The coronavirus pandemic is described as a leveler. Globally, yes. Locally, especially in Africa, nay Nigeria, it has exposed our leadership deficiencies at various levels. Worst, at the political level.
Two sectors aided the exposure of pretense of leadership; health and education. Should the pandemic linger more than necessary, and there are indications it will, it will further expose lack of foresight, planning and quality investment in another vital sector – agriculture – in addition to the very visible ones in the health and education sectors.
Any nation that lacks proper and comprehensive plans and investments in these three sectors, is as good as non-existent. Covid-19, if for nothing is fast opening our eyes to the pretense of our leaders and the lip services paid to these sectors.
Before Covid-19 dawned on us without warning, our leaders at various levels, especially those active, with followership on social media, always “wow” those who are gullible with show of heavy investment in the state of the art health facilities they have invested billions of naira on. Never mind that at the slightest diagnosis of headache, the same leaders flew out of Nigeria for medical attention.
Ironically, if you had told any Nigerian governor as recent as January 2020, that he will be afflicted by an ailment caused by a viral infection, and he would be treated by local medical personnel, and within his own state capital without as much as not been able to travel to Abuja, he would have, like the emperors some of them have become, directs for a summary punitive measure be meted out to you.
Today, across all the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria, governors and their households tasted and are still tasting the negative positivity of Covid-19. All were and are being treated locally and survived, surviving without crossing the state borders not to talk of flying out for medical attention.
Were coronavirus not dealing deadly blows on their choice destinations of medical tourism and the international boundaries not closed, taxpayers’ money in millions would have been wasted as they would have flown and airlift their families to such places for treatment.
Today, some are of the view that aside Covid-19 exposing the rot in our health system, some states’ prolonged lockdown wasn’t much to protect the poor citizenry against the pandemic spread, but more not to expose further the lies and rot in their health sectors. Some came out and confessed that should the epidemic be more endemic than what was at hand, their states do not have the facilities and personnel to manage it. What they didn’t tell you is that, they do not have, half a quarter of what they said they had on ground or had invested in the health sector before the virus reared its ugly head, in some states, via them as the index cases.
No doubt, even the nations with the best of medical facilities and personnel are not spared by the pandemic and are still battling to contain the ravaging virus, but you can see sincerity of purpose on their parts.
God has been so merciful to us in Nigeria such that the infection and mortality rate, considering our population of two hundred million plus, has been so minimal. We pray it remains so till we flatten the curve and globally defeat the virus.
Yes, Covid-19 is a leveler, as today, our elites and leaders cannot travel to choice destinations for medical tourism to treat minor ailments, having destroyed our health sectors, privatised and mortgaged our lives, and now force us all to patronise same medical personnel and facilities they once denigrated and derided. Their families have all flown back home from choice destinations of educational tourism.
From their take offs from those world class airports, to their arrivals at the various locals airports here in Nigeria, against the old practice of exhibiting ostentatious lifestyle and spitting on the poor with selfie pictures of departures and arrivals, they now even camouflaged and quietly run to their houses. Dare show us your “just arrived” selfies from any foreign nation and move to an isolation centre.
Few with semblance of sanity left, or any future political aspirations, make bold, in a face saving drama announce the positive status of family members and isolation trips. Even that, not without little drama.
Again, Covid-19 is exposing the rot and pretense in the education sector. It is unravelling the lack of seriousness we accord a sector as vital as education, which is a backbone and foundation of any development. Like other sectors gang raped and bastardised, then privatised out of the reach of the common man, education is now feeling the heat of the long neglect, lack of investment and the non-challant acts of our leaders.
The West African Examination Council WAEC’ West African Senior School Certificate Examination WASSCE and the discordant tunes across the nation, and especially between the regions, states and federal government is a pointer.
In Nigeria, between 1.5 to 1.7 million candidates register and sit for this examination annually. With our almost geometric population growth, put the figure for 2020 at utmost, two million candidates. Divide this by the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory, FCT, it will be difficult for any state to have a quarter of that number registered to write the examination. Yet, we are being told that no state in Nigeria can put measures in place for these students to write WASSCE in line with the Covid-19 protocols without hitches.
No state in Nigeria has less than a million registered voters. As we speak, Edo and Ondo are in frenzy to go to the polls with all the attendant crowd-funding, gathering sans Covid-19 protocols.
As you read this, there are more mosques and churches in every community in Nigeria than there are secondary schools. These religious houses weekly host more number of humans who spend longer hours, socialising with less physical distance between them than WASSCE candidates and WAEC staff would ever spend even if they are to write four papers daily.
As you read this, the schools are not just deteriorating, especially with the rains, no signs of making them habitable for any use, should the go ahead be given for the examination to hold in the nearest future.
As I write, I am seated in Kaduna. Imagine if we are serious with education and know the consequences of over a million of our young children missing this examination. Imagine in addition to all the government owned public schools in Kaduna; nursery, primary and secondary, the state government decided to utilise Kaduna Polytechnic’s three campuses, Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA; both old and new sites, Kaduna State University, KASU, with multiple campuses, Police College, Nigeria Prison Training School, National Teachers Institute, NTI, College of Education Gidan Waya, Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria multiple campuses, Federal College of Education FCE, Nigeria Institute of Transport Technology, NITT, Nigeria Military School, Depot Nigerian Army, Nigeria Institute of Leather Technology and other numerous multipurpose halls within the state, you can be sure that many halls would at the end of the day, not even have a single candidate even on a day they all have to write English and Mathematics that are general papers; no matter what sort of social or physical distancing you want to practice. This scenario is the same with such facilities available across most of the states of the federation and the FCT.
Of course, they would be fast to use dearth of resources; financial and human to carry out this very vital responsibility. But during elections, they spare no resources; human and material to get to power. They utilise government resources, money, civil servants and even state owned transport vehicles to ferry voters from one end of the town to another. But now, that is impossible for the education of our future leaders.
Like the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, said at one of the briefings of the Presidential Task Force, if we don’t learn anything from this pandemic, we would never learn anything. Let me dare add that we would be doomed if we don’t.
For now, Covid-19 has not only succeeded in exposing the rot in our systems, it is exposing the deficiency of the people we call leaders. It is unravelling the pretense and lip service paid to critical sectors of our daily lives. It is and may hit back at all of us, but hit the elites and leaders more, as today, many of them have become prisoners of their own making, living in a reversed life while the poor may be used to scraping the bottom to eat, even though it is getting harder.
No one should tell you we have no resources to do the needful. If nothing, the revelations from certain forensic auditing gone awry are pointers.
Abdull-Azeez Ahmed Kadir, Kaduna