Barely days to the end of a four-week lockdown declared by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease in Nigeria, I’ve seen a few number of “pots and pan protests” on various social media platforms.
This left me with some questions, amongst which is why a few Nigerians would choose to protest in the face of a pandemic that has shaken the very foundations of advanced health systems in developed countries of the world.
I also wondered why some other desperate few felt the need to trend online by politicising the COVID-19 situation through unwarranted criticisms of government initiatives and directives. Could this be due to lack of patriotism from a preference to feed the ego over putting the country first?
My observation from the videos I’ve seen so far is that those championing this protest are not even hungry and poor.
The reality on the ground is that the poor ones still go about making their daily earnings. Just the other morning, my electrician came all the way from the Lugbe area, a satellite town not far away from the Abuja metropolis, to fix an electrical problem I had in my house. Three days ago, my plumber also came to attend to a plumbing problem in my kitchen.
Somehow, the poor have been able to find their way around despite the lockdown. At least, I can say this with all certainty about those I know personally with a source of income, but not the unemployed. It, therefore, becomes imperative for the Federal Government and citizens to identify the unemployed so as to ensure that government’s palliative trickles down rightly.
Where this has not been done properly, those superintending over the local government councils must immediately engage their representatives at the state Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly to ensure that the poor are beneficiaries of the scheme.
Reverting to my assessment on the impact of the lockdown, it is common knowledge that markets are open to the public, and I can tell you that some businesses have found a way of rendering online services that deliver goods, ranging from electronics supply to furniture at your doorstep. So, what is the protest for, really?
We are at a time when we need to contain the spread of a disease. So far, those behind this protest are just calling out the government without even coming up with suggestions and proposals needed to address the fear of community spread of the dreaded virus should the lockdown be lifted. To be candid, this reeks of hypocrisy and puts to question the motive behind the protest.
In any case, I think on another count that this swings both ways. If the President decides to lift the lockdown and we see a significant increase in number of infections and deaths, I can guarantee you that these same persons would be handy to advance another anti-government scheme to discredit the administration. Who knows, they would most probably come up with a ‘head-pan and cement’ protest to denigrate the government over the insufficient number of isolation centres and ventilators in the country. And the condemnation goes on in a vicious cycle that helps no one.
In my view, this moment of emergency calls for collective cooperation and mutual understanding on the part of citizens and the Federal Government, and not attempts to disrupt the activities or sabotage the efforts of the latter.
Nobody is finding it easy at this time, including myself, but we must continue to harbour optimism that the decision of the Federal Government would again grant us some weeks of reprieve in the face of the grave danger the world currently faces.
As it stands, the only available and efficient option in the fight against the pandemic for now is the introduction of a partial lockdown to reduce the rapid spread of the disease, while allowing government time to identify infected persons and isolate them from the population.
To complement government’s initiatives, let us get on board to propose ways in which the fight against COVID-19 can be made more effective. The Presidential Task Force is there to take note of concerns and observations made by Nigerians, and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control helplines are equally available for this purpose.
It is my hope that we all make it out of this pandemic without recording high number of deaths, whilst at the same time noting the need to develop our health institutions to sufficiently deal with a recurrence.
Ezrel Tabiowo, MBSC, Fsca, Abuja