In other parts of the world with worse cases, adherence to the Coronavirus lockdown has been encouraging. The streets are empty except for the periodic movement of people from home to supermarkets and back. Churches and mosques have restricted the faithful access and even Mecca and the Vatican are empty.
Unfortunately, it took the deaths of hundreds to initiate this move. It took the death of thousands for the Coronavirus lockdown to be enforced in some countries. At first, countries treated it like a mild nuisance and some acted as though the virus only existed in the Chinese.
The people followed suit. Healthy rules were flouted, and some, in the name of civil and human rights, helped in the spread of the virus. In the midst of the crisis, parties went on and parents who thought they were building the social interactions of their wards’ ended up helping the virus penetrate the family.
The senior citizens and those with impaired immune systems were first to die and this was followed by death as a result of the absence of ventilators. For most continents, while the Coronavirus lockdown is on, countries have planned for consequences and necessities that will result. Coming to Africa, luckily for us, the virus, for some unknown reasons, is yet to kill in the numbers seen in Europe and the United States of America.
Overseas, the Governments of the affected countries are not perfect or close but they know when to be functional. So far in our case, from reports in the media, it is not because we have a stronger immune system or because of the weather. Maybe because of our slow testing and abundance of killer diseases we can’t tell for sure if the deaths in the past few months are the result of the usual suspects or COVID-19.
No one can say for sure why African is yet to be hit with the same speed, for now, but if there is anything that is evident, it is the fact that the number of deaths, even though still in arithmetic progression, is beginning to grow and our testing cannot really tell the full story.
Death is not new to Africa. Africa has experienced some of the worst human catastrophes in leadership failure. Every year, we lose hundreds of thousands to malaria. We are still battling polio in some parts of Africa. We have lost many from human viruses. But the greatest killer of them all is what some people have come to call the HUVID-20 Virus.
For some Africans, the only story they know is the story of hunger. The HUVID-20 Virus, just like the COVID-19 virus, has been here before. In fact, for the past hundred years, it has always existed around us. So, while Europe prepares for the Coronavirus lockdown by shutting every economic activity, save for food, African leaders who have always tried, either knowingly or unknowingly, to starve their people, are trying to copy their example with poor resources.
In my country, Nigeria, for example, the lockdown was first announced three Sundays ago by an obviously unhealthy and uninspiring President. The eve of Day One, prices of goods, which have been inflated, as a result, were further inflated and people moved into the market like bees with neither face masks, hand gloves nor any iota of protection.
Hugs and fists were still locked tightly in greetings and the security checkpoints and taskforce team that was mandated to restrict movements in Day One helped to flout the rule. In the media, the borders of Port-Harcourt were closed but when you get to any of these borders money unlocked everything. The lives of people were put at risk for Hundred Naira or two, and any defiance to the new price regime was rewarded with border closure. Hunger was behind it all.
For the security men, it was all about feeding their stomach first. Their salary is nothing to write about, to begin with, and they, in the usual stupidity of the majority of Nigeria’s poor, have a family their resources cannot sustain. The driver stuffing their hands with these Naira notes could be infected but who cares? The passengers clogged in the buses like sardines could be carriers but money must be made.
Despite these, the country can be said to be on lockdown. In the big markets, there is almost complete compliance. In most companies too, the generators have gone off. The downside of this is that, for the time been, there are many whose daily bread is a product of their daily hustle and for these persons, the Coronavirus lockdown is death itself.
They have seen many types of death and have always tried to resist them but a slow and obvious death is not something they would like to experience. For these persons, if the virus is death, staying at home is certain suicide. For them, if the virus may kill them as a result of weak immunity or inadequate healthcare, hunger will kill them for something less. These are the ones experiencing this storm before the storm. They will trigger the storm after this storm the same way the epileptic Government triggered this storm.
They are in the majority. They are the traders, the drivers, the company workers, the street hustlers, the Agbo Seller, the Gala and Pure water sellers whose daily bread is, unfortunately, tied to traffic congestion, the jobless who live because one or two persons around them are doing something. These people are many and they are both hungry and angry.
If the majority of Africa had a system that worked, the Coronavirus lockdown will not initiate what is about to hit them. For the poor, their daily bread and their opium (or Religion) is what keeps them intact and controlled. One or both have to exist for the leaders to have peace. In Nigeria, the Government started a phantom palliative scheme and in less than a week, made a claim that about 2.1 million households have been reached with Twenty Thousand Naira.
The keyword used was ‘vulnerable Nigerians’ but the vulnerable Nigerians who got this money only exist as figments of their imagination. And by way, how does a Government with a poor or no data know the citizens that are poor or vulnerable? How was the analysis done? What seems to be happening is that despite the sufferings of Nigerians, the rudderless government whose actions and inactions led to the spread of the virus have not learned anything at all. It seems incapable of learning anything at all.
Most governments in the world are terrorist organizations and have mastered the art of keeping the people in control. In most African countries, this has been the case for the past four (4) hundred years. The people have been controlled with little food and excess opium. The food keeps their bodies from dying while the opium allows their minds to give their bodies strength.
The opium gives them hope and in current Nigeria, hope is not entirely a good thing. In fact, to be a happy Nigerian, you must learn to do away with hope. It kills faster than any virus. But with the opium (or Religion), there is always hope and a constant battle between this blind living hope and the reality of things on the ground.
The government, through the Coronavirus lockdown, is on the verge of killing this hope by locking down the worship centres. For a Nigerian, this hope keeps the mind conflicted with traces of a brighter tomorrow. Whenever he is in his worship center, the prayers, worship and the communion he shares with brethren raise his mind above ‘petty’ Government squabbles and he focuses on a brighter tomorrow.
He is often constantly conflicted but in communion with brethren, his spirit is renewed and he sticks to the plan. Now imagine what will happen when he no longer sees this hope. Removing religion from his mouth and starving him fellowship is similar to removing hope and this too, for him, is similar to death.
So, in response, like drug addicts, he may experience psychological and physical dependence and withdrawal as we have seen in the attitudes of those Nigerians who insist they must visit their worship centres despite the Coronavirus lockdown. Many of them were in church yesterday celebrating Easter despite the warnings.
Now, if this is taken away, the next step will be violence. For now, the security men on the streets, the military, police, etc., are calm because few persons who flout the rules settle them with money. The pocket is still full for now and there is no reason to join the crazy Revolutionary army being formed in the minds of the poor.
Most people are not working, our government is not rich enough and a time will come when we can’t borrow to pay salaries. But people will want to move around and find something and the thought of settling anyone be it soldier or even a God wouldn’t suffice. The soldier, with guns in his hands and his training, will also put everything he’s got to use to survive.
Then there will be many people in the streets that no security can control. The Government failed them as there is no food bank around. Religion failed them too as the miracle workers have failed to cure even any Coronavirus infected patient or give back. The little food for the body is gone. The mental food that activates the body can no longer lead the way. Hope is gone. The Coronavirus lockdown has succeeded in bringing the worst (or is it the best, for Africa?) out of people.
On one side people are dying from Coronavirus and on the other hand, people are killing each other. On one side, people are committing suicide and on the other side, people are giving themselves hope. When one thing goes, another takes its spot and this new hope is not universal or one. For Rey, it could be the survival and the rebuilding of people, for John, it could be killing and massacre of former leaders, for Jude it could be the exploitation of the frail lives roaming like cockroaches, and for Mike, it could be just to survive. But one thing is certain, for everyone, the storm will be greater than this storm.