COVID-19, the coronavirus disease that broke out in the very far away city of Wuhan, China, and which has continued to take the world by storm, is bringing the stark reality to Nigerians, that truly, beyond the extreme greed that has driven their political leaders to steal everything in sight and leave nothing to take care of them, the separation between them and their political leaders is, indeed, total. And it has been so for decades.
It is not that Nigerians weren’t aware that for all the decades since independence, every group that has led them, including the present occupiers of the different seats of governance, military and civilians, preferred to play self-serving politics than use political office to deal economic and social justice to citizens.
In choosing politics over economics, Nigerian leaders, especially those who find themselves in the corridors of power, have always sold citizens short in all areas of their national life. It’s the reason why there are probably more Nigerian doctors outside than their are in the country, with more of them looking for the slightest opportunity to join those who have gone before them. It is why there are more Nigerian academics contributing to changing the world positively outside than there are in the country. And those who are here, are spending most of their time strategising on the next strike action just to deal with the contradiction in governance, as well as their own neglect by political office holders, policy makers and civil servants who are permanently on the make and on the take, less concerned about the destruction of hopes, dreams and lives of citizens, once they have satisfied their glutonous avarice (defined as extreme greed).
Now, it has taken a disease, which a poverty striken people, with the unenviable title of ‘citizens of the world’s poverty capital’, can only imagine, to remind them that as far as this country is concerned, they are on their own.
Genuine economists, sociologists, philosophers, even political scientists all over the country, continue to live in shock how Nigeria’s political class continues to defy all known logics with regard to what they dish out to their citizens in the name of governance.
The current President, Muhammadu Buhari, once a military head of state through an unconstitutional seizure of power, made speeches describing Nigeria’s hospitals as “mere consulting clinics,” declaring that this needed to change and that he was going to fix it. But as military head of state, he ended up given citizens hell for leadership, subjecting many to the most inhumane treatment that anyone could have imagined. Many who gave him the benefit of doubt, including very knowledgeable persons like Nobel Laurette, Wole Soyinka, would have thought that in almost five years since he captured his most coveted prize, hence taken four shots at it, that even if for selfish reasons, given his state of health when he came to power, he would have built at least one global first class hospital, as a legacy to his desire to see quality healthcare delivered somewhere in Nigeria by the government.
The glaring failings in governance baffles a lot of people, both inside and outside the country – citizens, observers and friends of the country. While many say that extreme greed is responsible for the ‘state we’re in’ as a country, they are also confused about what appears to be the devilish details that drive political leaders to feel relaxed watching the state we are in.
COVID-19 is exposing the Nigerian government for what it is, one of the most irresponsible in the world to their citizens. The reason why this is so glaring is that with a world that is caught up by an invisible enemy in coronavirus, with no respect for status, no respect for geography, no respect for race and no respect for the power that anyone possesses, and happening simultaneously, it is possible to measure like for like, level for level, how different governments are treating their citizens. In the case of Nigeria, governments across different strata have been found out and truly come short of expectations.
COVID-19 is exposing incompetence across different levels; it is exposing the absence of empathy in government; it is exposing the criminality of those who citizens have entrusted the affairs state to, how they have milked the state dry, they have eaten the meat and have been having a good dig at the bone.
Incompetence is showing in economic management. We can see what peer-like countries are doing because they are facing the same fear that we are all facing with this COVID-19. We can see how they are treating their citizens. South Africa, Egypt, even our noisy small neighbour, Ghana, have their leaders dealing with this matter more compassionately in relation to their citizens than Nigerian leaders are doing. It would appear that Nigerian leaders are driven more by the fear of what this could do to them personally should it become a fly-about situation, than coming up with a genuinely pragmatic way that accommodates the concerns of citizens and the need for us all to keep safe.
Economically oppressed, politically manipulated, psychologically harrassed, sociologically displaced over the decades, COVID-19 is helping Nigerian citizens see clearly how they have been abused, denied, neglected and dehumanised by their governments. And Nigeria has had governments since the colonialists left in 1960, about 60 years ago. Because of COVID-19, and being on lockdown and not able to go out of the house to forget not having electricity, they now know that truly governments have been clueless with solving the country’s power supply problem.
With COVID-19, we also have to wash our hands with soap regularly. For decades Nigerians have provided their own water through digging of personal boreholes. They can hear how other countries, even poorer than Nigeria, are making provisions for water supply without breaking sweat. Citizens now know better that over the years, water supply budgets have been stolen.
That’s not all. COVID-19 is showing us how broken Nigeria truly is, in all ramifications. It is now clear that Nigeria has a broken economic system, that it is a system managed as a trading concern, nothing sophisticated. That’s why they like to talk about foreign reserves as if its money available as savings that they have made.
COVID-19 is also exposing our broken security system. In Lagos boys known as One Million Boys are out terrorising citizens. Add to that food security. Politicians who are adept at sharing rice and N5000 to buy votes, suddenly find it difficult to share food to citizens in this war-like situation. Nigeria has a broken medical system, one that offers no coordination, has laughable teaching hospitals that are still the consulting clinics that President Buhari spoke about as a coupist.
This disease and this lockdown situation is also revealing to Nigeria how much the education system has been broken. How policy-challenged their leaders are because as schools are shut, students are shut-out without any means of contact to their teachers when in other places broadband is truly broadband and some form of schooling is still happening.
And with lockdown comes the challenge of housing and how it is that over the decades leaders have only taken care of themselves and left the people to live in slums, where we now must pray, strongly, that communal outbreak of this disease does not escalate.