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Fellow Nigerians

Published by The Nation on Fri, 27 Mar 2020


Olukorede YishauI WRITE you today because of Coronavirus, this dreaded virus that sneaked in on the world through China and found its way into our shores through an Italian. Birds no longer sound as birds. Rats sound like some other rodents.We first thought it was a joke when China, Italy, Singapore and others started recording fatalities. Even Almighty America did not think much of it. By the time our eyes became open, the Kabah was empty, the ever-busy Times Square was deserted and the beaches in Miami were roaring with no one to dash in and out of them. The Pope has had to be avoiding the crowd and the Umrah regularly performed by Muslims has been cancelled, even the Olympics are postponed.This years Hajj is doubtful. The oil price has crashed to an all-time low and it remains to be seen how it will affect our budget this year.Many countries are now on lockdown. The world is almost at its knees. Airlines have had to cancel thousands of flights. Recovering post-Coronavirus will be Herculean task.At a time like this, we all need to be careful to escape Coronavirus and to prevent it from further penetrating the world. It has done enough damage already and in our little corner, we should join the race to clip its wings and leave it prostrate.I saw a video last Sunday of a pastor, who described himself as Pastor TalkNaDo, lying to his congregants that Coronavirus could not survive in Nigeria. He said there was no way Coronavirus could survive in the face of what he described as corrosive anointing. He added that anytime Coronavirus genuinely entered Nigeria, it would die all over the world. His basis for doubting the presence of Coronavirus in Nigeria was that he was not shown the face of the Italian index case. The women in the church were screaming and concurring with him.Men like this who have access to the pulpit are killing people unknowingly, and their evil hold on the people will continue well after Coronavirus is gone. Brothers and sisters, we must tell his likes to shut up and shut it permanently. He was none of those who made people defy the guideline that large gathering should be avoided. He has infected his congregants with ignorance. But, despite the like of Pastor TalkNaDo, many complied with the advice.Before Coronavirus, the love of Nigerians for parties was legendary. We also loved to club and merry generally. Wedding parties were opportunities to run into debts. Months after weddings, debts were still being paid. Some Nigerians live the dead in the mortuary for months raising money for elaborate ceremonies. Some have even had to build a house in the compound a dead is to be buried. The dead has to wait for the house to be ready, when it is to be buried outside.In this time of Coronavirus, we have seen that nothing cannot be postponed or done low key. Last Friday and Sunday, Mosques and Churches were closed, services were held online and Jumat prayers said at home. A few worship centres are still disobeying the regulations. I would have supported that we turn to churches and mosques, but we all know that this is a medical emergency. Prayer can help the scientists get the solution. Prayers, on its own, cannot do it. How I wish it can! We must take the precautions serious so that when this is all over the after-effect will not compound our gargantuan problems.Before Coronavirus, extreme poverty has been with us. Low literacy level has been with us. Child mortality is our reality. Nigeria is 43rd on the sustainable development goal index, poverty is concentrating in fast-growing countries like Nigeria and, by 2050, more than 40 per cent of Nigeria will still be under povertys jackboot, and our country records the second-highest number of deaths of children under the age of five.According to the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), no fewer than 250, 000 children in Nigeria die on their first day of life. The figure is the second highest in the world, according to the 2017 multi-indicator cluster survey. My brothers and sisters, a child born in Nigeria today is likely to live to the year 2074 while a child born in Denmark is likely to live until the 22nd Century! Regrettably, our infants die from preventable causes such as premature births, complications during delivery, infections like sepsis, malaria and pneumonia.Post-Coronavirus, we will need all the help we can get to attract more investment to grow our economy at a higher rate to be able to lift 100 million people out of poverty. Nigeria is only growing at about two per cent and if our country continues this way, there will be more people in poverty. These are realities we will have to return to post-Coronavirus, which all of us have to ensure is very soon by adhering to all the precautions.I have no idea when we will defeat Coronavirus, but I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that we will need investments badly. The investments we will need, my brothers and sisters, is almost double what we have now. We must connect with people who want to invest in us. Agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructure are areas where we need investment.While we battle Coronavirus just like the rest of the world, we must not lose sight of the fact that the global market for foreign direct investment is highly competitive and, to tap into it, we must position ourselves strategically. Post-Coronavirus, most of the nations in a position to help us will be cushioning the disaster caused by the virus.My brothers and sisters, we have seen that oil cannot help us. The price has dropped ridiculously low and now is the time to let the world begin to see us as capable of thriving in tech, agriculture, services and manufacturing.We must take advantage of the fact that we are critically important as Africas largest economy. We must use our longstanding relationships with countries, such as the UK, the U.S. and others, to pull in the needed help. We must correct the notion that our economy is difficult to operate in.To make investors have confidence in us, we must respect agreements. Contracts must be sacrosanct, a situation where change of governments lead to policy somersault must be ended. The PI & D controversy, which is yet to die down, is a good example of how one governments mistake can affect the other. We must also improve on our ease of doing business credentials.My final take: For now, we must realise that the most important thing is to stay alive. Missing church service or Jumat service or any other religious function will not kill us. Staying away from that Owambe will not limit the number of years we will spend on earth, and cleaning our hands properly will keep infections away. This is the time to be responsible. Thereafter, we have to face our extreme poverty and other challenges.
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