The coronavirus pandemic has remained till date largely an urban scourge, with most of the officially-documented cases and fatalities situated at the upper levels of the socio-economic pyramid. This is because the pandemic was imported by the globe-trotting elite.
Within the lower levels of the socio-economic pyramid, COVID-19 is erroneously tagged a “big man’s disease”. We must join efforts not only to disabuse this notion, we must also fight hard to ensure the pandemic does not make a landfall among the grassroots.
The grassroots, in this instance, consists of the urban poor and the rural folk. COVID-19 being for now an urban affliction will surely infiltrate the urban grassroots unless more efforts are exerted to prevent it. If it does, then the real doomsday scenario will begin to unfold in Nigeria.
This was probably what the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, foresaw and ordered an iron-fisted enforcement of lockdown of the country’s 1.3billion population. Modi later apologised to his countrymen without withdrawing the measure.
It is unfortunate that many Nigerians, after initially observing the stay-at-home order in some states, are increasingly breaking bounds and coming out due mainly to pressures from hunger, boredom, loneliness, depression and lack of electricity. Some are saying they prefer to “die” in the hands of the invisible enemy (which some of them do not even believe exists) than the well-known foes, especially hunger.
Government and leadership stakeholders really have a job of work on their hands. More should be done to court the cooperation of the urban poor in order to prevent coronavirus explosion in the inner cities and satellite settlements.
Apart from increasing health facilities such as testing and case-handling centres and providing the necessary medical needs for those already afflicted, the urban poor need more food and financial assistance. Without this, it will be impossible to bring this very important segment of society on board. This is not a moment to leave the ordinary people to their own devices or pay lip service to their welfare.
The greatest fear is what will happen if we allow urban dwellers to transfer coronavirus to the villages. Unless we intensify the freeze on interstate travels (except for those already exempted by the Federal and state governments for obvious reasons) urban dwellers will take the pandemic to the villages.
Most villages lack government presence. If the worst happens even food supply lines will dry up because many of those who provide the food will be ill.
We call on the Federal and State Governments to sustain the ban on interstate travels for weekends and during the impending Easter ( April 13, 2020) and even the Sallah holidays (May 24, 2020) if this scourge persists.
When we overcome coronavirus we can return to normal life.