The Ebola virus disease (EVD) has so far claimed over 900 lives, according to many reputable international news agencies, and it's still ravaging large swathes of the West African subregion. This recent outbreak – the deadliest in history – began earlier this year and has so far spread to at least 4 countries in the subregion: Liberia, Guinea-Conakry, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. There is also an unsubstantiated probability that it might be in other West African countries like Benin Republic and Ghana.
The first casualty on Nigerian soil was reported on the 25th of July, almost a month after I raised the alarm of a possible outbreak of the virus in Nigeria in my article on Sahara Reporters, "What Is Nigeria Doing to Prevent an Outbreak of the Ebola Virus?"
As usual, the various levels of the Nigerian government and the masses alike did nothing about it, choosing to ignore the warning and waiting for it to arrive first before finally believing that it's serious. Twenty-five days after the article was published, we let our guard down and an infected Liberian man flew into the country, unfettered by our airport authorities. There was little or no check at the airport despite the obvious risks. Alas, the Liberian ended up infecting many others, most of whom are yet to be found and isolated, posing a grave danger to themselves and the unsuspecting people they are having contact with.
While the scourge was extending its tentacles all over West Africa, most Nigerians were engrossed in the then-ongoing FIFA World Cup taking place in far-away Brazil. Such carefree predisposition is equivalent to a man watching a soap opera in his sitting room while his kitchen is on fire. In Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, we simply do not have any reason to take action until we are choked – the proverbial eleventh hour syndrome. Precaution is seemingly not in our culture.
Advanced countries, including, but not limited to, the United States of America, Britain and South Korea have already started putting measures in place, ranging from the tactful to the bizarrely outrageous, which will forestall a possible outbreak of the dreaded viral disease within their domains. Countries all over the world have gone to great lengths to tightened security in their borders and ports of entry, ensuring that all travellers from West Africa are thoroughly screened for possible indications of the virus before leaving the airport and mixing with people.
Some, however, have chosen to tread the path of extremism to see to it that their citizens are shielded from the disease. American billionaire businessman, Donald Trump, for example, opined that all flights from West Africa to the United States should be halted and the legal rights of all West Africans to return to the States be revoked. South Korea as well took some drastic measures of its own by withdrawing the invitation sent out to some Nigerian students for a conference in the Asian nation in response to the outbreak of Ebola in Nigeria. Comments in the news websites of several foreign news agencies have been less than flattering.
Not minding what you may think of them, all of those measures smack of precaution, something we so desperately lack in Nigeria and Africa, and something we so desperately need if we are to move forward as a people. Nigeria and Africa cannot harbour the hope of getting to the level of those developed countries we greatly admire if we only pick the negative aspects of their lifestyle and culture, whilst being blind to the most important ones that got them where they are now.
Now that the disease has finally made it to Nigeria, the natural next step should be arresting the spread of the disease. It makes me wonder, “What are the Nigerian doctors, scientists and ‘professors of medicine’ doing by way of working towards the development of a cure?” From the look of things, I presume without admitting that they are doing nothing at all to that effect. Rather, they are waiting for their American, Canadian, British, German, Israeli, Chinese and WHO counterparts to manufacture a cure or vaccine and bring it to them for distribution. It begs the question of how long we, Africans, are going to be spoon-fed by the West, and recently, China? From all indications, it seems that Africa cannot survive without the help of others.
Owing to this submission, it is not surprising that the overwhelming majority of countries receiving foreign aid are from Africa, with our own Nigeria receiving aid from other countries in excess of 1.7 billion US$ dollars in 2011. According to the latest United Nations Development Program's Human Development Index released in July, most African countries scored well below the global average in terms of human development and quality of life. Nigeria was ranked a lowly 152nd out of the 187 sampled countries in a list that was bookended by neighbouring Niger in 187th place. And it is not only the government that has to be held accountable for it.
Africans, by situational disposition rather than genetics, are always too eager to blame others for their misfortune and in a bid for succour, they often propose some really laughable conspiracy theories. One of the silliest to be put forward in recent times has it that the extant outbreak of Ebola in Nigeria might have been an intentional ploy by the West to eliminate Africans, backing the absurd theory up with some brushed over flimsy rationales.
Unsurprisingly, Africa and Africans will continue to be ridiculed and made mockery of internationally until we learn to put our house in order. Nigeria, as Africa's most populous and promising country, with its largest economy, is expected to lead the way. This it has failed to do so many times in the past, becoming evident again in the ease with which the deadly Ebola virus breached the country's borders. It is on record that no country has ever achieved greatness by being blind to the challenges before it and until we learn this we cannot move forward as a people.
Chinedu George Nnawetanma is a social commentator. He is passionate about citizens rising up to their responsibilities and he believes that a great African awakening is still possible. He looks forward to your responses below and via his email address [email protected]