COVID-19 and Nigeria’s episodic leaders

Silence eats our streets up
Mothers hide their babies from the sun
Our forebears forbid our visits
And the markets cast stones of attrition on us!
Man, where are you?
Creeping away in search for breath
Fading like the stars
Your morning is greeted with mourning
We keep the count.
Sneeze and get seized
Cough, it's against the call of nature
Mankind has become deceptive
Disinfecting her very soundness
Sanitizing her humour
Stay away. Stay safe. Stay at home
We need a rescue.
Our breath are being filtered
We no longer recognize our beauty
We're masked like dead bodies roaming the streets.
©John Simon
The Bundasliga is back, the Spainish La Liga is following suit, the English Premier league, also the Italian Seria A, the same Italy that was the death ground for the COVID19 Pandemic. Soccer is gradually coming back, in Nigeria, we are not open, neither are we closed, however somewhere in South of Nigeria, we were treated to the 'crying governor' and it was Omoniyi Ibietan that asked was it altruism or populism? Or anything I don't know? Can anybody help? Let me add, or was it the popular episodic drama of our leaders?
So let us move, at what point did the crying governor realize he was a sinner or had sinned, at what point did he notice that it is only in Nigeria that you don't support small businesses, you don't give poor people scholarships, no free medicals, yet they pay one form of tax or the other.
Is it not only Nigeria that you are locked down, and then stamp duty is deducted from your dwindling account.
Food supply-chain disrupted, non-functional silos, produce perishing, agric sector counting losses. We're really diversifying. Rice, spaghetti, macaroni...are the palliatives when available. Locally farmed, more nutritious foods, vegetables, fruits... perish in transit. Thank you Omoniyi for this reminder, but who cares really when General El-Rufai, my brother and friend, is more concerned about patrolling the borders with his deputy, and SSG, and you ask, in a system that works, do you need governors to go to city borders with the press to show populism.
We have drama queens, and kings, slay queens and side chicks, in Nigeria, our COVID-19 business enterprise has again exposed Slay leaders and side leaders.
Concerned about the lockdown, leave it to the Germans to come up with a sinuous, unpronounceable, and entirely perfect word to describe the slew of debates over how and when to reopen economies locked down due to the coronavirus: Öffnungsdiskussionsorgien, or opening discussion orgies. Lagos tried to have a social debate but it fizzled out, or rather we are stuck with whether to open places of worship or not.
Which brings me to the question, why are we like these, I mean what exactly is the problem with Nigeria, where are we different in the same way.
Worldwide, for every country that has shut restaurants and schools, grounded flights, and required citizens to stay home. While general agreement with lockdown decisions was right, there are now heated debates about what the new normal should be—and how to get there. In our clime our problem with leadership is how to open the churches and mosques, instead of thinking of easing the economy and allowing people to learn the new normal, we are bent on caging ourselves further by believing that our solutions lie in prayers.
China, where the outbreak originated, has slowly reopened Wuhan. New Zealand says the virus is “currently eliminated” there and is talking about resuming flights to Australia.
Everyone misses grandma…We treat grandma with disdain, giving them N10,000 and few cartoons of indomie. People are universally missing their extended families, especially older relatives, who faced the most severe restrictions in some countries given their vulnerability to the virus. Switzerland recently allowed children under 10 to hug their grandparents again, and France eased its restrictions on nursing home visits. But folks in Britain were told to wait. In Nigeria we are not yet done with our drama.
Let me show you a little of our episodic nature; Late Rashidi Yekini died eight years ago in Ibadan after retiring from active football, had a career that spanned more than two decades.
Scored 37 goals for Nigeria from 58 games and represented the nation in five major tournaments, including two World Cups where he scored the country’s first-ever goal in the competition against Bulgaria in the USA ‘94 World Cup.
It took an episodic movement to get his poor mother, 50kg bag of rice, 10kg bag of wheat, six tins of Milo in the month of Ramadan, and then the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development places her, on a monthly stipend of N10,000.
The old woman stated, “I have been abandoned for a long time and have not gotten help from anyone. I was hospitalized for days, some months ago and catered for myself despite scarce resources, even last month; I received treatment at the hospital. I need help from Nigerians, but this minister has done very well, especially remembering me in this holy month of Ramadan. Since my son died, life has been very tough because I do not get assistance from people…”
“In furtherance to, and in appreciation of, the recent pronouncement of the HM Sports @SundayDareSD to put the mothers of late ex-internationals Sam Okwaraji and Rashidi Yekini on a monthly stipend, the NFF has decided to support this noble initiative with a further monthly stipend of N30k to each of the two matriarchs,” the NFF said on Twitter.
This is how our leaders behave, whether in the political space, or in the religious field, even in family life it is almost safe to conclude that we have this kneejerk reaction to every, our lives are guided by an episode of feelings rather that rational thinking that is guided by the need to achieve result.
Talking about kids, some countries (such as France, Israel, and Slovenia) are starting to send little kids back to school, whereas others (like Germany, Greece, Portugal, Senegal, South Korea, and Vietnam) are focusing on older ones. Sweden kept young kids in school the entire time, while neighboring Denmark, Finland, and Norway are only now allowing them to resume their studies.
What did our own leaders do, come up with these virtual feeding program to be administered by zoom or skype one presumes, because one cannot understand the rational for feeding school children at home, when we could barely feed their parents.
South Africans haven’t been allowed to buy alcohol since the lockdown began on March 26. A friend said vineyards in the Cape region are going bust, many of their workers are starving, and sober locals are trying to extract alcohol from hand sanitizer or make pineapple beer at home.
Our leaders, we the citizens in Nigeria have continued to drink, and get high on everything, and sober on nothing. Nigerians want to eat, they want food, lock them down and give them food and healthcare. But leadership cannot do that, so there is worry about starvation, missing ingredients on grocery shelves. Social distancing and reduced demand are hitting the service sector, and our leaders really have no answers.
When the lockdown started, I debated against the appropriateness of the Western-influenced lockdown model for African economies. As millions of urban poor subsist hand to mouth under cramped living conditions, continued income and social safety nets can save lives too.
Nigeria has a poor health care system, poor price control means rising food prices, a worsening security environment, and porous borders inter state borders given the politics of COVID19 numbers, and the new almajiri induced inter state deportation.
In Nigeria, our police has been part of the episodic drama, while a Police office showed so much restrain as a woman plummeted him with slaps, same cannot be said of other security agents, who are actually COVID19 proof even by their actions, this virus, has further exposed our leadership virus, one full of drama, episode by episode, and when will the next episode be? Only time will tell.

By Femi Adesina

This week, the Muhammadu Buhari administration would be exactly five years in office. Four full years of a first term, and one year accomplished in the second term of four years.

In five years, President Buhari has touched Nigeria in diverse ways, despite myriad of challenges; economic, security, political, social, and many more.

The fact sheet will be unfolded few days hence, but today, as build up to the anniversary season, let’s dwell on some unassailable truths that can never be swept away. As Sir Winston Churchill, former British Prime Minister said: “Truth is incontrovertible. Ignorance may deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but there it is.”
The president and his team are steadily and painstakingly retooling Nigeria. Out of sheer and deliberate ignorance, some people deride it, saying we see nothing, we hear nothing.

Yes. When you have become deliberately blind, you can see nothing, even when it is thrust before your very eyes. You won’t see it. When you have become willfully deaf, when it is noised to your hearing daily, you won’t hear.

Some other people do theirs out of panic. Shall it be said that what Napoleon couldn’t do, has been done by that simple, unassuming man from Daura? Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Daura of all places. That small place. Not a man from a major city. And he wants to be recorded in history as the man who turned Nigeria right side up. They resent it out of panic.

Yet some others operate out of malice. He is not of my ethnic stock. Nor of my religion, language, political party. Why must Nigeria work under him? It won’t happen. We won’t see anything, nor hear anything. In fact, he is doing nothing. The country is even worse off than he met it five years ago.

There is a quote often attributed to John Adams, a former American president, though some people claim it was not original to him. It goes thus: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

A number of times, I have written about a private journey I took to Onitsha, in Anambra State, last December. I was on the same flight with the Obi of Onitsha, His Royal Highness Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe. When we landed at Asaba, and I had paid him royal courtesies, he asked me to give the thanks and appreciation of his people to the President on the Second Niger Bridge, currently under construction. For many years, many administrations had made unfulfilled political promises on the project.

“As you drive on the Niger Bridge, just look to your right, and you will see the new bridge coming up,” the revered monarch had said. “Please tell Mr. President that we are very happy, and we thank him.”

I saw the Second Niger Bridge, and it kindled the joy kiln in my heart. But you know what? Some people pass on the 1965 Niger Bridge, see the new one in the works, and just pretend not to. Some others see it, and they are angry. Will this Daura man succeed where others have failed? But facts are stubborn things.

“Truth is incontrovertible. Ignorance may deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but there it is.”

Have you seen the Owerri Interchange lately? It is the 1.6km bridge and 10.3km highway being built by Julius Berger at Onitsha/Owerri Road, Obosi Junction. It will lead to the Second Nigeria Bridge.

In March, before the COVID-19 pandemic caused national emergency and halted the project, Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), visited. Very impressive. Now, here’s the news:

As part of the Phase 1 of the easing of lockdown occasioned by Coronavirus in the country, work is restarting on 53 infrastructure projects in 26 states, across the country. Despite the crash in revenue due to the collapse of oil prices in the international market, 11 contractors have been mobilised back to site in 26 states. And the Owerri Interchange is one of the scenes of action.

The Second Niger Bridge is projected to be completed in the lifetime of this administration, in fact by February 2022. The man from Daura will go into records as the person that did it, with Fashola as the midwife. Facts are stubborn things.

In Phase 2 of the easing of the lockdown, you know what will happen? The Federal Roads Maintenance Agency will roll out 92 repair works across 24 states in the country. That will be different from the 53 projects in 26 states.

Nigeria will be one huge construction site, at a time the economy is down, and revenue has shrunk considerably. That is the hallmark of a government out to serve the people, come rain or shine. Minister Fashola says the objective “is to get all those depending on daily living back to work, when the COVID-19 is finally contained.”

Strides in agriculture will not stop. Nigeria is on the verge of food self-sufficiency. Rice, beans, maize, millet, all grains, we import none, unlike in the past.

What if President Buhari had not invested in agriculture right from 2015? How would we have survived at a time like this? Where would we run to? We run to the sea, the sea would be boiling. We run to the bush, the bush would be burning. We run to the rocks, the rocks would be cracking. Where would we have run to? Yet some people say: we can’t even see what the government is doing. Yes, willfully blind people won’t see. But facts are stubborn things.

What of railway lines criss-crossing the country? Lagos to Ibadan is ready. Abuja to Kaduna had been in operation.Ibadan to Kano is in the works.

Roads? Lagos/Ibadan Expressway is 61% completed. Abuja/Kano is bursting forth. Enugu/Port Harcourt. And many others. In fact, there is a federal road project ongoing in almost every state in the country.

Airports. New terminals at Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt. Many others under construction
Solid minerals? Contribution to Federation Account In 2015 was N700 million. In 2016, it went up to N2 billion,and N5 billion in 2017. It hasn’t stopped growing since then.

We have a Social Investment Programme that is the biggest and most ambitious in Africa. President Buhari recently directed that those on the social security register be increased from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million.

Yet, all that some people can do is pick holes. They forget that there was a time in recent history that the country didn’t have a social security register at all. They won’t even let the one that has been established grow.

Corruption is being fought to a standstill. The same with insecurity in different parts of the country. External reserves are growing at a time of economic crisis. Yet some people don’t see what the government is doing. But those who see, and hear, are full of appreciation.

True, facts are stubborn things. “Truth is incontrovertible. Ignorance may deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but there it is.”

Adesina is the Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity.

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