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Monday 25th May 2020,
Hope for Nigeria

Bode George: Pumping Billions In School Feeding When Schools Are Closed Absurd

Bode George

Bode George: All over the world, from Australia to the farthest reaches of Iceland, from the blue fields of Nicaragua in South America to the steppes of Asia – every inch of moth­er earth is infected with the scourge of the Covid-19 pan­demic.

There is no escape. There is no immune corner of the globe. There is palpable panic everywhere. We are all scared of the unknown. The young, the old, even the innocent baby of the cradle are all smitten by this dead­ly virus.

The novel Coronavirus does not discriminate be­tween the rich or the poor. It is indifferent to tribal identity. It is unknown to sectarian affiliation. It does not recognize race or creed.

It claims everyone in un­believable sweeping and blighting speed. Humanity is now held hostage by this pandemic. We are all endan­gered.

Economies of the world are shutting down. Schools, institutions and great cen­ters of human knowledge are shuttered, locked up by the insidious pandemic that no one really understands.

All kinds of theories abound everywhere about the provenance of corona­virus. Some say it emerged from the wet markets of Wuhan in central China. Others claim it emanated through a breach at the Wu­han Virology Laboratory in the vast Hubei Province of China.

True, we know how Coro­navirus spreads. We also know the gestation period, but we do not know why some are asymptomatic. While we know that it can spread through the air or the proximity to contam­inated objects, it is now baffling scientists with the infection of toddlers and babies who were once thought to be immune to the virus.

Nevertheless, scientists across the world are busy, hunkered down in their laboratories, searching des­perately for a solution and invariably for a cure before humanity is wiped out.

Leaders from the First world are rolling up their sleeves and pumping tril­lions of dollars to aid the research effort to produce a vaccine that would staunch the murderous march of this hideous scourge.

Even here in Africa, leaders from Madagascar, Ethiopia, Congo and even Ghana are prodding their scientists and plumbing the depths and the secrets of the ancient herbs in a desperate search for the golden bullet that will erad­icate the present suffering of humanity.

But as leaders, scientists and all kinds of specialists and Epidemiologists are racing towards a solution; I do not see the same level of seriousness, the same level of coherence and deliberate aggregated and aggressive management of this pan­demic in our country.

Please let me emphasize that I do not write as a par­tisan politician in this tur­bulence that is affrighting all of us. My intervention here is without tribal or sectarian articulations.

I write as a Nigerian who believes in the Nigerian dream, who believes that this nation is desperate for a salvaging assemblage of elders regardless of geo­graphical or any other af­filiation.

It appears that our en­gagement of the Coronavi­rus is at best sophomoric, indifferent, stripped of pro­fessional enlightenment, lacking in necessary com­prehensive vigor to tackle heads-on this murderous scourge.

The composition of the Presidential Task Force is not exactly a first line of well hewn, cutting edge in­telligentsia that this nation can boast of.

Virtually in all fields of human endeavour, there is always a Nigerian with sterling talent that can ri­val anyone, anywhere with prodigious exemplary demonstration of merit.

We have them here: Vi­rologists, Epidemiologists, Microbiologists, Morbidity experts, Homeostatic schol­ars, infectious disease ex­perts and many others who are experts in the field of study of the dysfunction of the human body.

Why are we not using them to mitigate, combat and destroy the Covid-19 malady?

What are we actually do­ing to contain this scourge?

Are we merely walking in the dark, strolling blindly in the black alleys, wishing the virus away, abandoning ourselves to fate, hoping that some African voodoo or whatever else will sud­denly make it disappear?

It will never happen. While we cannot copy the rest of the world in some mechanical capricious ges­ture, we must be original, cultivating home-grown solution and at the same time embracing proven and attested global examples.

Whimsically shutting down a nation will not make the virus go away. There must be a coordinated stra­tegic plan. There must be a deliberate framework of action to contain this invis­ible enemy.

The only way to achieve this is through collabora­tion on a defined platform. No one can do it alone. Let us assemble experts from various related fields. Let us challenge our scientists with the best of working incentives and give them a marching order to crank up their laboratories, to ex­plore the furthest reaches of knowledge and holding them as our first line of defense to save our country from this alien, invisible vi­rus.

Pumping money into school feeding programme while the schools are not open is a little absurd. It is a redundant, unwork­able palliative. In a nation where there is no standard numbering of houses, how do you get the food to the beneficiaries? This is more than laughable. It is tragic.

The sprinkling of nai­ra notes in market places and pre-arranged venues are good media agendas. But they are no palliatives. Yes, our people are hungry. Our GDP which is about 144 trillion naira has lost 21 trillion naira presently to Covid-19. And the amount is still rising as our econ­omy has shrunk into a re­cession.

For sure, fanciful media affair is hardly the effica­cious tool we need now.

This is hardly our priori­ty. Yes, we must balance the hunger indications with the prevailing scourge of the virus. In a situation where we cannot even distribute the economic palliatives ef­fectively, how in the world can we be talking about school feeding? A lot is not right about our national vision.

Our people are hungry and afraid. Our society like the rest of the world is on panic mode. We need to be seen to engage this pandemic with a compre­hensive, well thought out, believable strategy. That is should be our complemen­tary goal.

Leaders across the globe who appreciate the gravity that humanity is confront­ed with are managing the situation with proper con­sultations and designing appropriate strategies that will ameliorate the suffer­ings of their people.

We are yet to master the chal­lenges at hand. Are we fiddling in some unwitting indifference?

We appear dazed, ill-fo­cused, deepened in tumult and in uncertainty. Let us return to the calm waters of collaborative efforts. Let us bring our best and the brightest and huddle them in various research labo­ratories to probe for new truths, to search for new knowledge, to dig deep into the vast arcana of learning, mustering the tools to dis­cover what will tame, con­tain and destroy this invis­ible enemy.

We must never reduce this obvious national chal­lenge to a partisan feud. This is beyond sectional triumphalism or sectarian animosity. It is about the collective survival of our nation. Let us act now by coming together, by dis­carding old divisions and embracing a new national­istic front that can hopeful­ly salvage our country from this pandemic.

Let our leaders rise in the true spirit of national vision and mobilise our people towards rescue and redemption. This is indeed how nations are built and strengthened in the times of great challenges. We must wield this country together now in one indi­visible brotherhood.

There are no half mea­sures. There are no sep­arate ways. The solution must be collective, predi­cated in deliberately culti­vated consensus.

In this pandemic crisis, we must yield to the joint expertise of those who are trained in specific medi­cal fields. That is the only way out. That is the path of wisdom, and that is how we can renew and rebuild our economy long after this murderous scourge has been mitigated and halted in its tracks. I wish our na­tion well.

Chief Olabode Ibiyinka George, B.sc (ENG), MBA, FNSE, CON, Atona Odua Of Yorubaland

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