How do you have so much potential, yet consistently fail to deliver? You go one step forward, then gladly take two steps backwards while smiling and beating your chest proudly. For a state called the Treasure Base of the Nation, and a capital city formerly known as the Garden City, Rivers State has disappointed on almost every developmental metric relative to the resources and potential available. Yet, just as Nigeria happily towers above its fellow underperforming African countries, Rivers State embraces the wrong peers to feel it is doing well.Continue reading “When the Rivers Stay Stagnant”
Tag: Rivers State
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
Now that the Elections have Ended
A little while has passed since the last time I tapped my keyboard composing a document that was unrelated to my day job. In the intervening time, I got married, and Nigeria held its most expensive elections ever to select office holders for the next four years. Except for my Rivers State, which now operates a different wavelength, other states have concluded their selection processes. Today’s article is more of a potpourri of my thoughts on different issues related to the elections. Although each issue merits a full article in its own rights, let’s accept what will be a summarisation.Continue reading “Now that the Elections have Ended”
Still Washing Pigs
After reading my last article on issues affecting Port Harcourt, a certain friend of mine called me to discuss the main ideas in the article. In a one hour-plus WhatsApp call, this Nigerian “externally displaced” in the United States, made the point that my article was trying to solve a problem by complaining about the symptoms. Whereas I did not necessarily agree with his entire viewpoint, a key idea stood out—his application of Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son to events in Nigeria and Africa. Continue reading “Still Washing Pigs”
Cry, My Beloved Port Harcourt
There is a popular proverb in Nigeria which states, “The person who has never left his father’s farm thinks the farm is the biggest in the village”. If the meaning has not jumped at you, here’s another version: “Until you leave your father’s house, you will think your mother is the best cook on earth”. There’s some kind of epiphany that happens when you go outside your conventional zone and get to experience life in other areas. This has been my experience with Port Harcourt. Continue reading “Cry, My Beloved Port Harcourt”
One Emergency Away from Doom
On Friday, 23 November 2018, a seven-storey building under construction in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, collapsed. With conflicting figures being bandied about, one sure point is that there were a lot of persons in that building when it collapsed because that day was a payday for workers and suppliers. As at the time of writing this article, ten days later, many persons, dead or alive are still trapped underneath the rubble. Continue reading “One Emergency Away from Doom”
Rivers State: The Enemy Within
Caitlin Moran once wrote: “…the world will come at you with knives anyway. You don’t need to beat them to it”. Whereas it would seem counterintuitive that a people would choose to harm themselves, each day people in Rivers State make the foolish choice of harming themselves and the state they call their own. Rivers people keep complaining about marginalization by the federal government and the Hausa-Fulani hegemony. While some of the complaints are valid, a closer look would reveal that the real enemy lies within, not outside.
Rivers of Blood: A Clash of Egos
Somewhere, right now, a mother is weeping for her slain child, siblings are crying for their brother, a father is feigning composure over the headless corpse of his son. The mourners’ crime is very grievous. They had the effrontery to be either present, or have a relative present in Rivers State in an election season. Accordingly, the megalomaniac politicians have executed their punishment—the rivers flow with blood, not water. Continue reading “Rivers of Blood: A Clash of Egos”
Contest of Best Riggers
If the 2015 Elections have shown us anything, it is that although we are closer to free and fair elections, we are still a long way from a democracy where votes are guaranteed to count. Forget all the hype about the free-ness of the elections. In many places, it was essentially a contest between opposing rigging strategies. Continue reading “Contest of Best Riggers”
Yes! We’re Getting There
Yesterday, for the first time in the history of the resource-rich Rivers State, a debate was held for the top contenders for the office of the Governor. Unlike the presidential debate, the three leading candidates took this debate serious enough to be present. The debate marked a watershed moment in the state, hopefully heralding the dawn of a new era. Continue reading “Yes! We’re Getting There”