The outbreak of this prevalent deadly Chinese virus which has become a global pandemic, may be the sole cause of genocidal deaths in many countries, except Nigeria.
Different countries have devised workable strategies of welfare packages to their citizens during this period of social and economic pause.
But my experience on the first day of monitoring the compliance to the executive fiat of stay at home, was an unpalatable mixture of hopelessness, anxiety, fear and anger.
From Agege railway line to Iyana Ipaja, Ikeja under bridge to Oshodi, are groups of homeless Nigerians who have converted public spaces to their permanent residences, making mockery of all health and safety rules of COVID-19. Social integration in the face of societal neglect, is their answer to social distancing campaign of coronavirus.
Just within two days, the palpable hunger and anger of total lockdown in Lagos and other places in Nigeria are heating up to a dangerous climax capable of reducing COVID-19 into a child’s play.
In a brief interview with one of homeless Nigerians, who simply identified himself as Papa, he said ” this under bridge is my home. I live here, even those police men there knows I live here(under Ikeja Flyover), I have only this fifty naira in my whole life, no food, nobody to give anything and the are talking about virus”
My short encounter with Papa, who speaks sound Queen’s English language was interrupted by a deluge of almost a hundred homeless and hopeless Nigerian youths, who are not interested in the cause of the lockdown, if the government provides them with food “at least once a day”.
They threw the calm atmosphere I had with ‘Papa’ into a frenzy of anger and protest, holding me hostage as a ‘big man with big car’. The police standing by, in a helpless akimbo while I was about to be devoured, ignited my sixth sense as a street journalist. Thanks to the few naira notes in my pocket which I cast off into a far distance to divert their attention, creating an opportunity for me to jump into the car and zoom off.
Nigerians would comply with the total lockdown for their safety, but mobilising the armed forces to enforce government ‘barren’ order without a corresponding social welfare package brews anger into danger, despair into desperation and frustration into ‘crimestration’- crime committed as a result of imposed frustration.
These hopeless, homeless and hungry Nigerians are amplifying the murmurings of millions of Nigerians hiding in some places called ‘homes’ as warning signal to government of an imminent catastrophe and anarchy, if the government does not work out a practical access to food and money to survive during this two weeks lockdown.
The government at all levels should take concrete steps, with clear sense of urgency, to utilize those billions allegedly contributed by the kind hearted philanthropists in Nigeria to cater for the poor and vulnerable in our midst.
Also, the electricity distribution companies- DISCOs, should desist from harassing hapless Nigerians with threats of disconnecting their epileptic supply of electricity and crazy bills during this lockdown.
John Thompson, writes for Newsreel International Magazine