Coronavirus and four Yoruba proverbs

Ogunsakin Mustapha
6 Min Read

By Jiti Ogunye

There are four Yoruba Proverbs that , perhaps, explain the situation in which our country has found itself with the coronavirus pandemic.

The first is: īgī gãngãnrãn má gún mī l’ójú, òkèèrè lãtí nwòó.

The second is: “ōgūn àsōtélè kìí pã ãrō t’óbâ gbón.

The third is : ēnī mō àtīwáyé ōlúnàgún, ló n mō àtīlō rè;

And the fourth is: ãsō o bómóyē mó, ōmóyē tī rìn ìhòhò w’ōjá.

The aptness of these proverbs may be lost in their translation

The first can be translated as “ prevention is cheaper than cure”; the second may roughly be translated as “ a war that is foretold or pre announced or pre declared does not kill a wise cripple “

The third may be translated as “he who knows the cause or source is likely to know the cure or solution”; and the fourth may be translated as “ it is too late to cry when the head is off “

Coronavirus didn’t start in Nigeria. It started in China. And like an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile ( ICBM) it hit Europe and America . Our Country was looking at it from our comfortable distance . We had the divine grace to lock our doors very early , to prevent the virus , which was being spread through Foreign Direct Invasion (FDI) just like foreign direct investment, from entering our homestead. We refused to do so. In spite of the calls by the ordinary citizens , followers, in this country that the political leadership should act . The political leadership, especially at the Centre, failed to do so. Myths and unscientific optimism soon developed. The virus cannot survive in humid and high temperature regions of the world, many fantasized.

Our country lost invaluable time in at least attempting to shut out coronavirus. Our political elite were still busy traveling to the worst affected countries to wine and dine and perform State functions, importing home coronavirus. Now, the number of cases is steadily climbing up. As far as the healthcare delivery system in Nigeria is concerned, we are, in many respects, a cripple. When the coronavirus war broke out in China, with the evident threat that it would spread to our location , we ought to have started moving. We didn’t flee. We were immobile, rooted to the spot of incompetence.

The third proverb has to do with China. Coronavirus started from China. The world is now being told that China has conquered the virus. It makes good sense, therefore , to seek not only the help of Cuba , but also the help of China, at this time. If their doctors and healthcare givers are sourced and brought in , now that we are not overwhelmed, and we realize later that we do not need their assistance, because we have self tamed coronavirus, we can thank the two countries for their solidarity and internationalism and send them back to their countries . But the time to seek help from these two countries is now . Before the exponential increase in the number of cases of infections.

I now come to the fourth proverb. The pandemic is here. Crying and blaming the political leadership will not solve the problem. All of us need to take personal responsibility in complying with the advisory of government and the NCDC to prevent the spread of the virus. Government should consider providing “social security palliatives” to accompany any lockdown order that may be made. Already, big and small businesses are suffering. Earnings and wages are poor and the vast majority of our people lacks the capacity to economically survive for an elongated period of time, without working and earning a living.

We are is an uncharted territory. Ebola was dangerous but our government didn’t shut down. Lassa fever is deadly , but we still get by. There are three arms of government: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. At the Centre , two , the legislature and the judiciary, have shut down. One of the two , nationwide. And the Federal Executive Branch is also shutting down. No meeting of the Executive Council of the Federation ( FEC). And with the Chief of Staff to the President reportedly down with coronavirus, Aso Rock is, by implication, grounded. And this is no politics . Recall, the President had declared that nobody could or should see him, not even his ministers, except through his Chief of Staff.

This is the time of pestilence. But it is also a time for prayers. The saints and the sinners. The righteous and the unrighteous. The COVID 19 Positive and the COVID 19 Negative.

If we have faith, we can move mountains and the prayers of the righteous availeth much.

Mr Ogunye is a Lagos based lawyer and human rights activist

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