By Ehichioya Ezomon
With another wave of COVID-19, and two new fast-moving UK and South Africa variants of the pandemic reported in many countries, Nigerians welcomed 2021 with pomp and ceremony.
This comes as government threatens another lockdown if the citizens wouldn’t observe hygienic and social protocols to stem the deadly coronavirus that has claimed almost 1,300 Nigerian lives.
The people appeared to dare the government to do its worst that would pale into nothing compared to what they’d suffered in 2020, which they wanted to put behind them on New Year’s eve.
Official order against crossover services and large gatherings was observed in the breach. Many worship centres opened, while wild parties were staged in the streets or enclosures from prying eyes.
The worships and partying spanned hours, heralding the countdown to 2021 with pyrotechnic (fireworks) lighting up the night skies with brilliant, dazzling, exciting, explosive and sparkling colours.
The cascading fireworks falling on rooftops, which could inflame a house, and the high decibel from a music system, roused me from an early nap I’d decided to take ahead of the countdown to 2021.
Awake, I was determined to confront the yard person(s) trying to “torch” the compound, only to realise that the celebrative noise and loud bangs from fireworks were located outside the fortification.
As I went out the gate, I noticed that the short street was abuzz with scores of young revellers, several waving the pyrotechnic sticks or shooting fireballs to the excitement of onlookers.
Besides the computer-generated dance-floor music for a stage set with scores of chairs arranged in the street, the two churches opposite were at the peak of their crossover praise-worships.
It’s as if there’s no COVID-19 or another wave of the pandemic that has forced the government to contemplate imposing a stricter lockdown in 2021 than the previous one in 2020.
The people had queried government’s rationale for locking down the society when it hadn’t provided for its citizens as other countries did, to ameliorate the worsening economic conditions they faced.
However, the #EndSARS protests that swept the country in late 2020, and the attendant hoodlums’ looting spree, revealed that the Federal Government had provided COVID palliatives to the states.
Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, repeatedly claimed that the government had spent billions daily to provide palliatives to Nigerians, who denied her assertion as “government magic.”
But the hoodlums’s hijack of #EndSARS protests blew the lid off the state governments’s scamming of their citizens by hoarding and/or sharing the COVID palliatives for society’s privileged few.
So, with nothing to lose, as earnings by employees, and from daily scavenging by the unemployed had vanished, the people were poised to defy the government crossover order.
On December 30, two days to New Year, on the longest road traversing our community in Alimosho local government area of Lagos, I had encounter with a group of boys in their twenties.
As I walked by, two of the boys greeted me, and I recognised them as resident on our street. After acknowledging their formalities, I asked what they’re doing in the group. They said they’re just “flexing” (showing off), and I said in these dangerous times?
Before they could respond, the one that looked as their leader enquired who I was, to which one of the two boys, said, “We live on the same street, and his the father of those “Oyinbo boys.”
“Which ‘Oyinbo boys’ are you talking about,” the “leader” said. “Those ‘Oyinbo-looking boys’ at ‘K’ School, you remember?” the first boy said. “Oh, those two brothers?” the “leader” said, giving his obeisance, and the others did likewise.
Addressing the gathering, I noted that none of them had on face mask or shield, reminding them that COVID-19 hadn’t been conquered, and in fact, a potential wave was imminent.
In unison, as cued, they said there’s no coronavirus, at least not in Nigeria. Otherwise, people would be dying in the streets like diseased fowls in contaminated chicken farms.
My counter-submissions with the grim realities around the world, particularly in the Americas, Europe and Asia failed to convince them on the existence of the pandemic. The boys’ “leader” summed up the group’s position on official stand on the spiking virus.
He said: “We heard that the government, both federal and states, has threatened another lockdown, and said we shouldn’t celebrate the crossover night, right?
“We know you’re a Journalist, and you have a platform to reach the government. Please, help us to tell them that they can shutdown the country. It’s their obligation, and duty to so do if they want.
“But let them know that they cannot trample on the right of the citizens to assemble and celebrate the way they want also. That’s the remaining fundamental and inalienable right the government cannot take away from us, COVID-19 or not.
“We have suffered so much this year (2020). Instead of finding ways to assist us to cope, like other governments, our government is trying to cancel the crossover the people want to use to forget 2020. We will not succumb. We will celebrate it in a big way.”
To his group, the “leader” said, “Let’s go.” And turning to me, he bowed and said, “Thank you, Sir. We appreciate meeting you. And we trust you will deliver our message to government. God day.” The rest courtesied, and started chatting, oblivious of my presence.
Those boys represent the sentiments sweeping across Nigeria: The people are tired of COVID-19 and it fatalities, which they dismiss as a propaganda tool by the government and foreign collaborators.
Nigerians are less convincing of the virus than they’re at the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Their position is hardened by the “limited number” of infections and deaths in a population of 205 million.
That’s why they attribute those fatalities to “ordinary” ailments and deaths that afflict the citizens – and had afflicted the people over the ages – from multiple causes unrelated to COVID-19.
The more worrying news is that the so-called elite in the society, who should lead the crusade against the pandemic, are the ones casting doubts on its existence, based solely on sentiments: that it’s an extermination war to cut the population of Black people.
Lately, former world number one billionaire, and renowned philanthropist, Bill Gate, rankled the sensibility of Blacks when he questioned COVID-19’s low infection and fatality rates in Africa.
It’s a ready ammo in the hands of critics of alleged propagators of the coronavirus, which, for instance in the U.S., has reportedly disproportionately killed more Blacks and people of colour.
The critics are especially concerned about the seeming politicisation of the CIVID-19 vaccine candidates that have been developed or being developed by powerful nations in America, Europe and Asia.
Flowing from Bill Gates’ poser, the debate has shifted to the vaccines that are yet to roll out in any African countries, but are receiving cold shoulders from the club of the elite.
For now, they will not take nor allow members of their households to be jabbed with the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca or the Chinese or Russian vaccines.
While the Nigerian government has a spike in COVID-19 it threatens to tackle with another lockdown, the harder task is to convince a sceptical and an untrusting citizenry to take the shots when the vaccines finally arrive on our shores.
Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos