Mask-less would-be victims of COVID-19

PHOTO: FT

Many persons, including this opinion-page columnist, from time to time get messages from the NCDC, that is, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control relating to the very notorious pandemic universally known as Coronavirus or COVID-19 for short as the World Health Organization (WHO) labels it – and wants the world to so recognize and call it. An example of the numerous messages that the NCDC had sent me at different times in the past is this: “COVID-19 spreads easily even by those showing no symptoms. When you hug, shake hands or share items with others you risk being infected.

Take Responsibility.” Earlier on, the NCDC had sent the following message: “COVID -19 and malaria may have similar symptoms but are caused by different agents. Note that while COVID-19 can spread from person to person, malaria cannot.” Such messages (and others) were positively educative and enlightening ones meant by the NCDC to affect our perception of the pandemic in the right direction. They were meant to tell and underline to us what the pandemic is and what it is not. The powerful power of the pandemic and its efficiency as a killer of killers of its careless victims are embedded in these messages (and other ones). And by sending the messages it had sent to our phone numbers the NCDC was without doubt doing the diligent duty of an efficient public relations outfit or centre or organization.

But has the public relations work of the NCDC really helped in cautioning our people against the pandemic as expected, I mean as the NCDC had (and has) expected? If we answer in the positive, will those who think otherwise not say that in view of the daily rise of the figures of the pandemic victims in the country that the positive answer is merely an artificial one that we should take only with caution? This latter question is a very necessary and important one because of what appears to me to be the impatience of the generality of our people to consider the good work so far done by the enlightenment people in the NCDC. In other words, the generality of the public have not really acknowledged that the NCDC enlightenment approach to containing the pandemic has much stimulated and much helped their collective attitude.

Simply put, and to re-frame the statement in the form of a question, if the people are not grateful to the NCDC for its enlightenment campaign, does it not mean that they have disowned it, or that they are disowning it by their every action of not paying heed to the integrity of the enlightenment campaign?

You see, there is hardly a Nigerian town or city where the enlightenment campaign has not primarily been critically repudiated. Maybe due to the problem of electricity in several urban cities and towns many people hardly follow what the NCDC anti-COVID-19 campaigners and enlightened spirited instructors and medical edifiers say on our respective radio and television stations and channels. This, I think, explains why the NCDC has taken the campaign to our telephones with pertinent precisely to-the-point text messages even to rural dwellers’ telephones. Very recently, the text message – in fact, the latest text message – that found my phone reads thus: “Wearing a mask helps, protect us from the droplets that carry the COVID-19 virus.

Please take Responsibility for your health and for your loved ones.” I also saw an enlarged version of this message in one of our tabloids. But the NCDC benevolent fellows who have the benevolence to spread the good and healthy news relating to the public health benefit of “wearing a [face] mask” know too well that to read a newspaper nowadays is by no means economically buoyant to and for several persons. What this means is that the expected number of people the NCDC desires to reach may not be reached through the media of newspapers and radios and televisions alone. This is why the NCDC anti-COVID campaigners and instructors have the patience to consider to visit us, and to reach a larger and more difficult audience through the telephone mode as already indicated. What the powerful newspaper and radio and television media cannot or could not achieve in the endeavour to arrest COVID-19 permanently, the mobile telephone will or would. But what a mirage this hope is turning out to be!

In this passing week I crisscrossed, after a pretty long time, the strange longitudes and latitudes, as far as I could, of the fabulous city of Lagos, our one and only Eko, where everyone from everywhere come to ransack in quest of moolah that the holy and unholy city at the same time is known to possess beyond measure and beyond our longest, widest and wildest imaginations. And O, what did I behold? What did my keen and investigative eyes behold? You better believe it: From Ajah and beyond Ajah up to Victoria Island and beyond I counted ten persons – in fact, less than ten persons – who wore face masks.

This is not an exaggeration. In this stupendously populated economic and commercial capital of our country to wear face masks by all those who are assigned to wear them is akin to a taboo, it seems. Why will COVID -19 vanish from our shores? And why should Eko city not take the lead on daily basis in the number of reported cases of the horrible COVID-19?

As a matter of fact, many would-be victims of COVID-19 abound in this hugely mask-less city of the horrifying pandemic. You better believe me – big time, if you sincerely follow my turn of mind. You better believe me. I say this again.

Now, I entered some markets and some places I was seeing and knowing for the first time. I entered Ikota. What a place that compelled me to throw up! The less I offer my description of the rotten, highly negatively squalid place the better. Are there real political and economic developers of our cities and citizens in our country? The young chap, a Tiv indigene from Benue State, driving me around, on noticing my depressed and distressed state, said to me: “Oga, koro nor dey Ikota o!” I also partially entered Abraham Adesanya Estate. I espied what I could espy there. Mask-less would-be victims of COVID-19 were caught sight of as they were massively observed as they were else- where outside our great city.

Now let me say this: I tried to speak to several defaulters. “Why are you not wearing a mask”? Some hissed and gave me no answer and walked away. Some simply told me that there was nothing like COVID-19 or Coronavirus, as my chauffer intimated me in his Ikota remark to me. But here is the gem of an answer I got at Abraham Adesanya Estate: “Please sir, show me the colour of Coronavirus. Is it yellow, red or brown or black? Have you seen this thing with your koro-koro eyes”? Hell! “Hunger dey show us pepper… and you dey tell us make we tie our faces with yeye gofment rope.” “Where is the money to get the okorobia for my face”? “Go your way, jo, Oga Face mask.” These were some of the blunt replies from different mask-less would-be victims of COVID-19 I got, I the busybody columnist.

The central government has announced that exit classes in our secondary schools and colleges should resume to get set for their external WASSCE examinations. Good luck to the central government and to Nigerians. The best I can do for my compatriots is to stop at this point. Good luck to our hapless NCDC and the equally hapless Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and to all of us. This is the best I can wish here for now. And may this wish not be in vain.

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

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