The point cannot be overstated that COVID-19 tramples under foot basic fundamental freedoms of movement and association. Given its trajectory of totalitarian spread, that singular virus is far from being “democratic”, assuming viruses harbour ideological preferences.
However notwithstanding the restrictions, lock downs, curfews and sundry fetters which accompany COVID-19’s spike, I bear witness that like other Ramadan, the concluded Holy month even heightened “Allah’s consciousness” more than ever through intensive prayers, recitations of Quran, the acts of giving, (sadqah al fitrah) sacrifices and forbearance. Only Allah knows how many times Holy Quran of 114 surahs (chapters) divided into many Ayahs (verses) was recited in the last 30 days.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia expressed sadness over the inability of Muslims to congregate at mosques including the Grand Mosques in Mecca and Medina “due to precautionary measures to protect the peoples’ lives and health in combating the coronavirus pandemic”. But refreshingly there was a daily on line and television coverage of Taraweeh and tarawih-optional night prayers. Behold the spectacular images of select Imams and some devotees in socially distanced congregations! A worthy exhibition of spiritual discipline we must emulate in Nigeria.
The act of i’tikaf (outdoor retreat in mosques), hitherto practiced mostly by male devotees during the last ten days assumed participatory and inclusive dimension. The entire households of women, men and children were deep in “spiritual resetting” for the whole month. Including yours comradely. The new culture of inclusiveness must guide our new life post COVID-19.
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Certainly exclusion of women in some religious activities has no grounding in the faith no less than it reflects outdated male patriarchal dictates. “When someone seeks to pick an argument with you during Ramadan say I am fasting” said the Prophet. Certainly this prophetic injunction did not move the Eastern Libyan forces commander Khalifa Haftar who still nonetheless urged his troops to battle harder to take Tripoli during the month of Ramadan. Also some State governors in the North “deported” Almajiris amidst growing cases of COVID-19.
Some governors even exchanged Star- words of acrimony over exchange of poor voiceless minors to “their respective states of origin”. Are states sovereign to evict citizens of the Federal Republic during a pandemic? Are the poor citizens prisoners of wars to be exchanged whimsically by democratically elected governors? Is deportation part of public protocols on managing COVID-19?
What happened to forbearance, generosity, care and charity during Ramadan at times like this? What about child rights Act?
My profound appreciation goes to the NUJ Kwara State Council for keeping faith with the annual Ramadan lecture dedicated to the memory of my late wife, Hadjia Hamdalat Abiodun Aremu. May Almighty Allah reward abundantly the NUJ and it’s valued Executive members for making the mosque built in her memory a platform to continue her act of Ibada in support of the vulnerable at times like this. This year’s interactive which held on Thursday 23rd assumes special importance: the first Virtual being part of the new Normal of ensuring physical distancing.
From Ilorin to Kaduna to London, America and Australia, there was a spiritual and intellectual connectivity in remembering departed loved ones through prayers and promotion of good governance discourse. Special appreciation to His Excellency Governor of Kwara State, AbdulRahman Abdulrasaq for graciously honoring our invitation by sending his Special Adviser on Health matters, Professor Wale Suleiman.
He was a worthy resource/ key speaker at the Virtual 2-hour interactive session under the theme “COVID-19: Gains in Pain – Kwara Experience”. Kwara State had creditably and commendably put in place process and management team to minimize the negative impact of the Virus on lives. With I death, 12 recoveries and 65 cases, Kwara has done pretty good in managing a novel virus.
Professor Suleiman, in his presentation of management of the pandemic in the state, attributed the low infection and fatality rate in Kwara State to what he called the team-manship and hardwork” of the frontline members of the state COVID-19 committee. He observed that the pandemic which had claimed more deaths globally than the two Iraq- Gulf wars posed fresh challenges for health sectors world wide.
The pandemic also brought to the fore decades of deficiencies in funding, medical supply chains, corruption and manpower capacity building in Kwara State adding that Governor Abdulrahman had turned the health sector around in a record time through improved funding and involvement of medical staff as critical Stakeholders in health service delivery. He disclosed that Kwara State had built capacity for provision of oxygen for active coronavirus patients adding that more than ever before there was the need for an imperative of comprehensive health insurance in the country.
During the Q and A session, a consensus emerged that testing must be intensified before the true rate of infections can be ascertained. It’s also time to intensify the enlightenment of the citizens on prevention. We must complement the government effort to remove doubt among the citizens about the fact that COVID-19 remains infectious and a dangerous killer. Despite the novel nature of the Virus and limited resources, both the Federal Government through the Presidential Task Force (PTF) and states governments have risen to the challenges of containment.
I suggest that there is the need for a consolidation of all these responses. There should be alignment of government efforts with that of the private sector.
At time like this, I salute the Publisher, ThisDay Newspaper, Chief Nduka Obaigbena, who donated ThisDay Dome Abuja to Federal Ministry of Health as an Isolation/Treatment centre for COVID-19 case management. This is an exceptional corporate social responsibility. A remarkable support had come from the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) which donated ventilators to the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada and the Bwari General Hospital as part of it support to fight the global pandemic of coronavirus. Special thanks to the JAMB Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede for his support in providing palliatives for some physically challenged citizens during the Ilorin NUJ Ramadan lecture.
I suggest that the same energy passion and cooperation between all tiers of government and private sector be deployed to eradicate malaria which still kills annually as many as 100,000 people (more than COVID-19 killed in entire Africa). And Malaria has a cure. I suggest Nigeria should deploy same energy to minimize road accidents which annually kill as many as 50,000 people. Happy Eid al-Fitr.