When A Friend Gets COVID-19

When A Friend Gets COVID-19

The year 2020a had scarcely began when America took out a top Iranian general and Iran unwisely took down a Ukrainian passenger airplane with 176 lives. While the world tried to come to terms with the risk of increased chaos or even World War III, 2020a was quickly cast aside by news that 2020b had begun with a new illness springing out of some hitherto “unknown” place in China. In the numerous months since the year 2020b started, we have seen name changes from “Wuhan Coronavirus” to “Chinese Coronavirus” to “SARS-CoV-2” and the most infamous of them all, “COVID-19”. This seemed to be an event in a distant land, until the first case in Lagos, and then someone close contracted the virus.

As I was getting ready to log off my church’s online service on Sunday, 22 March 2020, my phone suddenly rang. Who could be calling me this early on a Sunday? A glance at my phone screen showed a friend, XY was the caller. I quickly asked XY what must have triggered them to call at this time, and they began admonishing me to take good care of myself. XY told me they had recently returned from the UK, felt unwell within a few days, contacted the Government of Nigeria, whose officials collected samples. XY’s test results came out positive days later and XY was admitted at an isolation facility in Lagos. After XY and I finished speaking, I decided I had to give procrastination the middle finger and write an article I had been considering for some time.

The previous Thursday, while cases of COVID-19 were rising in Lagos, my firm had informed employees that we may have to work from home from the coming week. By the next day, as confirmed cases increased, the firm instructed all of us to stay home until further notice. As I headed back home that evening, I thought about the situation in Nigeria and our preparedness for the pending pandemic. If I did not have any power to change Nigeria’s fate, I could at least try to keep my family and close persons off the victims’ list, especially since we have quite a number of senior citizens in the family.  

Despite the apparent efforts of the National Centre for Disease Control / Federal Ministry of Health, one telephone call with my parents in Port Harcourt was enough to confirm the information silos prevalent in Nigeria. While Lagos gets somewhat prepared for a shitstorm, I was shocked to find out my own State Government was doing little to get Rivers residents aware of and prepared for COVID-19. Apart from the nationally-mandated closure of schools from Monday the 23rd, the Rivers State Government (like most other State Governments) did not seem to think that this was a crisis that needed preparing for. It’s as if each state is waiting to confirm a case before starting any preventative measures and beginning serious public awareness campaigns.

The refusal to move quickly is irresponsible and foolish. For the avoidance of doubt, that a state does not yet have a “confirmed case”, does not absolutely mean that COVID-19 is not present in that state. To get a confirmed case, you have to test a person, but with limited testing facilities, one has to have credible symptoms before being tested. Those who have travelled from high-risk countries are merely asked to self-isolate until symptoms show. In addition, even persons with symptoms but without any risky travel history may seek treatment for a different illness, and worst of all, a carrier of the virus may not have any symptoms but can reliably transmit it to others. Why then are more State Governments not making practicable moves to protect their people?

Still talking about information silos, I had cause to speak with a random Lagos resident and decided to quickly gauge her knowledge of COVID-19. Shockingly, at a time when over 20 cases had been confirmed in Nigeria, this lady boldly told me there were no more cases in Nigeria, that she heard all those with the virus had been healed. It appears the recovery of Nigeria’s index case, the Italian male, had been misunderstood by this lady (and possibly many others) to mean that the disease had been eradicated just as Ebola was banished in 2014. My fear is that if a young, educated Lagosian thinks COVID-19 is not longer a problem, what would the uneducated pepper seller at Ajegunle think? Clearly, information from official sources is not reaching the nooks and crannies of Lagos, and this would affect any proclamation about social distancing.

Back to my friend who used to have COVID-19, I advised them to keep their spirits up and begin logging their experience in a daily journal, until like the Italian they are declared free of the virus, so they can someday tell the story of how they  beat COVID-19. I am confident that XY will beat it, regardless of the poor state of healthcare delivery in Nigeria. It’s instructive how COVID-19 has gone from some distant disease to something personal. You can spew all the data you want about the number infected globally, mortality rates, age-adjusted risk, etc., but when a friend gets COVID-19, you realise the data is now human.

Stay safe. Stay updated. Follow guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.  

Image Credit: Sky News

Of A General, His Colonel, and Justice

Of A General, His Colonel, and Justice

The famed novelist, Salman Rushdie once opined that “Two things form the bedrock of any open society – freedom of expression and rule of law. If you don’t have those things, you don’t have a free country.” If these two are essential ingredients, then it may be debatable whether Nigeria, “Africa’s largest democracy”, is a “free country”; “free” in the sense that citizens are assured of the government and society’s commitment to the rule of law. Talking about commitment to the rule of law, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (Retd.) was just released after four years of confinement, with serious questions about the place of the rule of law in Nigeria.

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Nigeria’s War Against Holistic Planning

Nigeria’s War Against Holistic Planning

The iconic painter, Pablo Picasso, is acclaimed to have said that “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” If there is any validity to Picasso’s claim that a properly implemented plan is the only route to success, what then do we say to individuals and institutions that act like planning is anathema to success. Maybe such persons know something the rest of the world is ignorant of, or maybe the ignorance, wilful or accidental, is in the other direction.

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Counting the Cost of Lagos Traffic

Counting the Cost of Lagos Traffic

Having to catch a first flight out of Lagos, I had to hit the road by 5am to ensure I got to the airport in time to avoid hearing stories that touch the heart. As the cab driver got on the expressway, I could not help but notice that the roads were already busy at that time. While the driver and I discussed about the traffic situation, I thought about my experience spending unnecessary time commuting to and from work. Luckily, I do not need to leave for work at 5am each day; however, for many Lagosians, leaving after 5am increases their odds of getting to work late.  

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The Blindside Called State Budgets

The Blindside Called State Budgets

“No man is wise at all times, or is without his blind side”

Desiderius Erasmus

The quote by Desiderius sets the stage for an article that has been on my mind for quite a while. The first time I came across the word “blindside”, it was used in the context of a sports game where players may focus so much on a certain opposing team’s key player and in trying to prevent that person from scoring, they inadvertently leave their flanks unattended for another opposition player to exploit, sometimes, resulting in catastrophic loses. Looking at the political system, we can see this analogy play out so well in the way Nigerians focus all their energy on the Federal Government.

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Ultra-Legal Fraud

Ultra-Legal Fraud

I remember hearing someone joke that the Queen of England cannot be charged with a crime nor even arrested because all public prosecution is done “in the name of Her Majesty”, effectively making at least one person in the United Kingdom legally above the law. Back here in Nigeria, the Queen’s immunity makes me think of the legal armed robbers, licensed murderers, and now, the lawful lawbreakers. Unfortunately, the last set cannot truly be called lawbreakers as the law is whatever they say it is.

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