By Muyiwa Adetiba
I had what in my book, was an emergency on Monday. Serious enough – at least for me – to have dispatched an ambulance if I had the power.
This may sound melodramatic but I woke up to find my DStv dead. I switched it off and put it back on, cleaned the smart card, rebooted – all the basic things we had been asked to do. But all my efforts to breathe life into it failed. That was when I panicked.
We all know what DStv has become during this lockdown. It has become a life saver to many a restless soul, a companion to many a lonely soul, an anti-depressant to many a depressed soul and a purveyor of news to many a coronavirus thirsty soul. Sometimes, even its background noise gives a notion of normalcy in these abnormal times.
As it is, I accuse myself of watching too much television, starting from seven in the evening when failing light makes it difficult for my aging eyes to read, till well past midnight. With sports now out of the way, I have found myself watching channels I never knew existed and watching more of COVID 19 development than is good for me. On top of it, DStv has become my church as my daily devotions are now done electronically.
Ordinarily, there would have been at least one DStv technician around my estate who would fix whatever havoc the previous night’s rain had caused. Not this time. They were all locked downfar away in their homes in different parts of Lagos. A month earlier, on the first day of Lagos lockdown, my small fridge in a corner upstairs which warehouses and cools all those things that make watching TV pleasant, packed up.
My favourite technician was nowhere around. He had been locked down at home. His response when I reached him was not to solve my problem because he physically could not. It was instead to ask for a ‘small loan’ till the end of the lockdown.In normal times, he would not have needed a loan because what he was asking for was about a day or two days’ earning. In normal times, my needs would have been met with just a couple of calls to these technicians and an exchange of money that I probably would have been able to afford easily.Servicing my needs serviced their needs as they also depended on calls like mine to feel useful, make a living and be the man in the house.
This is how every other technician; every other professional survivesin Lagos – the electrician who checks when light has tripped, the plumber who checks when the toilet is not flushing, the mechanic who responds to every funny sound from your car, the software guy who take cares of your computer and phone, up to the vendor who supplies papers everyday. They live by the day and by their contacts. This is the economic chain that has been the main stay of Nigeria which,with its very weak industrial base, has madeour youths entrepreneurs more by necessity than choice. Our youths have had to become self-reliant in order to stave off starvation. This is the economic chain that has had to be broken in order to break the COVID 19 chain.
Science has proved that COVID 19 is spread through contact. It does not fly. And it will disintegrate from a few hours to a few weeks depending on the host or the receptor. So if we can break the thread of its spread, we can break the power of the scourge. The problem is that in its most basic form, economies also work through contact with people. And the more basic the economy – like that of Nigeria – the more identical it is to the modus operandi of COVID 19. So, a month of complete lockdown, as in complete, would exterminate the scourge. But it would also exterminate lives. And the cost in terms of loss of lives, economic and social dislocations would take years to repay. What most leaders in other countries had done was to try and make decisions based on the economic realities of their countries and people. This has led to various score cards.
What Nigeria had done was to take a foreign model that did not take the peculiarity of its people into account. I knew this approach was not sustainable and I wrote about it a month ago. It was hardly surprising that Bill Gates mentioned Nigeria when he suggested on CNN last week that Africans would have to come up with a model that would work for them in order to avert hunger and civil unrest.
The death toll is now in two digits. Nothing to suggest it would not rise exponentially as the system gets overwhelmed. But meningitis kills in three digits every year. Lassa fever in four. Malaria in five. This helps in putting things in perspective and we had never once paused the economy for them. The common symptoms for COVID 19 are similar to those of malaria and flu. We have local herbs for them. We also have herbs that deal with the respiratory system.
They have been tested because our people have always used them. People should not now tell us they need to be tested. If Madagascar with its herbs and Senegal with its cheap testing equipment had waited for Western approval, their people would still be languishing. Interesting designs have been made for washing of hands, for testing and for ventilators around the country. They should be seriously looked into. Interesting submissions have been made in terms of herbs.
They should not be ignored. We should not always look to the West to solve our problems. Some of them can be as clueless and as undisciplined as we are from what we have seen. Besides, we should stop this penchant for imported things.
Whatever decisions our leaders make; whatever direction our country takes, people will still die. That is the grim reality at the moment. We are between a rock and a hard place. It is left to any individual who does not want to be part of the grim statistics to take responsibility by staying home when possible and practicing conscious personal hygiene when not possible. This thing called COVID 19 is not going away with the relaxation of lockdown on the fourth of May.