By Segun Odegbami
Until a few minutes ago, I was at a very serious crossroads in my mind.
It has been a titanic battle between my head and my heart. A few minutes ago, my head won, hence this piece of my thoughts, broken into two parts.
I have been following the Coronavirus story very closely for several weeks since it broke in China.
It has been a very scary experience following the rapidly expanding growth of a tiny, invisible-to-the-naked-eye ‘creature’ of the universe that has made the most powerful weapons of mass destruction ever created by man look like child’s play.
Right now, the best of human science is still trying to understand this virus whilst it continues to wreak havoc, rapidly and randomly, on the human race.
As it spreads misery and death with its ‘venom’ around the world, the most vulnerable region on earth, Africa has been spared, for now.
What the world is witnessing today is unprecedented in human history, and that I am a part of it, brings the reality home very forcefully.
The United Nations declared it a global pandemic with the implication that no region or part of the world will be spared, it is just a matter of when, not if. Every part and person must, therefore, be a part of the fight to halt this deadly scourge.
From one infected country to another, particularly in the most developed climes, life has grounded to a halt driven by fear of the unknown as extraordinary steps are being taken to slow down the viral onslaught, Worship houses, malls, cinemas, restaurants, entertainment centres, sports events, large gatherings, schools, universities, even whole towns have been locked down.
The bottom line is that nothing of this scale has ever happened and the world cannot afford to take any chance with this deadly disease on the rampage.
Every country in the world is being served notice and warned to take the matter seriously and take no chances and follow the simple, old timeless words of wisdom – prevention is better than cure.
For Nigeria, for the world’s most populous Black nation (and probably the dirtiest and most environmentally unhealthy), a country with environmental indiscipline, limited medical and health facilities and infrastructure, and limited emergency protocols, equipment and personnel, the urgency for serious attention to prevention must be primary.
The more advanced cultures are pondering why Africa has not been devastated by the virus, and waiting to see what will happen when the pandemic would shift to the Southern hemisphere and Sub-Saharan Africa in particular. It makes sense that Africa should use this temporary period of divine reprieve to prepare for the worst, and not wait until it happens.
Two days ago, on CNN I watched as experts explained to the world the seriousness of it all, how the world is gradually being locked down, community after community, country after whole country, contagion expanding exponentially until the whole world will be covered. There shall be no escape by any country down the line of this frightening scourge that has humbled even ‘arrogant’ America and changed the world forever. After Coronavirus, the world will become a different and humbled place.
Meanwhile, I worry for my country Nigeria.
My Wedding party Experience
I was at a wedding ceremony last week in Lagos. Before attending, I had made up my mind I was going to start to implement the dos and don’ts of the global campaign to minimize the risks of spreading the virus: applying some of the social distancing measures, avoiding large gatherings and crowded places, reducing my travels to only the absolutely necessary, no handshakes, plenty of washing of hands with soap and sanitisers, no physical body contact in public, keeping a six-feet safe distance from one another, sanitizing every surface I touch, observing the highest level of hygiene at home, staying indoors, and exercising as often as possible to keep fit and build up immunity to infections.
These are basic behavioral patterns that do not cost much money and only require some discipline and determination to observe.
I went to that party because it was my friend’s daughter’s wedding. I was not going to shake hands and will politely inform everyone as I extend my elbow or knuckle.
Then I entered the reception hall and saw Armageddon under construction. I had assumed everyone would be thinking the way I was thinking, because we were all following the same global news. It was either that everyone there was not a part of the world, or believed all the untested theories about the Black person being a special homo sapiens immune from infection of the virus! No one in that gathering was observing the global warnings.
When I extended my knuckle instead of my hand, there were those that understood and extended theirs also. There were those that laughed out loud in mockery. Some looked at me with disdain and even some contempt, disregarded me and went on with their hugging, kissing, handshakes, and loud banter.
I was alone in my world. It was an uncomfortable world.
I became very worried as I left after a few minutes only to meet up with Dr. Kola Akinroye, Executive Director of the Nigerian Heart Foundation, NHF.
We did not shake hands when we met. My extended knuckle, the least I could do to avoid another scornful reaction, spoke volumes for me. I narrated my experience to him.
He saw my point and agreed completely that Nigeria needed to wake up from it’s slumber and prepare the people better.
We appeared together that night on my TV program, The Sports Parliament, and moved a motion that, henceforth, all members of the parliament shall shun handshakes, and called on all viewers, to start to practice even the minimum essential hygiene as preparation for any eventuality.
Since then some things have been happening.
(continued in part 2)