We need not close our borders at all. We certainly have not explored all the potential solution options, which could be alternatives to this reactionary choice… In the place of border closure, Nigeria can lead the world in more solution- rather than fear-focused choices…


The response to the new coronavirus and the disease it has spawned, Covid-19, has been reduced to a simple analysis of the materially well-off choosing self-preservation over collective or global interdependence. The principles that drive our responses are between the abundance of life or the scarcity of material blessings; and a polarised world with interdependent or transborder challenges that refuse to conform to our tribal, ethnic, national or geopolitical demarcations.

Coronavirus seems to be exposing our core fault line across nations. The epicentre of the virus is now Europe, and her choices, along with those of the United States of America and Britain, are very telling. The fact that border closure and preservation from ‘the other’ is their current framework appears to confirm the winning trend. The fact that in the past few years, across the so-called West, the triumph of the current president of the U.S. and the prime minister of Britain affirm the ideology of using division as tools of entrenching power. Their policy choices to address the coronavirus, however belated, has affirmed the victory of vilification of ‘the other’, as well as the acceptance of ‘Me’ above all else. Even though viruses do not know cure or nationality. The closest we can come to dealing with the coronavirus is partly dependent on our exposure and subsequent immunity. It is not a simple either/or, i.e. full exposure or total shutdown. We seem to ignore the possibility of a more humane handling of those who carry the risk we are avoiding.

Nigeria, which is resource poor and materially struggling, is being asked to do address the threat of coronavirus in basically the same way as done in the West: To close our border and show that we care for our people by denigrating the other. This, in spite of our current good fortune in recording a low degree of incidence and increasing preparation. For most part we have been successful; yet once again a group of civil society organisations has been pressuring the government to follow the Western close-border choices. The logic is compelling: We do not have the hospital spaces, and we cannot achieve social distancing as we live, play and survive cheek to jowl. Our fortune so far cannot continue to hold as all prediction of the African decimation is now the habit of the usually liberal Afro-pessimistic Western media.

…our moral authority and integrity as a country and the leadership that we have always promised for our continent demands that we must not lightly give away to our fears and reactionary elements. Our better angels and our demographic pressures demands something more than a reactionary defensiveness…


However, the virus has worked to effectively expose the deeper division in the world, and we ignore its emergent message at our peril. It is sorting the world between the reactionary, self-protective and, shall I say, cowardly. It sets them apart from those who are brave enough to be active part of a world of interdependence, collective solution and the triumph of a broad humanity. It should not be lost that Cuba, a country battered by U.S. sanctions and with its own five cases of coronavirus infection, permitted a luxury liner with an additional five cases to dock in its harbour, after the ship had been rejected at several other ports. It cannot be ignored that one of the countries most hit by the virus, Iran, has sanctions maintained on it with little concern for the losses of life and incubation of the virus over a long period, within its population or even in the region.

Nigeria, heading for a potential recession given the bottom dropping from oil prices, has very little material risk space. However, our moral authority and integrity as a country and the leadership that we have always promised for our continent demands that we must not lightly give away to our fears and reactionary elements. Our better angels and our demographic pressures demands something more than a reactionary defensiveness; we should lead towards a better spirit in the world.

We need not close our borders at all. We certainly have not explored all the potential solution options, which could be alternatives to this reactionary choice. Thankfully, we have in President Buhari, a reflection-driven and patient leader. It is this that enabled the Nigerian Centere for Diseases Control (NCDC) evolve quietly after the Ebola crisis. We need that restraint and wisdom now. In the place of border closure, Nigeria can lead the world in more solution- rather than fear-focused choices, which should include the following:

We are in uncharted territory in terms of global affairs, as well as how the framing of the 21st century will play out. This is a critical time to be the country of hope and not fear. Nigeria has a choice.


● Retaining open travel to Nigeria, which is not a tourist destination, and as such has a relatively low number of international visitors;
● Insisting that all travellers from countries with large pandemic clusters are tested before travel and are allowing to board flights and gain entry into Nigeria on the provision of certified negative results. Otherwise, these travellers will have to be quarantined and isolated on arrival, until they are tested and cleared;
● Enabling that all Nigerian State governments have contingency plans, which include risk analysis, scenario plans and a pandemic panel of experts;
● Publicising a federal map of local, state and national testing availability;
● Developing regulations by the federal government which prioritise testing and care provision for persons over the age of 60, including the provision of subsidy if required, especially if they have regular medications that are possible amplifiers of the virus;
● Articulating a national economic plan that repositions the Nigerian Economic Roadmap and Growth Plan (ERGP) in the light of the pandemic and the falling price of oil.

We are in uncharted territory in terms of global affairs, as well as how the framing of the 21st century will play out. This is a critical time to be the country of hope and not fear. Nigeria has a choice.

Adewale Ajadi, a lawyer, creative consultant and leadership expert, is author of Omoluwabi 2.0: A Code of Transformation in 21st Century Nigeria.