FEATURE ARTICLE

Sunday, April 19, 2020
benosqi@gmail.com
Ontario, Canada
AN OPEN LETTER TO COVID-19

Dear Covid-19,

onfounder of humanity, disruptor of societies and crippler of economies, like an enigmatic alien, you invaded our world with your invisible weapons of mass infection. You're the ultimate violator of the principles of just war. You don't know nor discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. We all stand before you as enemy combatants: rich and poor, young and old, sick and healthy, guilty and innocent, black, white and everyone in between. In short, you're an equal opportunity contaminant. No continent, no country, no county is immune from your invisible ammunitions. You have deflated our hopes, heightened our anxieties and shackled our freedoms.

Unwavering in your plundering campaign, the shockwaves of your onslaught have penetrated the secure walls of the powers that be. In Britain, you panicked Boris Johnson and rattled Prince Charles. In America, you mortified Senator Rand Paul and unsettled Chris Cuomo. In Nigeria, you tackled Governor El Ruffai and suffocated Abba Kyari. But everywhere, you unleash your carnage on the poor for whom the requirements of physical distancing are impracticable. Your destructive impact has exposed the horrors of inequality. While non-discriminatory in your contagion, you're indisputably discriminatory in your impact.

As you sow the winds of your toxins, the poor are reaping the whirlwinds of hunger-virus. You're forcing the poor to make the tragic choice between you and hunger-virus. We know that physical distancing is one of the best defenses against your treacherous stratagem. But for hawkers, drivers, hairdressers, cleaners, cooks, housekeepers, and artisans of all stripes, the idea of physical distancing and staying at home is an illusion. Enforcing this rule against those living from hand to mouth is tantamount to sending them to death. Trapped in the middle of your scourge and the assault of hunger-virus, a vast majority of the poor are willing to take their chances against your punches.

To the poor, you're a doubly dangerous devil. You plant contagion and they reap both contagion and starvation. Undaunted by your malevolence, they are willing to defy physical distancing and go out to earn their meager livelihoods. Unsupported by any meaningful relief package from their governments, earning their livelihoods is the only way they can secure their fragile lives. Disorienting as you are, they're more fearful of hunger-virus than they are of you. Unbeknownst to them, you're a double-dealing miscreant, determined to damage everything you touch.

Yes, the choice the poor make between you and hunger-virus is a false one, for what you don't destroy by contagion, you destroy by suffocation: you're smothering their marketplaces and withering their workplaces. In so doing, you pile misery on misery on them. You escalate their bad situation into a catastrophic clustering of disadvantage: poor health, poor education, poor living conditions, and poor nutrition. Because of you, the gulf between the haves and the have nots is widening and millions in the middleclass are falling into poverty.

Your unwanted visitation has elicited divergent responses across the globe. Everyday people, healthcare workers, first responders, and people from all walks of life are heroically tending to the sick and the dying. On the other hand, in places as various as Abuja and Lagos, armed robbery, price gouging, and domestic violence are rising.

You've been called all kinds of names, your notoriety has inspired all sorts of humorous monikers from the lips of children and ordinary folks: Corolla virus, Toyota virus, Colonial virus, Omororo moros, Corolia pilot, etc. Your misnaming is consistent with your enigma. What sort of creature are you? How do we figure you out? You've inspired multiple theories, ranging from the ridiculous, the irrational to the credible.

Some in the religious community say you're a divine messenger sent to punish us for our iniquities and get people to turn to God. This claim is as uninspiring as it is unimaginative. I'm not going to dignify it with further comments.

Some in the conspiracy theory community say you're fake, a hoax invented to deflect attention from the destructive radiation of 5G technology - the 5th generation of internet communications technology that is supposed to augment the speed of mobile and internet communications. If you're indeed being conflated with the weakening impact of 5G technology, the purveyors of this theory must explain how people located where there are no 5G masts are being infected by you.

Others say that the Universe is using you to get us to take a break from our frenzied activities and use the occasion to reflect, recalibrate and restructure our cities, our countries and our world. Regardless of the non-scientific views about you, I think the day belongs to the scientists. They helped unravel Ebola - your relative in the infamous Coronavirus family. They are putting together the antidotes for containing you. So far, scientists have helped map out your structure.

They say that you inhabit the ambiguous terrain between the living and the nonliving. They say that you're the newest incarnation of the vicious coronavirus family morphed into this inscrutable monster. When you sneak into a living host, you become enlivened and reproduce. Like a marauding ghost, you breeze about killing some, torturing many, and disorienting everyone. You have injected uncertainty into our lives and livelihoods.

What manner of torturer are you? Scientists are yet to uncover the mystery of your sinister mystique. You continue to remain enigmatic, mysterious and elusive. Manifold are your modes of transmission. You're seemingly determined to spread your menacing tentacles every which way. You extend your venoms through the pre-symptomatic, the asymptomatic, and the post-symptomatic. To double down on your unrelenting maliciousness, you re-infect many who have recovered from their battle against you. How callous! How unforgiving! You have come to enslave, enervate, and devastate. You're demonstrably determined to remain evasive.

Because of your resolute evasiveness and vengefulness, I worry about what you have in store for Nigeria, a country laden with corrupt and clueless politicians, a fragile mono-economy, a languid healthcare system, and a flammable socio-political system. I worry that with its moribund infrastructure, Nigeria will be decimated by your merciless scourge. Sadly, the only industry Nigerians can muster against you is their exponentially proliferating religious industry propelled by the wildfire of Pentecostal Christianity. Their loudmouthed prosperity-preaching pastors are all missing in action and their megachurches have, ironically, been shut down because of your threat.

Seemingly, you have negated their legendary miracle-working powers. Something puzzling is going on here! If indeed they raise the dead, heal the sick, enrich the poor, break ancestral curses, and prophesy about the future, how are they not able to ARREST and CAST you out from the face of the earth? What is it about you that has made their allegedly mountain-moving prayers ineffective? Is it their lack of faith or sheer trickery and robbery in the name of God? If indeed they're as "powerful" as they claim, they must explain why they've been sidelined, silenced, and classified as irrelevant.

If national progress is measured by the number of churches and mosques situated on a street, Nigeria would be the unassailable leader in this category. Despite the staggering explosion of churches and mosques in Nigeria, Nigeria is shamefully listed as one of the most corrupt and insecure countries in the world. Indeed, there isn't much to be desire from the quality of moral character produced by the Nigerian religious industry. The measure of a good religion lies in the quality of the citizens it produces. Nigeria is indisputably lacking on this count.

Besides its inability to curb corruption in Nigeria, the religious industry has failed to foster the socioeconomic development of Nigeria. This is why Nigeria is ill-equipped and ill-prepared to withstand your assault. Hopefully, this battle against you will expose the dishonesty of these TITHE-CHASING pastors and their inability to fix the socioeconomic problems facing Nigerians.

The ignoble legacy of Pentecostal Christianity is the prescription of tithe-giving as the all-purpose means for achieving socioeconomic success. They have become adept at brainwashing and convincing their unsuspecting church members that their poverty, their childlessness, their unemployed status, and their business failures will all be fixed if they only but religiously pay their tithes.

By peddling this false idea, these pastors decouple socioeconomic development from sound socioeconomic policies. Because of this false idea, their followers seem to be incapable of seeing the connection between their impoverished condition and the unsound socioeconomic policies enacted by their corrupt political leaders. Perhaps, your unwelcome visitation will help awaken Nigerians from their dogmatic slumber and free them from the stranglehold of religious fundamentalism and political mismanagement.

Going by the horrifying destruction you have caused in well off countries, it is reasonable to infer that, in the absence of welcome mitigating circumstances or intervention, you will inflict unimaginable misery in Nigeria. How will our fragile economy and our weak healthcare system survive your catastrophic blows? We lack ventilators, testing kits, surgical masks, personal protective equipment, and the tools for conducting effective contact-tracing of those infected by you. How many will be left to gather the debris from your carnage? From where shall we summon the courage to rebuild our lives and livelihoods from the ashes of your destruction?

We are Nigerians! We are Africans! We are a resilient people! We have survived natural disasters and human-made disasters. We survived slavery and colonialism. We are still carrying on, in spite of neocolonialism and racism.

Make no mistake, we shall puzzle you out and contain you! You have confused all of us some of the time, but you will not stun all of us all of the time. Like all challenges that life throws at us, we shall overcome! You and your troubles shall pass away! Your tomb shall become the womb from which we shall be reborn, our skills reinvented and our societies restructured.

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