BY OSA EKPEN DIRECTOR (Special Adviser, African Bar Association)
Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, COVID-19, the global pandemic has initiated different patterns of behaviour and responses by political leaders across the world.
While some have shown exceptional and inspirational leadership, others have been misfits, and outrageously inept. It has been a mixed breed of the serious, the lazy, and even outright comical.
Whereas the brilliant responses by some leaders have put a shine on their personal and country’s image, several others were exposed as clueless and unprepared.
Sadly, the knee jerk responses by most Nigerian leaders put us in the bracket of shame and unseriousness.
As most of our political elites and ruling class are won’t to do, the initial response to the ravages of the global pandemic was flippant and phlegmatic.
Perhaps, many of them believed the pedestrian and scientifically unfounded argument that COVID-19 was a Whiteman’s disease; therefore, we were going to be naturally insulated from and immune to it. A wishful thinking!
When the disease made its first landfall in Nigeria with an Italian being the index case in the bustling commercial city of Lagos, the sober reality dawned on everyone.
The leaders and governed, the rich, the poor, Blacks and Whites living in Nigeria were all awakened to the potential devastating impact of the virus without a cure as yet.
Several conspiracy theories have been spurned around the origin and potency of COVID-19. It ranges from the outlandish to the bizarre, which is only possible in mythical realms.
However, of all the theories, scientific and sociological weaved around the disease, a fact remains unfazed: the pandemic is an imported disease! It was imported into the country by the elites.
Those who have the financial muscle and capacity to buy travel tickets at will to foreign countries interact with the high and mighty there, shaking hands and faking warm embrace are certainly the rich, who imported the Coronavirus into Nigeria.
Therefore, of all the conspiracy theories about the COVID-19, one can safely say that it is a disease of the elites. They imported it into Nigeria.
Hopefully, we pray and hope it remains an elite disease for obvious reasons. If the pandemic is allowed to spread into our rural areas and engineer a community-to-community transmission, the death toll currently experienced in Italy, Spain and the United States of America would be a child’s play.
It is in our nation’s collective interest that the disease remains with the elites and and spread among them.
After all the rich Nigerian elites constitute less than 10% of our population, while the lowest rung of the society, including the middle class, if that class still exists, account for the other 90% and above.
At the end of this season which shall surely pass away, the people will be glad that the powerful elites imported COVID-19 because the nation will be better for everyone at last.
The ravages of the Coronavirus have created a level-playing field for all Nigerians. Practically, we are all equal before COVID-19, even more equal before it as we are before the law.
Irrespective of gender, tribes, religions and social status, Coronavirus is a respecter of no one! The virus is a social leveller. No one is safe or spared its pangs when it decides to strike.
Importantly, COVID-19 has made leaders, or is it rulers, who usually jumped around the world with taxpayers’ money, and with the flimsiest of excuses not only to stay back in Nigeria, but forced to stay back indoors.
The ruling class for once is being compelled willy-nilly to confront the monster they created in our society over the years.
Since the nation’s political Independence on October 1, 1960, successive administrations, military or civilian, never made serious attempts at true nation building by way of infrastructural developments. Not when they could hop on flights to Europe, America and Saudi Arabia for their medical and other needs.
Our hospitals without exception have been described as mere prescription units, bereft of modern medical equipment and facilities even when we boast of the best of brains in the medical and allied professions globally.
They cannot perform magic with bare hands. Therefore, it was not surprising, again, when the Secretary to Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, said he never knew the state of our hospitals were in such deplorable conditions until his adhoc appointment as the head of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
He was just being charitable. Most of our hospitals are mortuaries and consulting outposts, at best, that is.
Although, a very courageous and commendable admission by a member of the ruling class, but he disappointingly recanted later, saying he was misquoted. Was he ashamed? Was it guilt? But he didn’t need to.
Sometime earlier before Mustapha’s remarks, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, had gone to the COVID-19 Isolation Centre at University of Abuja Teaching Hospital for inspection.
Ahmed was livid with rage and charged at the hospital’s authorities for doing a shallow job. The hospital was in a mess, and he said so without mincing words.
The messy and deplorable state of our health facilities seems shocking to these political elites, but not the vast majority of Nigerians who have no options but to patronise such hospitals. Our political class has been so disconnected from the people for so long.
COVID-19 pandemic has brought them to earth and the harsh realities of our health facilities, and of course, the state of infrastructural decay in the country generally.
This is one of the blessings of COVID-19 to Nigerians. The rich, the poor, the have and the have-nots, the rulers, and the governed are all forced to ‘enjoy’ the monster created over the years by our wayward political actors (military and civilians) since Independence almost 60 years ago.
A Daniel is coming to judgement at last. If anyone is sick now, with all the money and private jets at their disposal, they will be forced to patronise our hospitals, drive through our roads and live like a normal human being created by God with all the frailties!
At the end of this pandemic, Nigeria will never be the same again. Everyone, including the political actors will have learned a bitter lesson, that there is always a day of reckoning for everyone. And it comes without options as COVID-19 has proved to be.
At such times we are all forced to confront our common humanity and manifest destiny. No escape route! Just no choice. Face your demons.
Hopefully, our political class will begin to act in the national interest and fix this dilapidated country for the good of all, especially in their own enlightened self-interest.
That is a blessing of COVID-19 and a grave lesson, if not a fatal reality check for our political class.
Certainly, if Nigerian leaders fail after the pandemic to develop this country with adequate husbandry of our human and natural resources, then we will stand condemned to eternal damnation. Pity!
Osa, a journalist and lawyer, writes from Lagos.