Covid-19: Choosing Between Life And Bread

By Tayo Ogunbiyi

I have known Kelvin for over three decades. A tall, sturdy and gangling personality, he is brave and daring. We attended same higher institution and I can readily attest to his audacious instinct. Indeed, in view of his seeming invincible aura, I often refer to him as ‘a man of steel’.

His wife, Chioma, once narrated how he singlehandedly foiled the foray of some petty criminals into his neighbourhood a few years back. It was at about 12 midnight. There was pandemonium in the entire area as these crooks were carrying out their devious acts, holding residents hostage.

Defying the passionate plea of his wife not to venture out, a visibly infuriated Kelvin jumped out of the bed. His mission? To call the bluff of the nasty criminals. Holding the leftover of some bangers he had used to herald the coming of the New Year the previous month, he valiantly went in the direction of the hoodlums, intermittently releasing scores of fireworks into the air. This was followed by heavy deafening sounds.

Thinking that armed security personnel were after them, the crooks were in total disarray. While scampering for safety, one of them hit at some sharp objects and agonisingly fell. He was damn unlucky as Kelvin caught up and pounced on him with the fury of an angry lion hitting at its prey. Not quite long afterwards, hitherto fearful residents came out in wild jubilation, hailing Kelvin heroic demeanour. It was like a script made in Nollywood. Behold, the making of a superman!

I have taken to this lengthy route to actually underscore the intrepid nature of Kelvin and to sufficiently ascertain his fearless disposition. You can now imagine my astonishment when the same Kelvin, the supposed ‘man of steel’, called a few days ago almost at the point of tears. Perceptibly rattled, he could hardly make sense, mumbling some incomprehensible words.

Amazingly, I had the singular honour of soothing this indefatigable superman. When he eventually calmed his nerves and was able to speak coherently, he disclosed his source of fear. It was the decision of the Federal Government to relax the lockdown it imposed on some parts of the country as part of efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Elucidating his fears, Kelvin wondered how some of our compatriots, who blatantly contravened the lockdown order, would comply with fresh measures put in place to herald the gradual easing of same. With the tone of someone that has resigned himself to an unavoidable fate, he said: “I am afraid for my country. I really hope we aren’t playing with fire”.

Well, Kelvin does not seem to be alone in the anxiety over the presidential nod to gradually ease the lockdown. Not a few public affairs commentators, public health experts and other stakeholders have expressed similar concerns.

But then, when critically scrutinized, the President did not seem to have many options. Lagos, the economic nerve centre of the country has been on lockdown for over four weeks during which economic activities were totally paralyzed. The FCT, the seat of the Federal Government, was equally on a lockdown. Steadily the economy was bleeding. Many families can no longer genuinely cope with the prospect of an extended lockdown.

Perhaps, worse hit were members of the informal sector who depend on daily earnings for economic sustenance. In-spite of several strategic economic intervention initiatives designed by both the Federal and State governments, ably supported by many corporate organisations and spirited individuals, many still scream of hunger.

Indeed, just as efforts were being made to frontally address the palliative matter, a major security challenge also came up. This occurred, particularly, in both Lagos and Ogun States where there were reported cases of security breaches by hoodlums who were on rampage at some satellite communities of the two States.

The grudge of these criminals, according to reports, was hunger. It has, however, been argued that those hiding under the unfortunate COVID-19 crisis to foment trouble were nothing but common crooks and shameless opportunists.

The dilemma of government, therefore, became multifaceted. One, it has to remain focussed on the battle to contain the deadly pandemic via establishing more testing and isolation centres, providing necessary care and attention to patients, embarking on aggressive enlightenment campaigns on the threat of the virus, providing necessary support to frontline health workers among others.

Second, extra security measures has to be made to ensure safety of lives and properties across the country, especially in the light of growing security concerns. Third, the feasibility of keeping an obviously restless populace at home for another couple of weeks isn’t really a fascinating option.

It was, indeed, a tough call for the government. But then, a decision has to be made. And one has been made. So, for now, that is what we have to live by. Consequently, Nigerians need to come to term with the precarious situation by taking proper responsibility. Except this is done, no matter the efforts of government and its partners in containing the virus, the success level will be insignificant.

As at Thursday, April 30, total COVID-19 confirmed cases in the country were 1932 with 58 fatalities. Lagos remains the epicentre while Kano’s figure remarkably surges ahead. This implies that we are not yet out of the wood. Hence, Nigerians, especially those in Lagos, and the FCT, must not mistake the easing of the lockdown as a declaration of victory.

Caution must, thus, remain our watchword. No soldiers celebrate in the midst of an inconclusive battle. Even the World Health Organisation, WHO, has warned about the need to be extra careful in relaxing lockdown across the world.

It is, thus, imperative, in our own interest, to willingly comply with all regulations designed by national and State authorities to contain the spread of the virus. Those that have no business going out are strongly advised to remain indoors. And for those indoors, this is not the time for partying. It is scary to read about the arrest of scores of youths partying away at a place in the Abule-Egba area of the State. Such thoughtlessness!

There is time for everything. Time for socialising would definitely come again. But this is the time for warfare. Yes, we are in a war against a fiery and potent enemy. What makes this particular enemy rather vicious is that it is an unseen adversary. It has killed over three million people worldwide.

Yes, it is true, our compatriots need to go out and eke a living. Securing daily bread matters, no doubt. But then, preserving life is more precious than securing bread. The logic is simple. It is those that are alive that seek after bread. A word is enough for the wise. Seek not yet repose, dear compatriots, we are contending with a perilous and venomous foe.

Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.

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