We are all learning science now. The Coronavirus pandemic, also known as Covid-19, is teaching humanity the lesson of a lifetime. Almost all the countries of the world are affected. On Sunday, Cuba, a small country in the Caribbean, was dispatching the first set of medical doctors to Italy to help that afflicted country fight the Covid-19. For the first time, a non-European country was sending a medical team to help a European country. The coronavirus is telling humanity how helpless we really are before the awesome power of nature.
As at now, there are almost 500,000 confirmed cases all over the world. Almost 20,000 people have been killed by the disease, mostly elderly people above the age of 60. Among the casualties were Nigerians who lived in Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. Nigeria itself has recorded two casualties at home. The COVID-19 has affected 187 countries and territories. Few people knew about coronavirus last year but it has now launched itself into our collective consciousness with virulent insistence. Today mankind knows the meaning of fear. The World Health Organisation, WHO, warning political leaders all over the world to take the pandemic seriously, says it had the capacity of killing more than 60 percent members of the human race.
Viruses are generally so tiny that they cannot be seen by the naked eyes. Only scientists, armed with scientific equipment, have the privilege of seeing a virus. They are tiny and powerful. It shows the power of small things. Julius Nyerere, late President of Tanzania once said “those who think small people are not important should sleep in a room filled with mosquitoes!”
The COVID-19 is worse than mosquitoes!!
Coronavirus is not new. The virus must have existed since creation. It has been mutating, changing forms from generation to generation. Mankind too, since the advent of science and alchemy, has been struggling to combat it. Now the virus has gotten a new mutation that is so effective that so far, mankind has no answer for it. COVID-19 is armed and dangerous. The WHO is leading mankind fight against this deadly virus and it has mobilized thousands of scientist to find solutions to it. Last week, I was at Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State, where I ran into a young mathematician who said he was involved in a coordinated research across disciplines to find a cure for the coronavirus. The race is on all over the world.
The virus is especially affecting two areas of human arrogance: science and religion. China, the country where the Covid-19 first manifested itself, is essentially an atheistic society. The Chinese of the post-Mao era have discovered new religions in money and science and nothing could exemplify this better than the bustling city of Wuhan with 13 million population. Last December, a young doctor warned the authorities that there was a new manifestation of coronavirus which was unknown. The authorities replied him with a rebuff. By the time it became apparent that he was telling the truth, the genie was out of the bottle. Four thousands death later, including that of the precocious doctor, China declared some sort of victory. The pandemic was on retreat, it said.
For the rest of the world, the war had just started. For the first time in history, many European countries, including the United Kingdom and Italy are receiving medical aids from China, a country once dominated by the imperial powers of Britain and Japan in the 19th and early 20th Century. In New York, the capital of American pride and capitalism, the pandemic sent the populace into a panic mode. President Donald Trump said the government has given approval for the clinical trial of chloroquine to combat the pandemic. Many Lagosian, hearing the news, or half of it, rushed to the nearest pharmacy to buy chloroquine. Within a few days, hundreds of Lagosian were reporting to the hospital suffering from chloroquine poisoning!
Tim Akano, Chief Executive of New Horizon, a new media company, stated last week that the pandemic could have a seismic effect on the new World Order and shift the balance of power in favour of China. He predicted that unless Trump is able to fix the pandemic, then he would lose the November American presidential election. For Africa too, the news is hardly good in a post-COVID-19 World. “Africa is already in China’s kitty having received over $120 billion Chinese loan which it will find difficult to repay,” Akano stated.
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft has also warned that there may be a second wave of the pandemic which may have a devastating effect on our continent. As of now, despite the rhetoric, most knowledgeable Nigerians are not sure that our country is prepared enough for this world-wide emergency. Last week, Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu, directed that all schools should go on vacation immediately. Some state governments, including Ekiti, provided transport for the students to reach their destinations. From all indications, the publicly declared cases are still less than 50. The Federal Government too has banned international flights to all countries with bad cases of COVID-19. However, until last week, Ethiopian Airline, which ferry passengers from China every day, was still landing in Lagos.
The fate of Mr Suleiman Achimugu, former Managing Director of Pipeline and Products Marketing Company, PPMC, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, brings the truth home to all of us. Achimugu had arrived from Europe two weeks ago and when he started feeling the symptoms of COVID-19, he reported to officials of Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC who promptly came and took his sample. Achimugu, as expected, had put himself in isolation. But NCDC never came with the result until Achimugu became very ill, and his family had to call NCDC again. Alas! His result was positive. It was only then on Sunday that he was evacuated to the hospital where he died on Monday.
Another case involved the son of Mr Atiku Abubakar, former Vice-President. He reported to NCDC when he felt he had the symptoms. The result came out positive. He was quickly taken to the General Hospital, Abuja. Few days later, we were told he had now tested negative. It is either he had a miracle cure or the first test was faulty. Either way, it does not give one a lot of confidence in our preparation to face this global challenge.
Mr Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to the President, in a letter to Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives, alleged that some members of the House, refused to be screened at the airport when they arrived from their foreign trip. “Accordingly, you are kindly requested to direct all members of the House of Representatives who returned to Nigeria from foreign trips to report themselves to the nearest NCDC test centre with immediate effect.” Kyari reminded such recalcitrant members that “these screenings are our primary line of defense and refusal by any citizens to subject to these tests is a threats to our nation.”
It is heartwarming that almost all our religious leaders joined the effort to confront this COVID-19. It was eerie on Sunday when all members of my family sat glued to Facebook to follow the service of the Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral, Ikeja with Mr Adegoke Agara and his colleagues ministering. We have finally entered the New Age of the Vitual Church. The Sunday service was streamed live on the internet.
The coronavirus has forced humanity to pay attention to the smaller inhabitants of the earth. The religionists are always ready to quote the Holy Books that humanity has a divine right to dominate the earth. We have also driven many of God’s creature into extinction. There are no more buffalos and elephants and tigers and lions in most parts of Nigeria where they once roam free. Flying termites have been terminated from their giant anti-hills. In Okemesi, like most rural areas of Yorubaland, hardly can you see fireflies. They have been wiped out by intentional arson to the forest and grassland. Humanity has poisoned the oceans, increased the heat on the atmospheric cover of the earth, depleted the ozone layer and are melting the ice of the Polar Regions. Now, an ancient virus has mutated and is teaching us a new lesson. What could be more humbling than that?
In Nigeria, the virus has penetrated the citadel of power. Governor of Bauchi State Bala Mohammed, is in self isolation after he tested positive to COVID-19. Chief of Staff to the President, the self-effacing but powerful Kyari, has also tested positive to the virus. Both men are undergoing treatment. I hope that the predicament of these two men of power would convince the skeptical ones that there is no miracle cure for this pandemic and that we must support our leaders to take all necessary measures, including national lock-down if necessary, to tackle it.
What COVID-19 is teaching us is that the superbugs are here. Nature is not just demanding, it is commanding our respect. Humanity must rise up to the challenge or else it would eventually follow in the inglorious footsteps of the dinosaur, those powerful beasts who roam the earth millions of years ago, but did not have enough brain matter to sustain their race. Adversity is now teaching mankind that God does not recognize black or white, yellow or green. In the real sense, there is only one race; the human race created by the Almighty. He has no chosen race; no chosen religion and no special portion of the earth. We have to take our stand as one race, the human race, on this planet or we lose the right to inhabit it. Let us start by defeating this superbug.