Ronald Olusegun Olaiya
Every unpleasant experience in the life of a man has its own negative and positive sides. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic is not an exception in this regard. So as we are talking about the challenges this pandemic has brought to mankind, we should also be talking of the lessons that come with its incursion into the global social, economic and political arena. These lessons include, but not limited to, the following:
COVID-19 gave nobody any notice of its rude incursion into the global system. Before anybody could understand its nature and, structure it has started wrecking havoc on the entire global community from all fronts. No nation could boost of having any clue on how to cure it. None could as well lay claim to how its spread could be contained except through social distance. So all nations were and are still cut off guarded. I saw big nations that are renowned for their scientific and technological advancement expressing their helplessness while the virus is doing devastating blow to human lives. The Prime Minister of Italy amidst tears admitted that his country had tried all options that could not stop the virus from spreading to and killing people. He said it was only God that can help Italy from the excruciating effect of the pandemic. Donald Trump of the United States was busy trading blames in the face of the helpless situation. Queen of England and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom were both infected by the virus. For the very first time in recent years nations were humbled and are compelled to come to term with one reality; and that is the fact that theatre of war has been shifted from the physical field to the field of medicine and pharmacy. Who knows where the pendulum will swing tomorrow?
- The Closeness and Interconnectedness of Mankind
Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, human beings out of their pride and hatred for one another erected psychological and social walls against one another. In some cases physical barriers were erected. They believe that doing this will limit their interactions with one another, especially where they perceived each other as enemies. Even in the face of globalisation this sentiment still prevails. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is no respecter of such barriers. Rather it has come to demonstrate that we are closer to one another than we had ever thought as it is transmitting from one perceived enemy to another to another, from one perceived friend to another. So we are not even so far from one another. We are closer than we thought. As it is, the entire human race has no option than to come together in one spirit to find solution to the pandemic. Nowhere to hide anymore; be you white, black, rich, poor, political allies, or political foes, it does not make sense to discriminate in this situation. We are all in this together.
Every human being is treated as being equal by COVID-19; it infects everyone that crosses her path. The entire human race has been finding it difficult to come to term with the fact that all men are equal and should be treated as such. It infects the rich man who is exposed just the same way it infects the poor man who is exposed. So it does not make sense to say it is a rich man’s or poor man’s disease. It belongs to the two categories of people. Nature and COVID-19 do not recognise your wealth and position in the society. It is your nature that really matters; your biological and body chemistry. The only thing that can stand you out is your immunity.
- Disruptions/Limitations of Forecast
In Nigeria the year 2020 recorded the earliest time the National budget was passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by the President. Everybody was expecting that the implementation of the budget will start early and that this will enhance the performance of the budget. The incursion of coronavirus has made nonsense of the budget expectations at the federal and state levels. Instead of the budget implementation, we are now talking of budget revision. Through the revisions of the budgets at the various levels of government, revenue generation capacity will be restricted just as employment generation will be contained. The same will go for capital expenditure. This is an indication that COVID-19 has shattered the dreams and expectations of government and the people as well. Within the space of two months, the price of crude oil has dropped from $57/barrel to $16/barrel. How would you implement successfully a budget based on $57/barrel benchmark when the price has dropped to all time low of $16/barrel. Already many employers from the private sector, especially those in the aviation and banking are reducing the size of their labour force. This is what one invisible virus can cause to the dreams of nations, organisations and people across the globe.
How strong is your immune system? Your answer to this question will determine whether you are likely to survive the virus or not after infection. Reports from the various isolation centres across the country are in support of the fact that the stronger one’s immunity is the greater the chances of surviving the COVID-19 infection. This sends a signal to all of us to develop a proactive management approach in taking care of our health. Prevention is cheaper and better than cure. Keep living a lifestyle that supports enhancement of your immunity at individual and family level. Do not wait till when something happen before doing this; make this a habit and lifestyle as no one can say with certainty when another challenge may come that will require our immunity to stand as our defence.
- Looking Inward
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has also taught us to develop ourselves and our system for meeting our needs locally instead of always looking outside our border in search of solutions each time we are faced with any challenge. All the countries we have been looking up to like the USA, UK, China, Germany, Spain, Italy, and others are all grappling with the challenges posed by COVID-19; the same problem we are faced with here. No nation has luxury of time and resources to attend to the other nations right now. Each is busy trying to address her own problems created by COVID-19. The message here is that Nigeria should strive to look inward to harness the opportunities to develop home grown solutions to this pandemic, and other developmental challenges facing the nation. Nigeria can do it; it is our internal politics that is holding us back.
All these years, successive administrations at the federal and state levels have been paying lip service to the subject of diversifying the nation’s economy. Even at the level of individuals, the body language is supportive of: “Let us continue to do things as usual”. This lukewarm attitude is based on the belief that even if the crude oil price is unpredictable in the global market, the price would not go below certain minimum benchmark. Coronavirus has made nonsense of such assumptions by crashing the crude oil price to all time low. This is a signal to the effect that if the COVID-19 stays around for too long, the socioeconomic system in the country will collapse completely. The solution is for all of us- the governments and the citizens- to brace up for the challenge of diversifying the economy post COVID-19 without further delay. We have had enough of this lip service. Agricultural sector should be expanded, solid minerals sector should be activated, tourism and entertainment should be given a boost among others.
- Demystification of the Mighty
COVID-19 and its attendant challenges demystified the nations and people considered to be too big for any unpleasant experience, perhaps because of their deep pockets, social, and political clouts. Unfortunately some of these so called big men were the first targets and victims of COVID-19. The Nation was locked down and all international fights were suspended. Big men and women could not travel for overseas medical treatment. Big guys and their relatives were made to go for treatment in the same hospitals and medical facilities they have abandoned for long. So what goes around comes around. The nations that were adjudged powerful suddenly turned out to be so powerless and clueless on how to tackle coronavirus in the war front. They were all seeking for help just from anywhere. We do not know which pandemic is coming again and for how long. So post COVID-19, investment should be made in the direction of the medical sector to get the sector upgraded.
- Change Can Come Overnight
Change may come sooner than we expect. The change may not be any of the things we anticipated. Change may not necessarily be pleasant’ it could be very unpleasant. COVID-19 is a typical example of change that is sudden, shocking and unpleasant. Everybody was caught unaware and the spread spares no part of the globe. A change of this magnitude throws spanners into the works of planners at various levels. Many organisations that were hitherto very buoyant have gone. Rich men and women have turned to poor people. And funny enough, some of the poor people of yesterday are now fast becoming rich. This suggests why as individuals, organisations, and nations there should not be any room for complacency. It is always important to be proactive and forward looking in our management approach. Substantial provisions should always be made for some sudden changes with heavy waves to minimise the shock impact.
- Knowledge is Power
One of the first factors that hampered the fight against COVID-19 was the fact that not much was known about the virus by the people, the laymen and experts alike. So while the virus was on rampage, not much could be done to prevent its spread as well as curing it. So the entire human race was helpless and still is. Unlike sicknesses like malaria, typhoid, and others whose treatment procedures have been standardised, the whole world is still in school to study coronavirus (COVID-19). The take from this is that more investment in the areas of education and research is urgently needed to build capacity in order to enhance service delivery in the health sector.
- Imperativeness of Strong Health System
The role of a very strong health system cannot be over-emphasized in any society. Sizable proportion of the national budget should go to the health sector. Unfortunately, the budgetary allocation to the health sector in the country is abysmally low even before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. It is by far lower than the 15% recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). So the pandemic came to meet a weak health system and over ran it. This accelerates its spread. The lesson from this is that the going forward our health system should be massively upgraded to meet the health needs of populace. Apart from the investment outlay that should be enhanced, corruption in the health system just like any other segment of the society should be squarely addressed to reduce its undermining effect on the functionality of the sector.
The management of the health system should be done with high level of integrity. Anything short of this is a like a suicide mission to the health sector and the entire populace. It appears that some state governments are trying to manipulate the records of what is coming out of their states to create the impression that their health systems are better managed than the others. Cases in point are Kogi and Cross River States where no confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been recorded to date. This is like sitting on the keg of gun powder. The efforts being made at suppressing the true status of the two states with regards to COVID-19 are capable of undermining the genuine efforts that have been made and which are still being made at curtailing the spread of the virus in other parts of the federation. This is disservice to the underline principle of ethics and integrity. Recall that at the beginning of this pandemic in the country, some states like Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, and others were lackadaisical in their approach to the pandemic, trying to be politically correct. But the sudden jump in the number of confirmed cases from these states in the last two weeks and the number of strange deaths are pointers to the fact that they have not acted right at all. Our leaders should have learnt by now that it is better in the long run to say the truth than to distort the fact for whatever reason.
- Greater Use of Technology in Problem Solving
Social distancing is a new concept that is associated with COVID-19 and other viruses that spread from human to human. And this is fast becoming a popular slogan all over the world today. The quest to get jobs done without necessarily coming together at point (venue) is now gaining ground on daily basis. Important meetings, seminars, workshops, conferences and others are now taking place online. Zoom, Skypes, WhatsApp and other similar platforms are now being maximally utilised to drive productivity. Teachers in Primary and secondary schools are now holding classes with their pupils and students respectively online. Perhaps, what COVID-19 has done is to deepen the use of these communications tools to increase the level of productivity among the work force. If this culture is sustained post COVID-19, it may be possible to regain some of the lost grounds immediately after the pandemic.