Christian Social Movement of Nigeria ( CSMN) joins all well meaning people globally to express great sorrow at the advent of COVID-19 and the destruction that it has caused all over the world. CSMN expresses condolence to the thousands of families all over the world that lost loved ones as a result of this plague. As the scripture says, “and it came to pass”, we pray that the current pandemic that came, shall swiftly pass.
In the midst of the distress, we should appreciate the people who have risen gallantly to remedy a bad situation. The medical personnel risking their lives and convenience to save lives, the entrepreneurs contributing funds to help people, as well as the Government Officials who now bear the brunt of decades of misgovernance are appreciated. God bless you and all the people working to mitigate the impact of this pandemic in Nigeria.
As we mourn the dead and express dismay at the current distress, we need to prepare our minds, as Nigerians, for the lessons that we must learn from this pandemic. If we want the lessons to sink into our national psyche, we ought to start highlighting them right away.
COVID-19 has exposed the rot in our system and public health care due to neglect by successive Government administrations. As a country, we have been too indulgent with corruption and incompetency in public administration. Now, reality is starring us in the face. While other nations are handling the pandemic with skill and care for their people, we have had to resort, in most cases, to prayers for God to deliver us. We have no durable structure to cope with national disaster. Consequently, we are sharpening cutlass on the battlefield.
One, we permitted our Government officials and elites to adopt medical tourism as standard health care policy at the expense of developing health care for the country. Even though we boast of some of the best doctors and medical personnel in the world, we watched them leave the country in droves seeking better working conditions abroad. Now, a pandemic has struck and the few doctors we have at home are struggling to save Nigerian lives.
Two, we permitted marauders and insurgents to drive farmers out of the farm. As of today, people are asked to stay at home and there is no food to give them. Hunger is beginning to provoke anger and some youths are turning violent in Lagos. This is a situation more fearful than COVID-19 because Lagos sets the pace for the country. If the youths in Lagos should turn violent, youths in other parts of the country shall follow suit. There is too much suppressed anger in the country that must not be allowed to erupt. Therefore, in addition to coping with the pandemic, those in Government should do all that is necessary to calm the situation in Lagos. We advise they should not deploy force because as the saying goes, “a hungry man is an angry man.” The people are genuinely hungry.
Three, the failure of successive Governments to conduct a National Identification project has made planning to mitigate the effect of corona virus very difficult. How could a country that does not know how many people it has, who they are, and where they are, be able to organize relief to reach individuals appropriately? How can Government identify someone who is receiving double ration at the expense of those yet to receive or prevent diversion of the relief materials? Even the little that is available is not getting to the right people.
Four, we are not used to constructive thinking to solve the problems of the country. This is not because we lack brilliant people, but we keep sending unintelligent people into governance so that they can be pliable to “political godfathers”. Consequently, Nigeria could not contextualize an international proposal to “lockdown” within the peculiarities of our society. The countries that proposed lockdown, which is a good proposal, already have structures to mitigate its effect on their people while we have neglected building such structures.
Five, over the years, religious houses have collected enormous amount of money from the worshippers. Now that the people are in distress, why could not the Churches and the Mosques bring out this money to help the people? We believe that God would want this to be done. Even if the religious houses could not help everybody, they should at least help the vulnerable people in their congregations. We are certain it would not be difficult for the religious institutions to identify the vulnerable and needy people in their midst. We need to redefine our religion within the context of “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Nobody is carrying money out of this world.
ACCOUNTABILITY IS THE NEW MINDSET
Arising from COVID-19, Nigerians need to develop a new mindset of demanding accountability from public office holders. There is apparent unwillingness on the part of Nigerians to hold the leaders accountable for various infractions in governance. This mindset has to change. Many of the state actors in Nigeria should have been held accountable for glaring anti-state actions long before the corona virus. If the country was in the habit of holding its elected officials, Public Servants, and intruders in Governance accountable, both health care and social welfare would have been well equipped to handle the current crisis. Unfortunately, because leaders are not in the habit of being called to account, Government was not in the habit of engaging caution in governance.
Consequently, many people come into public offices with impunity and lawlessness as codes of conduct. The average public office holder in Nigeria has a mindset that while in office, he can act in any irresponsible manner and nothing would happen to him. Unfortunately, in most cases, he would be correct; no one would call him to account.
The mindset of Nigerians that leadership should neither be queried nor called to account is what is destroying Nigeria. This is the crux of corruption, incompetency, and mediocrity in our society. It is the failure of Nigerians to demand accountability from the leaders that has led to the culture of impunity in the country. This mindset must change if the country is to survive. Nigerians must begin to demand responsibility from their leaders.
CSMN proposes the following for the consideration of Nigerians:
a. Nigerians must remember that no nation is free of criminals and lawless people. Progressive nations strengthen institutions and structures that keep everyone under the law.
Rather than build strong institutions, Nigerians are building strong men.
This has to change.
The people must demand independent institutions that will keep public officers in check. Every Nigerian must be under the law.
b. It should become part of the law that individual(s) can approach the Court to obtain approval to investigate public officials and public institutions. The result of such investigation could be presented in court and made justiciable.
c. It should also become part of our law that any Government Office holder can be sued to court on the basis of incompetency, not just corruption, and removed from office if found liable.
d. Every arm of Government, (Federal, State and Local Government), should immediately embark on massive farming projects to mitigate the effect of hunger in Nigeria in the wake of COVID-19.
e. The point (d) above demands that the Federal Government must act with utmost urgency: Fulani herdsmen and other insurgents must be dismantled without any further delay. Their acts of terrorism hinder agricultural activities across the entire country. Worse than COVID-19 is the hunger and anger of the masses. Both must be prevented.
f. The pandemic has made it obvious that foreign healthcare will not always be available for elected officials. The plain inadequacy of the national health sector must now be addressed. Our public health facilities must be developed. The welfare of Nigeria’s medical personnel needs drastic improvement to stem the brain drain. Government must declare an emergency in the health sector.
g. Religious houses should release funds to help the poor and needy in their congregation. For Christians, the Biblical pattern is that during famine, relief is gathered and distributed to the saints. What has been gathered before now, should be released.
Nigerian Christians should be reminded that as the Church is, so is the nation. If Christians cannot decisively develop culture of accountability within the Church, it will be difficult to hold leaders accountable in the country. Therefore, Christians should set the pace by ensuring that Christian leaders are accountable. This is fastest way to develop culture of accountability in the country.
God bless Nigeria.
21st April, 2020