Coronavirus is death’s latest stranglehold on the breath called life. Its mishmash surname, COVID-19, gives no damn about breaking ocular dams and flooding households with tears.
Since 2019, COVID-19 has been busy digging graves worldwide, handing out shrouds to families to wrap their dead. Coronavirus isn’t joking. It’s seriously grinding humanity to a helpless submission. It’s bent on making the earth a Golgotha of skulls and bones. Mother Earth needs urgent help before it’s too late.
Generally, prayer reflects the gratitudes, needs, hopes and fears of a people. A family in the Sahara Desert where camels and donkeys are the only means of transport won’t pray for protection against automobile accidents, rather, potable water may feature prominently in their supplications.
Whilst foraging for daily bread, Nigerians pray to not become food to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field. This prayer encrypts the nastiness, shortness and unpredictability of life in Nigeria. Agbako is the unforeseen evil that mows its victims down at the junction of coincidence. I pray, may we never accost Agbako. May we not travel when the road thirsts for blood.
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Penultimate week, I was inadvertently exposed to coronavirus through someone in my office, who had a cough and subsequently went for a test. When his result came out positive, I neither fainted nor shivered, but, in my solemn mind, I recalled how many times he coughed when I was very close to him without wearing my face mask and also asked myself if our physical proximity was enough for coronavirus to make me a host.
‘Yari’ is a Yoruba verb that means ‘protest’ or ‘refuse’. Immediately the result came out positive, everyone in the office was told to go for a test while the gentleman with the virus was admitted to hospital. The company didn’t say the gentleman had an ‘undisclosed ailment’, a cover-up parlance in Nigeria’s power circle. Nobody played the big man. Everyone was provided with complete protective gears. Nobody ‘YARIed’ like an idiot refusing to adhere to safety protocols and pushing people away in the public domain.
The human mind could be very mischievous. Prior to the announcement of the result, I had a nagging pain at the tip of my right shoulder blade and a tiny boil had surfaced on my upper left eyelid. “Eledumare”, I said to myself, “have the symptoms of coronavirus mutated to include shoulder blade pain and boil? Ao ma ni se agbako o.”
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Clinically approved hand sanitisers have between 62 to 75% alcohol content. Long before coronavirus knocked on the door of my office, I had combed liquor stores and got a drink with 95% alcohol to which I added a few drops of Tea Tree Oil to make a most potent sanitiser.
Americans are a very forthcoming people. After the gentleman in my office tested positive to COVID-19, a couple of my colleagues openly said they couldn’t taste or smell, foretelling the onset of the virus. I was grateful; I could still taste banga soup and smell the pungent alcoholic content of the liquor called Everclear with which I daily sanitise my hands, swab my nostrils and ears intermittently.
Though my body temperature ranged gratefully between 97.4°F and 97.7°F, I hung two face masks on the indicator stalk of my car’s steering wheel and another two on the wiper stalk. Oju ni alakan fi nsori asserts the eternal vigilance of the crab’s unblinking eyes.
Back to my workplace. When you go for COVID test, which is free to all members of the public, you’re expected to stay away from work, pending the time your result would be out. While away from work, your full hours would be paid. Whether your result comes out negative or positive, you would be paid your full hours all through your quarantine and treatment. Comparing these gestures to the inhuman response of my fatherland, Nigeria, to the pandemic, I became saddened.
The test centre was located in a park. It was a drive-thru – meaning that the test would be done while you’re behind the wheel. The single-line traffic was long but very orderly and steady. Nobody shunted the traffic. There were no siren-blaring convoys. As you drive into the park, an official gives you a paper to fill in your personal information, and you move with the traffic flow. There was nobody on foot. No Area Boys loitered.
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When I finally reached the test arena gan-gan, I wound down my glass and a white female medic explained the procedure to me. Jokingly, she assured me that the nasal swab won’t reach to the back of my brain and we both laughed. Because I had heard about tales of painful test experiences from friends, I gingerly removed my glasses and face mask as I prepared to flinch. The medic hardly put the swab past my moustache before removing it. Shocked, I asked her, “Are you done?” “Yes,” she answered. “It didn’t get to the back of my brain,” I said. She burst into laughter as I drove off, turned on the car stereo and resumed listening to King Sunny Ade’s ‘E su biribiri k’ebomi’ which I enjoyed while driving to the test centre.
If I was to subtitle ‘E su biribiri k’ebomi’ in English, I’d call it ‘Crossroads’. In the evergreen song, the singer is at a crossroads in his odyssey but remains courageous and confident about surmounting the odds. He sets out by acknowledging God, the elders and spirits of the land even as he continues to lament his strandedness. In a litany of errors, his enemies dip the feathers of agbe, aluko, odidere and lekeleke in wrong potions, making the various birds flourish rather than flounder.
Like the singer, Nigerian President, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) is stranded at a crossroads over national issues. Unlike the musician, however, Buhari has no idea about how to surmount the odds. While the singer is confident and courageous, Buhari appears confused and cowardly. Instead of embarking on redeeming actions, the President’s actions and inactions dip the fate of the country further into doom. Like the enemies commit irreversible errors in ‘E su biribiri’ and worsen the situation, Buhari and the members of his regime have been committing alarming errors and worsening the fate of Nigeria.
These are evident in the shameful fights within the All Progressives Congress. Explaining why the Buhari regime failed to deliver on the dividends of democracy in its first term, the APC blamed former Senate President Bukola Saraki and his cohorts for distracting Buhari. However, Saraki and his co-travellers lost their reelection bids and the APC took control of the Senate.
But barely 14 months into Buhari’s second term, the APC has been enmeshed in ignoble infightings that reveal that the party is worse than the Peoples Democratic Party, whose 16-year political apocalypse now seems like a time in paradise. Before the end of his first term, Buhari emerged as the first Nigerian leader whose domestic affairs ceaselessly boiled over into public glare with his wife, Aisha, engaging relatives and aides in self-serving roforofo fights.
Today, Buhari’s government is in chaos, typical of a drunken free-for-all scene in a public motor park. Some of the bouts which Nigerians have been treated to include NDDC VS NASS (Cage Fight), Abba vs I-sha (Seasons 1-10), Magu vs Malami (Blockbuster), Oshiomhole vs Obaseki (Combat); Akpabio vs Nunieh (Slugfest), I-sha vs Tunde (Family War), Abike-Dabiri vs Pantami (Landlord-Tenant Fight), Kyari vs Babagana Monguno (Heavyweight Duel); Kyari vs Oyo-Ita (Winner-Takes-All), Isaac Adewole vs Usman Yusuf (Pay-Per-View), Kachikwu vs Baru (Grudge Fight), Keyamo vs NASS (Market Noise); Oshiomhole vs Ngige (Garage Fight), IG vs Musliu Smith (Insubordination Bout), DSS vs Magu (Arms Struggle), Bourdillon vs Katsina (Loading Fight-of-the-Century)…
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In today’s APC, bottles break, heads bleed, tragedy looms, Buhari blooms.
Tunde Odesola is a seasoned journalist and a columnist with the Punch newspaper.