FYI: This articled was originally written by Ambassador Kenneth Nwachukwu and is being shared with permission.
CORONAVIRUS AND OUR SENSE OF RELIGIOSITY
Coronavirus, the lung-eating virus which made an insidious appearance in China a little more than two months ago is described as the worst challenge to the global order for more than two decades. Although its putative birthplace is in the bat-eating community of China, the offspring are all over the world. At the beginning the world paid little attention because it is China, and its problems are not ours; they can stew in their own juice.
But this initial reaction was both geography and science illiterate. It was geographically illiterate because no society today lives in isolation. China has the second strongest economy in the world and the Chinese are some of the most traveled people in the world. It was only a matter of time before the effect would coming knocking at the doors of self denying societies all over including ours.
It is scientifically illiterate also because China cannot cure this disease alone. It requires a global concert of scientific resources to find a cure. Or the virus will breach the thin social ramparts put up by countries in form of border controls. That unfortunately appears to have become the case.
Coronavirus has therefore put a lie to the vainglorious claims of countries to be able police their borders. China is in a virtual lock-down while the epicenter of the disease has shifted from China to Europe. Italy is reeling from the impact with 1000 fatalities. The entire country has become desolate. The Holy Father, Pope Francis has cancelled a number of church organized events, self-isolated when he took ill and counseled against the practice of Priests placing the elements in the mouths of communicants during the Holy communion.
Other countries in Europe have put in place various mitigation processes. Across the Atlantic in the US, there is panic in the land. Five states have pulled children numbering over 5 million from school. In sports and entertainment industries, the story is similar: Basketball season has gone into a hiatus. The same is true of the Major League Baseball (MLB). The opening of the first LPGA (golf) championship is on the ice; Formula One opening season in Australia has been axed.
These developments have been paired with the Donald Trump administration placing a ban on all movements into the US from 26 European countries. Many important personalities including movie stars, politicians and sports persons have tested positive and withdrawn from the society. All over the world the tendency is to limit social gatherings or to practice what is known as Social Distancing.
Alas the reality in Nigeria is different. According to health officials, Nigeria has recorded only two cases of Coronavirus: one index case, an Italian now in quarantine in Lagos and his contact. Therefore, if that is to be believed, it is all clear in Nigeria. Our weddings continue to witness unprecedented numbers, Churches have intensified ‘peace offerings’ where unbridled handshakes are de rigueur. Our Mosques are not outdone in number of attendance. After all, Nigerians no dey carry last. Regardless of the faith, we simply press the flesh as we trudge on. One gets the sense that we are from a different planet or that we pretend to have a stronger faith than the rest of the world.
Another reason perhaps is that China is too far from Nigeria. Really? When Europe and America clacked their doors against immigrants from Nigeria they happily turned to China for their trade. Besides most of our imports have origins from China. Our businessmen and women breeze in and out from China with regular ease.
What is wrong with us? Is our reaction to Coronavirus borne out of stubborn ignorance or questionable religiosity? I hope the authorities will step in to prevent this auto wreck in our behavior or risk an apocalyptic situation. Beyond dispensing hope, authorities should come up with socially responsible conducts such reductions in crowd density, and avoidance of handshakes. Indeed the Japanese head bows appears cool. ‘It is not my portion’, as many are wont to say in situations as this, must never be an option.
Former Nigerian Ambassador
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