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COVID-19: Safety Measures And Bigmanism At Nigerian Airports

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By Mark Adebayo

The novel Coronavirus hit the world with a bang from around February 2020. We are told that it had been ravaging China months prior but the Chinese authorities were alleged to have put a lid on it for too long which did not enable other countries prepare for the Covid-19 onslaughts on the world. 

Every nation was caught unawares.

Once the pandemic was officially acknowledged and unveiled globally, a rush to arrest its spread commenced in earnest. Businesses, big and small, airports, sea ports, schools, worship centers, bars and hotels all over the world were closed down. In many countries, including the USA, cities were put on lockdown and movements strictly restricted. Nigeria was no exception. Lagos state, Ogun State, and the FCT, Abuja, which were emerging as epicenters of the pandemic were put on total lockdown whilst various forms of curfew were imposed in other states. As we are wont to do, the security agencies put in charge of enforcing the lockdowns and restrictions on interstate travels turned it into a goldmine of extortions and allowed commuters pay their ways through even from Lagos to Abuja and Maiduguri thereby risking the lives of millions of Nigerians. Governors cried out alleging sabotage by the police and other security agencies to no avail. The rot in our system is deep-rooted.

It was a global phenomenon affecting every sphere of human activities. Baseline forecasts envision 5.2 contractions in global GDP in the year 2020 and might worsen significantly going into 2021. Every nation is subject to substantial development downgrade as many large companies and corporations are already folding up worldwide, laying off staff in large numbers. The total effects of Covid-19 have not yet been comprehensively captured by economic and, even, health experts. However, many precautionary measures have been instituted and being enforced in order to mitigate the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

People are encouraged to wear nose/face masks and ensure at least 5-metre distance between one individual and another. Large gatherings have been banned totally until further notice except in few countries and states that the restrictions are being reviewed due to a reduction in new cases and Covid-19-related deaths. However, Covid-19 remains a dangerous threat to humanity. It’s still infecting people all over the world in their millions and killing in thousands daily. Covid-19 remains an active volcano with rapacious deadliness.

However, typical Nigerian ‘big man’ mentality, many of our so-called big men and women believe that they are above any rules or regulations put in place to stop man to man transmission of the pandemic choosing to display their irresponsible foibles in public places, especially at the airports.

I have seen such obnoxious displays of power and money arrogance time and again after the airports were reopened few weeks ago. You see big and not-so-big men and women bypassing the barricades and queue lines to avoid being screened and their luggage disinfected. The most notorious one was an incident that involved the former Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari.

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The ex governor was reported to have allegedly assaulted an airport official at the Aminu Kano International Airport, who was enforcing the new health and passenger facilitation protocols put in place by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, in adherence to the Covid-19 protocols as directed by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19. His main grudge was that he was “a VIP” and as such could not be subjected to the protocols. The protocols are meant for lesser mortals, not Nigeria’s Very Important Parasites. Of course the FAAN leadership called the ex governor out publicly and condemned his attitude as “irresponsible” at least to pass a strong message to other vagabonds in power who feel they are more human than the rest of us.

If not that the governor’s memory failed him, he would have realised that Covid-19 is a specialist VIP killer and it has demonstrated its lack of respect for VIP statuses not once or twice in this country. Blinded by power and stolen wealth, Nigerian rulers are among the most with character deficit in the world.

But, it doesn’t stop there. There are other wannabes of power arrogance all over the country, especially at our airports – old, young, male and female.

You hear them shout at airport officials, “don’t point that thing at me. Do I look sick?” Or, “Don’t spray my bags with that shit” or “I can’t wait forever on this line, please. I’ve got a plane to catch” and you see her or him jump the queues to go in unchecked and undisinfected. If an airport official tries to stop her/him, the police or military officer with her/him would intervene on the side of the spoilt brat. No matter the protestations of the rest of you, she/he would oftentimes have his/her way.

That’s the privilege of misappropriated power and wealth.

I had to change the topic of this week’s column to write this article, while waiting for my suddenly rescheduled flight, due to a similar incident at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. As an activist, naturally I wouldn’t see such and keep mute even if the transgressor had a battalion of soldiers accompanying her. I called the attention of an airport official whom I believed was a more senior person on the sport and told him that all of us would move into the departure without being screened if the little brat was allowed in without following due protocols. The guy acted fearlessly and professionally. And, of course, other passengers now found their voices and supported me. We won! She felt utterly humiliated. Of course, she made calls and threatened the airport officials, but we had our way in that instance.

You travel abroad and see these same very important prodigals obey every protocol put in place by those countries even before the Covid-19 pandemic. You meet them in tubes and trains and they seat ‘jejely’ like a chained dog. But back home, they are roaring lions presiding over the expansive jungle of Nigeria and its rot.

For how long are we going to continue like this as a country and a people? You cannot have a developing country without disciplined and exemplary leadership. Oftentimes, we are told that laws are made by the powerful to be obeyed by the powerless and broken at will by the makers of the laws. Well, we can’t afford to have such a society and if it will take a revolution to ensure we kill such tendencies, so be it.

Nigerians have got to learn to stand against injustice wherever they’re confronted by it. Our docility and tolerance of misfits in power have attained intolerable heights. We have to stand against their excesses and ensure that our common humanity is respected and protected.

Aluta continua, victoria à cèrta ad infinitum.

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