Sunday, April 26, 2020
Harrisburg, PA, USA

n Saturday, April 25, 2020, the governor of Anambra state, Chief Willie Obiano, announced that he was relaxing the stay at home order he gave with immediate effect. “All food markets, including restaurants and bars, are to reopen for normal business...”, he announced. His decision seemed to be predicated on the following reasons: the COVID-19 index case in the state, who was treated by doctors there, had fully recovered as attested by two tests that came back negative. He noted that the man had been discharged and reunited with his family. Also, the 36 people identified as having come in contact with the index case, have all been tested and their tests came back negative. Fair enough.

In his address, the Governor noted that “COVID-19 is not a death sentence”. I fully agree with him because along with the sad and awful statistics we see of people losing their lives to the contagion, we are also seeing statistics of thousand that have survived it and still doing so.

I must admit that I am a vanguard for the stay at home order, for now, to minimize the rate of spread of the disease. But based on the evidence the Governor adduced for his action, I have no basis to fault him. However, my concern is that while nations are dealing with thousands of COVID-19 cases, with many of them surviving the scourge and living, using just one case in Anambra State to make a very far-reaching decision, may not convince many, including this writer. As an engineer, I think in terms of statistical sample. But someone can counter my argument or concern with the fact that the disease is just not in the state since there is only one known case and that case has been successfully treated. But my response would be that some nations now dealing with thousands of COVID-19 cases and deaths, originally thought they were not going to be affected but once the spigot of COVID cases opened, they have been battling the contagion, to no end, since then.

It is possible that there are truly no COVID cases in Anambra state. My cousin in Nigeria, who is in the know, wrote that if there are COVID cases and people dying in great numbers in Nigeria, you cannot hide it. He is probably right and nothing will gladden my heart more if this proves to be true and I pray that the governor will be vindicated.

The governor says that the border around Anambra state remain closed. In other words, anyone with the disease cannot enter the state and infect people. I do not know how effective the border closure has been, considering the fact that we read about people crossing the border at night. He also asked that folks continue to maintain the subsisting safety guidelines like wearing of masks, social distancing, washing hands and the likes. This is the area that is of most concern. Even when the stay at home order was in place, people were still flouting it. When you talked to people on the phone, some do not even believe that the stories they were hearing about the deadliness of the contagion were true. Those who believe the existence of the contagion, still feel like the disease “was made for people abroad” and hence would not get to the state. If this type of nonchalance and complacency existed when there was an enforceable “stay at home” order, what would happen now that the order has been lifted? How would the governor ensure that complacency, from all quarters, does not muddy up the waters and put the state in a situation it will not be able to extricate herself from?

I can fully understand the pressure to lift the stay at home order. People are hurting. Many who depend on their daily business of buying and selling, to feed their families, suddenly could no longer do that. The source of income suddenly dried up and life progressively became unbearable. I recall some one I talked to in the state telling me that it was better to die from COVID-19 than die from hunger! That statement really got my attention, but I always respond that if there is life, there will always be a way and that the lockdown order was not a punishment but an attempt to preserve lives.

The governor mentioned the doctors that worked on the state COVID-19 index case and helped nurse the person to life. I am impressed and will always believe in the brilliance of the people of the state and Nigeria in general. Folks always ask me why I always tout the brilliance of Nigerians and my answer is simple. For six solid years, I was at the university of Nigeria school of architecture in Enugu campus. That campus houses the medical faculty. I knew so many of the medical students then. I knew how brilliant they were. Some of them left record test scores in the secondary school WAEC exams then that ranged from aggregate 6 to 10 (distinction) and left academic footprints unsurpassed at the university of Nigeria. Many have gone on to different parts of the globe, doing wonderful and trail-blazing things in the medical field. I am tempted to name some but will resist the temptation. So I am not surprised at the brilliance the folks that treated the index case must have displayed as attested to by the governor for which he said they would get cash rewards. But I have to temper my praise with caution. We are talking about one COVID case! It will take several cases, following the same safe recovery trajectory, for one to make a full declaration.

Furthermore, globally, no one has yet come across or at least said that they have discovered a cure. I think it is important if the Anambra state government can provide to the public some insight into the treatment regimen of the COVID index case. That way, if there is something that could be learned by other Nigerian states, or the world at large, it can apply. For in a situation where a recalcitrant contagion has invaded the world, no one knows where the cure could come from. It could come from the brilliant doctors in Anambra state! Folks, eternal vigilance is the key for I know that Nigeria is not fully equipped to respond to a surge of COVID cases in terms of hospitals, equipment, manpower and testing laboratories. Look at what is happening in Kano. People are dying and no one knows what is killing them. All efforts must be on deck to continue to take preemptive steps to ensure that the contagion does not fully make its way into the hinterland. This can be achieved through social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands often, and so on. These scenarios we see on video where folks are struggling to get food items, rubbing against one another, talking into each other’s’ faces without face masks, is creating a ticking time bomb and must be discouraged. Hopefully, with the relaxation of the lockdown in Anambra State, these scenes will slowly be consigned to the limbo of forgotten events.

Finally, it may well be that the proclamation, from some quarters, that heat in Africa shortens the life span of COVID-19 and hence the very low incidence levels. If that is so, we thank God and that would, by extension, mean that in Summer, reprieve will come to places like the United States. It will be a most-welcome scenario.

May God continue to help us


Author of the books- 1. Nigeria: Contemporary Commentaries and Essays

2. Surviving in Biafra: The Story of the Nigerian Civil War