Home Opinion COVID-19: Before This Dust Settles | Remi Adebayo

COVID-19: Before This Dust Settles | Remi Adebayo


There is good in evil, as there are elements of evil in good! In fact, a Yoruba adage emphasized that life is a mixture of good and bad; explaining that with baby delivery when the good which is the child is celebrated and umbilical cord which is assumed to be bad is discarded, forgetting that the child could not have survived in the womb without the life cord.

From the blues, the world is struck with the outbreak, in November 2019, of the novel coronavirus from which nations of the world have entered reset mode and yet to recover amidst widespread infection now counted above four million and thousands of people  dieing from around the world.

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In Nigeria, managing the Covid-19 pandemic now reputed as global health emergency got many worried in view of government’s lockdown directive in a bid to contain community transmission of the virus and although that phase is gone because of the action and inaction of government providing sufficient palliatives in distributing basic materials that should compel the people to stay at home.

Of course, government did not completely ignore the hardship and difficulties faced by the people, it was itself frustrated by many factors; from decades of inherited systems’ errors and failures; and others which are self-inflicted manifesting in shoddy management of the scourge. It was this reality that the economy could not be further shut in compliance with the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari in Lagos and Ogun states and the Federal Capital Territory that informed the partial ease from the complete lockdown from May 4; in the aforementioned places aside from states where governors in preemptive efforts similarly  placed their territories under lock and key.

In the midst of these, economy globally continue to slide into recession and already many are finding it tough to cope after a completely deflated business activities, if not total closure of human engagements. Companies, schools, markets, airports, production, construction, government and private establishments and many more have been ordered shut to protect lives from an unseen brutal monster seeking lungs to strangulate.

With a grace of a week before getting unchained, Lagos, Ogun and Abuja residents refused to put life at the front row when thronging the streets with total disregard for the much publicized and known safety protocols of wearing facemasks and keeping physical distancing; like a hungry dog long chained, they hit the road to commence business like nothing was at stake.

Nigeria is a nation so blessed and endowed with almost everything to become a global pride and envy of many but over the years has become a global eyesore due to long list of many uncommon negatives. For us, corruption, killings, decayed infrastructures, illiteracy, dilapidated health facilities; insecurity and poor life expectancy have all become the negative uncommon feats aiding systemic weakness manifesting in every strata of our national life including the  Covid-19 management.  Is it not depressing that Nigeria cannot even boarst of a reliable database to situate the population of our vulnerable citizens, talk less of planning and supplying them with tangible support to mitigate the impacts of this turbulent period on the weak and the poorest among us.

Unfortunately, the global declining or fluctuating oil price is another issue to deal with in a country with mono-economic dependence on a product – petroleum. While efforts are being directed at diversifying the economy, poor electricity still diminishes the growth of the medium and small businesses while terrorism in the northeast, banditry in the northwest and kidnapping that have engulfed the whole nation have all negatively impacted on the agricultural practices, yet, we must feed ourselves. Thankfully, the Federal Government’s Anchor Borrowers Programme was flowering until all these contributing vices started battling the initiative and beneficiaries.

As a nation that has lost years to wastages, misplaced policy priorities and corrupt practices, the outbreak of Covid-19 although coming to be a major economic blow if properly placed in the right perspective should afford the leadership another opportunity at self-assessing the process to understand what should be the direction of national investment from many savings to be accruing to the national coffers by now. And I said savings with every sense of it. At least for now, no more foreign travels, government establishments are running less than half capacity, less bureaucracy, less power generation into which billions of naira is always budgeted, we now purchase less computers, paper, pen, soap; spending less on entertainment and many inanities that often define our public offices – so, we save.

If not for Covid-19, needless local travels would have gulped millions of Naira, we would have bought cars that were never needed, much of our commonwealth would have gone into equipping the wardrobe of  political figures like they were voted for fashion  parade, foreign medical examination and treatment, insatiable appetite for everything foreign that have now  significantly reduced would have robbed us bigger fortune. But now, the essence of making use of homemade products to treat malaria, toothache, headache, flu and basic ailments that used to respond only to foreign doctors can now be handled by Drs. Chukwu, Kunle and Ahmed, so we are still saving. Suddenly now, no one is complaining about stone-infested local  again – we are saving.   

Funny enough, foreign economists are not coming to tell the much we should have saved for millions or billions annually budgeted for purchasing, fuelling and servicing hundreds of public automobiles as public officials are pruning down hangers-on and liabilities; that is not all, the pandemic seemed to have saved us the annual ritual of expending millions of forex to sponsor pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Mecca. Many have bemoaned the wasteful practice draining Nigeria’s foreign exchange in aid of capital flight in a country claiming to be secular but spending huge resources to fund religious pilgrimages that should only be privately funded by those that could afford them.

Since I am not laying claim to economic expertise; it is only reasonable that before the dusts settle down, the Buhari-led government, in addition to the huge amount being repatriated from the Abacha loot, can prioritize key sectors that can drive the economy either along or after the Covid-19 era. Such spending must capture massive investment in the health, education and research sectors and in addition, government at all level must endeavour to invest spiritedly in agriculture, ICT, science and technology, as well as equipping the security agencies as they will continue to be at the frontlines even in the Post-Covid period.

Current events must teach every nation some lessons that Covid-19 has exposed human limitations but again has revealed decades, if not centuries of wrong policy and investment priorities across the world and has afforded us afresh the opportunity to amend our ways by focusing and investing rightly on the genuine frontline sectors; and here in Nigeria, pointing to us the consequences of the mistakes of the past while warning us about deadlier repercussions should we continue in the old way like nothing mattered and nothing learnt. Therefore, if we dare to see the good in this pandemic and explore the opportunities, a greater nation could emerge from the rubles of Covid-19 because surely, the world will not remain the same again!

Adebayo, a public interest analyst, writes from Abuja.

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