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COVID 19: Highlights, Post-Trauma Management and Rehabilitation

Something happened somewhere exactly at 06.45am on Tuesday, 9th June 2020, during the early hours of the morning as I was coming back from my routine early morning jogging. It had rained the previous night and was still drizzling as of the time this incident happened.

A bike man (‘Okada man’) raced towards me (I always jog facing vehicular traffic) madly coming forth. Avoiding not to run into a woman attempting to cross to the other side of the road, he lost control and crashed hitting the road with his bike before I could blink my eyes to observe the next thing he wanted to do. I stood shocked.

In seconds and minutes, his ‘Okada riders; brothers and many of them from the Northern part of the country gathered. I stepped forward, and the first instinct I had was to take him to the hospital. I was surprised that none of his ‘Okada riders’ brothers cared even to stoop down. All of them were standing, either folding hands or hiding the hands at their backs, talking in Hausa Language. Then, I remembered COVID-19.

A hospital was a stone-throw distance, yet nobody cared to do anything. They were all speaking in Hausa Language, and more than thirty of them by now. I could not communicate in their language as to even say my reason or desire to assist him, if they asked me.

Surprisingly too, many vehicles, obviously conveying ‘responsible’ people to their destinations, though they queued in the now-building vehicular traffic as a result of the accident, didn’t stop either to ask questions or assist. Noticing that I was the ‘odd man out’ in their midst and to avoid being misunderstood or attacked, I quietly but sadly left the scene when they were gathering in great numbers.

This experience drives home one of the dangerous aftermaths of COVID-19 pandemic which is not to be our brother’s keeper as a result of the rule of ‘safe distance’. It also calls for the need for a post-trauma management of the social implications of COVID-19, and the rehabilitation of the economic fabric into which a deep hole may have been inflicted.
The COVID-19 lockdown was imposed by the government like a hoax. It was received by Nigerians like a hoax. But it was real. It ended suddenly and unannounced like a hoax.

Before the incident that I have just narrated happened and trying to be law-abiding because I live in a village far away from the hustle and bustle of Abuja city, I did not make any effort to enter the town. I never knew that the roads had become very busy as people had resumed their normal movements to make ends meet. Few days before then, I had asked somebody who would perform an important task for me to meet me at a convenient location within the limit permitted by the rules guiding the lockdown period. She had ignored me.

Now, seeing the movements in the major roads leading to the city, I found out why. I was supposed to disobey the law and hit the road like others did!

Nigerians were all deceived in some respects, especially those of us who have to source substantial part of the facts and figures with which we comment on national issues from the government, government agencies and officials.

We could as well stop talking about COVID-19 because nobody actually knows what the truth is in Nigeria about COVID-19. The game seem to have ended. For example, the NCDC expanded its lists of symptoms of COVID-19 positive patients to include a wider range of symptoms which include sore throat and fatigue. With this, there seemed to be a Nigerian strain of COVID-19. Some people believe that the strain of COVID-19 which is peculiar to Nigeria is colored in corruption.

The NCDC also went to town with the SMS message that the COVID-19 strain in Nigeria and Malaria had the same symptoms but are caused by different agents, one of which, the agent that causes COVID-19, being contagious. This was after piercing our SMS in-boxes with a previous message that COVID-19 is not the same thing as malaria, citing the PCR testing stuff.

Methinks they are coming close to what the people expect to hear. Nigerians expect the NCDC, in their next outing, to admit that those anti-malarial drugs that we have been talking about (which they administered to people) like azithromycin, et al, are actually the approved prescription for the COVID-19 strain in Nigeria. This will save Nigerian treasury the huge amount of money spent to rent quarantine homes, and feed people on quarantine. It will also save more lives as Nigerians who are already used to self-medication as a result of shortages in health infrastructure, will know how to handle their malaria attack which may now manifest with the rainy seasonal symptom of cold and catarrh.

The lack of transparency in the management of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria could be the probable reason why the President did not keep up with his briefing of the nation, to save him from possible embarrassment. This may also account for why the lockdown enforcement authorities seem to look the other way, as in the second story I narrated, ignoring people as they go about their duties.

Professor Itsay Sagay, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) suggested that Nigeria should be locked down for two months in one swoop. May be, unknown to the Prof, the corruption cankerworm which he sits as the Advisory Committee Chairman to the government will not allow this to be.

Professor Sagay may not also know that it is dangerous to lock Nigerians down for two months without giving them food to eat, especially as many Nigerians had slipped to abject poverty and subsistence living during the present political and economic administration bedeviled with top-class ‘secret’ corruption.

Maybe the Prof. forgot, too, that Nigerians responded positively to the lockdown order when it was introduced especially as their President, Mohammadu Buhari, announced that palliatives were on the way. It is good also to remind the Prof. that Nigerians waited and saw no palliatives, so, using the opportunity of the partial lift on the lockdown, trooped the streets in great numbers to seek their daily bread.

Within these conflicts in government orders, I understood that it was not unlikely that the government knew that things will happen the way they happened. The partial lift on the lockdown became a face-saver for the government who could be accused of keeping the citizens indoors to die of hunger. The truth is that the government did an ‘ajuwaya’, to use the word of a popular Nigerian artiste, Samanja, of a defunct television epic drama.

The government Volta-face in graded phases of lifting the lockdown was the best it could do in order to save itself from further embarrassment after having been misled by the agencies and individuals who it appointed to advise it on, as well as manage COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

The way I understand government lockdown politics is that the government abandoned its responsibility to take care of the citizens at a most critical time in the history of Nigeria. If the figures the NCDC is daily churning out are facts to rely on, Nigeria should still be in a total lockdown, and the government will be feeding her citizens. Trapped between the unknown devil and the deep sea, Nigerians preferred to jump into the deep sea, trusting that God guides them safely to the shore.

The true and final story of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria may not be heard because the authorities and people who are part of the process of the management of COVID-19 in Nigeria may not like to tell the truth. Their hands will continue to be tied by their actions while managing the pandemic in Nigeria.

COVID-19 pandemic brought some innovations to the churches. Some ‘men of God’ who had taught their members not to use television sets several decades ago because it could drive them to sin (in a literal translation of ‘Master Jesus’ teaching that one should cut off one’s hand if the hand will drive one to sin) used both the television and other electronic tubes to transmit their messages to their members during COVID-19 pandemics. Offerings and tithes were paid electronically, too.

In line with another teaching of Jesus Christ to do retribution for offences committed, these Pastors should apologize to erstwhile generations of members of their churches who used the same bias to train up children who may have found it difficult to integrate themselves to the march of civilization.

Well, this serves as warning to other up-coming pastors today that the excitement of the lofty height of righteousness which they may have attained as a result of living in accordance with the laws of man, nature, and God should not color their vision of the realities of empirical world.

Now that the lockdown has not officially been announced to be over, yet activities are already in top gear, government must, as a father to all, find ways to cushion the effect on loss of businesses and income by Nigerians. Because of the collapse of many businesses and the general economic downturn that will be the consequence of post COVID-19 Nigeria, more Nigerians will drift into poverty beyond the limit already recognized and published in the world Poverty Index Record.

Government assistance may take, as the government deems fit, the forms of a tax holiday, debt relief or outright concellation, and moratorium on loans of specific natures. People who deal in expiable consumables need the assistance of government for the losses they may have incurred during the lockdown period when the sales of their expiable products plummeted.

There were speculations that the electricity distribution companies across Nigeria will issue zero naira tariff in electricity bill during the lockdown period. Though it has not happened, it is still not late for the government to write-off these amounts for the companies in favor of Nigerians especially as the government, either deliberately or by omission/commission, failed to make the much advertised palliatives to the people. These will be good measures to be embarked on by the central government.

On the morning of 18th June 2020, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State in South West Nigeria launched N1B MSME post-COVID-19 recovery funding scheme. Other states across Nigeria should replicate this laudable scheme for their people.

In his address to the nation on behalf of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF), Boss Mustapha was quoted  to have asked Nigerians of 60 years of age and above to take greater personal responsibilities  in protecting  themselves from COVID-19 infection.

Though a good one, that was an empty advice from government – an advice that avails nothing.  We already know that COVID-19 seems to be whipping out the older citizens  across the world, especially those with subsisting aliments that have broken down their resistance  to diseases –  their immunity. One had expected the government to do something tangible to assist the elder citizens wage the battle with COVID-19; something like identifying them through their BVN and sending them little tokens to assist their proper  feeding for enhanced immunity.

In a country with deplorable GDP(Gross Domestic Product) and an abysmally low Per Capital Income (PCI), with abject poverty stalking the streets, the advice of the SGF, Boss Mustapha, is an empty one, as empty as the promise of palliatives to Nigerians by the President. In the words of Williams Wordsmith, the advice is ‘sympathy without the power of relieving.’

Most of the elderly people he is advising did not have the opportunity he has to be in posh government employment where everything is easy at the expense of Nigerians and their collective patrimony.

Secondly, this set of people he express to heed his advice have no other options than to walk the streets and fend for themselves and their unemployed children (or children out of unemployment as a result of the massive lay-off that have taken place in Nigeria during the five years of this administration) whom the elderly Nigerians have painstakingly worked hard to send to school.

The only thing I could see in that advice is that it revealed the gaps in the social welfare system of Nigeria both for the unemployed youths and the elderly citizens.  I strolled to look up the meaning of some very-often used words in my dictionary. I found out that the failed election promise as it is written in the election manifesto of the APC Presidential campaign to engage the services of unemployed Nigerian youth falls into the description of fraud captured in section 419 of the Criminal Code which translates to fraudulently obtaining the Presidential election victory from Nigerians by trick and false pretense. Secondly, this is one in the cornucopia of the labyrinth of evidence which points to the blatant abuse of the social contract between citizens and leaders in Nigeria. This, taken from all perspectives, amount to leadership failure.

As a matter of fact, there is no comparison whatsoever between the APC electoral campaign promises of yesteryears to what Nigeria presently have on ground. I still have copy of that document with me.

Typical of the normally disfigured war machine, the APC (Armored Personnel Carrier), the Political Party Camouflaged its inefficiency and incoherence in National Administration matters with a change mantra and defamatory propaganda against the ruling party – a propaganda whose staccato rose very high in decibels enough to numb the senses, deafen the ears, and confuse the minds of gullible Nigerians into submission.

In obvious confusion, too the government asked the churches and the mosques to resume worship adding that members must wear mask and keep the safe physical distance rule. I knew that the government meant differently because what they said is impracticable. Nobody can worship in a church or mosque wearing mask, neither is it possible to sit two meters apart in a church auditorium with more than 50,000 worshipers, as may be the case with some very big churches in Nigeria.

In the international scene, the World Health Organization commended Africa for their success in handling COVID-19. The organization confirmed that Africa had hitherto dealt with several diseases and performed well. An online briefing on May 25th 2020 by WHO’s Director General, Tedros  Ghebreyesus confirmed that Africa only suffered 1.5% of the reported cases in the world and less than 0.1% of deaths.
The DG said that the continent has been “spared the scale of outbreak we have seen in other regions”. According to him, African countries “garnered great deal of experience from tackling infectious diseases like Polio, Measles, Ebola, Yellow fever, Influenza and many more”.

As usual, Africa has survived COVID-19 the way it survived other deadly pandemics as mentioned above including HIV. This to us here in Nigeria is not a surprise because malaria, which is still a big threat to Europeans, Americans and people of other races, has not yet eliminated Africans in spite of the fact that it continues to ravage the continent. Neither will COVID-19, with great semblance with Malaria as informed by the NCDC, eliminate Africans.

A Professor at the Oxford University, Adrian Hill, announced that his team has found a COVID-19 vaccine which will be available for the world to use by September 2020. This was a good story to hear. What was not a good story to hear, at least, by the assessment of many people around the world today, for which reason people may be suspicious of the efforts of the Professor Hill, is that the vaccine will be churned out by a pharmaceutical company, Astra Zeneca, founded by one of the richest couples on planet earth, the controversial Bill and Melinda Gate of the United States of America.

COVID-19 pandemic gave people around the world the opportunity to expand their knowledge perspective especially as it concerns viruses and the human body.

We learnt that virologists, that is, medical doctors whose primary duties are to investigate and understand the modes of transmission and effects of viruses really do a lot to ensure safety of people. We learnt that they consistently screened and studied the continuously changing and uncertain sets of molecular data collected in different samples in order to analyze the composition and changing structure of coronavirus and keep pace with its complex and evolving mutative track.

According to these experts, these ends can be achieved by means of bioinformatics.

We understand now that like architects use computers to achieve complex design structures and artists use the same computer to create what in modern visual art experiments is recognized as surrealism, virologists do also employ the in-silicon method – a computer-based programming device which studies the nature, genetic structure and mutation speed of viruses with a view to determining and predicting drug formulation from the wide arsenal of the pharmacologists’ drug treasure-chest which can potentially target and kill the virus.

No wonder we hear good news about the discovery of COVID-19 vaccine almost from all parts of the world – a process which usually take up to five years – including the clinical trials of a drug to achieve.

The diplomatic showdown between China and America has not abated. The American President, Donald Trump had called COVID-19 ‘the Chinese virus’. He had also accused the United Nation of being the mouth-piece for China. Recently, China responded in a very sarcastic statement through her State Counsellor and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi. He said “Regretfully, in addition to the ravaging coronavirus, a political virus is also spreading in the US. This political virus is using every opportunity to attack and smear China.”

Several groups and organizations, most of them being in the United States, are mustering evidence to incriminate China for the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

Joining this world elite group to demand sanctions and compensations from China, Nigeria’s Obi Ezekwesili, newly-appointed to an international body, re-iterated the need to make China suffer for causing pains on the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, a $20 trillion lawsuit has been filed against Chinese authorities in the U.S. over coronavirus outbreak. An American lawyer, Larry Klayman and his advocacy group, ‘Freedom Watch’ along with a Texas Company, Buzz Photos’ filed the lawsuit against the Chinese government, Chinese army, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Director of Wuhan Institute of Virology, Shi Zhengli, and Chinese army’s Major General, Chen Wei.

The Plaintiffs sought $20 trillion which is bigger than China’s GDP. They claimed in the suit that coronavirus is the result of a biological weapon prepared by the Chinese authorities.

By the way, biological weapons were outlawed in 1925 by a treaty signed by most of the countries of the world as a result of the events of the First World War. Since then, all biological weapons have been classified as terrorists’ weapons of mass destruction’.

The plaintiffs asked for a jury trial against the Chinese defendants.

Like the novel COVID-19, this will be a novel court case, if it does happen that the Peoples’ Republic of China loses this case and is eventually dragged to the International Court of Justice, ICJ, in the Hagues, for a crime against humanity.

If the Plaintiffs prove its case and justice is obtained, it shall be a warning to those dictators around the world who pile up biological weapons of mass destruction.

There was some celebrity news trailing the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic was stamped with a melo-drama of class when the news was hyped both in the print and electronic media that David Adeleke (Davido’s) heartthrob, Chioma, had caught the deadly virus.

The news which attracted headlines in the entertainment industry was received with sadness. Favorable felicitations and sympathy was shown to the young lovers. Chioma had long recovered and now at home with her heartthrob.

The COVID-19 drama peaked to an utmost high level with an online photo of a woman who used a mini-Holy Bible fixed with ropes as her face mask. It was an absurd expression of faith. The photograph went viral.

There is a nauseating thing presently going on in Nigeria today. Though backed up with good reasons, the timing of the nation-wide strike embarked upon by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) is inappropriate.

One understands that there is no reason whatsoever why the government has not to implement their demands especially as much of the things they are asking for will boost the efficiency of the health sector and benefit Nigerians, yet, the fact that both the doctors and Nigerians have been living with these inadequacies before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic could be a plausible argument in favor  of a postponement  of the industrial action embarked upon by the Resident Doctors till government was able to co-up with the emergency of COVID-19, and flatten the curve of its spread in Nigeria.

Be that as it may, the damage has already been done. But it is never late anytime to get anything right-to make amends.

Both parties – NARD and the Federal Government – must sit down together immediately to solve the problem. It is said that the grass suffers when two elephants fight. Nigerians are suffering as a result of the industrial action embarked upon by the members of the National Association of Resident Doctors.

To finally dim the klieg light hitherto focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, my opinion is that it will take some time before socialization amongst people will come back to normal, when such an occurrence as reported at the opening paragraphs of this work will cease to happen. People, then, will be their brothers’ keepers once again.

Abuchi Obiora

June 24th, 2020.

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