COVID19 and Nigeria’s Episodic Leaders


Silence eats our streets up

Mothers hide their babies from the sun

Our forebears forbid our visits

And the markets cast stones of attrition on us!


Man, where are you?

Creeping away in search for breath

Fading like the stars

Your morning is greeted with mourning

We keep the count.


Sneeze and get seized

Cough, it’s against the call of nature

Mankind has become deceptive

Disinfecting her very soundness

Sanitizing her humour


Stay away. Stay safe. Stay at home

We need a rescue.

Our breath are being filtered

We no longer recognize our beauty

We’re masked like dead bodies roaming the streets.

©John Simon

The Bundesliga is back, the Spanish La Liga is following suit, the English Premier League, also the Italian Seria A, the same Italy that was the death ground for the COVID19 Pandemic. Soccer is gradually coming back, in Nigeria, we are not open, neither are we closed, however somewhere in South of Nigeria, we were treated to the ‘crying governor’ and it was Omoniyi Ibietan that asked was it altruism or populism? Or anything I don’t know? Can anybody help? Let me add, or was it the popular episodic drama of our leaders?

So let us move, at what point did the crying governor realize he was a sinner or had sinned, at what point did he notice that it is only in Nigeria that you don’t support small businesses, you don’t give poor people scholarships, no free medicals, yet they pay one form of tax or the other.

Is it not only Nigeria that you are locked down, and then stamp duty is deducted from your dwindling account.

Food supply-chain disrupted, non-functional silos, produce perishing, agric sector counting losses. We’re really diversifying. Rice, spaghetti, macaroni…are the palliatives when available. Locally farmed, more nutritious foods, vegetables, fruits… perish in transit. Thank you Omoniyi for this reminder, but who cares really when General El-Rufai, my brother and friend is more concerned about patrolling the borders with his deputy, and SSG, and you ask, in a system that works, do you need governors to go to city borders with the press to show populism.

We have drama queens, and kings, slay queens and side chicks, in Nigeria, our COVID19 business enterprise has again exposed Slay leaders and side leaders.

Concerned about the lockdown, leave it to the Germans to come up with a sinuous, unpronounceable, and entirely perfect word to describe the slew of debates over how and when to reopen economies locked down due to the coronavirus: Öffnungsdiskussionsorgien, or opening discussion orgies. Lagos tried to have a social debate but it fizzled out, or rather we are stuck with whether to open places of worship or not.

Which brings me to the question, why are we like these, I mean what exactly is the problem with Nigeria, where are we different in the same way.

Worldwide, for every country that has shut restaurants and schools, grounded flights, and required citizens to stay home. While the general agreement with lockdown decisions was right, there are now heated debates about what the new normal should be—and how to get there. In our clime our problem with leadership is how to open the churches and mosques, instead of thinking of easing the economy and allowing people to learn the new normal, we are bent on caging ourselves further by believing that our solutions lie in prayers.

China, where the outbreak originated, has slowly reopened Wuhan. New Zealand says the virus is “currently eliminated” there and is talking about resuming flights to Australia.

Everyone misses grandma…We treat grandma with disdain, giving them N10,000 and a few cartons of indomie. People are universally missing their extended families, especially older relatives, who faced the most severe restrictions in some countries given their vulnerability to the virus. Switzerland recently allowed children under 10 to hug their grandparents again, and France eased its restrictions on nursing home visits. But folks in Britain were told to wait. In Nigeria, we are not yet done with our drama.

Let me show you a little of our episodic nature; Late Rashidi Yekini died eight years ago in Ibadan after retiring from active football, had a career that spanned more than two decades.

Scored 37 goals for Nigeria from 58 games and represented the nation in five major tournaments, including two World Cups where he scored the country’s first-ever goal in the competition against Bulgaria in the USA ‘94 World Cup.

It took an episodic movement to get his poor mother, 50kg bag of rice, 10kg bag of wheat, six tins of Milo in the month of Ramadan, and then the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development places her, on a monthly stipend of N10,000.

The old woman stated, “I have been abandoned for a long time and have not gotten help from anyone. I was hospitalized for days, some months ago and catered for myself despite scarce resources, even last month; I received treatment at the hospital. I need help from Nigerians, but this Minister has done very well, especially remembering me in this holy month of Ramadan. Since my son died, life has been very tough because I do not get assistance from people…”

“In furtherance to, and in appreciation of, the recent pronouncement of the HM Sports @SundayDareSD to put the mothers of late ex-internationals Sam Okwaraji and Rashidi Yekini on a monthly stipend, the NFF has decided to support this noble initiative with a further monthly stipend of N30k to each of the two matriarchs,” the NFF said on Twitter.

This is how our leaders behave, whether in the political space or the religious field, even in family life it is almost safe to conclude that we have this kneejerk reaction to every, our lives are guided by an episode of feelings rather than rational thinking that is guided by the need to achieve a result.

Talking about kids, some countries (such as France, Israel, and Slovenia) are starting to send little kids back to school, whereas others (like Germany, Greece, Portugal, Senegal, South Korea, and Vietnam) are focusing on older ones. Sweden kept young kids in school the entire time, while neighbouring Denmark, Finland, and Norway are only now allowing them to resume their studies.

What did our own leaders do, come up with these virtual feeding programs to be administered by zoom or skype one presumes, because one cannot understand the rationale for feeding school children at home, when we could barely feed their parents.

South Africans haven’t been allowed to buy alcohol since the lockdown began on March 26. A friend said vineyards in the Cape region are going bust, many of their workers are starving, and sober locals are trying to extract alcohol from hand sanitizer or make pineapple beer at home.

Our leaders, we the citizens in Nigeria have continued to drink, and get high on everything, and sober on nothing. Nigerians want to eat, they want food, lock them down and give them food and healthcare. But leadership cannot do that, so there is worry about starvation, missing ingredients on grocery shelves. Social distancing and reduced demand are hitting the service sector, and our leaders really have no answers.

When the lockdown started, I debated against the appropriateness of the Western-influenced lockdown model for African economies. As millions of urban poor subsist hand to mouth under cramped living conditions, continued income and social safety nets can save lives too.

Nigeria has a poor health care system, poor price control means rising food prices, a worsening security environment, and porous borders inter state borders given the politics of COVID19 numbers, and the new almajiri induced inter state deportation.

In Nigeria, our police have been part of the episodic drama, while a Police office showed so much restrain as a woman plummeted him with slaps, same cannot be said of other security agents, who are actually COVID19 proof even by their actions, this virus, has further exposed our leadership virus, one full of drama, episode by episode, and when will the next episode be—Only time will tell

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