Nigerians Have More Problems To Fear Than Coronavirus

Our effectiveness in dealing with COVID-19 has kept me thinking that a virus-fear mindset is what Nigeria needs to turn the corner.

Nigeria's COVID-19 positive cases up to 97 / Photo credit: qz.com
Nigeria's COVID-19 positive cases up to 174 / Photo credit: qz.com
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The obsession of Nigerians with Coronavirus, the cause of the COVID-19 epidemic, demonstrates it is indeed possible for things to work efficiently when we decide that it is of utmost importance.

We can galvanise awareness and support, such that even our government will be forced out of its characteristic tepid disposition to issues of public concern.

Before the Coronavirus reached our shores, most Nigerians were already animated about the novel epidemic.

Even those with insufficient knowledge had begun to run in disorderly haste.

Within a short time, content about the disease flooded the social media, becoming the number topic in many WhatsApp conversations.

In texts, memes, skits, links and documents, the Nigerian community saturated the wire with Coronavirus information.

As face mask became a top selling product, all manners of funny caricature depicting people and animals wearing masks went as viral as the virus itself.

The grip on the virus was so firm that that public health officials and the state governments had to rivet to public interest.

The immigration procedure at the international airports, at least in Lagos, had Coronavirus screening injected, as travelers were forced to complete a questionnaire about the disease.

By the time the first infected person arrived the country from Italy, he could only escape detection for a short window.

Soon enough, the infected and those who came in contact with him were identified and isolated.

Why can we not apply the same urgency and approach to the ugliness of our physical, political and social infrastructure?

The state of preparation and readiness was so high, it was almost not Nigeria.

The result was brilliant!

For once, something is working, and it is all because the people focused and expected those who would respond to be vigilant and swift.

Our effectiveness in dealing with COVID-19 has kept me thinking that a virus-fear mindset is what Nigeria needs to turn the corner.

And I arrived at this conclusion through a catalog of questions.

Why can we not apply the same urgency and approach to the ugliness of our physical, political and social infrastructure?

Why do we not strive for effectiveness, efficiency and perfection in nation building?

Why do mediocrity and corruption rule over us?

Why are our roads so bad, schools so derelict and public utilities so epileptic?

Should our hospitals have become misnamed hospices and neighborhood streets mere gullies from erosion?

Could we have had a better law enforcement system instead of ill-equipped police that fears criminals but oppresses law-abiding citizens?

Why is there so much injustice, to the extent that court decisions are believed to have become commodified.

Why is the Nigerian Army so badly trained and equipped that soldiers are punished by terrorists so severely, disgracefully and frequently?

What is it taking us so long to rescue the Chibok girls after spending billions of dollars to wipe out Boko Haram?

Why have we accepted that elections should become a wasteful exercise where the courts really do decide for the electorate who their elected officials should be?

Is it not so obvious and annoying that the expressed wishes of Nigerians through elections no longer matter?

What risk does coronavirus present that malaria does not, when malaria infects and kills far more people annually in Nigeria alone than COVID-19 is likely to kill world-wide.

What fear has coronavirus set in our critical faculties that these far more serious challenges have not?

How do we get this Coronavirus chip mounted on our brains, so that we can demand solutions to the problems that have made Nigeria one of the most difficult countries to live in?

I ask these many questions because the non-manageability and dilacerations of Nigeria, though naked to the eye, has become acceptable and resident, while Coronavirus set an unusual intolerance and rejection in an inexplicable way.

We all like to talk about social and political change but place ineffective demand on it, the kind of demand we placed on managing a largely foreign epidemic.

What risk does coronavirus present that malaria does not, when malaria infects and kills far more people annually in Nigeria alone than COVID-19 is likely to kill world-wide

We worry about a disease that has not killed 5,000 among 7.7 billion global inhabitants, but close our eyes on the viral effect of corruption, bad leadership and the many problems that weigh us down.

A video widely shared among Nigerians on social media at the moment is of a jolly former senator, who decided to flaunt his questionable wealth before Nigerians, absurdly singing he needed more money to further nurse his indulgences.

It was a case of the thief waving the plunder before the owner.

Instead of demanding an action, Nigerians shared the video as a mere comedy.

That is why it is difficult to understand our mentality when it comes to the enormous problems confronting us.

Coronavirus awareness and pressure falsely present Nigerians as an engaged and demanding citizenry.

In this depth of our unseriousness, it is also true that it is within our ability to focus, unite, and place the right burden on the political leadership if we decide the issue is important.

The take-away is that it is possible for a certain segment of the population, those who can easily grassues – the opinion leaders – to take the lead in articulating the kind of country that we want to live in and raise followership.

This is the time to tackle the viruses of corruption, crumbling education system, poor electricity, bad roads, insecurity, intolerable medical facilities, poverty, child trafficking and other symptoms of our national sickness that can delay that journey into a prosperous future

Such opinion leaders should swing into action now, because we are already late in the pursuit of collective happiness.

Nations are faced with a quickly evolving future where robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence will change societies forever.

Someone stated today is the slowest day you will ever see again, to explain the need to adapt to a new dawn of technological revolution.

This is the time to tackle the viruses of corruption, crumbling education system, poor electricity, bad roads, insecurity, intolerable medical facilities, poverty, child trafficking and other symptoms of our national sickness that can delay that journey into a prosperous future.

These viruses are deadlier than Coronavirus, and we should not tolerate them. We must demand for, and work towards, a cure.

The Coronavirus panic in Nigeria has several positives of a different kind. If we apply the power of anxiety to debilitating national problems, we can move mountains. We need shame, discomfort and fear that result in action to create a new Nigeria.

If we begin to have millions of responsible, informed and active citizens who demand for excellence, we could start electing those who can manage our affairs properly and fight politicians trying to buy votes.

Active and informed citizens will not only elect good leaders, they will put the feet of such leaders to the pedal.

They will ensure that every day, in the life of this nation, we force everything to work for the ordinary citizen.

The government and leaders are not always the root cause of problems.

At times, it is us, the citizens, who need to fix ourselves. When we are truly fixed, our leadership will become fixed, permanently.

Written by Tunde Chris Odediran

Tunde Chris Odediran studied and practiced journalism in Nigeria. He is now a Technical Communications and Information Technology professional in the United States.

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