On Wednesday, March 18, the Federal Ministry of Health announced five new cases of the deadly coronavirus in Nigeria.

That dramatically pushed the total number of confirmed cases to eight, a significant jump in one day. All new cases have a history of travel to the United States and the United Kingdom.

Suddenly, the country woke up from its inane slumber and announced entry restrictions on travellers from countries with over 1,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

The countries include the U.S., Britain, China, Japan, Spain, France, Germany, Netherland, Switzerland, Norway, Italy, Iran, and South Korea. Nigeria also temporarily suspended the issuance of visas on arrival.

It is true to character. When other countries, some of the African nations, proactively shut down their borders, our leaders were sitting on their palms pontificating on why travel restrictions were not necessary.

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But with a more than 100 per cent increase in infection rate in one day, the chicken has finally come home to roost.

The National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, announced the suspension of the ongoing orientation course for the 2020 Batch “A’ Stream 1 corps members and mandated them to commence their primary assignments.

The Senate same day urged President Muhammadu Buhari to stop hiding behind the walls of Aso Rock and talk to Nigerians as other world leaders are doing, and called for a restriction to large gatherings in the country to prevent further spread.

The lawmakers are also seeking the creation of testing centres to be established in every state, funded by the Federal Government.

How soon this can be achieved, if ever, remains to be seen. Beyond Lagos and Abuja, I doubt if any other state has any functional testing facilities.

The House of Representatives, claiming that it was taking a cue from Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Vatican City, not only banned all forms of open worship across the country but also banned all visitors from the National Assembly until further notice.

Nigerians who want to interface with their representatives were told to either do so in writing or see such lawmakers in their constituency offices.

As we are wont to do, we have badly bungled our response to this global health crisis and unless there is divine intervention that will miraculously limit the spread, we will be in deep trouble sooner than later.

I pray that what is happening in countries like Italy, Spain, and Iran does not happen here. We simply cannot survive it not with a comatose healthcare infrastructure.

Should Buhari address the nation? Yes, he should. Will he? The jury is still out. I will be pleasantly surprised if he does. But if he doesn’t, Nigerians will still understand and move on as they have done in the last five years.

I am beginning to believe those who say that the problem with Buhari is not that he does not care as many believe but he simply does not get it. The intricacies of 21st-century governance are way beyond his ken.

That is why, with him as president, Nigeria is on auto-pilot, and will remain so as long as the leadership status quo subsists. Am I worried? Yes! But the global coronavirus pandemic is not my only worry.

In fact, I am more troubled about the other pandemic which we have almost accepted as the new normal in Nigeria.

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I am talking about the kidnapping pandemic and the bourgeoning delinquency of our youths. When my mother was kidnapped three weeks ago, the Deputy Director of the Department of State Services, DSS, in Imo State, Mohammed Abdul, said they get an average of five kidnap reports every day.

“It is an epidemic,” he moaned. Even without saying so, it was apparent that the security agencies are overwhelmed.

I am talking about Imo State, not the North East. Cases of kidnapping across the country are grossly under-reported because most times, the victims, knowing that the Nigerian state will not do anything to help, simply pay the ransom and move on with what remains of their grievously traumatised lives.

Those who have created a huge industry of making excuses for the inexplicable failures of the Buhari presidency are quick to argue that kidnapping for ransom is not a new phenomenon. And that is true.

Kidnapping for ransom is a common occurrence in various parts of the world today. But that is not the only truth in the matter.

It is also true that under Buhari’s watch, as it is the case with poverty, Nigeria has unarguably become the kidnapping capital of the world.

As of 2007, that title belonged to Iraq. In 2004, it was Mexico, and in 2001, it was Colombia. Three years ago, Pakistan with a kidnapping rate of 0.2 cases per 100,000 population, led the pack.

And I am worried because nothing turns around for good in Nigeria. Over the years, all the other countries mentioned above have improved significantly on their hitherto dire insecurity scorecard.

They have moved from their awfully egregious situations to something more ennobling.

Kidnapping epidemic

The reverse is the case for Nigeria where nothing ever seems to get better. There is practically nothing that is better today than it was five, ten, 20 or 30 years ago; and this kidnapping epidemic will not be an exception.

If anything, it will get worse. I am worried because this kidnapping industry has a large pool of factory hands that will service it for the foreseeable future.

Ndigbo is known for its industry and hard work. There has always been dignity in labour in Igboland. That has changed fundamentally.

Today, we have young men who are neither interested in going to school nor acquiring any skills. Even the age-long Igbo apprentice system that served the population so well in the past has become an anathema.

Tragically, even with no education, skills and business acumen, they still dream so big. They know the value of every vehicle and want to drive the costliest.

Alcohol and drugs, mainly marijuana, fuel the fantasy and kidnapping is the leeway.

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While the Igbo elites are in the cities with their children, the rural communities have been overrun by delinquent youths who have neither scruples nor respect for age and norms that have served the society so well for so long.

If they have, they wouldn’t have kidnapped my mother, aged 79. And since my mother’s abduction, many people have concluded arrangements to relocate their aged parents, many of them retired teachers and civil servants, who have over the years remained the conscience of their localities, to the urban cities.

Some have actually relocated. That is the tragedy of our rural communities. Even with the tragedy of the unfolding global coronavirus pandemic on my mind, I am more worried about the kidnapping pandemic.

Why? Sooner than later, the scientific world will come up with a vaccine that will halt the virus in its tracks. Humanity will survive the COVID-10 pandemic. It is only a matter of time. I cannot say that for the kidnapping pandemic in Nigeria.



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