‘Flatten the curve!’ I first heard it on CNN. New York was in trouble. It is the major landing point of passenger planes coming to the United States of America from Europe bringing in passengers carrying the corona virus and infecting New Yorkers. New Yorkers were getting sick in their thousands and a lot of them were dying. So, the desperate people running New York had to resort to massive testing of the citizens gathering data on infections and deaths and making a graph of the rise of infections. And the eloquent Governor Cuomo did daily briefings and showed the graph on television, explaining the implications. Later he explained with some relief when the graph was curving and flattening into a plateau and the expression, ‘flatten the curve’ was used frequently.

Here in Nigeria we have our own brilliant people in charge of fighting covid-19. They did their own briefings but unfortunately we do not have the money or preparedness to match what the Americans have been doing, testing millions of citizens. Our people have been unable to show us their own graph but they did a lot of talking, borrowing the expression, ‘flatten the curve’, almost every briefing. And everybody has latched on to it. One state Governor who claimed they had only seven infected individuals was also flattening the curve. What curve? Then a nurse somewhere else borrowed the expression. Even yesterday a commentator in a Northern state without telling us how much testing they were doing and how many infections they had said they were also flattening the curve.

Then the Americans and the Europeans locked down their countries, everybody stay home. So we locked down ours too. But the problem is that our country is different from theirs. In a place like Lagos the majority of the citizenry live from hand to mouth. So while those of us who live in our own houses locked ourselves in the majority of citizens who must go out daily to look for sustenance or die went out to fend for themselves. And the lock down became a sham. The markets were bustling, the unemployed youth were everywhere on their commercial motorcycles. Yes, those of us who could stay in remained safe as long as we stayed in. But what of the majority who went about without masks and who had no business with social distancing or hand washing or sanitizers? What of the aboki with his truck of tomatoes which he washes in the gutter in which people urinate pour all sorts of other rubbish into. Those other rubbish are better left to your imagination. He has no water to wash his hands or even sanitizers. This simply made a mockery of the stay at home. Sooner or later we who have been hiding in our houses have to come out and mix with the majority. And now we are talking of massive community spread.

The sad thing about our situation is that even where we are able to do some testing, in some cases, it takes up to four days for the results to come back. And in the meantime the contact tracing becomes a joke because the contacts themselves are making further contacts.

The sad thing is that Africans are not making any meaningful attempts to find their own solutions to the virus. One or two professors made noises about having discovered cures for the virus but they were only noises. We have not heard further from them. The Catholic monastery at Ewu say they have a cure. But we have not been told whether it is true or not. Has the cure been tried on anybody? Even brave Madagascar said they have a cure and generously parceled their cure to Nigeria and South Africa and other countries. I hope we were polite enough to thank them. But I have not heard that our own parcel was sent to our NAFDAC for evaluation. I have not heard that the gift from our fellow Africans was tested on any dying covid-19 patients. Even if our brothers from Madagascar just bottled bitter leaf water mixed with ewedu with a generous sprinkling of pepper the least we could have done is to find out whether it can cure anything. What is surprising is that the World Health Organisation which is bossed by an Ethiopian, an African, does not mention the Madagascar concoction at all as one of the possible cures of covid-19. What a shame! We are just copy cats waiting for the white people to invent vaccines that we can benefit from either by paying for them or by going with our ubiquitous calabashes to beg as usual. Africa oyeee!

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