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Coronavirus: Open Letter to President Muhammadu Buhari

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SIR: The world is sick; Nigeria is increasingly getting her share of the bile cake; world economies are crumbling and gasping for breath; the perceived ‘almighty’ nations are in the proverbial stages of grief; and dear president— you recently lost your trusted, dedicated, patriotic and dogged ally— Mallam Abba Kyari. And while you may still be grieving, Nigeria is on a brink of making a monumental mistake that promises dire consequences.

I believe, with all sincerity, that your position in the interim is the least enticing. These are testing times for leadership and no decision comes easy. It never has in the case of national security.

In your last broadcast, expectedly, you announced plans to ‘ease’ of the current lockdown order meant to help contain the spread of Covid-19 across the country. I wish to categorically state that given the present circumstance as clearly enumerated by data of positive cases published by the NCDC, this would be a catastrophic decision likened to a time bomb. At best, it will be a case of one step forward, thirty steps backward!

To put in graphical perspectives; it was 195 new positive cases on April 28, 196 the day after and 204 on the last day of the month, taking the total to 1932 confirmed cases with 51 deaths and 319 discharged. This is a troubling statistic that promises disaster once this lockdown is eased as planned.

Truly, it is difficult to be president. First, Nigerians lashed out on the initial lockdown order, the imbroglio of distribution of palliatives, the subsequent fortnight of extended lockdown, and then the signal of a strong revolt to return back to the streets in preference of being terminated by Covid-19 than hunger virus. Perhaps you have grown tired of trying hard to protect Nigerians without your genuine efforts being heavily bashed. But criticism is a knitted facet of leadership, even though most directed at you are sentiments inclined without a peep at the bigger picture.

Still, this is not the time to chicken out of making tough calls by shifting the buck— swinging the ropes of responsibility on the masses, and basically throwing the stubborn baby with the bathtub. Great leaders are not renowned for taking easy routes to please public opinion in the face of national security.

History is supposed to guide our actions. Cue in the torment of Spanish flu that counter-attacked fiercely once the initial measure was relaxed. In Germany, China and other countries, data indicated a second wave of Coronavirus that further complicated matters. Italy was stung hard by underestimating the powers of a relaxed decision, just like we are about to do.

Anyway, the crux of the matter is that this decision has the imprint of transfer of the buck; surely Nigerians are not to be trusted with such a giant responsibility because of the reality of everyday hustle to survive. Social distancing will be so abused and we should brace ourselves for the worst. God forbid that I sound pessimistic. But the chances that the situation wouldn’t spiral out of control is slim, very slim.

Enough of stressing the consequences. Do this administration has any other effective option? Yes!

The cause of outrage and intended revolt is not unconnected to social injustice as Nigerians find it difficult to trust and believe their government. It is a travesty to claim that the government since jetting out of recession had not been saving for rainy days. It is more absurd to claim that the government cannot emulate other countries to cushion the effects of lockdown, since fear of hunger virus is the rationale behind the flak meted at extension plans.

Distribution of palliatives to the vulnerable poor has been clouded by corruption as usual since the latter is Nigeria’s resplendent trogon! How about your administration reaching out to citizens directly Sir? How?

The easily available data is the BVN, and at least one person in a household has one. Why not direct bulk of the palliatives to these accounts directly, and watch how the grouses decimate? And, yes, Nigeria can afford it!

Optimists they say find the opportunity in every difficulty. This administration could kill two birds with a single throw; save lives and earn public trust. Conversely, allow the chicks to go hunting in enemy’s land mined territory and face the consequences!

The opportunity is there for the taking.

Ibrahim Yahaya, Lugbe, Abuja.

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