The Many Reasons Why The Lockdown Should Be Totally Lifted
In the pasts six intervening months and counting, the government had on the recommendations of the Boss Mustapha led Presidential Tasks Force on COVID-19, again and again locked us down and unlocked us as its pleases. However, there is the need to totally lifts the restrictions so as to enable us return to a greater semblance of normal life and this is predicated on the fact that all these lockdowns and shutdowns and easing of it is simply not working. The entire restrictions imposed by the government as a non-pharmaceutical interventions measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, only further compounded the anguish, pains and hardship of the already subjugated citizens, the more. All that was needed was to have a targeted seclusion of high risks groups while the rest of the relatively young people go about freely. It is on record that the orchestrated worldwide lockdown was the greatest and costliest mistake ever, in history.
How did we and the world get here, Lockdown as a concept or model was predicated on the work of scholars from the Imperial College of London, NEIL FERGUSON who projected 510,000 deaths for Britain and 2.2million and counting deaths for the USA. And to avoid the deaths, GRAHAM NEARY advocated for ‘’non-pharmaceutical interventions (Lockdown). In spite of the uncertainties and flaws in the projection, they were still very sure that their work would be used to influence government decisions and they were right about that, because, political leadership globally harped on it and meted out a catastrophic hardship on the world citizens.
Take for instance, nations across the globe at the outbreaks of the deadly and contagious virus, put in place measures and other forms of palliatives to cushion the impacts and effects of the excessive restrictions which resulted in the dislocation of economy activities occasioned by the pandemic, whereas, all the Nigerian government does was to suffocate her citizenry with taxes. Just at the wake of the easing of lockdown, the government slammed her citizens with twin barrel increment in Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), and Electricity Tariff which was hiked by over 100%. The twin increment within the space of two days obviously appeared as if the government carefully planned it to imposed hardship on the people for speaking out against the forced lockdowns. The palliatives put in place and supervise by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management was nothing but a monumental sham and charade. Among the citizens of the free world, ours is a tale of consistent groaning under the yoke of an inhumane government that is insensitive to the plights of her citizens but pretends to love them when in reality the exact opposite is the case. These biting increment were done amidst rising inflation, rising unemployment, exponential increases in prices of household commodities and worsening insecurity The pandemic is not yet over but the exponential rise in the prices of foodstuffs are already increasingly becoming worrisome and making our people poorer which is a complete negation of the government planned to lift 100 million people out of poverty in the next ten years. Surprisingly, the President while hosting a forum of farmers did acknowledge that food prices were skyrocketing and that he was surprise, but again, in his usual characteristics, blamed it on middlemen. Seriously, if the President is always surprise or not aware of issues, then, it is either the President is disconnected from the people or shielded from realities.
Curiously, the PTF mandates expired on the 17th day of September but they managed to secured an extension till December this year which obviously was an error of judgement by the President. This PTF is only good at holding press briefing in Abuja, taking delivery of monetary donations and medical supplies on behalf of the nation which they in turn distribute disproportionately among the states and the FCT. All the newly commissioned testing laboratories by NCDC were private sector donations. The much talk about ‘’One National Response’’ often postulated by Boss Mustapha and Dr. Sani Aliyu (the National coordinator) of the PTF, only resonate and die within the fore wall of the briefing room in Abuja. This is evidently glaring in the approach of the various state governments in their fight against the spreads of the virus. And indeed, the non-conformity of the various states to every pronouncement from the PTF was an enough signal to democratize the response. Again, if the PTF was trailing behind Lagos in every decision regarding the pandemic, then of what use was its existence
The PTF/government was pressured to reopened places of worships and practically forced into allowing student of exiting classes to participates in external examinations. They waited without any clear roadmap on school reopening until Lagos state announced a resumption date before they casually opined that people are free to reopen but that it should be done cautiously. Recently, we have seen States announcing resumption date for primary and secondary schools including Tertiary institutions and as always, the Federal government in an apparent push to safe face and avoid embarrassment, reluctantly announced the reopening of her Unity Schools whereas, the PTF is usually busy holding press briefing and consistently lamenting here in Abuja over poor compliance from the people. The country in all honesty does not need the filibuster approach of the Federal government that ought to be leading and showing direction to the states as against the states taking the lead first before the national government. No doubt, these unfolding approaches is making nonsense of our much talked-about ‘’One National Response’’ because it’s simply does not exist anymore.
It is however not surprising that this PTF is already giving itself credit for the successes recorded in actual case management in the country, whereas, it is the respective states government that deserve credit and all the frontline health workers. The PTF in my view was set up to provide a more coordinated and balanced response to the outbreaks but that objective was never achieved. They were mixed messages between the states and the National government. How would a government attempt to claim victory and credit over human misery and hardship for a constitutional function? Our over-reliance on WHO developed protocols and our failure to develop a home-grown response protocols and so many more could be traceable to the PTF as its many missteps. No concrete or concerted efforts/plans were put in place to develop a vaccines or the key needed medical supplies which were mostly procured from overseas. A serious government galvanize her people in time of crisis but ours was a government that resort to lamentation over her citizen’s non-compliance to guidelines in a time of global health emergency. In fact, the government ought to commend the people for the level of cooperation they gave during the lockdown because majority of her citizen’s view government as not serving the greater public interest and this trust issues abounds in our national lives.
The PTF expended a whopping sum of 22.5billion naira in a space of three months and none of this could be traceable to anything tangible. Just imagine a task force within three months spending more money that the states spend collectively. The PTF is yet to clarify or point to those things that the monies were expended on. Again, this same PTF spent more time discrediting the Madagascar’s Covid Organic rather than providing leadership in finding homegrown remedies. To what extent has the PTF encourage all those our emergency experts and white lab coat scientists to publish our successes in combating covid in any of the numerous medical journals. From all indications, the underlying objective of our national response was never and is not about our people but simply to be seen and portraying ourselves as showing solidarity with the rest of the world and WHO. Imagine a heavily burdened and discredited WHO, that is struggling to disentangle itself from alleged collusion with China over the latter suppression of information and hiding the truth about the virus from the rest of the world at the early days of the outbreak. Recall that China far for too long repeatedly denied the possibility of human-to-human transmission, thereby plunging the world into a catastrophic economy dislocation. Even when Taiwan alerted the world of evidence of human-to-human transmission, WHO still ignored them. The coronavirus broke out in China, while the Chinese Communists Party shielded the rest of the country from Wuhan, its allowed foreign flights out of Wuhan. It took only 168 infected passengers on board six passenger flights out of Wuhan to infects the rest of the World and cause an immense and unprecedented global health disaster. This pandemic equally exposes the political biases of the world, as any contrary claims against WHO promoted views are rather than investigated, denounced as conspiracy theory. The ‘’infodemic’’ alluded to by WHO Director General as its major constraint in combating the pandemic could be traceable to its handling of the outbreak from the very beginning which brought about doubt on the mind of people.
The NCDC itself wants to be seen as a messiah of the people while in actual sense, they are a total disaster All it took was the outbreaks of corona virus for a relatively unheard agency of government occupying an obscure place in the Jabi district of Abuja to become relevance and giving prominent on front pages. There is absolutely nothing in NCDC guidelines and protocols for COVID-19 case management too that are homegrown, rather, the NCDC lifted everything hook line and sinker from the developed protocols of the West and WHO. In fact, there is the need to reexamine all the recommendations of the NCDC and its handling of this public health crisis. The NCDC, asides the late night tweets or reeling of reported infections rate and numbers of deaths, the agency is yet to clearly classify the deaths from this outbreak. As a nation, we deserve to know the numbers that died of covid and those that died with covid. Recall that the NCDC mandates is to saves lives and protects the people and the general population from health threats. We are still having challenges with testing but recently, data emanating from NCDC indicated that the Infections Fatality Ratio (IFR) and the spreads of the virus among the people is declining, which, perhaps might be an indication that the virus, though contagious, is no longer virulent within our shore. A long time ago, it was understood that there was no need ‘’stopping a highly transmissible virus’’ The declining infections rate recently is an attestation of that assertion as it is obvious that infections cases were rising during the lockdowns era as against declining during eased of restrictions. And this could only mean one thing – as lockdown is eased, people move and the virus spreads freely among the relatively young population which in turn result in them developing herd immunity.
The PTF may really have to do more to be taking seriously because the people are increasingly becoming weary of the hallmarks of its briefing which are no doubt, measures to prevent the spreads which are – wash your hands with running water, masks-up and maintain social distance. Again, in actual sense, masking-up alone does not stop the virus nor prevent it from spreading.
In fact, the lockdowns did not serve any purpose whatsoever but rather, destroyed businesses and livelihoods. Tens of thousands of both small and small businesses, subjecting people lives and livelihood into untold economic misery. Perhaps, the NCDC could have done better in its response but instead, it was the states that took charge and provided leadership while the PTF was busied gathering our heavily invested media in Abuja for talking sake. As a nation, we allowed panic and hysteria to drives our response. Without first thinking that the models as adopted by the western nations may not fit into our approach here.
Furthermore, the case of our country was made worse by our very subjective conventional media. The Nigeria media like any other in the world is heavily invested in manipulating the outcome of stories its promote, rather than giving the facts and allowing the people to draw their own conclusion. The media during the said period connived with government to kill free speech under the guise of fighting fake news. Asides the bias reporting, many stories or news angle that does not fit-in with the government or promote the coronavirus imposed new world views were frequently ignored, while anyone who question the official narrative must be silenced.
Therefore, it is now very clearer that the infections rates in the country does not exceed the medical capacity which was the very fear upon which the nation subscribed to lockdowns like every other nation, as it was a step towards being overwhelmed. And again, vaccines development and production will still take months to be out and made available to the larger population of the world
Consequently, there is the need to lifts the restrictions totally, look for a homegrown solution to our problem, reduces over-reliance on the already discredited WHO that is wasting millions of dollars of donor funds on image laundry. As covid continue to spreads, the end does not seem to be in sight, at least not any time soon. The people cannot afford to wait or remain lockdown perpetually until a vaccine is developed. We must start returning back to a greater semblance of normal way of life. At this stage, the Boss Mustapha led PTF should take advantage of the extension granted it by the President to start developing a roadmap to recovery, rather than persistent lamentation and further threats to lock us down again. A robust multi-sectoral national response should be put in place while we work safely to reopen workplaces, schools, sporting events etc even as we are still mitigating the spreads of the virus.
Conclusively, evidences abound that lockdowns actually hurt us more as a people and a nation more than it benefited us. The virus is already here with us and may take years to eradicate or eliminate it, perhaps, not until a vaccine is developed, hence, stopping its spreads should no longer be a practical objective as aiming to prevent and containing every cases is no more sustainable at this stage of the pandemic. We must take cognizance of the reality that covid-19 will be here with us for some time and find ways to deal with it, hence, it is well past time to end this insanity and let the people with broken lives and hope get back to normal, not the new normal or the adjusted normal.
COM. MSIGEKII NWI-AERA NACY Lives in Abuja