Opinion (22/9/2020): How Nigeria Survived COVID-19 – By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa

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Gradually in every part of Nigeria, things are getting back to normal, as churches and mosques have been opened, schools are reopening and everybody seems to be in the mood for some action. It has been a long, tortuous journey indeed, from February 27, 2020, when we recorded the index case. It is a thing of joy that from keeping vigils to monitor the daily updates from the NCDC, we have now relaxed to catch up with our sleep and be content to listen to the news the following day, as the cases keep reducing drastically, everyday. Without any doubt, Nigeria has defeated the coronavirus plague. The alarming reports from the West were so scary that I thought we would not survive it as a nation. There were multiple predictions of dead bodies lining the streets of Africa, of economic woes, total annihilation and even continental calamities. We heard of figures like thirty million dead bodies that would litter the streets of Africa, of how infrastructures would collapse and death would become commonplace in most homes. It was said that if advanced countries in Europe and America could not cope with the pandemic, with all their advanced health care systems, Africa would become totally swallowed up when the plaque eventually lands in the continent. Believe it or not however, Africa and indeed Nigeria, have defeated COVID 19. How did it happen?

Nigeria survived COVID 19 legally, in that we inherited a colonial piece of legislation enacted since 1929, that did not capture the novelty of COVID 19 and it became totally useless to control the spread. Whereas in the developed countries, new laws and regulations were hurriedly enacted to keep people indoors and to assist the government to manage the pandemic, Nigeria wallowed in expired legislations. The attempt by the legislature to smuggle in the Singaporean Infectious Diseases Bill was resisted vigorously and had to be dropped. Various States in Nigeria had different ideas of how to contain the plague and it soon became a matter of style for most of the governors, with some of them even denying its existence outrightly. Thus, in the absence of any uniform legislation, the government resorted to arbitrary measures, especially as some influential governors became infected. The innovation from different States helped to develop uncommon ingenuity that didn’t lead us all in one single direction.
Nigeria survived COVID 19 with poverty and insecurity. Strange as this may sound, coronavirus could not withstand the pangs of the economic woes facing Nigerians at the time of its outbreak. It was just not possible to sustain a prolonged lockdown, as the government itself could not afford to do so, given the economic variables. Poverty was more likely to kill more people than COVID 19, should there be a prolonged restriction. We got reports of mass sack by factories, companies and general employers and where employees were retained, salaries and wages were not paid. The Nigerian Bar Association had to set up a special welfare committee to attend to young lawyers and most worship centres became temporary rescue missions for their members. In that situation, COVID 19 had no chance of success as hunger forced many against its dictates and protocols. Then added to this was the issue of insecurity, which the rich and the affluent could not cope with. Armed attacks became rampant such that in many neighbourhoods, residents and tenants embarked upon emergency night vigils as a means of curtailing the rampaging ‘one million boys’, the area boys and their fellow criminals.
Nigeria survived COVID 19 spiritually. Kudos must be given to the worship centres, which showed great faith in the power of God to heal and to deliver. But for the use of state agencies like the police and other security outfits, many worship centres were prepared to defy the coronavirus protocols, insisting that there is a divine power which supersedes any plague. It helped a lot, as many rallied round to boost their faith to confront the virus headlong. Prayers were offered to God non-stop and the constant messages of hope assisted in no small measure, to douse the coronavirus tension that was piling upon us from the foreign countries. One must therefore give credit to the leaders of the churches and mosques, for their resilience, in rousing the people to trust God for victory when it was most critical. Without any doubt, the state of mind of any individual plays a major role in his life battles, whether to give in or to face them and be victorious. Thus, it is one of the wonders of the world that a country with a population of about two hundred million people did not record COVID 19 deaths in excess of five thousand. Without any doubt, God defeated coronavirus in Nigeria.
The government helped in surviving coronavirus. If there is any area that the Buhari government deserves some commendation it is the way and manner it handled the coronavirus pandemic. It was just as if God had prepared us for the battle ahead of time. The NCDC guy, Dr. Ihekweazu, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Abayomi, the Presidential Task Force, the President himself and the Lagos State Governor, all did marvelously well in this matter. The governors of Ekiti, Kaduna, Bauchi, Oyo, Rivers and Ogun States also did well in containing the virus in their States. It was one occasion when Nigeria became united to fight a common cause. Government was able to mobilize funds from the private sector, it collaborated effectively with the World Health Organisation and other relevant agencies to put up a coordinated response, when it mattered most. These efforts have now resulted in the construction of modern health facilities in many States across the nation.
The health workers played a major role in surviving COVID 19. Like never before, the frontline team put their lives on the line, to save us all. Doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians and other paramedics worked themselves out to battle COVID 19. They risked their lives for us all and some of them paid the supreme price for it. Like Mrs. Adadevoh did for Ebola, many health workers simply stood in the gap for their fellow countrymen, preferring to confront the virus on behalf of others. They are our heroes and heroines, who should never be forgotten. Their names should by now be on the list of honorees for the national award, even posthumously.
Our culture defeated COVID 19. Social distancing in Nigeria? Impossible! People have to greet themselves, they have to mingle together, families have to gather to pray, to eat and to party. It is un-African to isolate yourself from your family or neighbour or brethren. With or without a face mask, people could not but mix together with their friends and loved ones. Then is the traditional medicine approach, which led to all manner of concoctions and herbal mixtures. I believe that they worked very well, especially with the masses and those in the hinterlands. A friend of mine had a need for COVID 19 test and I raised an alarm. The responses that I got from different quarters, on various herbal mixtures, were overwhelming. It then turned out that Nigerians had developed their own peculiar treatment mechanisms for coronavirus such that it seemed not to get to the masses at all. It was regarded as only meant for the rich and mighty. It was said in some quarters that economic hardship had built enough immunity in the masses that many of them were either already living with some kind of coronavirus or they could not be infected in any way at all.

The testimonies of survivors defeated COVID 19. Nothing works like personal experience. When I listened to the Medical Director of UCH, on how he defeated the plague, with just vitamins, fruits, vegetables and a good diet, I knew we were getting close to the end of it. Then came the testimony of the governor of Oyo State, about the power of black seed oil and carrot. The governor of Bauchi State followed suit, going further to give a personal indemnity for his recommendation of hydroxychloroquine for his people. To cap it all, Dr. Doyin Okupe, himself a medical doctor, boosted our confidence, not only with his detailed analysis but also specific prescriptions of how the drugs were administered on him to survive. We were still jubilating when Dr. Raymond Dokpesi came with his own hilarious angle of COVID 19 as similar to common malaria fever, by which time, Nigerians began to develop some kind of conspiracy theory by the West, to spread coronavirus fear for other purposes. The crowning testimony was the viral video of the Cameroonian doctor, who challenged our faith and showed clearly that hydroxychloroquine was potent enough to treat the plague. All said and done, the virus itself knows by now, that it met its match in Nigeria.
Of course we cannot but talk of our weather, which was too hot for COVID 19 to fester. This is how God works, in turning the factors that should ordinarily be a disadvantage, to work for our common good. At the time of the index case in February 2020, the sun was still up and shining and a lot of theories went round as to whether the virus could even survive the tropical weather in Nigeria. Whether this is true or not, is largely immaterial to the fact that it added to other factors to strengthen our resolve to defeat the pandemic.
It is great that normalcy is gradually returning to Nigeria and we now record less than 100 cases of infections daily. The schools are re-opening, the worship centres are now to be fully operational and bars, restaurants, cinemas, etc are gradually re-opening for business. It has not been easy at all, but we must continue with the established protocols, until we lay our hands on the vaccine and be properly assured that we have finally defeated the plague. Commendation goes to the government and people of Nigeria, for once in our history, we united to fight a common enemy.

– Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria

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