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COVID-19Watch: ‘try a little kindness’


Residents queue to get food items in Ikeja recently

If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load from the seeds he’s sowed
And if you see your sister falling by the way
Just stop and say, you’re going the wrong way
You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets
Don’t walk around the down and out
Lend a helping hand instead of doubt
And the kindness that you show every day
Will help someone along their way
You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness
Then you’ll…
(Glen Campbell)
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in pain.
(Emily Dickinson)

I had hinted last week that I was gathering some steam to write on Glen Campbell’s classic: ‘Try A Little Kindness’ at this time when the cold hand of death took away the very influential chief of staff to the president, Malam Abba Kyari. Yes, Malam Kyari whose demise almost took the steam out the page-one coverage of the more powerful messenger that took him away from us – COVID-19 pandemic. I had to write on the funeral last week.

This week, I was going to be led into temptation of joining issues with some of our very big men in the media who have been writing about the powerful chief of staff they have been defending in their very strange and what some others have called unethical tributes. But then, I recalled another classic, which turned out to be a restraining order at this time: ‘There is a time for everything… To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: … a time to be born, and a time to die…a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance… a time to keep silence, and a time to speak….’

So, the small still voice of the oracle asked me to keep silence about the strange, reputation management articles on the departed chief of staff and then unlock the power in the word of Glen Campbell: Show A Little Kindness at this time. That is why I would like to resort to classics today to appeal to our people to please cool down and listen to the other voice of reason from Emily Dickinson quoted above: If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain…. In deed, so many hearts are breaking. So many are already agonising from the unending lockdown without relief package promised. Hopes have been deferred. And so hearts have become very sick. Anxiety for stimulus package, relief material and cash from governments have in the words of Alan Paton, turned to sorrow and sorrow is beginning to turn to fear, which is also beginning to drive away faith in government and elders of the land. Remarkably, people are beginning to see the so-called lockdown order as a scam. In Lagos, the country’s economic capital, amid lockdown, we are witnessing curious traffic along even the Third Mainland Bridge. Oshodi-Apapa Expressway records gridlock regularly. Police checkpoints have become lucrative revenue beats for police officers. On so many federal highway routes, danfo buses carry passengers in broad-day light and bribe their ways to work. It is scandalous to describe what has been happening in Lagos as a lockdown. What is social distance in Lagos, Our Lagos? It is strange that Lagos state government has been deft in the management of information about this breakdown of the letter and spirit of the lockdown law and order. But the people who are not being taken care of cannot be locked down and left to die of hunger and thirst. The Guardian this weekend even carried a relevant cover on COVID-19 lockdown, in which people told the newspaper point blank: “Hunger obeys no order, say Nigerians defying stay-at-home directive”. The ordinary people told the newspaper, “We can’t stay at home again: we are getting poorer, hungrier by the day….”

Besides, a credible and well researched report credited to ICIR at the weekend revealed that, “Five years after, less than half of poor Nigerian households benefit from the FG’s cash transfer”, a signal that the well advertised Covid-19 cash (relief) transfer to the poor with less than N5000 in their bank accounts will be a mirage, a huge disappointment, after all.

These are raw facts amid anxiety before tomorrow when the second lockdown order will be reviewed by the authorities in Abuja. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has been sensitising us about possibility of a breakdown of law and order if the lockdown is further extended tomorrow. Even our ‘wonder governors’ who should be held responsible for scarcity of or absence of people-centric relief packages, are curiously divided about the expediency of another extension. There have been conflicting reports. While some governors believe that interstate borders should continue to be shut to prevent further transmission, others have endorsed partial reduction. They want the lockdown to be relaxed.

This is the state of the nation that the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) has curiously kept quiet about. It is very disturbing that even reason appears to have been locked down as if we had been debating general elections. No, this is science, which the One who created the heaven and the earth also created by His great powers and outstretched hands! Strangely, there is total absence of national and local orientation on the implications of our actions, we know have consequences at this time. The governors most of whom have displayed gross incompetence and irresponsibility lack moral authority, in this regard, to enforce lockdown rules and regulations. They are now canvassing relaxation of rules even as the number of confirmed cases keeps increasing. 1095 cases confirmed for yesterday’s report. They are not watching events in Kano where there have been strange and scary developments. And our power and business elite corps members are still watching news leads on who will succeed Abba Kyari among the 37 powerful contenders on APC platform as revealed by a credible medium. Even our scientists in the academia are unfortunately quiet about the consequences of our anxiety to return to work even while improved testing capacity seems to be telling us that, it’s not yet Uhuru. Lest we forget, even most of our faith-based leaders who have lost a huge revenue base from offerings, are more anxious to open the gates of the tabernacles again, despite the frightening figures emerging daily from the NCDC.

Which is why I would like to appeal to all experts, all influencers, all big men and women, all rich and wealthy men and women, all blessed men and women to brace up for the current national challenge. It is like heaven falling, which no one can escape. First, we need to freeze our hatred for discipline, yes discipline we artfully employed to defeat the Ebola ambush. We need to address our proclivity to leave everything to God of knowledge, who has graciously empowered us to deal with all our challenges. There is no doubt that we need spiritual help from our anointed men of God at this time. Yes, we need them for prayers and healing. However, that doesn’t prevent us from holding our leaders to account for why they have refused to invest robustly in healthcare delivery system. We know ‘God heals and doctors only care’. Doubtless, we need doctors, laboratory scientists, nurses and modern equipment for the required care. I believe our God is a God of order who once made cosmos out of confusion. We can’t claim to our people that there is nation anywhere in the world that will ask its leaders at all levels to depend only on spiritual leadership without well-equipped hospitals. But as I often quote here, ‘there is a time for everything’. So, this is not a time for ‘conscience of the nation to be roused’ question, as Fredrick Douglas would have suggested.

This is a time we have got ‘to try a little kindness’ so that our hungry and agonising brothers and sisters can live! I mean as Glen has urged all of us ‘the haves’, we have got to shine our light for everyone to see! This is a time to reach out to the vulnerable ones in our neighbourhoods. This is a time our church and mosque leaders to reach out to their members for some little kindness in terms of food items. People need not only prayers. They need food items, no matter how little. This is not a time to analyse what government has failed to do to the people. Who is the government? Where is the government? Whose government? This is a time to stop some hearts in your church, in your mosque, in your neighbourhood from breaking as Sister Emily Dickinson has counselled. There are lives aching in your family, in your village too. There are pains all over. You know you can’t fly over them to even Dubai now. Those security guards in your streets, those drivers and motorbike riders and their conductors who live in your neighbourhood are hungry. They need our little kindness now. Even if the extension is partially lifted, there will still be pain. Show a little kindness. This is not a time to ask: what are you doing in Lagos or Abuja or any state capitals or local government headquarters? Just s show ‘a little kindness’. Just be your brother’s and sister’s keeper at this critical time. Don’t ask for whom this article has been written. It is written for you. Yes you. God has blessed you for such a time as this. The God of all flesh has been kind to you so that you can show even ‘a little kindness’ at this time. You have been blessed to be a blessing to all the vulnerable ones in your neighbourhoods and even your office, your shops, your village at this time.
May the God of all grace touch our hearts of flesh at this time – to show ‘a little kindness’ and prevent ‘a heart from breaking’.

In this article:
Abba KyariCOVID-19NCDC
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