wage may now become problematic to pay. Of course, if workers cannot be paid and there is no money anywhere, it practically means that the economy is on its way to recession; and, if that happens, that’s the end! The fearful truth is that COVID-19 that has brought us to this pass has not even shown a sense of remorse and penitence! Until the pandemic is defeated, I doubt if any reasonable steps about reflating the economy can be taken; which, again, means that Nigeria is in it for a long haul.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Nigerians are tired of strikes! Governments, we are also tired of lockdowns, lockouts and shutdowns! Now that the reality on ground has shamed projections, COVID-19 should prompt both sides to sit down and fashion out which way to go! Instead of those endless-yet-needless fights with ASUU, what stops the government from commissioning, say, University of Ibadan, or Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; or any other university in Nigeria, for a well-funded study on epidemiology in Nigeria? What stops our governments from issuing scholarships in that direction? If we don’t turn out in that specialised field, how do we hope to cope? After all, it is because we lack it at that level that the manpower needed to even face COVID-19 was not there aplenty in Nigeria when the pandemic hit our land like a thief in the night. If the reward system is good, a doctor in Nigeria should earn what is commensurate with his or her skill or expertise, as his or her counterpart in, say, London. It may not mean that exact same amount in currency, but at par in the aggregate purchase value.
Let’s come back to Abba Kyari, President Muhammadu Buhari’s former Chief of Staff who died from COVID-19 recently. Well, Nigerians have talked about the shambolic way with which the man was buried; and they are not really off-course. However, the real trouble is that we have weakened our public institutions. And a direct consequence of that shortcoming is that it has also weakened the Rule of Law. In the absence of functional principles of the Rule of Law and legal rational order, the society is inadvertently thrown back to its primordial state of being, with the most viable option being the embracement of the old order built around social norms, religions and affective value system, in stark contradistinction to the ways and dictates of modern society.
Anyway, it is no longer a question of ‘it is too late’, more so as there is nothing that tells us, scientifically, that this is the end time, although, spiritually (for those who believe that there is God somewhere), the signs of the end of age are already here. Notwithstanding, we must press forward! We must be thinking, planning and working towards making the planet a better place than we met it. Otherwise, we will continue to repeat past errors! So, let us start now, even, if it has to take time. As a matter of fact, noble projects may not necessarily be completed by the administration that initiated them. But, let there be that policy that will take a hard look at our leadership structure with a special searchlight on competence and character of public office holders. It is not enough for the government to say: ‘we are in a democracy’, then, appoint pretenders as representatives of the people. In a word, anybody who wants to lead must have what it takes to lead. He or she must be focused and exceptional in whatever is his or her chosen vocation, even pastimes. That’s what happens in advanced democracies all over the world.