You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2020 03 28Article 350968

Opinions of Saturday, 28 March 2020

Columnist: Niran Adedokun

Why Nigerians are turning to prayers

Watching Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunimbe Mamora on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics early this week amply told of why many Nigerians have resorted to God over this ravaging Coronavirus. Mr Mamora struggled to convince his interviewer, Seun Okinbaloye and I imagine, millions of Nigerians watching the programme as to the preparedness of the federal government to deal with the pandemic. One can quote so many instances where the Minister sounded tentative, even unsure but a particular response stuck out like a sore thumb in my estimation.

When confronted with the increasingly obvious government’s failure at tracing contacts of already confirmed cases, particularly those who may have been on the same aircraft with cases that flew into Nigeria after the Italian index case, the minister assured that intense efforts were on to identify these people.

Then came the very hard question about why government did not just take everyone flying into Nigeria under its custody to ensure they observe 14 days of mandatory isolation, which is a global strategy adopted to curtail the spread of the virus. Mamora gave what would take the cake as a most unthoughtful response ever offered by anyone remotely responsible for the lives of about 200million people. The former Senator stuttered along for a while and then said, matter of factly, that government had not considered taking control of the situation because it did not have the capacity to accommodate every inbound traveller!

Now, that tells a lot about government and how the economic takes precedence with them over citizens’ safety. The minister did not contend with the fact that tracking infections would have been more effective if government had taken everyone coming into Nigeria into its custody, monitor them for the first two weeks and then allow those who are not infected go about their business. This would of course be at some humungous cost; which government did not want to contemplate according to the feelers Mamora passed across on Sunday.

But more than prioritising the economy over the people, it also shows a form of short-sightedness. The survival of the economy of a country is dependent on the ability of its people to work. So, when citizens are unable to function, either because they are sick, have to stay at home because of a pandemic or any such situation that breeds unrest, that society would be the ultimate loser on a variety of fronts.

This avoidable challenge is what Nigeria is currently facing simply because it did not want to contemplate the cost. One can only hope it does not emerge as a penny wise, pound foolish situation. With the experience the country had tracing those who were on the Turkish Airline flight with the Italian index case on February 24, it should have shut down its borders much earlier than it did and while still allowing flights, every in-bound passenger would have been subjected to government imposed isolation. This would very likely have forestalled the current situation wherein hundreds of people were allowed into the country on the strength of temperature checks and hope that they would report back if they develop symptoms.

But all that opportunity is blown away, Nigeria is now in a panic state. Government is talking about deploying the military to fish out recalcitrant travellers even as Minister of Information and National Orientation, Lai Mohammed warned that the country might be heading towards the disaster that Italy and Spain are currently facing.

When leaders of a country make rules that they flout, they leave the people confused. Global protocol for the management of coronavirus, which authorities in Nigeria have also tried to ingrain into the people’s consciousness is “self-isolate” for 14 days on return from any high-risk country. But Nigerian leaders starting with the Chief of Staff to the President, (who embarked on a foreign trip for which he should ordinarily have no business) to the Governors of Bauchi and Abia States amongst others imagined that they were above this protocol. They returned from trips, sat with their families, went to work and held meetings with loads of people who now run the risk of having been infected and passing it on to God knows how many people more.

When the health system of a country is so manifestly weak such that at its best, there are 4,088 patients to one doctor, less than 500 ventilators, five testing centres and scanty hospital beds in this time of pandemic without any comprehensible sense of urgency other than sheer pontification from government people, the citizenry has no choice than look up to a force much higher than themselves and their so-called leaders.

This becomes more appealing when you consider the confusion in otherwise efficiently run societies including the United States. President Donald Trump ever so confident in the arrogance of his personal and national self-sufficiency has no doubt been humbled by the virulence of this virus, the gaping inability of the United States to provide leadership in these times as well as the inability of science to deliver a quick-fix in spite of all scientific advances. As a matter of fact, understanding the virus itself is an unfolding dilemma. So, Trump declared penultimate Sunday a day of prayers when all Americans should go back to God and seek His intervention. Mobilising his people for this spiritual endeavour, the American President had said: “We are a Country that, throughout our history, has looked to God for protection and strength in times like these. No matter where you may be, I encourage you to turn towards prayer in an act of faith. Together, we will easily PREVAIL!”

Fortunately, prayer is a default state for a substantial number of Nigerians, who have resigned to fate and completely adopted a Yoruba adage that when a cow is without tail, only God saves it from the torment of flies. In the pervasive poverty, poor health care delivery, unemployment and unabating insecurity that he faces, the average Nigerian has turned God into the government to which he sends petitions and nurtures hope for the reversal of his misfortune.

And in spite of what sceptics may say, prayers can indeed be efficacious when the faithful call on God. Prayers may not necessarily produce immediate physical results but when they do not, they work to engender a re-generation in the spirit of man, which would ultimately work toward the purpose the prayer is intended. For instance, prayers build the faith of men. It makes them bolder and ready confront their situations without fear. Fear paralyses and renders people impotent but when a people have faith, they stand and develop the wherewithal to battle their problems.

Prayers also increases the wisdom of men. Concerning the plague of this corona virus, it is evident that the wisdom of men has failed. In fact, if men were alert, they would be prepared for this virus, but here is the limitation of man: he does not know tomorrow. Prayer is able to precipitate divine inspiration for all the problems that humanity face. One reality the current pandemic throws at man, therefore, is the limitation of his wisdom as well as the supremacy of God. While praying however, the faithful should remember that faith prescribes respect for authority and orderliness. So, to survive this pandemic while awaiting God’s intervention, those who pray must keep to all the hygiene and social distancing advices the authorities offer.

The Presidential Task Force for the control of coronavirus, which should be talking about expanding opportunities for Nigerians to test, getting every state ready for eventualities and mobilising as much support as possible from the private sector was on Tuesday visiting the Aso Villa and threatening to take actions, which should have been taken already. Those are th

Join our Newsletter