As the human world fights to survive COVID-19, I have bothered seriously about an ordinarily avoidable but self inflicted problem in our country, Nigeria. This has to do with the near total absence or deliberately manipulated demographic data and or statistics. It actually became a source of concern for me not because it has been a sore point in our polity but because of the enormous ease it would have afforded the government at reaching out to Nigerians in the area of helping them cope with movement restrictions or lockdown in extreme situations.
Infact, for a disease or virus outbreak requiring less or complete avoidance of physical commune by humans either for social, economic or political reasons, it struck me that it would be arduos if not insurmountable a task for government to determine who are the most vunerables amongst us and perhaps worse, getting to them. Owing to lack of vital record or information for policy formulations, planning and execution, it is therefore not farfetched to submit that no matter how ingenious the President, Governors, Chairmen and other state functionaries might be at this time towards ameliorating the sufferings of our people arising from livelihood needs; such efforts would largely fail as so much more of this basic provisions would even if they are adequately provided, end up either diverted or recycled within convenient, opportuned and privileged individuals or group of individuals.
Otherwise, with the availability of accurate data the challenge would have been relatively relaxed if not completely eliminated. Since this emergency therefore, the Government cut pathetic images and figures in their updates or addresses on the way forward. This speeches have become rhetorical to wit; social distancing, wash or sanitize your hands, stay home and so on and so forth. The livelihood and economic issues have remained largely unanswered. Other climes are aware of the correlative significance of this issues in the effort to combat the pandemic.
In America, Europe and some economic Powers in Africa, food and money have been doled out to the people whilst the salary burden of small and medium enterprises are also being offset amongst other interventions as succour to the people.
Evidently this societies mostly the worst hit, could maintain stability and confidence at dealing with the virulent offensive because things put in place ahead of time. Not necessarily in anticipation of COVID-19 but for any or every eventuality. It is equally because of their patriotism, particularly its leadership, which prioritises its people and country above all else.
Whereas, in Nigeria, we are still amusingly preoccupied with primordial sentiments of who should govern us not at all by strength of character or competence but so much for ethnic and sectional considerations. And for the mockery we call elections, the so called electorate sell our votes to the highest bidders unmindful of a future occurrence as the one that now surprises us with morbid consequences.
A country must be conversant and responsible to her citizenry beginning from conception and have ascertainable and enduring record of them even when the sojourn to the world beyond. A country would find presence in the lives of her citizens, from their rising in the morning till rest at night. Sadly, Nigeria neither knows nor care who of her citizen has been born nor dead. Who is within or without; who is physically challenged or able; who is jobless or employed; who is married or single; who has gotten children or expectant, and so on and do forth.
It was not my intention to bore you with this seemingly long thought at this time. Nevertheless, pondering over this might yet awoken us to the realization that running a country is not a tea party but a serious affair; equally requiring trained and serious minded individuals.
- Osakpamwan Ogierhiakhi (Hon) is Benin City based Lawyer and Politician.