THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu
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By Mohammed Adamu
People amaze me when they ask: ‘how long are we going to remain in this Covid lockdown?’ Or when they say: ‘when will the government call off or relax this shutdown? I thought it is obvious that we can only unlock whenever we are completely out of Corona’s harm’s way! And I wonder, ‘where are these people looking at?’ a post-Covid life in the short term? It’s like asking to know when people can freely and without fear walk in the woods?’ There is no better time than ‘when the woods become free from man-eating-fairies’. If the reason for the lockdown is the presence of a killer Corona virus, the reason to unlock, logically, has to be the eradication of the killer virus. Which, no matter how much of an optimist you want to be, you won’t see that happening in the short term. The season seems auspicious for pessimism. Pessimists, it appears, have a greater chance of surviving this Covid lockdown. They assume the worst, and therefore, more than their self-harming optimists, are better prepared for the long haul.
Several times when, especially my naively innocent younger children –in spite of every reassuring thing I have said to them previously- will still ask me: ‘but Daddy when will the virus go away?’ And you wish even in this dreadfully ominous times, you still can muster some sense of child-humor to play it down by asking your innocent child ‘Son, you tell me, when do you want this virus to go?’ Or better still to ask him ‘why don’t we wait until you are through watching Nickelodeon then we both go talk it through with this Corona?’ But on a serious note, the first time my ten-year-old did ask a similar question (when will the Corona virus go?), I was tempted to put it to him like Jesus did when Peter, in the Bible, wanted to have an idea about the end-time: “of that day, and of that hour” he said, “knoweth no man; not the angels; nor even the son, but the father in heaven”. And that is hoping that Covid-19 is not, after all, the end-time plague itself.
But will my children ever let go on this line of questioning, ‘Daddy when will this corona virus go?’ Because just when they were looking forward to a rumored ease of the lockdown here in Niger, two events had in fact suddenly occasioned a tightening of the noose further. Minna had just recorded its first Covid positive case in down-town Limawa the heart beat of the city, and elsewhere in Maitumbi some spoilt, ajebo brats who had defied the initial 12-hour, poorly-enforced lockdown, to hold a matrimonial party, were reported to have mercilessly beaten up some security men who had only politely snuck in to the party to advise the kids to keep the music a little down to corona-volume. Reports had it that the boys beat the corona out of the men! And my now-famous corona-active Governor, Abu Lolo, who was the first to shut down on the twenty-fifth of last month, had seized the moment again to become the first to upgrade to a 24-hour punitive shut down.
And now to my ten-year old especially, things were even getting curiouser and curiouser. He had been waiting impatiently for the situation to ease up so I could fulfill my promise of letting him go see his alter-ego cousin Bilal, across the city. And now the Governor had even announced tighter measures. And so the last time, two days ago, that my now paranoid son posed this question, ‘Daddy when will this corona virus go’, I was so so annoyingly –even if practically- sarcastic with my answer, I simply stood up, went to my wardrobe and started to dress up. And my doted sickle-cell-anemic daughter (the one to whom even my mere presence is therapeutic), challenged: ‘Daddy where are you going?’ And I said ‘Abba just asked me again ‘when will the Corona virus go away, didn’t you hear him?’ And she said ‘yes, but you did not answer him and you are dressing to go out’. (suggesting that even she was eavesdropping for my answer). So, I said ‘yes, you see, this is gradually becoming a question for the gods or maybe even for the Corona virus itself. I want to go put this question to either or both of them, so I can bring back an answer to your b r o t h e r, h e r e –making sure to say the last two words with both vocal and optical attitude. Every time I get this practically sarcastic about my children’s often practically serious questions, they have a way of just chuckling in a blushfully-apologetic manner and then one after the other, they scram. They know that it is my way of saying ‘don’t ask stupid questions!’
By the way, isn’t it even sillier that grown-ups should hope that in his last Presidential address to the nation, Buhari might announce a lift off or even an ease-off? You can excuse children, but it is funny that even adults should ask ‘when will this lockdown end’ when they should know that even the government that imposes it does not know when it should end it. Because to know when this lockdown will end presupposes having a foreknowledge of when the rampage of the Corona Virus itself will end –which, for now, is like venturing into the realm of the unknown. It is virtually playing God to forecast a post-covid life anywhere, at least for now. You have to know first when the virus will be defeated to know when we are going to be unlocked so we can all get back our lives. Because –like Jesus said “of that day, and of that hour, knoweth no man; not the angels; nor even the son, but the father in heaven”.
And so those who had hoped that President Buhari, in his last Tuesday’s address might announce a call off or relaxation of the lockdown, to my mind, were even more offensively naïve than my little still-Nickelodeon-frenzied Abba at home. Because you wonder, after just two weeks of a mostly-poorly-enforced shutdown, what was it that should soon give room to such high hope for such a distant heaven that by now we should be getting back our lives on a post-covid cruse? We have been locked down now for almost a month in Niger. And from what I see here, and what we hear from the measly two-weeks experience of other states, including even Lagos, in terms of prevention, detection, treatment and especially management and enforcement of the lockdown itself. If the successes of all other variables depend largely on a successful lockdown, then we cannot proudly say that we are on top of the situation yet. The key to a successful lockdown like I said when I wrote ‘ONE WINTER AT A TIME’, is when we provide especially for those who require to go out on a daily basis to render services before they can feed. How we do that I will not even pretend to know.
A liberal, so called rights-respecting Europe and America are paying the price for democratic complacency. And a pragmatically communist, so called rights-appropriating China, even in Wuhan where the viral genie allegedly first bolted out of the bottle, is virtually back on its feet.
China had locked down (comprehensively with palliatives) when it needed to, it had clamped down with state power where it should; hell it had even clobbered with excessive force where it must, and now even in the scheme of evolutionary order of natural selection, you cannot deny that China at last, has proved itself Charles Darwin’s top species on the evolutionary pecking order and on the chain of survival which Darwin had said was reserved for the fittest. A communist China is teaching the democratic world that survival is the first rule of nature; and that for the collective survival of a people, any means, like Malcolm X would say, is necessary.
And we are seeing even a democratic India towing the pragmatic, illiberal path of a survivalist China –locking down (comprehensively), clamping down where necessary and clobbering even with excessive force where they must. So that now, it is with a large dose of demographic irony, that the two nations with populations in excess of a billion –and where you expect the Corona virus to deal the most deadly blow- are the more successful in fighting this pandemic, than the less populated nations even of a more demographically-ordered West.
The race is not to the swift, or to the politically correct. it is to the steadfastly tenacious.