By Douglas Anele
It must be admitted that throughout history individuals in positions of power and influence, especially political and military leaders suffering from undiagnosed and untreated emotional disturbance or motivated by excessive greed and megalomania have done unspeakable evil. So, it would be too hasty and unwise to dismiss every conspiracy theory around covid-19 without thoroughly looking at available evidence in each case.
In this connection, perhaps the “Wuhan virus” might be the result of an experiment in biological warfare that went awry or was deliberately released for ulterior motives by some unscrupulous politicians, scientists and businessmen. Nevertheless, the emerging consensus amongst medical experts in different countries is that covid-19 virus originated from bats or pangolins at a wildlife market in China and was inadvertently spread to other parts of the world through human-to-human contact.
Accordingly, although one cannot completely rule out the possibility of sinister origin regarding the current pandemic, it is more rational to accept tentatively the views of majority of internationally recognised virologists and infectious diseases specialists rather than swallow completely outlandish conspiracy theories peddled by fringe evangelical clergy, bohemian scientists, and charlatans claiming to have prophetic vision or knowledge about what the imaginary cosmic dictator called God intends to do with the virus.
As a follow up, it is absolutely necessary to abide by the simple but oftentimes inconvenient recommendations such as wearing a mouth and nose covering in the midst of people, regular hand-washing and sanitising, and physical distancing. Keep in mind also that a balanced diet and regular exercises are known immune boosters that can help one fight off the disease associated with covid-19 infection.
Contrary to the prediction by Bill Gates and several Western politicians and scientists that Africans would be dropping dead like flies as a result of the pandemic, the low rate of covid-19 morbidity and fatality, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, is truly remarkable. Many Nigerians already brainwashed by their pastors, Daddy GOs and imams, believe that God is responsible for falsifying Gates’ prediction or that Allah is fighting for his people by protecting them from the devastating effects of covid-19. Needless to say, such religious explanations are not testable or falsifiable and, therefore, strictly speaking unscientifically.
At any rate, the situation could be explained better by examining genetic and environmental factors (in the broadest sense) which retard multiplication of the virus and fortify the immune system, thereby providing protection, especially for the masses. In other words, Africans probably have the right combination of factors that hampers the transmissibility and severity of covid-19 infections. Still, it is prudent not to take anything for granted: everyone should comply with the recommendations of healthcare professionals until the pandemic is completely defeated.
As I suggested earlier, the best way to deal with a global health emergency like covid-19 is through worldwide cooperation. Unfortunately, the ugly trend of vaccine nationalism by which rich and powerful countries monopolise and even hoard available vaccines to the detriment of poor countries has reared its ugly head.
Even at the micro-level of individuals, it has been observed in the United States, United Kingdom and several European countries that wealthy and influential individuals who are not on the priority list are getting inoculated ahead of the aged, frontline health workers and others whose professions require that they ought to be given preferential treatment in the administration of available vaccines.
All this raises significant issues in moral philosophy, particularly in medical ethics, with regard to formulating objective criteria for fairly deciding who gets what, when, and why during a pandemic if the demand for vaccination outstrips supply of vaccines. But one does not need to be a specialist in public health to understand why certain categories of people should be the first to get vaccinated.
It is interesting to note that whereas the global economy has been devastated by covid-19 leading to loss of incomes and millions of jobs, big technological and service-oriented companies like Microsoft, Google, Zoom, Amazon, Alibaba and others are earning billions of dollars in profits because of enhanced utilisation of their products and services in business, educational institutions and entertainment industry, while the hospitality and tourism sectors have been hit very hard.
To some extent, the differential impacts of covid-19 pandemic has widened the gap between the rich and the poor both at the level of individuals and countries, which is why governments across the world must act expeditiously to ameliorate the hardships people are going through right now. It also justifies proactive measures multinational organisations under the umbrella of the United Nations and others would take to ensure that no country or sector is left behind as the world slowly recovers from the pandemic beginning sometime this year.
In my opinion, the most disturbing aspect of the current situation is this: Nigeria is currently governed by a crowd of selfish, incompetent and shallow-minded politicians bereft of creative ideas to pull the people out of the cesspit of poverty through bold result-oriented socio-economic and political engineering.
Of course, Nigeria was already in a bad place economically last year before the very first case of covid-19 was identified. Now that the situation has grown worse across the globe, ordinary Nigerians must be prepared for more suffering since government officials at the highest levels just do not care about them. President Muhammadu Buhari and majority of the politicians in positions of power lack the requisite leadership skills to improve our lives before covid-19, let alone now that the pandemic has caused enormous existential damage everywhere.
Going by the avaricious orientation of a typical Nigerian public servant, it is not surprising that some highly placed government officials are making a lot of money from covid-19, as indicated by the hoarded palliative items discovered by EndSars protesters. Putting it bluntly, the trouble with Nigeria has grown exponentially from the situation Prof.Chinua Achebe had in mind when he wrote the little pamphlet with that title.
Nonetheless, as a critical optimist, I believe this year will be better than last year, although the problems occasioned by covid-19 would linger even into 2022 and beyond. The availability of more vaccines and ramping up of inoculations globally would be a game-changer in the fight against the pandemic and gradual return to a simulacrum of normalcy so long as the mutability and transmissibility of the coronavirus pathogens are contained as quickly as possible and vaccine hesitancy reduced to the barest minimum.
Again, WHO should take the lead in ensuring equitable distribution of approved vaccines worldwide by taking measures to prevent or mitigate vaccine nationalism or hoarding by rich countries and improve humane vaccine diplomacy. Most medical experts believe that progression towards what is awkwardly termed “herd immunity” increases the prospects of return to normalcy. Hence there is good reason for hope, for rejecting all the apocalyptic nonsense emanating from several pulpits about Covid-19.
Throughout history, pandemics have been overcome by human knowledge and ingenuity, not by any God or supernatural being working for the wellbeing of humanity. So, the current situation will not be an exception. Perhaps covid-19 disease might be like the flu in temperate regions of the world that requires yearly inoculation, but in the end it would be conquered.
In Nigeria, the fight against the pandemic must not be restricted to vaccines produced outside Africa. In fact, why do Africans depend on others to solve their problems, including the ones they can handle themselves even in this twenty-first century? The answer lies in a combination of complex external and internal factors, but persistent poor quality leadership in most African countries after independence is the fundamental impediment to Africa’s development.
Accordingly, Africans must wake up from slumber and face this challenge squarely. Nearer home, the Nigerian government should investigate without delay the claims of Profs. Iwu and Ezeibe about developing an effective cure for covid-19, and also encourage home-grown prophylactic and therapeutic medicines that are efficacious against the deadly disease. There is no doubt that home remedies that can eliminate coronavirus from the body already exist: the challenge is to identify and improve them in order to reduce reliance on foreign medications.
Enough has been said about covid-19 at this point, such that it is time to shift gears to other things. As consistent readers of this column might have noticed, every January in the last couple of years I usually celebrate individuals that made positive impact on my life in the preceding year. That practice is even more justified at this time because of the current pandemic that has tested most people to the limits of their resilience. Therefore, I want to place on record that without these people my life in 2020 would have been like a car without engine oil.
To be concluded.