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COVID-19: Let’s cycle back to the beginning (III)

COVID-19 coronavirus
COVID-19 coronavirus

THE SCIENCE AND THE DATA

Forgive me, but I never knew there was so much ambiguity in science. I used to think it was lawyers and economists who never agreed on anything within their fields. But with COVID, we non-medical people are thoroughly confused. So we have seen Covid morph from a disease transmitted by bats and non-transmissible among humans, to a super bug that transits among humans, transmits back to animals, stays on surfaces for days – some could even say weeks or forever – does not resist heat, hangs in the air for minutes, gets defecated in the toilet and hangs in the air for hours with the smell of poo, and how we hear that humans may have been transmitting COVID19 through farting!  The science has morphed a lot and some humble scientists have admitted that a lot gets made up as we go along and learn some more. Fair enough.  But where I am from, there is a limit to which you can build masquerades if you don’t want people to resist it altogether. So, if we are supposed to be afraid of everything – remember the fear factor at the foundations of COVID – then we may choose to fear nothing. I watched one Hausa-speaking guy yesterday on WhatsApp, wash his hands and drink the water, while hurling curses at Covid and the government. Nigerians are fatalistic. Hunger is one of our basest instincts, and diseases are secondary to some. Many have become very frustrated over time that they don’t scare easily. Our suburbs are bubbling with activities at night, though reduced from the normal levels. How many can the police hope to arrest?

The science and the statistics still don’t jive. When I saw info that the US may be dumping the flawed WHO model (similar to what Johns Hopkins/WHO/BMGF/CDC built in October 2019), I was happy. It may not be true but it will still come. There is something patently wrong with lumping up all sorts of deaths and calling them Covid19 deaths just to achieve a large figure and continue scaring the world. As a fact, COVID could be said not to have achieved pandemic levels yet, or not to be as deadly as being touted, because usually the number of flu deaths should be netted off at the end. CDC records show that each year, between 250,000 and 600,000 people die of flu all over the world. Covid, despite the lumping up of figures, or the reliance on models with often crazy assumptions, has killed about 130,000 as I type this. The number – according to the simulations – is meant to be at least 5million by now, and eventually 65million. An embarrassed Johns Hopkins University is trying to fight the fire. But some people look to Africa to supply the number. They say the many millions will come from here. It must never come from here. Look, if 1million people will die in Nigeria, the rest of us will die from the stench and the infection. We cannot handle a million dead people. Not even 100,000 people. This is not 1912. However, luckily there are things we have today which we did not have in 1912. A much better education, communication and exposure for one. Access to sundry medicine as well. And I hope, a strong will to continue living. Even the ability to write something as strong as I have written today, was scarce in those day. I am not beholden to any white man and will stand up for my people any day.

The statistics bear some extra scrutiny. Some countries have not conducted many tests but have high fatalities. Yet others have conducted many tests with low fatalities. Australia has conducted over 370,000 tests with 63 deaths. Russia has conducted 1.6million test with 198 deaths. UAE, 648,000 tests with 28 deaths. This means that clearly it may not be so fatal in some countries.  But a country like France conducted 334,000 tests with over 16,000 deaths, Ecuador, 25,000 tests with 369 deaths (curiously it is this same Ecuador that is being used as example of dead bodies on the streets. Are they unable to bury 369 people?). Algeria has only performed 3,400 tests but has 326 people dead. South Africa has conducted 82,000 tests but has incurred 27 fatalities. The figures swing wildly, with more deaths occurring in developed countries with very advanced health systems. Are they mismanaging peoples’ health? Or are they reporting large figures just to gain people’s attention? Something is certainly amiss. Those who know how to juggle figures are free to look up the stats at worldometers.info/coronavirus/.

 

THE ECONOMY IS DEADLIER

From Agege to Otta in Lagos and Ogun State, we have seen young boys on the streets, robbing en masse in broad daylight and at night in a new phenomenon of urban banditry. Boko Haram started just like that before it became a monster. Once young boys taste blood, they hardly go back. These boys had been in society, often neglected or ignored. Their typical day is spent in dreamy stupor, from drugs and alcohol. Their nights even in more stupor in different bars and clubs. Nigeria does not have a very bad drug problem though, compared to some other places I have been. But we have a problem. The population of those boys is a hard thing to control. We have also seen looting, not only by these cult boys, but by ordinary citizens, many of them children. A truck of bread or rice. Anything is up for grabs. We have seen families scooping palm oil from the gutters. We seem to have ignored for too long, just how quickly poverty can get desperate and grating in Nigeria. Like elsewhere in the world, most Nigerians live from hand to mouth. Perhaps a bit more than elsewhere. However, in Nigeria, there are no elaborate credit schemes that can allow you to buy whatever you want, no government to get your back if you are out of a job, and the dependency from extended families means that the little you have is spread thin, rendering you the lucky worker, poor. Until you are laid off that is. Right now, millions of Nigerians who work in any of the 41million MSMEs in Nigeria are as good as sacked. I tried to convince a friend the other day to at least keep his staff for one more month. He said he will pay them off for one week (of March) and send them away. Many of such people, earning anything like N30,000 to N90,000 monthly, will fall straight into food poverty after the first month. If people who earn more, say N500,000 monthly are unable to save (except if corrupt by doing deals), how much more these kinds of people. Then there are those who have been living on the fringes of life from time immemorial; those who didn’t complete their education, or are otherwise unlucky. Nigeria has millions of those, whom we must never ignore.

The economic challenge is for us, the greater challenge, because it cycles back to the other challenges. A broke nation is unable to take advantage of a crisis such as this, except she gets very ingenuous, and very quickly too. A collapsed economy is unable to raise taxes, or even obtain liquidity from her natural resources.  Where is our crude oil today?  If the economy totally collapses, that is when we will supply the millions of dead bodies that have been demanded of us; because little ailments will become untreatable, malnutrition will drop our people’s remaining immunity against COVID and other diseases, and general societal malaise will have us running and bumping into each other, creating casualties along the way. Nigeria will do well, to have a medium to long term vision, despite tackling the short term challenge that is Covid19. Only the strong survive, only the wise excel… only the lonely, die slowly – MC Lite.

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