By Hannu Afere

In what was arguably the most anticipated political event in recent times, the president of this federal republic finally addressed his employers, the people, in a twenty minute long pre-recorded speech outlining what his administration planned to do in combating the new Coronavirus.

The masses had previously been led to believe that the man was going to talk to the country live. What the country got, however, was a caricature. There was no dialogue, no interaction, no pretend-engagement even with the tried and tested method of vomiting rehearsed answers to pre-programmed questions. We had our leader reading from a piece of paper in the most tedious, u

and pedestrian fashion that was a far cry from what he had sold himself as in all the previous election seasons.

It seemed very much like we were traveling back in time to the military regime of 1984. Like we were being granted a boon. Like it was not the duty of the president to address the nation at such a time—and indeed, Femi Adesina emphatically said that the president’s refusal to speak on the issue was a matter of ‘style’! The world is collapsing and the president’s absenteeism is a matter of style? Let’s not even compare ourselves to all the other ‘first world’ countries in Europe and Asia. Ghana—our smaller and frequently vanquished neighbor in the jollof wars is the one showing us how to respond to the crisis. They have refused to imitate this presidential ‘style’ of truancy. And how could they, with the kind of leader they have elected, who is treating this like the pandemic it is and who is very hands-on with communicating to and reassuring his people!

The NCDC is doing a yeoman’s job no doubt, constantly keeping the masses informed on the goings-on and measures taken in controlling the spread of the virus. One can argue that since they work with the ministry of health, they are in a way, the mouthpiece of the presidency on this issue and you won’t be wrong, but for the president’s lukewarm attitude and his obliviousness to something as basic as the name of the virus! ‘COVIK one-nine’ is still a running joke on the streets.

With the address, it seemed as though the federal government set out to prove one thing and one thing only—that contrary to what cynics were saying, the president was not in Cuba receiving treatment, or worse dead.

It took a lot of heckling and insubordination on social media to get him to come on air in the first place. Why is this even something to haggle and bargain over? Don’t worry, that is just a rhetorical question. Like every other thing in these parts, we must suffer before we get what is rightfully ours and we must thank our oppressors profusely.

Even though one is greatly unsatisfied as a stakeholder in this country, one must give honor to whom honor is due. The speechwriter was a decent one no doubt, proficient at making a show of being specific while being deliberately vague, lacing the whole thing with a super-abundance of jargons. I don’t know about you, but it felt like a bizarre version of a schoolboy filling the ears of his crush with sweet nothings.
A week or so later, we are staring live at the results.

The president in his speech mentioned the 15 billion naira intervention to control the spread, but no one knows what’s happened to the money or how it is being disbursed. Ambiguous buzz phrases like ‘international best practices’ or ‘national response strategy’ do next to nothing to salvage the broken trust or the animosity people have towards this administration.

All the talk about ‘deploying relief materials to relieve the pains… in the coming weeks’ and ‘developing a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding program…’ are basically empty pacifiers. What school feeding, for example? Where? Same schools that are now closed? When, specifically, can folks expect these relief materials? Where, precisely? In the same streets where the Task Force has banned movement, or at their doorsteps?

Also, what is in these relief materials? The less-privileged are poor, but they are not beggars.

We are almost done with the first fourteen days of The Lockdown and like my people say down South, ‘nothing come out.’

The NCDC, as at the time this article was published, has 238 confirmed cases, 35 discharged and 5 deaths. The trouble with the data they share however, is that the cases seem to revolve around only a certain demographic—emphasis is laid on returnees from heavily affected countries and not enough contact tracing is done. And how can that be achieved anyway, when we do not have sufficient testing kits, Isolation centers, ventilators or fully-equipped hospitals to work with?

Forgive me if I’m not sold on the plenty Englishes Mr. president was reading, no one survives Nigeria without a healthy dose of cynicism.

The coming days will tell though. They will be tough. They will be rough. And if this last homily read by the reformed dictator is anything to go by, they will be frustrating. Please stay at home be safe as we watch how things unfold.
Meanwhile, the Federal government has declared Friday and Monday public holidays for the Easter celebrations. Isn’t that rather like offering a man sand while he’s in the desert?

This is the theatre of absurdities and we’ve got front row tickets.

 

Hannu Afere (c) 2020