By ABIODUN Komolafe
Nigeria’s decision to ‘unwind’ the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in the capital, Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States refers.
As we strive to “balance the need to protect health while also preserving livelihoods”, can we safely say that the worst of the pandemic that has unleashed more than 2,170 cases and over-68 deaths on the country is over? If we take a chance when the pandemic is still ravaging our land, how safe are we? If we are not safe, where then lies the sunshine in dark times?With porous borders and a compromised security system littering Nigeria’s geopolitical landscape, how far can the closure of inter-state borders go in repurposing our lives towards the sought-after reprieve? What type of sustainable national strategy and national framework are being put in place for the economy to bounce back, especially, after lots of pains for the people? What type of conversations are our leaders having – even, with those working at their pleasure – on decisions with life and death consequences? Are there modalities in place to cushion the effects of job losses and unpaid salaries as a result of COVID-19?
The world is ghastly, dangerously sick. Nobody can deny that! Coronavirus is threatening her very foundation even as Nigerians are confused as to who among our fathers have sinned that we are now bearing the consequences of their iniquities. But, instead of just following the rabble, we must admit that the lockdown has offered us an opportunity to interrogate the fundamental platform of our predicament. Basically, instituted social lockdown is a time of slowing down, which in turn provides a unique opportunity for the critical assessment of social systems and a dispassionate self-appraisal of extant public institutions. By common consent, individual families should be able to look at the family and debate what they can do better immediately this lockdown is done with. It should give us an opportunity to sit down and critically reason with people who can think to fashion a way forward for dear country. In other words, every sector of Nigeria’s socioeconomic-cum-political sphere should not go back to the old normal. Instead, it should saddle us with a new normal; a new world that is durable, more enduring and able to withstand whatever adversity that may befall the country in the next foreseeable future. We cannot afford to miss out on this golden opportunity of an induced leap from the known to the unknown within the spectrum of available alternative models of development!
That we are where we are finds space in lack of preparedness on the part of the government, as well as lack of vision for leadership. Instead of facing the reality, we are just perambulating! The same problem that was identified before the civil war in Nigeria is still here with us today, decades after the war. Nothing has changed! Year in, year out, the same set of people are contesting and winning elections. Eventually, our elected representatives are cocooned in monstrous buildings as official or personal quarters, with state-of-the-art cars, each costing Nigerian taxpayers tens of millions of naira, to boot. Before long, they will start displaying wealth in manners not too far from showing to the world how foolish the people have been for electing them. Then, what hope is left for the common man? Nothing! They flaunt the wealth. They flaunt the power. They flaunt the affluence, while the common man just keeps looking, mesmerized and blaming the gods for his predicament!
Nigeria can be likened to a poor man who sees himself as a proud owner of a horse in a dream. Unarguably, he is bound to realize the folly of dreams immediately he wakes up. There and then, he will close his eyes without wanting to wake up again! Take for instance a governor, who, instead of making robust preparations for a looming disaster, was busy running after Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as if deposing the 14th Emir of Kano was the tonic Ibrahim Ganduje needed to earn respect. Elsewhere in Oyo, Governor Seyi Makinde is so content with ‘tales-by-moonlight’ politics that he has forgotten that one infected person is what a slipshod ‘Pacesetter’ state needs to spoil the show for an infection-free, ‘Land of Virtue’ Osun; even trouble the Israel of the country!
Truth be told: Nigeria is in trouble, whether the government admits it or not! Federal Government’s efforts at raising palpable denial, or, deliberately feigning ignorance of the subject matter notwithstanding, trouble is trouble; and it is financial! Close to 100 years after Nigeria has been mouthing development plans, nothing really has developed. What type of country is it that continues to run, de columnis autem post, unsure of where to source succour? With no foreign currency coming from anywhere, how do we now survive? In saner climes, somebody ought to have come up with a proposal to solve the puzzle long before now! His grave shortcomings apart, Adolf Hitler did it for Germany and the country is better for it today. Incidentally, COVID-19 is here with us and an essential part of its assignment is to teach us to think. For now, the most critical issue that can make the entire world economy to start crumbling is the oil price index. Right now, the world’s global economy is hemorrhaging! If gold could rust, then, the likely fate of iron becomes predictable. In Nigeria, for example, the Year 2020 budget was predicated on $57/bl of crude oil. Now, it is more like $0/bl. For Nigeria therefore, disaster looms, more so as nothing will be doable, unless a miracle happens. So, what are we going to do? Well, this boils down to what we have been saying: planning and diversification of the economy. That oil becomes $100/bl and we go to bed is like building a castle in the air. Unfortunately, Nigeria is yet to be weaned from the sucking breast of cultural imperialism. Meanwhile, nobody is talking about changing the mindset of Nigerians with the aim of altering the perverse orientation and fraudulent disposition of the individual in the larger society. Everyone just wants to get rich quickly, and secure his or her future! In the end, everybody becomes poorer for it! The leadership is bereft of ideas and the led just follow to the gallery. Is it any wonder that the country is poor?