ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS, The case of Nigeria Regulations on Covid-19

OJOKOLO Olawale Gbolabo, (Political/Social CommentatorTwitter@ojokologbolabo

‘The Animal Farm’ is a satire on society and how there is one law for the masses and another set of laws apply to those who govern the polity. A timeless piece that explained the past, analysis the present and prognosticate the future. George Orwell might have been talking about the present-day Nigeria when he satirized societal hegemony so subtly and comically yet so aptly.

Any attempt to itemize all the instances of these incongruous inconsistencies in the application of the grand norms of the land in everyday Nigeria will lead one into an abyss of a plethora of examples that one is spoiled for choice. Suffice it to say that the scope of this elucidation is the mishandling of the novel pandemic ravaging the whole world, COVID-19.

The Coronavirus or COVID-19 which quickly became a pandemic has led to a lot of advocacy, orientation and reorientation of the population and even the enforcement of certain laws that most people even lawyers did not know where in the books e.g. the Quarantine Act, which empowers the President and Governors to temporarily restrict the freedoms of people living in Nigeria.

After months of tripartite accusations and counter accusations between China, USA and the World Health Organization (WHO), WHO announced that the virus was contagious and transmitted through human contact by which time it was too late as many countries were already reporting cases of strange deaths which were later confirmed as Coronavirus deaths after the symptoms and causes of deaths were analyzed by doctors who had attended to victims of the virus in China.

The ripple effect of this was increased attempts by countries to stop the influx of people into their countries as that was the major means of transmission of the virus. Flight bans were announced, land and water points of entry closed with increased advocacy on ways of preventing the spread of what had ultimately became the first pandemic in the new millennium.

George Orwell True Picture in ‘The Animal Farm’- Covid-19 in Nigeria

Nigeria took all the aforementioned steps at curtailing the spread of the virus with ban of fight from China, Italy, US countries that had become epiccentres of COVID-19 at the time. Locally, the President established the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on March 9, 2020 to coordinate the response of the Federal Government to the pandemic after Nigeria announced it index case in late February, 2020.

The PTF is chaired by Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Unfortunately, the performance of the Presidential Task Force in obeying the rules and regulations it announced to Nigerians has been abysmally poor, inexplicably contradictory and lacking in coordination. Two incidents in this pandemic period best highlighted these maladies of ‘all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.’

Not surprisingly, the two incidents are VIP (Very Important People) related with opprobrious backlash from the public who rightly saw this scorn of the rules that is supposed to apply to all and sundry by the elites who once more even in a pandemic see themselves as above the law and more equal than others. Which of the directives of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 were flouted by those who gave the directives?

Firs, returnees must self-isolate for fourteen days.  And that those who test positive are moved into quarantine centres meaning that no private hospital is allowed to manage a patient with coronavirus infection, and also about not releasing the dead bodies of those who succumbed to COVID-19 to the families of the deceased for burial. All these were clearly stated by the PTF  with no room for ambiguities.

A Deep Thought About Life After Covid-19

The Death of ‘Chief of Staff to the President’, Mr. Abba Kyari.  

Till date the highest profiled person to test positive for COVID-19 and then ultimately died of the virus is the Chief of Staff to the President Mr. Abba Kyari. But instead of using his case to lay the gauntlet as to the application of a general rule in what happens to an infected person the PTF showed a bias to him and jettisoned the good work of the Task Force in advocacy and orientation as Nigerians saw glaringly yet again that in Nigeria some animals are more equal than others.

Everything about the late Chief of Staff’s COVID-19 travails was controversial. First, late Abba Kyari arrived in Nigeria and went straight to work without self-isolating for fourteen days as announced by the PTF, even though he arrived from Germany which was already in the throes of the pandemic. He then proceeded to travel around the country representing the President in many functions. Then after testing positive he was said to have been moved to Lagos isolation centre for the management of his infection and so that he does not spread the virus to others.

Expectedly, the news that the Chief of Staff to the President tested positive for Coronavirus was front-page news and Nigerians keenly followed how his case will be handled so it became a litmus test for the Government.   Sad to say, the PTF failed this test every step of the way. Abba Kyari was not moved to any of the designated isolation centres either in Abuja or Lagos even though an announcement was made that he was going to be moved to Lagos.

The case of his whereabouts was let slip when the Commissioner for Health in Lagos State categorically said that he the commissioner did not know where Abba Kyari was been treated if he was in Lagos. This simply meant that the CoS was not in the Lagos Isolation Centre even though he had left Abuja. It went from bad to worse when it was uncovered that Kyari was been treated in a private hospital in Lagos.

This was in stark violation of the regulations that the Government expressly stated in the protocol for handling infected Nigerians. Conversely, the Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Boris Johnson was treated by the NHS, National Health Scheme hospital in the UK. This showed that there was the same rule for government officials as well as the commoners.

This move bolstered the advocacy of the Government against the pandemic in the UK. But with the Kyari example, the Nigerian Government did not walk the talk meaning that there is always an exception to every law even that on pandemic control.

Like a drama of the absurd concocted by a devilish genius the Abba Kyari debacle climaxed in his death. But instead of his death to be used as another great avenue to lead by example or walk the talk, his remains was released for burial and he was transported from Lagos to Abuja for burial, another contravention of the policy the Presidential Task Force on the dead bodies of coronavirus victims.

Then in a live broadcast of the burial, there was no adherence to the social distancing rules nor physical distancing as the crowd was an eyesore and painted the whole advocacy of the Government as a farce. The opprobrium was so much that the PTF apologized for the fiascos it masterminded.

The Death of Lati Raheem

And then the Chief Security Officer of the National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) died from COVID-19 and he was said to have been buried in a private estate yet against the PTF protocols. Nigerians mistrust the Government and the examples of using different set of rules for the common man and the VIPs in an Animal Farm like scenario where all animals are equal yet some animals been equal than others then this mistrust will continue to persist between the government and the governed.

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