By Yinka Olujimi
Four days after it went viral, and this page was going to bed on Wednesday this week, the short video showing President Muhammadu Buhari allegedly mispronouncing the shortened form of the world’s greatest pandemic, coronavirus, was yet to be disproved by his media handlers.
It is therefore safe to conclude that the president of black Africa’s largest country is truly so removed from reality, and humanity, that he does not even know the difference between Covid-19, — Corona “co”, Virus “vi” and disease “d”, which began its rapacious and devastating attacks on human beings in 2019, “19”; and Covid 1-9, a completely meaningless pronunciation!
Of a truth however, there is great difficulty in determining that which is more distressing between the President’s faux pas and the mass murder of the country’s soldiers – yet again! – by Boko Haram in an ambush near Gomeri village in Yobe State.
But I digress.
Covid 1-9? Lawd have mercy!
Several weeks after the leaders of most countries – including those of the developed world, with their first class medical systems – had risen to the occasion, President Buhari who had had to be roused from a long nap could not even get a grasp of the name of the virus!
United States President Donald Trump who had earlier shown signs of disinterest in reports concerning the pandemic which started by ravaging a province in China called Wuhan, has since risen to the occasion. Trump has been giving daily briefings – sometimes twice daily! – to US citizens and residents. The citizens are therefore not in the dark about the US government’s plans and policies on how to combat the virus, or at least contain it.
In Nigeria, the usually servile Senate which passed a motion urging the president to address the citizens on the virus which has so far claimed 21,283 lives – at press time, and is sure to take more – received lacerating verbal attacks from Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu who, apparently, prefers an imperial president for Nigeria – one who cannot be held accountable for any of his actions, and whose tokenistic actions must be met with a standing ovation!
Now that the virus has fully announced its presence in Nigeria, knocking on the doors of the political elite, including the powerful Chief of Staff to the President Abba Kyari while Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo have had to undergo panicky tests, the biggest soundbite that the citizens will remember this period by is their leader’s inability to even pronounce the name of the virus correctly!
At least 16 governors who have had contacts with Kyari in the last few days are currently in mortal fear that they may have contracted the disease. Mohammed, a son of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has tested positive to the virus while a daughter of President Buhari is in self-isolation.
The number of confirmed cases in the country has risen to 40, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported on Wednesday. That figure is believed to include some Senators and members of the House of Representatives.
It is no surprise that the Nigerian political elite class is jittery about the virus: Twenty years after the return of putative democracy, and end of military rule, the country does not have a medical system that its leaders can rely on to treat even ear infections. It is, therefore, poetic justice that the scourge is currently making Nigeria’s leaders, past and present, to squirm.
Not in two lifetimes could Nigerian leaders have imagine that a day would come that they would have a need for medical attention abroad and their beloved foreign hospitals would be out of reach!
Could the problem be money, the stupendously rich leaders of the monstrously poor Nigerian nation, have it in abundance – as the Yoruba would say, would it be due to a dearth in the supply of oil (palm oil, I believe) or the lack of wherewithal for the purchase?
Many of Nigeria’s leaders no longer have use for chartered aircraft, they now compete among themselves in the ownership of private jets.
They could never have imagined that a day would come that the world would shut its doors against visitors, including members of their privileged class.
In the 16 years of its dominance of power at the centre, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could not boast of one – just one! – first class hospital. Its successor, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has also failed spectacularly on the score, meaning that neither party has been motivated by enlightened self-interest – not even one hospital to cater to their needs in case of emergency!
In a manner never heard of before globally, President Buhari has turned medical tourism into an art, jetting out of Nigeria at will and spending months in another country for an undisclosed ailment. Now that his favorite spot for medical treatment, Britain, has been overwhelmed by a high incidence of coronavirus and has thus shut its airspace against foreigners, where will Buhari go to seek succor? Now that his daughter is in self-isolation, can she seek medical help from foreign hospitals?
It is hoped that Atiku and former President Obasanjo, as well as the families of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and President Goodluck Jonathan will today remember the lost opportunities. It is also my fervent prayer that the legislators who are in the position to force the incumbent President and his team to give proper attention to basic public needs but chose to allocate funds for their private greed of exotic imported cars will have a rethink – in their enlightened self-interest. Pray, of what use are those wonders on wheels to the dead?
It is also hoped, fervently, that the mass murder of Nigerian soldiers by Boko Haram will provoke the right anger in the President to rejig the country’s security architecture. If a non-performing employee is shown the exit on that account, his successor will know that his stay in the office will be secure only on account of better performance. Today, the heads of the Nigerian armed forces are tired and without motivation for more trophies.
Retaining such military rulers, under whom troops have been killed like fleas by ill-trained marauders, is a sure recipe for further disaster.
We have shouted ourselves hoarse, and can only pray that the President, or those who act in his name, will know that the threats of coronavirus, and the further decapitation of the Nigerian military by Boko Haram, are inter-twined: We are either good or doomed by the action, or inaction of the government.