Covid-19: Between life and bread

By Tayo Ogunbiyi

I've known Kelvin for more than three decades. A tall, robust and strong personality, he is brave and daring. We attend the same higher institution and I can readily attest to your audacious instinct. In fact, in view of his apparent invincible aura, I often refer to him as "a man of steel".

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His wife, Chioma, once narrated how he thwarted the incursion of some small criminals in his neighborhood a few years ago.

It was around 12 pm. There was pandemonium throughout the area, while the bandits performed their dishonest acts, holding the residents hostage.

Defying his wife's passionate plea not to venture out, Kelvin visibly enraged jumped out of bed. His mission? To call the bluff of nasty criminals.

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Holding the leftovers of some bangers he had used to announce the New Year's arrival the previous month, he boldly went to the bandits, intermittently releasing dozens of fireworks into the air. This was followed by heavy, deafening sounds.

Thinking that armed security personnel were chasing them, the bandits were in total disarray. While they were running for safety, one of them hit some sharp objects and fell in an agonized fall.

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He was very unlucky when Kelvin caught up with him and attacked him with the fury of an angry lion hitting his prey.

Not long after, hitherto frightened residents came out in wild joy, saluting Kelvin's heroic behavior. It was like a script done in Nollywood. This is the creation of a superman!

I took this long route to really underline Kelvin's intrepid nature and check his fearless disposition sufficiently.

Now you can imagine my amazement when the same Kelvin, the supposed "man of steel", called a few days ago almost at the point of tears.

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When he finally calmed his nerves and managed to speak coherently, he revealed his source of fear. It was a decision by the federal government to relax the restrictions imposed on some parts of the country as part of efforts to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic in the country.

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Clarifying his fears, Kelvin wondered how some of our compatriots, who blatantly violated the blockade order, would comply with new measures taken to announce its gradual relief.

With the tone of someone who has resigned himself to an inevitable destiny, he said: “I am afraid of my country. I really hope we are not playing with fire ".

Well, Kelvin doesn't seem to be alone in his anxiety about the presidential nod to gradually ease the blockade. Few public affairs commentators, public health experts and other stakeholders have expressed similar concerns.

But then, when looked at critically, the president didn't seem to have many options. Lagos, the country's economic center, has been paralyzed for more than four weeks, during which economic activities have been completely paralyzed.

The FCT, seat of the federal government, was also locked. The economy is steadily bleeding. Many families can no longer genuinely deal with the prospect of prolonged blockade.

Perhaps the worst impacts were the members of the informal sector, who depend on daily earnings for economic support. Despite several strategic economic intervention initiatives designed by the federal and state governments, skillfully supported by many corporate organizations and people of public spirit, many still cry out for hunger.

In fact, as soon as efforts were being made to address the palliative issue head-on, a major security challenge also emerged.

This occurred, particularly, in the states of Lagos and Ogun, where cases of security breaches by bandits have been reported in some satellite communities in both states.

The rancor of these criminals, according to reports, was hunger. However, it was argued that those who hid under the unfortunate crisis of COVID-19 to foment problems were nothing more than shameless common and opportunistic thugs.

The government's dilemma, therefore, has become multifaceted. One, staying focused on the battle to contain the deadly pandemic by establishing more testing and isolation centers, providing the necessary care and attention to patients, embarking on aggressive lighting campaigns on the threat of the virus, providing the necessary support to professionals frontline health care, among others.

Second, extra security measures to ensure the safety of lives and property across the country, especially in light of growing security concerns.

Third, keeping an obviously restless population at home for a few more weeks is not really a fascinating option.

It was, in fact, a difficult decision for the government. But then, a decision had to be made. So, for now, this is what we should live with. Consequently, Nigerians need to face the precarious situation by taking appropriate responsibility.

Unless this is done, regardless of the efforts of the government and its partners to contain the virus, the level of success will be negligible.

As of Thursday, April 30, the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country was 1932, with 58 deaths. Lagos remains the epicenter, while the figure of Kano advances.

This implies that we are not yet without wood. For this reason, Nigerians, especially those in Lagos and FCT, should not confuse the easing of the blockade as a declaration of victory.

Care must therefore remain our watchword. No soldier celebrates in the middle of an inconclusive battle. Even the World Health Organization, WHO, has warned of the need to take extra care to relax blockages around the world.

It is therefore imperative, in our own interest, to willingly comply with all regulations designed by national and state authorities to curb the spread of the virus.

Those who have no business going out are strongly advised to stay indoors. And for those who are indoors, it is not the time to celebrate.

It is scary to read about the arrest of dozens of young people partying in a place in the Abule-Egba area, in the state of Lagos. How disrespectful!

There is time for everything. The hour of socialization would definitely return. But this is the time of the war. Yes, we are at war with a powerful and ardent enemy.

What makes this particular enemy quite cruel is that he is an invisible adversary. It has killed more than three million people worldwide.

Yes, it is true, our countrymen need to go out and earn a living. Protecting the daily issues of bread, no doubt. But preserving life is more precious than securing bread.

The logic is simple. It is the living who seek bread. One word is enough for the wise. Do not seek to rest yet, dear fellow countrymen, we are facing a dangerous and poisonous enemy.

  • Ogunbiyi is from the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.

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