…“We are working with the Federal Ministry of Health on protecting our citizens from ‘COVIK one nine’. As a government, this is now a key priority for us”…
President Muhammadu Buhari in a National broadcast, source- todaypoliticsng
Those were the words of Muhammadu Buhari, in a viral video clip which surfaced on the internet on the 22nd of March 2020, following widespread calls from members of the public as well as the Nigerian Senate, demanding a national address from the Nation’s dreary President.
While it is not clear what group the President was referring to in the excerpt “we are working with the federal ministry of health”, since by extension, the federal ministry of health is a part of the federal government; the ministry has nonetheless shown commitment in containing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
On the many gaffes and boo-boos of Buhari, many Nigerians are seemingly “appreciative” of the president’s recurring comic reliefs, which apparently lightens (once in a while), the mood of a populace fatigued by unending economic and sociopolitical challenges.
However, with the decision to impose a total lockdown in States, worse hit by Covid-19, Nigerians are already biting the bullet in the wake of excruciating economic realities.
Grappling with the lockdown
The world health organization (WHO) strongly advocates social distancing and supports lockdown measures in cities/regions considerably affected by the coronavirus. In his continued approval for lockdown measures, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director General of the WHO, via a recent Twitter publication, maintained that “the faster all cases are found, tested, isolated & cared for, the harder it is for the virus to spread”. The United nations children emergence fund (UNICEF) has revealed that at least 82 countries globally have some form of lockdown measures in place, although the economic effects of such extreme measures vary across nations.
In Nigeria, the initial 2 weeks of the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the federal capital territory raised serious questions about the continuity of such severe action. With criminal activities on the rise, police brutality (with security operatives even killing more people than the corona virus), many Nigerian internet users have expressed doubt over the sustainability of the government’s lockdown. This inarguably stems from the federal government’s insensitive welfare policy, with respect to the Covid-19 crisis.
Following a recent national broadcast, President Muhammadu Buhari had directed that N20,000 be paid to each vulnerable household in the National social register, through the social investment scheme to cushion the economic impact of the lock down arising from the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. The release of statistics of beneficiaries of the federal government’s conditional cash transfer program was however met with widespread criticisms. This is because the ICIR (international consortium of investigative reporters) revealed that despite the government’s total lockdown on Lagos, Ogun and the federal capital territory- Katsina and Zamfara States remain the largest beneficiaries of the national cash transfer scheme, as at April 2020 (even though these 2 States currently have no total lockdown response in place). Suspiciously, while the president is from Katsina, the coordinating minister of the Nation’s social welfare program is from Zamfara.
In the past 1 week, residents of Ogun and Lagos have taken to socia media, lamenting the upsurge in crime rate in their communities, calling on the government to intervene as things spiral out of control. Youths have taken the role of cops in some areas in the aforementioned States, forming vigilante teams to deter attacks from unscrupulous elements, while videos of people hijacking bread and rice supplies from moving trucks in Abuja (the Nation’s capital) have circulated the internet. With most Nigerians relying on the informal sector for economic survival, the hardship is sure to bite harder.
Although Buhari’s nepotism and tribalist tendencies are not new, it is only worrisome and unfortunate that the president exhibits such undesirable trait at a time when fairness and empathy is of utmost importance. If Buhari’s welfare policy towards States worse hit by the coronavirus crisis is not immediately revised, it is only logical to expect a total breakdown of law and order in the coming weeks.
By Cephas Kadiri