THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu
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“Everywhere I go, I see increasing evidence of people swirling about in a human cesspit of their own making”. –James Anderton
Today will be nine days exactly since I drove myself all the way from my Abuja home down to my Top-Medical Road family abode in Minna, Niger State -to get ‘locked in’ with my nuclear family members in deference to the State-wide order announced by my Governor, Abu Lolo to contain the spread of the dreaded corona virus, otherwise called ‘Covid-19’. I had the option of ferrying my family, then, to an un-restricted Federal Capital Territory where I already was. But the thought of a future inevitable lockdown too, in a cosmopolitan, statistically more-corona-prone Abuja, with my innocent family members was just not it. That, I thought would be like running to and not away from the enemy. And so the only wise option, I thought was to willfully drive 200 kilometers away from freedom, to beat my State’s (date) deadline to put us all into a state-wide quarantine, if you will.
My reputedly (or should I say notoriously?) do-nothing Governor Abu Lolo, for once, had virtually scored himself a first, as about the earliest State Chief Executive to announce a state-wide lockdown beginning from (date). And so you won’t believe it, but the corona virus pandemic has virtually become a veritable seized opportunity for my usually do-nothing Governor at last, not only to now do ‘something’, but maybe even to be about the first to do it. The announcement was made Monday (date), and the lockdown was to commence Wednesday (date); that was barely a 48 hour notice to all concerned to either ship in, or to ship out of the State.
And so by the next day, Tuesday, I did the shipping in –to go live, if live we may, with family, or otherwise, God forbid, to go die with them, -that is, if die we must. And so as the world was virtually entering into the early stages of what was promising, soon to be a death-bed struggle, I was in a sense opting to go die or live at home. And with a little bit of unpleasant irony, this reminded me of when Abacha’s ‘hangmen’ came for me, in 1996. They had driven me some three kilometers from my Garki home to the SSS dungeon against my will, and for what had turned out eventually to be about a year’s incarceration in virtual solitary confinement. But now some twenty three years thereafter here I was, willfully driving myself some two hundred kilometers, from the same house, to Minna, to be locked up, for only-God-knows how long. Or as lawyers would say ‘sine die’.
And so once locked down, in Minna I soon found myself poring over books I hadn’t given the scantest attention in almost a decade or more. What else can one do under indefinite isolation apart from eat, pray, sleep and wake other than watch television, peruse papers, magazines and top of the notch, for the strong-willed, read a books. And what better books to read in this uncertain pandemic times other than those on religion, science, mysticism, philosophy and maybe, for me even conspiracy theories. To the sufficiently-informed believer, it is not that you are suddenly seeking to find God anew, but that you want to be sure –that this either is or is not the hour, or maybe the sign of the ‘hour’.
And this is in spite of the fact that for us followers of Abrahamic faiths –and especially Muslims and Christians- this is a settled matter: that, as the Quran would severally repeat: ‘to Allah only belong knowledge of the hour’; or as Jesus himself, in the Bible would say: “but of that day, and that hour, knoweth no man, nor the angels, nor even the son, but the Father”. Evidence abound in the history books that our less fortunate forebears – far less technologically advanced then and in fact more profoundly superstitious than us- may have withstood and survived worse plagues, scourges and pestilences. In fact such calamities were once so much the order especially of Medieval times, that in many of Shakespeare’s plays the phrase ‘a plague upon it!’ became a literary tool used either for swear or curse or for emphasis or in remonstration of painful or disputed situations: “a plague upon it” one such character says “when thieves cannot be true one to another”. Meaning ‘it’s a shame there is no honor even among thieves’.
In fact medieval times were when ‘unscientific’ man believed that plagues, epidemics and pandemics were ‘God’s judgment’ usually on a ‘sinful humanity’. And so gone were the days, we may now say, when all that especially Christen Europe would do for cure to any pestilent situation was call for repentance through penance. And we are told that a group of what were then called Christian ‘flagellants’ would move around towns and cities, ritually whipping themselves as willfully-vicarious penitents for the collective sins of the communities. This was in the hope that God would forgive sinful man and relieve him of the divine chastisement. This was later replaced with visiting local shrines to invoke the spiritual intervention of saints through healings and other spiritually therapeutic remedies.
In fact, later plagues were associated with the influence of planetary bodies or with earthquakes which were thought, then, ‘to cause the release of noxious gases’ inexplicable to unscientific man which plagued society. And even after man had reasonably advanced in medicine, many physicians could only link plagues with what they termed ‘balance of bodily humors’ –a medical euphemism for unbalanced dieting. And so all they could do then, was to recommend ‘moderate consumption’ and to separate the afflicted from the un-afflicted. And so in all the history of plagues I have –even if- haphazardly- read, avoiding contact with the afflicted has been the best defense I have seen as preventive remedy all through the ages.
Incidentally, Italy we are told was the first to use quarantines in the 15th century and the first also to develop systems of public health services in response to epidemics. Plus the first special plague hospitals were also said to have been built by the Italians. Yet Italy today is about the worst hit by the present corona pandemic –so much that Italians, for all their mundane, hedonistic gay, fashionistic manners, are virtually on the verge now, of renouncing the world. This nasty experience, before our very eyes –even though we have virtually done nothing to be thus far spared- will be of no practical hindsight-value, if we do not draw quick lessons and gather both our logs and our twigs together for the approaching winter.
The Government has to do far more than it is doing or it has pledged to do –especially in the areas of testing to know those who are afflicted, medical care-giving to the afflicted and assistance especially to the category of the poor and the underprivileged among us who require to apply themselves daily before they can feed. We cannot keep this category for too long in isolation without any provisions unless we want to provoke a winter of malcontent in addition to the winter of the pandemic! Let’s take it one winter at a time.
And –fortunately or unfortunately- avoiding contact or isolation as we now call it, a medieval remedy, is still about the only preventive measure to man, even today. Meaning that contemporary scientific-man, for all his arrogant claim to technological advancement, has still not gone ahead of his medieval counterpart in positive endeavors that should benefit humanity as a whole. He has advanced only in sectors beneficial to ‘special interests’ –of groups, individuals, corporate empires or privileged nation states. Man, for all his genius, in the development of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, has still not been able to apply that knowledge beneficially in the province of medical science, to safeguard humanity from bacterial, viral and fungal plagues such as Covid-19, without putting humanity through this dehumanizing experience. And it is a shame!