A Time to Stand with the People ~ By Dr. Godwin Maduka
We welcomed the year 2020 with very high hopes, marching in great strength and zeal. We charted a course to explore the new year. The news on Coronavirus started trickling in December 2019 and we hoped that it would be managed till when it fizzles out. My heart goes out to people in Italy, China, Spain and even here in the US; one of the hardest hit countries in the world, where most have lost their means of livelihood and loved ones to the pandemic.
As the world battle the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in almost all the countries, I’m distraught at the level of fatality caused by this contagion. The pandemic has created a semblance of war, the uncertainty and chaos everywhere in the world, have made governments to face the daunting task of trying to save lives, at the same time hoping to salvage the economy. In fact, it has been a long time since mankind has been faced with this kind of pressure, which has unsettled world leaders.
It is worrisome to come to terms with the fact that most developed countries are running out of ideas on the challenges Covid 19 pose on healthcare and the economy. Despite my full grasp of the sophisticated health care system in the USA, I daresay that it struggles under the weight of this scourge. Unfortunately, as I write here, a vaccine is yet to be developed and certified to quell this rampaging and destructive contagion which has infected over 1m people across the globe.
I am immensely disturbed concerning the fate of my people in Africa. Unfortunately for me, due to flight restrictions occasioned by the lockdown order here in Nevada, some parts of America and even in my homeland, Nigeria, I am unable to be with my people in this trying and nerve-wracking period. I feel for our people and fear that a state of hopelessness could pervade the polity. It is my utmost wish to be in Nigeria, in body and spirit and to be with my people at this trying time. I feel it is a set time for me to give hope in my own little way, to offer professional advice where necessary and to provide a veritable guide in cases of emergencies.
As I write this piece, I am indoors here in America observing the do’s and dont’s of staying safe. I urge everyone to do the same and to be wary of taking this pandemic for granted. As an expert in the medical field, it is most advisable that we adhere strictly to government directives and medical instructions to safeguard our lives. This is the only known solution to escape the wrath of this contagion, at least for now.
The age-long hygiene practices of regular hand washing, coupled with the use of sanitizers must be maintained. People must endeavor to cough or sneeze in their elbows, handkerchief and toilet tissues.
I must at this juncture commend the efforts made by the Federal Government of Nigeria and State Governments to contain this contagion. I would encourage improvement where there are noticeable lapses. Similarly, I am particularly pleased by the firmness and professionalism with which the Lagos State Government is tackling this challenge head on. This true and empathetic leadership is worthy of emulation. Governor Babajide Sanwo Olu has proven his mettle and has etched his name in gold as a defender of what is best for the people. It is also important not to dismiss the efforts of the Ministry of health, ably led by Dr Osagie Ehanire, and the dogged and indefatigable Dr Chikwe Ihekwuazu of the NCDC. These men are working tirelessly with other government agencies and taskforce to see that Covid-19 is kept at bay. You all have shown that with the right support we can tackle any challenge that rears its face. Even though it would appear that our efforts to contain this contagion is belated, we are taking giant strides.
It also gladdens my heart that Anambra is not left open without the barricades of governance. The efforts of the State Government led by Chief Willie Obiano is commendable. The Governor has taken steps to ameliorate the suffering of Anambrarians who bear the pain of the lockdown. I am aware that Governor Obiano has been very proactive in delivering a state of the art isolation centre in Onitsha ,adjudged one of the bests in the country. He has also provided surge centres at Mbaukwu and other parts of the state.These are all steps in the right direction.
I must also commend all the donors who are giving out of their wealth,investments and mite in order to push this malaise out of the country.I must encourage others to join the train. The manner in which the private sector rallied round government in the fight against Covid-19 is laudable. It is a proof that we can actually unite and whenever we do, we have always defeated our common enemy.
On my own, I have decided to reach out through my foundation and other credible platforms. I will support as much people as possible, and help reduce the burden of their suffering during this difficult and challenging time. In the coming days, I will touch the lives of a greater number of our people who are in need, because I understand the urgencies for the needed support, the anxieties of the people and their immobility at this time. We will coordinate it in ways that do not jeopardise the safety guidelines put together by medical experts and government.
This state of hopelessness in the health sector of our country has motivated me to construct a world class medical research institute at Umuchukwu, knowing full well that no medicine is worth its name without research anywhere in the world. The medical institute will go a long way in providing the needed infrastructure in the state while creating an enabling environment for the grooming of experts in the healthcare sector.I am glad that the medical research institute is nearing completion. I am also positive that on completion, this institute will provide a good lease of life for people of my state and my country.
This is neither a time for politics nor to trivialize issues, but a time that calls for sober reflection and demands support to our leaders, in their quest to care for the sick and the weak in our society. This is also the time to unite and forge a front to defeat this common enemy; Covid-19.
Despite the gloom and the anxieties that has borne fatalities and doom, there is still hope for mankind. Recently, Wuhan in China, a place first hit by the deadly virus is beginning to bounce back to social and economic life. Italy and Spain; countries which had the highest share of fatalities seem to be witnessing a sharp drop in the number of deaths and new cases.
We are hoping to see the curve of the spread flatten in the United States of America. Moreso, I’m glad that the survival rate here in Nigeria and in most African countries, are quite high. Infected persons who have recovered are being discharged in droves while compliance to measures meant to curb the contagion is gaining traction through a collective strategy of information dissemination and governance.
Therefore, the novel Coronavirus is not a death sentence, we must not allow fear to take over our lives. I must encourage Africans-in-Diaspora who returned from countries where this contagion is prevalent to obey Government directives on Self- Isolation, as this will help to a very large extent, to curb the spread among loved ones, and curtail large scale community transmission.I daresay that with the right attitude, the novel Coronavirus is defeatable. If we do the right thing, the country will be up and running in a couple of weeks.
There are lessons to reflect upon from this scourge and when the lessons are rightfully implemented, it has the potential capacity to usher in positive developments in our country.
It has dawned on us that there is the need to strengthen our healthcare system. There is no doubt that healthcare is intricately linked to a working and robust national economy. We need to create measures that will fortify our healthcare system for this kind of shock and other kinds of shocks to lives and the economy.
We also need to improve on our database. Adequate database would have helped in contact tracing and even in the distribution of all the welfare packages to citizens at this time.
We must also strengthen our educational infrastructures. We must be deliberate in our effort to raise acclaimed researchers who can help with homegrown solutions at a time like this.
This depression has also engendered an inventiveness in our people. It has led to the rise of so many cottage industries which can be harnessed in our SME programmes. In order to cushion the expected Post-Corona doldrums and gross unemployment in the economy, government should systematically invest in the Small and Medium scale ventures of our people.
The lessons learnt from this global shock must be localised and be translated into tangible and systemic changes for the betterment of our people. It has shown us the things that are important for all mankind to thrive and live long and fulfilled lives. We must take up the gauntlet of the daunting responsibilities foisted upon us as leaders in different spheres to make life better for the people.
Now is the time to stand with our people.
Dr. Godwin Maduka, a medical doctor, writes from Las Vegas, United States of America