Column Opinion

COVID-19, Oh Nigeria, “Gambu” By Dr. Prince Charles Dickson

charles-dickson

Gambu

You dey sing for thieves

Gambu

You go sing for me

Person wey befriend rat go chop shit but I go

Still dey follow you if you you swim for shit

Love only me and be my own, Gambu

Gambu

Make we no climb ontop the hill

Gambu

Up like a cool, koyemi!

Person wey befriend dog go chop shit but I

Go still dey follow you if you swim for shit

Love only me and be my own, Gambu

Gambu

You dey sing for coups

Gambu

You must to sing for me

I no get stolen boots to pay you

But I go still dey follow you, if you swim for shit

Love only me and be my own, Gambu

Brymo

On 30 June 1958, Mao Tse-tung read in Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) that schistosomiasis – or bilharzia – had been eradicated in Yukiang (Jiangxi Province). He was so inspired that he wrote a poem called ‘Farewell to the God of Plague’:

Hundreds of villages choked with weeds, people wasted away;

Thousands of homes deserted, ghosts chanted mournfully…

We ask the God of Plague, ‘Where are you bound?’

Paper barges aflame and candlelight illuminate the sky.

Mao grew up in Shaoshan (Hunan Province), where he knew intimately the terrors of bilharzia and the punctual plagues that wracked rural China for hundreds of years. Shi Daonan (1765-1792), who was killed by the plague, wrote the powerful ‘Death of Rats’:

People resemble ghosts.

Ghosts struggle against the human spirit.

People met in the daylight are actually ghosts.

Ghosts encountered at dusk are actually people.

Too many politicians, businesses and reporters are looking on the COVID-19 pandemic as a sprint rather than a marathon. They keep asking, “When can we get back to normal?” Many believe that “normal” is just around the corner, this May or at least by September. The truth is that we will not get back to normal until the world population is protected from the virus by a vaccine. That could take two or more years, before we say farewell, before the rats die…

But while we are at it, Covid-19 reveals the failure of Nigeria; a big nation, but not a strong one – Our leaders put the interests of themselves before the lives of people. There is a loss of credibility of the political systems we operate, but sadly our people will be more willing to bite the referee for a wrong VAR decision than to tackle her thieving leadership: One that has failed to save people, and then are forcing the people to finance their response with public funds and not by taxes on the richest. Following neoliberal policies that are neither here nor there, our governments have dismantled a near non-existent public health care and condemned the populations to the virus. Not just of corona but hunger.

Not only this, but the virus has shown the moral collapse of our leaders; evidence for this is the criminal way that they have abandoned the elderly and unemployed and their redefinition of palliatives.

We refused to take quick, efficient, and appropriate measures. We were at loss on how to mobilise resources because we did not consider human lives as priority. A weak public health system – which is oriented to serve no one.

Nigeria is at a crossroads: either we chose barbarism or cooperation and solidarity. The scientific and technological revolution enormously developed the productive forces; it has created the basis for all people to be able to live with dignity, but this is squandered by the immoral accumulation of wealth by a ruling elite. This is won’t last, the fight to put human beings at the centre, aside political interests may be one of the deep lessons of COVID-19 if at all we learn.

As the NCDC battles gallantly with all it’s pitfalls, one thing is very glaring, as to why our A F’èédú Fan’ná” principle won’t work…Health workers are not oriented to serve primarily the masses of peasants and workers, elderly, and all. Disease prevention is not key. We are neglecting to create a fusion of Traditional and modern doctors being equally fostered. No to tradition, forgetting that the western medicine is the west’s own tradition. Our health workers are leaving in their thousands to paths greener, bluer and redder. Our Health work should be conducted through mass campaigns with the active participation of medical workers.

We are not ready — spiritually, economically or politically — for a marathon. We have not been training. We are flabby and out of shape. We are not ready to make the sacrifices that are needed because all along our leaders had asked us to sacrifice on everything but nothing.

Politically, we have spent the past two decades totally focused on partisan conflicts and elections rather than on what is best for the common good. We are so ideologically inept that we are unable to be pragmatic in problem solving. Compromise has become a dirty word; our opponents are demonized; and partisan gridlock is the result. We are only focused on today and ignore tomorrow.

Economically, we have been on a spending binge. Interest rates have been high, yet consumers, businesses and governments have borrowed without any concern for the future. We have ignored traditional economic theory that says we should save during good times so that we can borrow and run deficits during bad times. We have built an economy dependent on consumer spending while ignoring public needs like education, public health and infrastructure.

Spiritually, we have been self-centered. Spirituality has too often meant feeling good about ourselves rather than service of others. Sacrifice and the cross, crescent and thunder have been banished from the spiritual vocabulary so that faith has often reinforced Nigerian individualism on one hand and enforced ethnicity rather than challenged it. It has also reinforced our prejudices by telling us that we are the chosen and everyone else is evil.

The pop-infused soul and blues track “Gambu” depicts the love a woman has for an imperfect man with a reputation, it is one of the tracks from Nigerian artiste Brymo’s latest work Yellow. Yellow was crafted from hedonism and is a departure from the dark themes deployed on Oṣó. As I listened to it, thinking that the COVID-19 is forcing some major adjustments to many aspects of our daily lives that will likely remain long after the crisis recedes: virtual learning, telework, and fewer hugs and handshakes, just to name a few.

My fear is that after exposing our poor safety net, what next, our love for Gambu, our loves escapades for imperfections, our contentment for inadequacies, our defense for the indefensible, will it lead to total collapse, are we capable of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat or will we see defeat given to us because we never planned to succeed—Only tine will tell.

Contact the writer: pcdbooks@gmail.com

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