Despite the concerted global effort to tame this wild and intemperate unseen killer disease, no country has yet succeeded in halting its inexorable march. None has killed it except, possibly, China, the host country which has the dubious distinction of holding its patent and which irresponsibly let loose this giant killer on the rest of the world.
Today, it is almost difficult to even keep track of the exponential rise in its wild and furious spread. Before you can count one or two, the figure has jumped from single unit to double digit, and the count continues. The World Health Organisation, WHO, confirmed on Tuesday that the global figure had jumped by 100,000 in only four days bringing the alarming figures to 400,000 cases world-wide.
Italy for whatever reason – alleged high population of the aged and gross indiscipline of the citizens – is leading in both the spread and the number of deaths.
As of Monday, death figure had risen from 500 per day to more than 700. As at the time you are reading this piece, only God can tell the exact figure of the dead. Sadly, Italy with about 64,000 cases and more than 6000 dead has taken over from China. It is followed by France, Spain with UK and the USA still counting and tallying their figures. In the face of the tiny, insidious and mysterious Corona virus, all these super-powers have so far proved to be kings with feet of clay.
African countries, predicted to be potentially the most vulnerable and tragic, because of their notorious incapacity to provide adequate and appropriate health care delivery service, have so far – but this is questionable – been spared of the egregious horror of the pandemic. But this is only in comparable terms with the battle of Armageddon being waged by the superpowers against this unseen enemy.
Of the big giants, India with a population of 1.6 billion people, has so far made the most infinitesimal contribution to the death bazar for which it may be appropriate to hold China as the major culprit as President Donald Trump, in a moment of presidential triumph and heroic leadership display, has continuously done when the press accused him of playing the racist card by calling the virus China virus.
President Trump, to the admiration of even his worst critics, stuck to his gun and insisted that since this giant killer originated from China, it is a Chinese virus, a Kung flu if you like. He preferred to call spade a spade leaving no room for diplomatic nicety of any sort.
Whatever its origin and whatever its design, this Corona of a virus has redefined the world as we know it. It has come with its myths and mystery, defying logic, in the process, exploding conspiracy theories and medical technology.
Even the religionists and spiritualists have been caught flat footed. Reacting to its wild and intemperate spread, fearing no foe and respecting no hallowed places. All countries are on their knees finding the best way to appease this angry god. The Vatican, the seat of the Roman Catholic Pope, is not spared. The famous St Peter Square where the pontiff dispenses grace, mercy and blessings to his Catholic flocks, has been deserted.
So are the two holy mosques of Islam in the Holy Land. The custodian of the two mosques in Makkah and Medinah initially announced the suspension of the Umrah, the performance of lesser hajj and the restriction to the Ka’aba but allowing only the indigenes to say their prayers only in the daytime. But Saudi authorities have gone beyond that and imposed complete lockdown on the country. No movement within the cities.
In our own lifetime, the unthinkable has happened. This virus has emptied the holy and hallowed grounds of the Mosque built by Prophet Ibrahim for the worship of God. Hitherto, come rain or come shine, the crowd around the Ka’aba was impenetrable 24 hours, seven days, all year round. But not now. The emptiness of the Ka’aba and its surrounding provokes tears and it calls for prayers.
Even that – prayers in congregation which is highly recommended – is being hampered all over the world with restriction on mass gathering.
Governments of various countries have promulgated laws temporarily suspending worships in the churches and in the mosques. Also forbidden for now are weddings, naming ceremonies and even burials that would attract many mourners. No parties. No revelry at night clubs. No handshaking and no hugging.
The answer to Corona virus apart from all the hygienic measures is stay at home.
Fearing that the measures taken so far would not deter the spread of this villain, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on Monday night did what no prime minister had ever done, not even in war time. He clamped down the most restrictive of order on his people. No more going out except on essential duty or to buy food and some medication or to extend a helping hand to the aged and the vulnerable. Under no condition must there be a gathering of more than two persons. Police and the army would be deployed to force compliance.
These countries and their serious leaders would not brook any nonsense to save the lives of their people.
Nobody in his right senses will quarrel with the deployment of troops on the streets of Milan and other big cities in Italy to enforce compliance. Nobody is defying the closure and the restriction of movement of the people.
Nigeria, my dear country, has had its own variants of orders and partial, even if reluctant, restriction. Lagos, arguably the center of excellence, has shown remarkable leadership and it is setting the pace. But even in Lagos, there was lukewarm compliance on Friday and on Sunday when some worshippers attended the Friday prayers claiming their number did not exceed the officially prescribed 50 persons. And some churches showed open defiance on Sunday. Kaduna was the notorious example of deliberate law breaking and defiance. On Sunday many churches opened their doors to large congregation of worshippers, I suspect, to spite the authorities as if they were doing anybody a favour by complying.
In the Holy Qu’ran and in the Bible, there are ample injunctions on followers to obey God and those in authority. But not the Nigerian Christian or the Nigerian Muslim who seems determined to outdo Jesus Christ and the Holy Prophet Muhammad in the public display of their religiosity .
In all cases, some of these bigots and fanatics think that ignorance is a virtue which they are free to display with careless abandon. While we are still in the thick of this battle, those in authority must do everything to curb the excesses of our religious leaders. To refuse to obey directives made in public interest in the face of a clear and present danger, a looming apocalypse, is to show ignorance not faith.
Death in the family
Coronavirus took its first victim in Nigeria last Monday. Suleiman Achimugu’s death made national news because he was the first casualty in the battle to contain the fury of this unseen killer. His death, therefore, represents a national calamity. But for those of us who grew up with him from our days in Government Secondary School Okene in the 60s, his death is a blow, not only to his nuclear family, but to all of us, members of his social circle, the Club 582 family.
A devout Muslim, Suleiman, an engineer of repute, rose to the pinnacle of his career when he served as the managing director of Petroleum Products Marketing Company, PPMC. He had a distinguished career in NNPC where he held various positions of responsibility including executive director, Operations, in Kaduna Refinery, and later in Port Harcourt Refinery. We loved him and we shall miss him sorely but, as they say, God loves him more.