Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Kudos as Obasanjo Turned Back Mourners at In-Law’s Burial

•The former president did well to turn back mourners at his mother-in-law’s burial due to COVID-19
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo might have stunned some of the mourners who  turned up to pay their last respects to his mother-in-law, Florence Adenekan, who was buried on July 10, when he personally locked the doors of St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Diocese of Remo, Isara Remo, Ogun State, where the funeral service took place, against them. But the former president was only acting in concert with with the COVID-19 protocols on mass gathering in the state. Adenekan, the mother of one of Chief Obasanjo’s wives, Bola, died on April 17, two days to her 90th birthday.
The people had turned up for the service, apparently uninvited, thinking the former president was going to flaunt his position to defy the protocol. But Chief Obasanjo personally took on the role of a bouncer, as he manned the door of the church and ordered many of the mourners to return home. The church might not have been able to do that.
We commend the former president for this exemplary conduct. He demonstrated that the law is indeed no respecter of persons as he did not even spare some of his aides and associates. This is the way it should be.
The number of coronavirus confirmed cases has been on the rise since March 9, when the second COVID-19 case in Nigeria was confirmed in Ewekoro, Ogun State. As at July 20, with 1,174 cases, 302 active, 850 recoveries and 22 deaths, the state was 8th with the highest number of COVID-19 confirmed cases in Nigeria. Its proximity to Lagos, the epicenter of the disease in the country, increases the risks of its citizens contracting it.
As a disease without a cure yet, governments are now emphasizing personal responsibility, after several lockdowns and banning of inter-state travels, among other measures. That community transmission of the disease is also on the increase makes it the more pertinent to have a cap on the number of people at gatherings so as to ensure that social-distancing is maintained. Indeed, the state government has, like its immediate neighbour, Lagos, limited the number of people at functions to 20.
Perhaps it did not occur to the mourners that by turning out for the funeral in defiance of the protocol on social distancing, they were inadvertently encouraging the former president to defy the protocol. This is one of the problems we have in the country. Sometimes it is the led that is the problem. What did the mourners want? All many of them wanted to achieve was register their presence. This was a ceremony that Mrs Obasanjo, the daughter of the deceased could not attend herself, as she was held up in the United Kingdom due to restrictions on flight operations necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic. Why would anyone want to weep louder than the bereaved?
But there is another reason why the mourners should have seen their being turned back coming. Just last month, Chief Obasanjo had at the 2020 Sobo Sowemimo Annual Lecture warned Nigerians not to mistake the lifting of restrictions on lockdown as the end of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Obasanjo, who was guest lecturer at the event said: “Although restrictions are being lifted, we are not out of the woods yet.” He added that “We must not let down our guard because we may not have reached the peak yet”. He said Nigeria was neither prepared nor well equipped for COVID-19.
The point is; beyond what some of them could have seen as an embarrassment, the former president’s action was also in the best interest of the disappointed mourners. In other words, he saved them from themselves.
COVID-19 is not written on the faces of people having the disease. So, some of those who came might have returned home with what they never came to the service with. This is much more so that even some of those with the disease could be asymptomatic. These are some of the reasons religious worships are still banned in several states, Ogun State inclusive.
If Nigeria is to defeat COVID-19, our leaders must be ready to show leadership. Already, some governors have started to break protocols at the airports. Such irresponsible conducts are unhelpful to the efforts to lower the COVID-19 curve. Rather, such attitudes would continue to reinforce the erroneous belief among cynics who do not accept that coronavirus is real. This is especially so when those believed to be the ‘carriers’ of the disease, that is the elite, continue to defy protocols with reckless abandon.

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