From Coronavirus to Hungervirus, And now Criminalities

The Insight By: Lateef Adewole

Nigeria Police Force in Ogun State, on Sunday, 12th April, 2020 arrested and paraded 150 suspects for alleged armed robbery and cultism

With the helplessness, uncertainties and anxieties that surround the advent of Covid-19 in Nigeria, coupled with the kind news we read about how the virus has been killing people in droves in many advanced countries like America, UK, Italy, Spain, and so on, someone is bound to be dejected. When one hears something like; “2000 people died of coronavirus in one day” in one country, many begin to wonder if it is the same virus we have in Nigeria that is wrecking such havocs around the world.

The coronavirus just claimed his biggest victim in Nigeria yesterday, with the death of the Chief of Staff to the president, Mallam Abba Kyari. May his soul rest in peace.

Imagining a possibility of such situation abroad in this country alone is scary, frustrating and could be overwhelming. However, that has not been the case in Nigeria and Africa majorly so far. Why the West may premise our low figures of infected people on the limited capacity to carry out massive tests like done in America, which has tested close to three million people or Germany that has a capacity to test over five hundred thousand people on weekly basis, when compared to our 2000 maximum testing capacity per day. So, even if we have been testing that number in the past 30 days, we would only have tested about 60,000 people in a population of 200 million with only Lagos almost 20 million. That is insignificant. And truly, we have tested far lesser number of people.

However, if so many people could have been infected by the virus as such foreign notions tend to imply, after this long, like over twenty days that we have been in one form of lockdown or another, why aren’t people dropping dead like fowls? Also, right now, the rate of recovery is high as well, with fatalities very low and mostly in only people with other health challenges. So, something must be working for us in Nigeria and Africa. It could be “nature, nurture, lifestyles, genetics” or anything peculiar to us in Africa, many of which unfortunately, must have conoted “negative” implications about us previously, when juxtaposed with those of advanced countries.

Strange “prescriptions” have emerged from many unexpected quarters. Of particular interest is Oyo state where both the governor and the CMD of UCHTH who were infected became cure within a short period of about five days. And to find out that consuming some of our local delicacies like hot “amala, gbegiri and ewedu” was a common denominator to them, speaks volumes of what we ordinarily take for granted. Also, some other common practices like licking honey with black seed oil, taking garlic, etc, helped one way or another. May be what we are looking for in Sókótó (seat of Caliphate in Nigeria) is inside our “sòkòtò” (trousers) pockets.

The earlier we start looking inward for our home-grown solutions to this pandemic, the better it might be for us, rather than always trusting only things we copy from the “oyinbos”. We should begin to wean ourselves from our endless “colonial mentality”. Copy and paste has not always solve our problems exactly, completely. Such could be said of the hurry adoption of the lockdown in Nigeria, as we saw done in other countries, without adequate preparations and readiness to provide commensurate palliatives to the citizens, as done by the governments of those countries we copied from. Here in Nigeria, the lockdown is gradually becoming more “disastrous” from hunger than the Covid-19 we are running from, at least, for the poor masses.

After writing few articles relating to this pandemic, I had earlier promised to give myself and my readers, a break from coronavirus issue. However, the incidents in the past one week, particularly in Lagos and Ogun areas changed my mind. The rising wave of criminalities is it! It seemed what the Yoruba proverb says remains germane, that; “ti ina o ba tan laso, eje kii tan leekanna” (so long the wear still remains infected with lice, the fingernails will remained stained with its blood).

In the last one week, many residents in Lagos and Ogun states have not only hunger to contend with, but also their safety, security of their lives and properties. What started like hoodlums exhibiting what they know how to do best: “public nuisance”, have suddenly turned into a full-blown invasion by criminals. They operate both during the day and night. In many neighbourhoods, the community members (landlords, tenants and residents) have turned to vigilante groups. People who struggle to find what to eat all day, now have to be awake all night to secure themselves on empty stomachs. What kind of double jeopardy is that?

All these just because we are running from our unseen “death carrier”; the coronavirus? Some residents were reportedly killed when these robbers attacked some areas within the week. They even have the effontery to now write threat letters of impeding attacks by them to communities, as seen in a letter circulating on social media few days ago, if it is true. A man whose video clip has gone viral online, narrated how he was saved by the whimsical when some “small boys” invaded his compound, macheted him with the aim of possibly killing him, collected his valuables and made away with two of his cars. He was only too grateful to be alive.

While we cannot completely say that, such level of criminalities are solely induced by any hunger due to the lockdown, it must have “inspired and catalysed” it. This is because, most of groups being implicated in the rising crimes were not new. They have existed as thugs, miscreants, or cults. Unfortunately, they might have served some political purposes in the past, which gave them the audacity and the sense of invincibility.

Had we been seeing people who break into food shops and stores, they could have used hunger as excuses. Like some videos that are in circulation now, one of which one can see a mob invasion of a moving truck and forcefully carrying bags of rice from it. Many people risked their lives just to carry rice (illegally ofcourse), with some people falling off in the process. The other one is where hundreds of people were struggling just to collect some loaves of bread being shared from a bus. It made nonsense of the social distance crusade. “Ebi kii wonu, k’oro mi w’obe”.

Some good people of Banana Island were seen sharing food items like packs of noodles to many people who the commentator on the video referred to as “our neighbours” (lol). Though, I wondered where such multitude of very poor people could be living around that exquisite highbrow island. Another video showed how hundreds of hungry people bombarded an estate entrance to seek for help, knowing full-well that people living in such estate are well-to-do.

These are few of sad commentaries that have depicted the precarious situation that the majority of people found themselves, especially in the three locations where full lockdown by the Federal Government was declared and recently extended by another two weeks, and many other states like Osun, where enforcement is even stricter within the period. There, no market or food shop was even allowed to open, unlike in Lagos, Ogun and FCT.

He who ties down a goat must provide what it will eat. By simply copying lockdown from foreign countries without adequate plans on how to support the people to ameliorate their sufferings is callous and irresponsibility on the part of the government. It is such notion that have created an impression in the minds of the poor masses that the rich, high and mighty in our country are selfish, and only wanted to sacrifice the poor to protect themselves from the spread of the virus, by locking them in without foods. The rich have what they can feed on in six months to one year even if they remain indoors. While millions of Nigerians feed from hands to mouths. They have nothing to eat if they do not work for a day.

The vulcanizers, okada and tricycle riders, danfo drivers, mechanics, bricklayers, petty traders, hawkers and many others doing menial jobs. With about 96 million Nigerians suffering from one form of poverty or another, even if the government cater for about 11 million people as being touted by the Federal Government in their “unseen” SIP register, what happens to the rest of 85 million? Moreover, that register and the people therein are still a subject of controversies, as many neighbourhoods claim not to have received, seen or known anybody who is on that register and has been collecting the 5000 naira Conditional Cash Transfers since four years. Personally, I have asked around in many communities I have been to, I don’t know and I have not seen anyone, “yet”.

The palliative packages being distributed in Lagos was said to have been improved upon. As against the previously reported two packs for 150 households in one CDA like that, I heard of additional three packs given to them, making a total of five. Wasn’t that an improvement? The Lagos State Commissioner for Information even said they have surpassed the 200,000 households they planned for (laughable). So long as the palliatives are shared in this distorted manner, despite their insufficiency in the first place, thereby not reaching the targeted people, it will be an herculean task to keep the people at home. In a time not long, they will revolt and go out to look for means of survival. Afterall, “something must kill a man”. And to willingly allow hunger to do that can mean injustice to oneself. Stay at home is unsustainable under this condition.

Many prominent people like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu lent his voice to such call, apart from his personal donation of 200 million naira to the Private Sector Coalition Against Covid-19 (CACOVID) of the FG. However, as the “owner” of Lagos (literally), he should exemplify his recommendations through the efficacy with which his “men” handle the situation in Lagos, both economically and securitywise. Otherwise, many may see his advice as mere talks with no intention for actualisation. Another rhetorics. Effort of the police should be acknowledged as they have raised their games, since these few days with increase surveillance. They need to do more.

In all the previous articles I have written since the arrival of this pandemic on our shore, my advocacy has remained that people should stay at home, wash their hands, maintain proper hygiene, ensure social distancing, and follow governments’ directives. I still advocate that, but the governments at all levels must change their current strategy concerning palliatives to support the citizens, It is not working. People are suffering, frustrated and angry already. When a goat has been chased to the wall, it will definitely turn and fight back.

A word is enough for the wise.

God Bless Nigeria.

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