Government at all levels and private bodies have continued to use several channels to inform the populace of the reality of the pandemic and how they can keep safe however, not a few Nigerians remain skeptical.
These doubting Thomases may be convinced that COVID-19 is real abroad but not in Nigeria. They view the Coronavirus pandemic as nothing but another scamdemic the Nigerian political class are using to enrich themselves.
They wonder how it is easier to locate the poorest of the poor who typically are without addresses for palliatives but can’t contact trace travelers with official passports and contacts to be tested.
They ask how the school feeding programme is being carried out when schools are not in session but complain they don’t have enough beds for COVID-19 patients.
They query the speed in which the social register increased by a million in two weeks but tests for coronavirus is still below 40,000 after three months. These things don’t sum up.
Word on the street is that since some index states got grants in billions of naira from the federal government to tackle the disease, other states don’t want to be left out and so are churning out inflated cases even if the illnesses are mild fevers unrelated to corona.
The doubters question how Lassa fever that is claiming more lives is all of a sudden neglected to battle a virus they swear is not a black man’s disease.
Conspiracy theories floating the air makes matters worse. Are Africans pawns in the struggle for who controls the emerging world order? Is it a lab virus to depopulate the earth? Does it have any connection with 5G? Why the uncharacteristic rush by a hitherto absentee National Assembly to repeal the archaic quarantine act for a new one that makes vaccination obligatory?
If you think the Thomases are the uninformed, you are wrong. Even a sizable fraction of the urban elite propagates the falsehood of the whole thing.
This is being reflected in the noncompliance to the lockdowns, social distancing or wearing of facemasks in banks, shopping malls and other supposed corporate settings the elite patronize.
These Thomases should not be blamed. The inability to lead the conversation, engage the people and be transparent in dealings by those in authority have led to rumours and fake news making the communication managers mainly debunking already viral false information.
And when they do speak, it is muddled in contradictions. The foggy explanations on the whereabouts, identity and mission of the Chinese 12 (or are they more) and the messy quarantining of the Benue index case only adds to the potpourri of cynicisms.
Why does it appear as if some states are discrediting the work of NCDC priding in their contestable zero positive patients? And why did NCDC, a supposedly data-driven agency, unprofessionally retract some of its figures in seeming apology to some states?
Beyond what is being heard, the inaudible is louder. We have all lost faith in the government at one time or the other. Our belief in the government protecting us keeps eroding as we moved from hiring private security, to installing more fortifying home burglaries to avoiding living in certain areas.
When we couldn’t get potable water straight from our kitchen sinks that makes us all to drill personal bore holes, our belief in the government watered. When we enrolled our children in extramural lessons because their undermotivated teachers and underequipped public schools couldn’t give them the optimum.
We are now moving them from private schools to school overseas. It is the same with the health sector where we now trust alternative medicines and prayers more than teaching hospitals. Even those that use the pulpit to encourage us to believe in Nigeria have their children in Canada.
Those that doubt COVID-19 doubted it long before the index case was reported in our shores. Distrust in the government is subliminally becoming a religion and daily press briefings or campaigns by elected officials washing their hands with water flowing from golden faucets won’t make proselytes of them overnight. Good governance will.
So, if you encounter one of those people that don’t believe in coronavirus, just spare yourself arguments. Socially distance yourself from them because their carelessness may infect you with either the reality of the existence of the disease or the reality that you are the one living in deceit.
Ayodele Okunfolami, Festac, Lagos.