The prophet of Islam, Muhammad SAW, said that, “the panic and anxiety visited upon a people by a pandemic is in itself another pandemic.” There has never been a time when Muslims in Nigeria cannot celebrate Sallah – the closest being when the Boko Haram menace was rife and people went to mosques and Eid grounds with their hearts in their mouths, afraid that they can be sent to the next life by an explosion from a bomb; remotely controlled, or by a suicide bomber. Today, Muslims around the country are told to either pray at home, or in the mosques in their localities; and that is even where states have eased their lockdowns or lifted them almost completely – And this has nothing to do with bombs or Boko Haram; in fact, those ones are being pummeled day and night and are having the roughest time of their lives. Faithful are forced to stay home, or observe their Eids at home or at their Friday mosques, because of the fear of the explosion of a pandemic a.k.a Covid-19/coronavirus, which has been taking lives in the thousands all over the world.
The world’s economy has shrunk and world super powers like America and countries of the European Union are mopping up trillions of dollars, and billions of euros as bail-out, and rescue, from the effects of the pandemic. 2.4 million Americans filed in jobless claims in the last one week, and in the nine weeks that the country has been suffering from the Covid-19 outbreak, a total of 38.6 million americans have filed in jobless claims. The European Union is planning a 500 billion euros economic package for its member countries. Curiously, only China, has stood tall in the face of this global economic crises caused by coronavirus.
Amazingly, states in Nigeria shared the highest amount of revenue in the first quarter of 2020, since the PMB administration, with April recording over N780 billion for the month of March, while the April revenue dipped by N174 billion, recording N606 billion. The closure of our borders, the curtailing of forex for the importation of milk and toothpicks, and the boost in the production of rice and other essential commodities have been either the masterstroke, or the luck-streak of this administration, and the country as a whole. One cannot imagine how much a bag of rice from China, the home of Wuhan, the birthplace of coronavirus, would cost by now. How much would ‘tin-tomatoes’ cost now? How would they be moved from the ports and all over the country with all the restrictions on movement and commercial activities? In the last one year, we have been tough and have been able to stand on our feet and sustain ourselves by trying to atleast produce what we consume – subsistence farming if you may call it that. Our Covid-19 infection figures are reading about 8,000 persons; what would this figure be if our land borders were as porous as they were long before the corona panic? Our Francophone neighbours have always raped our borders and its communities, flouting all protocols of trade and immigration, which is evident in not only trade, but in our country’s protracted war with insurgents that have readily found cover at the borders of these neighbouring countries, hence their existence till date.
To the common man on the streets, there is no coronavirus, or coronavirus is a fabrication of the west, or a manipulation of the federal government just to ‘chop’ public funds. When the Presidential Task Force (PTF), and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), warn that states cannot and should not manipulate figures, you cannot blame the common man. When isolated or quarantined patients can stage a street protest and detest their conditions of living in their centres, complaining of adequate care and medication, you cannot blame the common man. Kano and Bauchi states witnessed a momentary spike in the number of deaths within the space of five days or less, and those deaths have not been clearly defined deaths caused by the coronavirus; because if they were, the spread of the virus would have been huge, which is very characteristic of the notoriety of the virus. Abroad, millions of people have been afflicted and thousands have died but back home here in mother Africa, or better still, in Nigeria here, we have barely 300 deaths from the virus outbreak.
It is crystal clear that corona has not found Africa, a fertile soil, to sow its spongy seeds and very flighty affliction, transmitting from one host to the other, with the fiercest rapidity ever witnessed of a virus. Last year alone, 60,000 Americans died from the Flu which is just 20,000 short of the corona caused deaths. In Nigeria or other temperate region countries, about 300 deaths have been recorded so far. Some states like Kogi, have barely reported a case, or a spike in mortality rate or other signs of the destruction from corona. The World Health Organisation, WHO, had declared about three weeks ago that we must learn to live with the virus, deploying ways and means of mitigating its spread and transmission. If super economic powers are panicking with huge unemployment figures, and different kinds of economic meltdowns, what more of a struggling soul like Nigeria? The very crunching figures are about to weigh in now as the FAAC allocations have began to dip, and will continue to do so, as the cost of oil is selling just barely 6 dollars above the cost of production. The finance minister has just declared that we are headed for a recession, even though we have done commendably well, as countries like Germany had declared a recession a month ago. Our economy is headed for suffrage ‘coronically’.
We cannot afford to kid ourselves any much longer. What is sustainable in the name of lockdowns and what not, in europe and the United States, is simply not feasible here, neither is it healthy, the same way it hasn’t been over there economically. If a governor has to personally police a cross state border, then you know it is not working, and it will not hold for long. A recession with a lock down is highway to perdition and anarchy. People are suffering a pandemic and an impoverished life which necessitates that they are called to duty on a daily, or perhaps even hourly basis, to eke out a living. Muslims somehow found shelter in the fasting period as less meals are made in a day, and activities have experienced a general slow down. Eid at home is a sad experience but a necessary sacrifice, all in an effort to defeat corona. A proverb says, “What Musa danced to and made money; is what Garba will dance to, and receive the beating of his lifetime.” Coronavirus was not made for Africa, and will not survive Africa. It was made in Wuhan, and there it will rest in pieces. We may add corona to the list of diseases like Lassa, Ebola, SARS and even our novel Malaria. Life must continue, and Nigeria must allow its masses to earn their living, otherwise, all hell is threatening to let loose, the way I see it.
Tahir is Talban Bauchi