LONG before the lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states were relaxed, many people had started complaining. Their complaint was over hunger. Their hunger was fueled by their anger.
They were angry because they were expected to hunker down without provisions made for them on how to feed during the lockdown which was informed by the ravaging Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. These are people who normally do not wait on government before they eat.
They go out daily to fend for themselves, but after the lockdown was first introduced for two weeks on March 31, following the President’s broadcast on March 29, doing that became a problem.
They could no longer go out as they used to because doing so will be a breach of the lockdown order. Government foresaw the problem.
It knew that these people who populate the informal economy would suffer. To ameliorate their suffering, it introduced palliative measures.
Under the palliative regime, government provided foodstuff and cooking ingredients for the poorest of the poor described as the vulnerable.
The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) under which the old and vulnerable were paid N5000 monthly was also stepped up. Beneficiaries of the TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni were also given some funds upfront to enable them stock up on their needs.
These measures were to make these people stay at home during the lockdown for their own safety and that of others to avoid spreading the deadly virus.
The truth is the palliatives did not go far. Even as I write this on Monday night, complaints are stiff rife on the distribution of the food items which are expected to ensure that the poor do not die of hunger before the world conquers Coronavirus.
The inequitable distribution of the food made people angry. Their anger may be justified because they are people who naturally take pride in their abilities to look after themselves. They do not need a handout to live. To them, that is demeaning.
But in a situation where they have been handicapped from going out to look for what to eat, they expected the government, which put them in that position, to come to their aid.
To them, it is better to go out to hustle than wait for a handout that may never come. “This food they are sharing will never get to people like us.
They know the people they are going to give. These are their party people and others close to their leaders. It is only by luck that it will get to the suffering masses”, a Lagos artisan said when asked why he took the risk of mingling with the crowd when the lockdown was relaxed on May 4, following the President’s April 27 broadcast.
Many are like this artisan. Even among the educated and the well-heeled, we have those who think like this. I always tell them that we are asked to stay at home not only for our own good but also that of others.
Public interest demands that at a time like this, we should all be thinking of the well-being of others; we should not do anything to jeopardise the health of those close and not close to us.
Whether we like it or not, Coronavirus is real. We have seen the havoc it can cause in countries far more developed than ours.
The easing of the lockdown should not be a licence for people to put the lives of others at risk. It is one thing for somebody not to believe that COVID-19 is real, but it is another thing for him not to allow that to affect the lives of others.
As I watched people trooping out on the streets last Monday in search of what they described as what to eat, I shook my head at their ignorance.
Then, something struck me, can one really describe what was happening as ignorance? People just chose to believe what they wanted to believe because Coronavirus is far from them. As the saying goes, he who feels it knows it. He who wears the shoe knows where it pinches.
Some people can show lackadaisical attitude to the virus because they are not infected. Even at that, have they not seen some of those infected? Have they not heard their stories? Are these not enough to bring home to them the realness of the virus? Everyday for the past two months, the Boss Mustapha-led Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has been shouting itself hoarse over this matter.
Being hardhearted over Coronavirus cannot help anybody. What can help us is to keep all the safety guidelines wholeheartedly. Hardheartedness can only lead to needless deaths.
We have been lucky so far that the number of confirmed cases and casualty figures are not too high. This is not of our making, but the grace of the Almighty.
What do we have to contain the virus if there is an explosion in the number of infected people? With the little figures we presently have, we are complaining of shortage of bed spaces. This is why I was troubled when I saw the huge number of people who flocked the banks and other business places last May 4 in their desire to make ends meet.
How much did they go to withdraw from their banks? What is the worth of the businesses they went for? Are these worth more than their lives? Can the money they went to look for take care of them if they catch the virus?
Many are playing ludo with their lives because they know that it will cost them nothing to treat themselves if they come down with the virus. The bill will be on government. But this should not be the reason for anybody to jeopardise public health.