By Chief Olabode George
The novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, which is presently ravaging the world like a monstrous invisible enemy, has distorted virtually every corner of the globe with enormous mountains of deaths.
Nigeria, of course, is not an exception. Our land borders, the air and the seaports have been deservedly shuttered to contain and ultimately mitigate the deadly fury of the murderous virus.
Lagos, the commercial hub of West Africa, appears to be the very hot zone of this pandemic.
Everywhere in Lagos is now locked down. The markets, the banking halls, the local grocery shops, the supermarkets, the transportation services are now all halted, frozen by the Federal Government directives since March 29th.
On the surface level, the Federal Government’s position is to ensure safety, prevent communal spread of the virus and banish this scourge from our shores.
Lagosians have been staying at home now for about a month. Both the state and the federal organs have not provided effective ameliorative measures to cushion the effect of the shutdown. In a largely informal economy, where most of our people depend on daily wages, the burden of lack an income is devastating.
There is a natural growing anger in Lagos, as the most vulnerable are ravaged with hunger. Our youths are getting restless, pushed onto the streets because they are famished . Others have strayed into sheer banditry, terrorizing homes, breaking into shops and robbing people.
And yet others have resorted to putting all kinds of sinister audio messages in the social media threatening rapine and murder.
Surely, we cannot continue like this. You cannot lockdown down millions of people without necessary palliatives to ease the dysfunction which this scourge has inflicted upon our country.
It is a balancing act. Lagos must be gradually eased out of this shutdown with comprehensive safety measures. There is a need for the expansion of the testing centers to ensure that the virus is appropriately contained, especially among the asymptomatic population, who may spread the virus without knowing that they are infected. Governments at both state and local levels should purchase more Personal Protection Equipment, ensure more rapid testing kits and make social distancing mandatory. All these measures can be aligned at the same time with the easing of the shutdown.
Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State spoke for the majority of our people when he observed yesterday at the Governors’ Forum virtual meeting that the elongation of this shutdown may bring more chaos and destruction far worse than the COVID-19 itself.
This is where good governance and salvaging leadership must come in. Local responses must be applied to this pandemic. We cannot merely copy the shutdown in the Western world without contemplation. Ghana, Dubai, Brazil, and many countries are lifting the shutdown barrier. We should too, with appropriate safety guidelines.
Enough of the shutdown. Open up the essential services. Step up the safety measures and let us all return to some semblance of normalcy.
•George, former National Deputy Chairman, South, of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and Atona Oodua of Yorubaland, writes from Lagos.