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The Corona Virus Challenge, Nigeria and Other Responses, By Reuben Abati – Newsdiaryonline

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The Corona Virus Challenge, Nigeria and Other Responses, By Reuben Abati – Newsdiaryonline

The biggest threat to our collective humanity today is not the suspected
threat of a Third World War, but a corrosive, debilitating, murderous pathogen
known as new Corona Virus. The fear of a World War III was fuelled by tensions
and differences among key super powers dictating contemporary geo-politics
notably: the US, China, Iran, Iraq, Israel, North Korea, South Korea and the
entire Middle East. But while relationships with the world’s power axis will
always have implications for global peace, security and stability, the biggest
and the most urgent threat by far is the outbreak of a new strain of the Corona
Virus, in Wuhan, China which has within a short space of one month shown the
vulnerability of man, the conflict between man and biology, and the limitations
of science in the face of an immediate, accidental, unforeseeable, pathogenic
onslaught. 

The first case of Corona Virus was reported just before the
Chinese Lunar New Year 2020 celebrations, and since then, the new virus has
defied both man and science. On January 28, the highest number of reported
cases was reported, but by Monday, February 10, that had jumped exponentially
to 97 casualties per day and total cases in excess of 40, 000, with 908 persons
reported dead. The statistics and the sero-prevalence rate seem unprecedented,
far worse than the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome of 2003 which claimed 774
lives. The World Health Organization has classified the new Corona Virus as a
public health emergency of international concern, a delicate, diplomatic
phrasing which barely stops short of declaring the nCoV-2019, as it is
otherwise known, a global pandemic – considering the fact that mainland China,
especially Wuhan, a city of 11 million people and the Hubei province in
general, remain the epicenter – 99% of reported cases are in mainland China and
out of the total number of deaths, only two have occurred outside China.

The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) has
commended China for its efforts at prevention and containment, even if the
Politburo, the highest political body in China has had to express regrets for
“failing” the people. The truth is: China is overwhelmed. Businesses have been
affected, the stock market is down, lives are threatened, over 40 million
people are in quarantine. China is engaging the world as the epicenter of a
crisis, the global economy is likely to be affected given China’s strategic
importance, and yet nobody knows when the Corona virus will ease off, or when
scientists will find a cure. It is not only China that is at risk, it is the
entire world. Our civilization is under threat and of course, the tragedy is
man-made.  These are the cold, uncomfortable facts as at the time of
this writing. The Corona Virus has brought the entire world to the precipice of
uncertainty and disaster.  It reminds us collectively of our
mortality and the common humanity and vulnerability that we share. 

Globalization turned the world into a small village, technology
erased distances, but in the face of a global scourge like new Corona Virus,
the world has turned into a much smaller village. Most of the people and
countries that are taking precautions against Corona Virus don’t even know
where Wuhan is on the map.  Some people ate snake meat or is it Pangolin
or bat meat in Wuhan and they got infected with a virus – animal to man
transmission, which has now spread to over 27 countries and mutated as a deadly
human-to-human communicable disease. China which is ordinarily regarded as a
major superpower has suddenly become a pariah nation. Countries have issued
travel alerts to their citizens: do not go to China, and those who are in China
are being evacuated and whoever arrives from China is immediately quarantined
for two weeks. 

This is the same China that only recently engaged the United
States in a trade war. The same China is now the diseased nation that nobody
wants to touch. Imports from China have been suspended. Trips to China have
been put on hold. China’s tourism industry is bound to suffer. Who wants to go
to a country where a virus is on rampage, and the air is polluted? It is not
for nothing that the media in Europe has dubbed the Corona Virus, the China
Virus – an average Chinese citizen would not like that – but the truth is that
the new Corona Virus wears the toga of a nationality. Before it, there was the
Swine flu (2009), Polio (2014), Zika (2016), Ebola (2014, 2019) but it is the
new Corona Virus that has obtained a national passport and an identification
tag of notorious universal recognition. This may have translated into racist
conclusions about Chinese identity and cuisine. I have heard allegations that
the Chinese eat anything and everything, including animals that are considered
a taboo in many cultures – Bats? Cockroaches? Rats? Snakes? Millipedes and
centipedes? Monkeys? Pangolin? E-eeish!  It is said that the Chinese
have brought this latest biological dissonance upon humanity because of their
unusual culinary taste. I know people who have simply opted to stay away from
anything Chinese in the meantime, until there is some certainty about what
exactly is going on.  I wanted to order food from a Chinese
Restaurant the other day. I was quietly reminded of Corona Virus. I had no
option but to restrain my palate. I wanted Chinese balm, a popular product in
Nigeria, a few days later. I was also advised to be careful. I ignored that
advice. The labelling of everything Chinese as an item crowned by a virus is
exaggerated and overblown. But as Nigerians would say in pidgin English: who
wan die?  

This is probably why every country and institution is taking
precautions. The United Kingdom, Australia, South Korea, Singapore and New
Zealand have had cause to evacuate their citizens from China. Airlines
including FinnAir, American Airlines, United, Cathay Pacific, Air India,
Ethiopian Airlines, British Airways, Air Asia, and Lufthansa have either
stopped flights to China or reduced their Chinese operations by
90%.  The effect is that supply chains have been disrupted with
consequences for trade performance. The global economy is bound to slow down in
the long run if this situation persists. But what is perhaps more relevant to
us should be this: How prepared is Africa and particularly Nigeria? I don’t
think Africa is prepared at all, and we are likely to be worst hit should the
virus make an effective landing in our continent. 

For now across Africa, we have only heard of suspected
cases:  in Ghana where there were two suspected cases involving a
Chinese and an Argentine who returned from China, but the result was negative
in both cases. Suspected cases in Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Botswana
have also proven negative. The only reported case of infection involving an
African is that of a Cameroonian student living in Wuhan. Kenya has taken steps
to evacuate its students in China. Mozambique has suspended its visa on arrival
policy.  Africa and South America seem insulated from the scourge so
far. But for how much longer? The Chinese Lunar New Year Holiday was extended,
in the face of the outbreak of the virus, but that holiday ended yesterday,
Monday, February 10. Using that as guide, if there was any Chinese living in
Africa or doing business in Africa, he or she is likely to return to base after
the holiday. In the last decade or more, Sino-African relationship has grown
tremendously, China seeking to fill a vacuum inadvertently created by the EU
and the United States, has increased its scope of influence in Africa through
friendly loans, investments and cultural outreach. It is not an accident that
African leaders at the just concluded 33rd AU Heads of State
Summit in Addis Ababa expressed solidarity with China! The Chinese presence in
Africa is unmistakable and it is quite pronounced in a country like Nigeria
where the Chinese are involved in significant sectors of the economy including
oil and gas, telecommunications, manufacturing, infrastructure, SMEs and retail
trade. This week, all the Chinese who went home on holiday will start returning
one after the other. 

When the story of the Corona Virus broke, the Nigeria Centre for
Disease Control (NCDC) was most unusually proactive, which I think is
commendable. The Federal Ministry of Health quickly followed suit, to educate
Nigerians about the threat of the Corona Virus. Preventive guidelines were
announced, and a travel advisory was issued. This is indeed commendable, even
if the efforts were not translated into local, indigenous languages, that is –
the languages of the majority of Nigerians.  The campaign has thus
far been so elitist and restricted. In due course, the Nigerian authorities
further announced that the Federal Government had established eight isolation
centres as follows:  in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and seven
states of the Federation – Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Enugu, Delta, Cross River
and Kano. The problem is that nobody knows exactly where these isolation
centres are located. 

The relevant authorities tell us that in preparing for the Corona
Virus which has not yet been reported in Nigeria, they are relying on the
protocols and infrastructure already put in place in 2014 to combat the Ebola
Virus. In 2014, Nigeria was confronted with the Ebola Virus crisis, introduced
to the country by a traveler from Liberia who came to Nigeria to seek spiritual
cure for Ebola. Knowledge and experience can definitely prove useful in
everything including a biological and pharmaceutical crisis such as Corona
Virus. But has Nigeria done enough or is Nigeria prepared? I don’t think so.
There is definitely no evidence that we have enough medical counter-measures to
protect the medical and public health personnel who are supposed to man our
ports. A gentleman who just returned from Chicago reported on live television
and I have no cause to doubt him, that the situation at the Murtala Muhammad
International Airport in Lagos, to cite a specific example, is chaotic and
below standard practice.  Government officials pretend to check for
high temperature and other symptoms but they are not protected. Nigeria has not
made any provision for medical counter measures. Nigeria is sending medical
personnel and Ministry officials to the ports to put them at risk. Until we
have another case of Stella Adadevoh, like Li Weliang, the Chinese
whistleblower who paid the supreme price for Corona Virus, the Nigerian
government is not likely to wake up. That is unacceptable. 

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the Federal Ministry of
Health and state governments have to do a lot more. I will comment on the
latter.  As at this moment, only three states – Lagos, Ebonyi and
Ogun out of the 36 states of the Federation would seem to have shown interest
in the Corona Virus prevention campaign. We expect every state of the
Federation, close as they are to the grassroots, to take up the campaign and
inform the populace appropriately.  At the national level, the
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the Federal Ministry of Health will also
need to address what ,has become around the subject of Corona Virus, an
“infodemic crisis” – that is the crisis of conspiracy theories and
misinformation and hazardous false information. Is the Corona
Virus  a biological weapon?. Really? Is it a strategy by big pharmaceutical
companies to enlarge market and increase profit? President Donald Trump and the
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have also been linked to the conspiracy. Does
that make sense? We have also been told that eating garlic or drinking a bleach
concoction can help prevent a Corona Virus infection. Is that true? The
Nigerian agencies are yet to respond to this. They should. They should take the
additional step of addressing the spiritual question which determines
everything in Nigeria from politics to business. Is Corona Virus a spiritual
affliction or biology gone awry? If care is not taken, Nigerian shamanists,
prophets, traditionalists and pastors will soon take advantage of the
uncertainty to claim that they had predicted the occurrence of the virus and
that, indeed they have the solution. Government should immediately arrest
anyone who mouths such idiocy. Our only hope is that the Corona Virus will
never make its way here, but as the Boys Scouts motto states, we should “Be
Prepared”. The bad news is that there is no effective treatment for the virus.
And a worse virus may soon show up, leaving humanity effectively at the mercy
of disease and the environment. 

II: Asisat Oshoala, the Super Star 

When Asisat Oshoala, the Super Falcons and Barcelona Ferminino striker
was declared winner of the African Women’s Footballer of the Year, 2019, a few
weeks ago, the big concern was that her own compatriots who sat on the
Confederation of Africa Football judges panel refused to vote for her. Every
single one of them voted for an outsider. They didn’t consider their own
compatriot good enough. I have addressed this matter at length in a piece
titled “The Betrayal of Asisat Oshoala,” (This Day, back page, January
14). 

At the time, Ms. Oshoala lost her cool momentarily and tried to
engage her critics which was absolutely unnecessary. But the best response that
she has offered, and the one that is relevant, is how, after returning to her
club in Europe, she has been putting up such sterling performance that further
confirms her status as a super star on the pitch. 

In January, she won the Africa Football Women’s Player of the year
to equal the record of fellow Nigerian Perpetua Nkwocha. With her current
performance, Oshoala does not want to just equal existing record, she wants to
break the record in African Women’s Football.  After winning the CAF
award in January she reportedly said: “…I want to create my own history and not
just equal someone else’s record – I’m going to give my best to create mine.”
She is doing just that right now. Five-time winner of the Women’s Africa Cup of
Nations, best player at the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, winner of the BBC
Footballer of the Year, 2015, Chinese Women’s Super League Top Scorer, 2017,
she scored a brace in Barcelona’s 10–1 trouncing and humiliation of Real
Sociedad in the Spanish Women’s League Super Cup Final on February 9, 2020.
Loaned to Barcelona from China in January 2019, and later offered a permanent
transfer, Asisat Oshoala has been a formidable and result-oriented member of
the Barca line up and one of its most valuable players.

On January 11, 2020, four days after the CAF awards, Oshoala
scored four goals in a 6-0 win against CD Tacon. She has been consistent since
then. Whoever has any doubt about her achievements and quality may end up
voting for her someday soon. Congratulations Asisat. Keep shooting. Keep
shining. 

The Corona Virus Challenge, Nigeria and Other Responses, By Reuben Abati – Newsdiaryonline

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