The spike in the incidences of COVID-19 in Nigeria and particularly in the northern states calls for serious concern. It presents the region with inarguably its most daunting challenge in history.
Apart from Mal. Nasir Elrufa’i of Kaduna State and perhaps a few of his counterparts in the middle-belt or north central states, other governors in the region have demonstrated lack of leadership or foresight in handling the menace since its outbreak in Nigeria in early March. This is true, especially of the governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje whose people have allegedly continued to die in droves on account of COVID-19 or some other ‘unknown ailments.’
To think that in the face of this adversity, both the governor and his teeming but poor masses are calling for a relaxation of the lockdown imposed on the state by the President just about says it all. But how did Kano and the other core northern states get to this point?
The answer is simple. There is NOTHING that matters to the average core northerner than his religion, and then tribe/ethnicity – in that order. Any measure therefore, no matter how lofty, life saving, or progressive, that is perceived to tamper with his right to worship is considered provocative, suspicious and undesirable. This is the simple reason we are where we are in the north. And when you have religious leaders, whose words are highly revered, speaking in terms that suggest that somehow the virus is a hoax, the rest is body bags. This also accounts for the decades of backwardness, poverty and want that have continued to ravage the region.
This is the reason illiterates, inept, and divisive elements not only rise to power, but remain at the helm for long in the region. And this is the same reason we must fear for the future of the region.
Soon, the sins of the fathers shall be visited on the sons, and the children’s children. In fact, it has started to happen already.
Successive generations of northern leaders and politicians alike, have continued to see power as a national resource (but are unable to use it for the advancement of society or even the North), and their blind followers who have continued to defend their ineptitude as service to their religion are both trapped by the Monster Virus of Corona, Hunger, Banditry, and dilapidated Medical and Health Facilities. This is the reason people are dying daily with no end in sight.
I pray that after the end of this pandemic – and I hope it comes sooner rather than later – the lessons and economic hardship that will follow bring us closer to one another, to build a new North where merit, equity, and tolerance are the guiding principles of our coexistence. ONLY THEN shall the region rebound and and its people be liberated.
Until then, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Nigeria who are afflicted in one way or another by this pandemic. Surely, our country shall rise again.
~Edward John Auta is a Historian and Public Affairs Commentator