Of Covid-19, Abba Kyari and the 4 Crucial Lessons to be Learned

By Chima Osuji | Ilorin

The late Chief of Staff to Nigeria President, Mr. Abba Kyari

The death of Abba Kyari continues to stir mixed reactions from several quarters in the country. While some are deeply saddened by the unfortunate passing of the enigmatic statesman, others are heaving sighs of relief at the fall of the political Iroko tree. I belong to the former, and believe it is most irresponsible for anyone to gloat over the death of an individual or a group of people. The dead demand our respect and may the souls of our fallen compatriots rest in eternal peace.

So far, Kyari’s demise would be the first high profiled fatality recorded in Nigeria. But beyond the barrage of condolences extended to the Presidency, the nation, and family members of the deceased, there are specific lessons to be learned from the death of the erstwhile presidential gatekeeper and strongman.

First, if you’re still in doubt as to the reality of the Coronavirus, I suggest you have a rethink. Covid-19 is not only real but capable of causing unprecedented fatalities across the world. Just when the world had thought Italy was the worst hit by the virus, the United States surprisingly emerged as the epicenter of the virus, with at least 34,000 lives lost.

As of the time of writing this piece, 493 Nigerians have contracted Covid-19 while over 2 million people have tested positive globally. The current global death toll stands at over 154,388. More discomfiting is the surging boisterity of the pandemic in view of its festering spread at community level in Nigeria. Which is why the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has predicted the spread of the virus across all 36 states of the federation. This is our reality at the moment. Therefore, if you’re still sceptical as to the existence of the virus, remember the saying—”for lack of ignorance the people perish.”

Second, death has no respect for person. It harbours no deep reverence for seats of power and formidable nation-states and sweeps away every human from the circle of life. That’s the inevitable romance we all must have with death. The potency of the virus is causing the rich and the poor to gnash their teeth in fear. The global economy hasn’t been spared either—it has been brought on its knees and made to crawl by Covid-19. In fact, this pandemic will pass technically for a Third World War except for the fact that no physical arsenals and occupational armies have been deployed to fight the invisible enemy. Rather, medical doctors, nurses, public health practitioners and volunteers are the frontliners prosecuting this unconventional warfare on behalf of the global community which comprises you and me.

Third, two proverbs are useful in educating those who are gloating over Kyari’s passing. The first being the evergreen injunction—”those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”—and the second being the famous objectivity test administered by Jesus Christ on a group of Jewish mob who had sued for the condemnation of Mary Magdalene for committing an abominable crime—”he that is without sin, cast the first stone.” Let’s assume without conceding that all sentient beings understand to a reasonable extent, the ephemerality of life. However, in view of the ravaging menace of the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s no safe haven for those who lead reckless and non-conforming lives. No one is immuned from the known sources of contracting the virus if proper precautionary measures are not observed. 

Therefore, if Kyari’s death makes you happy today, remember, Covid-19 might make you and your entire family bereaved tomorrow. My concern however is more about those who do not belong to the elitist club as the late Kyari, those wallowing in untold hardship and can’t afford the luxuries of life. Recently, Nigeria’s Information Minister, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, informed the Press that corpses of Covid-19 victims “can’t be claimed for burial.” However, the headlines of today suggest otherwise. We’re made to understand that Kyari’s corpse was not only  “claimed” by the Federal Government but buried in a well publicised manner. 

What about the other sixteen Nigerians who have been downed by the virus in Nigeria? Are we saying they are lesser humans or Nigerians? Shouldn’t the government bear their cost of burial and provide mental health support for members of the deceased’s immediate family? As much as I sympathise with Kyari’s family, sympathisers, and the Presidency, I believe the government’s handling of the matter is counterintuitive and reprehensible. This is because the rule of law demands that what’s sauce for the goose should equally be sauce for the gander. 

Fourth, the novel Coronavirus has imposed on us the urgency and opportunity to reinvent ourselves personally, collectively as well as repositioning our governmental system. We should be discerning enough to take advantage of the opportunity to introspect, prospect, detect and perfect a home-grown model of public administration and governance.

With the not-so-palatable occurrences currently sweeping through hamlets, cities, countries and the world, it is therefore imperative for all stakeholders in Nigeria to start doing things differently going forward. Leaders have a special role to play in the post Covid-19 era in terms of engendering sound education, efficient health delivery system, good governance, respect for rule of law and human rights, and economic prosperity for all. 

I sincerely hope to see several waves of disruptive change in all sectors of the Nigerian economy post Covid-19. Equally important, is the true professionalisation of our security outfits. This isn’t rocket science, it is doable provided the needed political will is made available and sustained, and the ideals of good governance and servant leadership pursued to the letter.

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Chima Osuji is a legal practitioner, Law and Policy Reform Officer at EduTrust Foundation and Legal Adviser/Column Editor, Campus Focus Newspaper. He tweets at @Osujichima47.

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