I hope that what we all get out of this isn’t just a time spent on our various social platforms – that is another form of isolation in itself – but, a sense of how we want to get engaged in our various communities, ensuring those that do represent us know that we will all be on the same Island going forward, and there shall be no peace until there is hope for all.


The word ‘isolation’ comes from the Latin word “insula,” which means Island. It could be translated to mean the following words – loneliness, isolation, seclusion. They all mean situations, which if not voluntarily taken, can be considered as harsh. It can also apply when we want someone to experience change. Even in the Abrahamic religions, separation is a time to retract from the noise and focus on hearing or seeing the face of God. So, in essence, it is a time for us all to seek some form of change and, hopefully for good.

All of a sudden, what happened in a certain part of a country now has an effect on the whole world. We have all reaped the benefits of globalisation – the downside of the same globalisation. It almost seems apocalyptic with what we are seeing and reading.

As at today, over 200,000 people are dead, with over two million people infected by the coronavirus!

Modern medicine that made us almost invincible suddenly seems so helpless. World leaders are scrambling to lead their countries in this uncertain times. Some are doing better than others, largely due to preparedness and existing health infrastructure.

Nigeria, like most parts of the world, has been thrown into this involuntary state of isolation. And it is not spared the multidimensional consequences:

• Oil prices are at an all-time low;
• There are increasing protests by restive youths due to their loss of income;
• Private hospitals have been treating COVID-19 patients;
• The government, speaking through so many voices, is almost as anyone shooting from the hip;
• Security officials are flouting the lockdown;
• There is inadequate testing to enable us understand the reality of the disease as it spreads throughout Nigeria.

Everyone that has a voice is lamenting the pitiful state of healthcare and the general state of our infrastructure in Nigeria. I could go on and on about this drama that just seems to have no end. Certainly, things aren’t going to return to the same, as we once knew it.

However, what does Nigeria want to take away from this period of isolation? I could detail my shopping list, but frankly the resources aren’t there to do what we would like to do. But, can we prioritise what we can do?

One thing is clear, Nigeria needs a reset. This has nothing to do with tribe, religion and all the other competing issues, even though these would need to be addressed at some point if we are going to build a nation that is viable with all its different people.

My suggestion for a reset would be, first, acceptance of the fact that we have an education system that has failed. We can’t continue to be in denial of the obvious; certainly not with most people in public service even sending their children out of Nigeria for education, when the system they have been appointed to enhance has failed. This is clearly hypocritical; it shows that they have been on another island for so long. But with COVID-19, we are all now marooned together!

Education: We need an independent audit of our public and private school system. This audit has to factor in what level of skill is needed in the next 10 years and we need to map out a clear plan on how to get there. We all know that although our educational system is poor, it is significantly poorer in certain parts of the country. Having a quota system gives people a sense of entitlement and doesn’t motivate them to be better. It also causes resentment among others who are affected by the same system.

A system that ensures that all children get the West Africa Examination School Certificate (WASCE) is non-negotiable for the whole country. We have been breeding illiterates till date and this will continue to weaken the whole system. Nigerians who have little or no education can do only menial work and ultimately become a burden on society. They then, in turn, repeat the cycle by having more children and increasing the uneducated population.

We must have a robust technical education system; not one that is lip service but one that is working in conjunction with industry. When people have adequate technical skills, they can work for themselves and can also become modules for training.

It is critical that we continue to increase the availability of skilled labour, as this will lead to a reduction of urban migration. We will also deter imported semi-skilled workers taking jobs due to the non-availability of local skilled labour.

Health: Our health system needs a reset. This must take account of how it will be funded and sustained. A robust primary healthcare system is non-negotiable to building the platform for an effective system. We need to have standardised centres, in terms of infrastructure and what services they are able to offer. This will then be followed by secondary and tertiary healthcare systems.

We must audit the system and make them accountable once the needed resources have been put in place.

For businesses that want to invest in tertiary care, we can offer tax incentives. All of this will go towards reducing the foreign exchange spent overseas. It would also mean that if we Nigerians are all marooned on an island in the future, we would be self-dependent on providing for ourselves.

South Africa embarked on an unacceptable apartheid regime and the world used economic power, amongst other means, to maroon them on an island. Not a great example, but they then built up self-sufficiency and capacity.

Germany and Japan were marooned after the Second World War. The outcome was the second and third largest world economies until 10 years ago.

Nation building: The determination for success is the most important ingredient needed to build a nation. We have been building individual islands, most times using the resources meant for all. This has gotten us to where we are presently. Are we bold enough to accept we aren’t where we should be and make an informed decision to do otherwise?

May I also add that our differences will continue to fester as we are not united in the drive to build a country as it is now.

When I can drive from Sokoto to Abeokuta and see that the quality of infrastructure of schools and healthcare is similar in every part of the country, it will certainly make me feel we are in this together.

Post lockdown: There is a lot to be done but it will only seem achievable when more of us are walking together in the same direction for Nigeria. Except we continue to drown our ears with our own sounds, what we will emerge with when we are unlocked from this Island is anyone’s guess.

I hope that what we all get out of this isn’t just a time spent on our various social platforms – that is another form of isolation in itself – but, a sense of how we want to get engaged in our various communities, ensuring those that do represent us know that we will all be on the same Island going forward, and there shall be no peace until there is hope for all.

Soji Akinkugbe, an entrepreneur and public affair commentator, wrote from Lagos.