Giant In The Sand

Nigeria's map
Nigeria's map

By: Israel Umoh

The COVID-19 has caused a pleasant confusion between the rich and the poor, the educated and illiterate, the low and the mighty, the developed and the developing countries, the public and the private sector servants. The list goes on. And the world is swathed in a pall of confusion. At least, most countries and persons have come to the realisation that the inequality aura created by mere mortals to lord over others is vacuous. The world-renowned scientists and the superpowers are thrown into the valley of confusion owing to the illusion of discovering a vaccine to cure the stubborn virus. For the first time in the history of the world, the rich and the poor are sitting on the same table of vicissitude to wail over the fear of today and uncertainty of tomorrow.

Yet, there is a buzz of hope and a tenor of assurance that the inscrutable COVID-19 is treatable. Madagascar is the trailblazer in the coronavirus fight. A fourth world’s largest island, the country lies off the South-eastern coast of Africa. Developed in isolation, the island nation is famed for its unique wildlife. Despite a wealth of abundant and diverse natural resources, the Rainbow Island is one of the world’s poorest countries.

While the coronavirus pandemic has grounded activities of superpowers, rich and poor countries to halt, the impoverished island has discovered a tea from a local plant claimed to have cured the deadly disease that has decimated thousands globally.

Though World Health Organisation did not want to hear the news, President of Madagascar Andry Rajoelina had on April 21 defied the WHO’s warning and officially launched a local herbal remedy claimed to prevent and cure the novel coronavirus.

“Tests have been carried out — two people have now been cured by this treatment,” Rajoelina told ministers, diplomats and journalists at the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA), which developed the beverage.

“This herbal tea gives results in seven days. I will be the first to drink this today, in front of you, to show you that this product cures and does not kill,” stressed Rajoelina.

The drink, which has been called Covid-Organics, is derived from artemisia – a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment – and other indigenous herbs, according to the IMRA. Already, the US is claimed to have taken a decision to fund the herbal cure with $2.5 million.

This tiny country from the Negroid land is not alone in rising to the occasion. South Africa Techpreneurs invented Coronavirus Test kits which takes 65 minutes to test the virus. So far, 161,000 of the 59 million people have been tested. Morocco has started the production of ventilators. Ghana has conducted 100,000 tests of 30 million population. Ghana receives and delivers samples with drones. Tunisia Police lockdown adopts robot Police squad to test index cases. Rwanda has enforced and monitored lockdown with drones and distributed food door-to-door to its citizens. Senegal and Cameroon have recorded more than 59 per cent recovery.

Unfortunately, Nigeria the hugely acclaimed giant of Africa is yet to prioritise the COVID-19 fight like other African countries. Over the years, rulers continue to paddle the boat of the country with more than 186 million population. Since the British foisted parliamentary system of government, theoretical lacking in technical skills education system and other models on the country, succeeding rulers both military and civilian have been regurgitating ‘garbage’ without question. Since the British model of rulership favours the feudal kingpins, then it must (like Eko oni baje o) slogan be allowed to flourish under rain or shine.

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Today, the country looks pitiable and behaves like a giant in the sand. The proverbial giant is a feeble adult who twerks his body in the coarse, dirty sand with kindergartens. The adult is fond of playing in the dusty sand (iwire mbre ntan awuk, an Akwa Ibom sarcasm of a foolish adult) despising to play in a turf like his contemporaries.

Like a giant in the sand, the country hailed by the then small African and Caribbean countries for its benevolence and purported power is lagging behind in showing leadership during the pandemic. What a victim of poor leadership! When an adult relishes in playing, behaving, talking, and eating like a child, then there is an age problem. On October 1, this year, Nigeria will notch 60. Yet, transformation leadership, the fulcrum in which great nations are built, is in strong deficit. This pivot is usually driven by a man of immense vision, great intellect and deep passion and altruistic spirit is wanting. Without such a leadership throng, the country flounders and berths at the faraway shore to the detriment of the masses.

No accountable, credible, creative and transparent leadership. Religious bias, archaic cultural ties and ethnic chauvinism are enthroned. Mediocrity and corrupt practices walk on their four feet. Universities and other institutions are grieving over one issue or the other. Research institutes are turned to distribution and processing centres. The scientists that would have birthed a cure to the pandemic are now paper presenters and conference chairmen.  No grant for them to embark on research. Maurice Iwu, a pharmacologist, announced that he has found a cure for the pandemic. Oyo Governor Seyi Makinde, a COVID-19 victim confessed to using herbal treatment for quick recovery.

Yet, Nigerian authorities have given him deaf ears. Let a Ghanaian billionaire-contractor bring the grant to the country, the Presidential doors would be flung open for him to jaw jaw with Mr. President. Once the grant is collected, that is the end of the story. What comes next is a cock-and-bull story on the money is spent. Tell me how and when the country will come out from this development cocoon.

But the most populous, black country sustained by the sweat and brains of innovative minds is busy looking for meal coupons (grant) as well as respirators, ventilators and test kits from some rich Nigerian billionaires and foreign countries. In the 60s, the country that was richer than Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Rwanda and Ghana, among others is still a toddler. While some countries have risen to the occasion development-wise, Nigeria is drying on the kiln of poverty, hunger, electricity blackout, diseases and maladministration.

So far, the country has collected billions as aid from Nigerian billionaires and the US, IMF, European Union, China, and others. Ma Jack Foundation of China has donated ventilators and test kits worth billions of naira to the country. The US has pledged to send ventilators to Nigeria to fight the virus. This donation galore makes the country happy. Has the government rendered proper accounts? Are the vulnerable people not still crying over their plights?

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During this trying time, the country has collected more than N1.2 trillion to fund COVID-19, yet the poor of the poorest- the vulnerable people and less privileged are crying owing to the skewed and discriminatory manner of people who handled the distribution of palliatives.

Again, the country’s health-care system is cockeyed. Most states do not have well-equipped hospitals and clinics and health posts. Health-care practitioners are in short supply. They are not properly kitted to war against the virus while hazard allowances to medical doctors and other health-care givers face the danger with bare hands with no life insurance.

The economic sector is awry. Apart from relying heavily on crude oil, the country’s economy is stillborn. If the Federal Government does not remit monthly allocations to states for three months, most state governors (except Lagos, Rivers and Kano States), would close shops.

Like a big wind that blows open the anus of a hen, the COVID-19 has exposed the leadership quality of Nigeria in addition to throwing up certain flaws that need redress. Since desperate problem needs desperate solution, the Federal and state governments must challenge registered herbal medicine practitioners with National Agency for Drug and Food Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to come out with coronavirus cure.

The government should negotiate with Prof. Iwu on the need to mass-produce the vaccine for treatment as well as offer grants to researchers in the universities and institutes to come out with a cure to the pandemic. Why wait for a vaccine from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that the USA has stopped giving a grant for alleged duplicitous collaboration with China in shielding the deadly virus?  Of course, WHO is a neo-colonial body doing business with big contractors from European and Asian Countries such that the cure to it may not be found soon? Has WHO found a cure to HIV, malaria, Lassa fever, and ebola? The blame-game and ground-shifting must continue for some health professionals to make money.

Let the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) commission some health experts using the antibodies of the discharged COVID-19 to produce a vaccine that can cure the dreaded sickness. It is not enough for officials of the centre to turn the misadventure facing Nigeria into their ATM. The earlier this is done, the better in reducing the death rate and giving a breather to the ailing businesses and other sectors during the pandemic lockdown.