The way the pandemic and its fallouts have been handled so far, shows that life and death decisions in the political arena are part of the executive’s responsibility. Those who are supposed to rally the republic and be in a Churchillian mode are behaving as if this is a temporary thing that will abate in two weeks. Many are carrying on with so much ignorance and arrogance that the coronavirus infection simply won’t happen to them.


What happened in Lagos yesterday was a disgrace. People ran into the streets and besieged banks like caged, abused dogs on the loose. What the mindless mingling of yesterday means is that a lot of people put themselves in harm’s way and increased the number of people who will fall to this virus in the next one month. What it means is that a lot of people who went out yesterday will not be alive by the end of July. This is not being pessimistic or painting a gloomy picture. It is foolhardy that anyone could really ignore the danger of the coronavirus or imagine that they are immune to it. The extent of ignorance and denial of how deadly this virus is appears confounding.

The way the pandemic and its fallouts have been handled so far, shows that life and death decisions in the political arena are part of the executive’s responsibility. Those who are supposed to rally the republic and be in a Churchillian mode are behaving as if this is a temporary thing that will abate in two weeks. Many are carrying on with so much ignorance and arrogance that the coronavirus infection simply won’t happen to them. We cannot be immune to the truth. It is a defence mechanism that when situations, circumstances and events are too painful for people to cope with, they go into denial. Well, with coronavirus, it is an existential imperative for us to face the truth. It is the only when we acknowledge the truth that we can plot and plan how to survive this as a nation.

Facts about this little known virus and its varied modes of attack suggest that we should be worried, even though the human brain has a natural tendency to be optimistic. Individually, this is an outbreak that is growing exponentially in a way that is difficult for us to comprehend how it might affect us.


At times like this, optimism is crucial; it is good and justified but willful ignorance is not. Facts about this little known virus and its varied modes of attack suggest that we should be worried, even though the human brain has a natural tendency to be optimistic. Individually, this is an outbreak that is growing exponentially in a way that is difficult for us to comprehend how it might affect us. Collectively, this invisible enemy seems like an abstract danger that is conjured to scare and imprison people. The initial figure of 200 infected people, for example, seemed so small in comparison to the population that we fail to comprehend that this could grow to 100,000 people so fast. Our brains, ever sated in optimism, tells us that the number will remain small forever. How we as a people have processed this is rooted in science. Albert Bartlett once said, “the greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand exponential function.” When crisis hits as it has, a leader is expected to assure people and help them navigate the crisis, without resorting to panic. Realism is a moral requirement for those entrusted with leadership. The trick for a leader under a crisis situation is to be realistic and optimistic, while resisting fear and fatalism.

The deaths in Kano and deportation of Almajiris is a pointer to the salient fact that leadership and organisation is everything. Governor Ganduje demonstrated how incompetence and cruelty can converge in one person. He invested in fear, instead of confidence. Social distancing, hand washing and contact tracing still remain the best weapons for containing the coronavirus epidemic. This war will not be won easily if Nigerians continue to maintain unsafe social contact with each other. Whenever we congregate in markets, and other places and speak to each other within arms length; when we show up at mosques, praying shoulder to shoulder or appear at a big man’s funeral, we are putting yourselves and others at risk by denying the reality of this pandemic.

One way or another, we are in this together. We must approach our collective survival, while not giving in to fear and despair, even as our hopes must be rooted in reality. Emerging out of this stronger should be common cause for all of us. The pains of this adversity will be felt by some more than others but we must be united in adversity and create the space for compassion.


This is disaster. It is messy and the uncertainty it brings elicits denial as the first stage of grief, because we are grieving the loss of lives, livelihoods and life as we know it. In addition, we all are fatigued staying at home and we want out. COVID-19 is frightening, intolerable and what it demands from us is scary. Nigerians are in denial. Denial is not all that bad. Some denial is needed for us to get used to bad situations; but denial need not last forever. It is time for denial to evolve into protective action for survival.

Whatever we do, coronavirus will test our endurance and our ability to innovate. We have to balance what is right with what we want. Despite the regime of social distancing that is being preached across the globe, we all are connected. One way or another, we are in this together. We must approach our collective survival, while not giving in to fear and despair, even as our hopes must be rooted in reality. Emerging out of this stronger should be common cause for all of us. The pains of this adversity will be felt by some more than others but we must be united in adversity and create the space for compassion. In spite of the trauma, I hope we find meaning in the lessons of simplicity and quiet this crisis has taught us.

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo