Bode George: Pumping money into school feeding programme while schools are not open ‘absurd, laughable, tragic’

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All over the world, from Australia to the farthest reaches of Iceland, from the blue fields of Nicaragua in South America to the steppes of Asia – every inch of mother earth is infected with the scourge of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There is no escape. There is no immune corner of the globe. There is palpable panic everywhere. We are all scared of the unknown. The young, the old, even the innocent baby of the cradle are all smitten by this deadly virus.

The novel Coronavirus does not discriminate between the rich or the poor. It is indifferent to tribal identity. It is unknown to sectarian affiliation. It does not recognise race or creed.

It claims everyone in unbelievable sweeping and blighting speed. Humanity is now held hostage by this pandemic. We are all endangered.

Economies of the world are shutting down. Schools, institutions and great centers of human knowledge are shuttered, locked up by the insidious pandemic that no one really understands.

All kinds of theories abound everywhere about the provenance of coronavirus. Some say it emerged from the wet markets of Wuhan in central China. Others claim it emanated through a breach at the Wuhan Virology Laboratory in the vast Hubei Province of China.

True, we know how Coronavirus spreads. We also know the gestation period, but we do not know why some are asymptomatic. While we know that it can spread through the air or the proximity to contaminated objects, it is now baffling scientists with the infection of toddlers and babies who were once thought to be immune to the virus.

Nevertheless, scientists across the world are busy, hunkered down in their laboratories, searching desperately for a solution and invariably for a cure before humanity is wiped out.

Leaders from the First world are rolling up their sleeves and pumping trillions of dollars to aid the research effort to produce a vaccine that would staunch the murderous march of this hideous scourge.

Even here in Africa, leaders from Madagascar, Ethiopia, Congo and even Ghana are prodding their scientists and plumbing the depths and the secrets of the ancient herbs in a desperate search for the golden bullet that will eradicate the present suffering of humanity.

But as leaders, scientists and all kinds of specialists and Epidemiologists are racing towards a solution, I do not see the same level of seriousness, the same level of coherence and deliberate aggregated and aggressive management of this pandemic in our country.

Please let me emphasise that I do not write as a partisan politician in this turbulence that is affrighting all of us. My intervention here is without tribal or sectarian articulations.

I write as a Nigerian who believes in the Nigerian dream, who believes that this nation is desperate for a salvaging assemblage of elders regardless of geographical or any other affiliation.

It appears that our engagement of the Coronavirus is at best sophomoric, indifferent, stripped of professional enlightenment, lacking in necessary comprehensive vigor to tackle heads-on this murderous scourge.

The composition of the Presidential Task Force is not exactly a first line of well hewn, cutting edge intelligentsia that this nation can boast of.

Virtually in all fields of human endeavour, there is always a Nigerian with sterling talent that can rival anyone, anywhere with prodigious exemplary demonstration of merit.
We have them here: Virologists, Epidemiologists, Microbiologists, Morbidity experts, Homeostatic scholars, infectious disease experts and many others who are experts in the field of study of the dysfunction of the human body.

Why are we not using them to mitigate, combat and destroy the Covid-19 malady?

What are we actually doing to contain this scourge?

Are we merely walking in the dark, strolling blindly in the black alleys, wishing the virus away, abandoning ourselves to fate, hoping that some African voodoo or whatever else will suddenly make it disappear?

It will never happen. While we cannot copy the rest of the world in some mechanical capricious gesture, we must be original, cultivating home-grown solution and at the same time embracing proven and attested global examples.

Whimsically shutting down a nation will not make the virus go away. There must be a coordinated strategic plan. There must be a deliberate framework of action to contain this invisible enemy.

The only way to achieve this is through collaboration on a defined platform. No one can do it alone. Let us assemble experts from various related fields. Let us challenge our scientists with the best of working incentives and give them a marching order to crank up their laboratories, to explore the furthest reaches of knowledge and holding them as our first line of defence to save our country from this alien, invisible virus.

Pumping money into school feeding programme while the schools are not open is a little absurd. It is a redundant, unworkable palliative. In a nation where there is no standard numbering of houses, how do you get the food to the beneficiaries? This is more than laughable. It is tragic.

The sprinkling of naira notes in market places and pre-arranged venues are good media agendas. But they are no palliatives. Yes, our people are hungry. Our GDP which is about N144 trillion has lost N21 trillion presently to Covid-19. And the amount is still rising as our economy has shrunk into a recession.

For sure, fanciful media affair is hardly the efficacious tool we need now.
This is hardly our priority. Yes, we must balance the hunger indications with the prevailing scourge of the virus. In a situation where we can not even distribute the economic palliatives effectively, how in the world can we be talking about school feeding? A lot is not right about our national vision.

Our people are hungry and afraid. Our society like the rest of the world is on panic mode. We need to be seen to engage this pandemic with a comprehensive, well thought out, believable strategy. That should be our complementary goal.

Leaders across the globe who appreciate the gravity that humanity is confronted with are managing the situation with proper consultations and designing appropriate strategies that will ameliorate the sufferings of their people.

We are yet to master the challenges at hand. Are we fiddling in some unwitting indifference?

We appear dazed, ill-focused, deepened in tumult and in uncertainty. Let us return to the calm waters of collaborative efforts. Let us bring our best and the brightest and huddle them in various research laboratories to probe for new truths, to search for new knowledge, to dig deep into the vast arcana of learning, mustering the tools to discover what will tame, contain and destroy this invisible enemy.

We must never reduce this obvious national challenge to a partisan feud. This is beyond sectional triumphalism or sectarian animosity. It is about the collective survival of our nation. Let us act now by coming together, by discarding old divisions and embracing a new nationalistic front that can hopefully salvage our country from this pandemic.

Let our leaders rise in the true spirit of national vision and mobilise our people towards rescue and redemption. This is indeed how nations are built and strengthened in the times of great challenges. We must wield this country together now in one indivisible brotherhood.

There are no half measures. There are no separate ways. The solution must be collective, predicated in deliberately cultivated consensus.

In this pandemic crisis, we must yield to the joint expertise of those who are trained in specific medical fields. That is the only way out. That is the path of wisdom, and that is how we can renew and rebuild our economy long after this murderous scourge has been mitigated and halted in its tracks. I wish our nation well.

CHIEF OLABODE IBIYINKA GEORGE, B.sc (ENG), MBA, FNSE, CON
ATONA ODUA OF YORUBALAND.

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