There is a growing disconnect between the general public and those leading the fight against the Corona Virus pandemic in Nigeria. By the day the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control ,NCDC , the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19,PTF and various State Governments seem not to be living up to the expectations of some Nigerians. Poor information management or put simply inability to carry the people along is largely responsible for this lacuna. And there will certainly be dire consequences if the situation persists or even degenerates.
There is a fundamental flaw in the handling of the information and media management of COVID-19 by officials of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC. The feedback from the public on its media platforms is largely being ignored further fueling angst and some disbelief about the Corona Virus pandemic and activities of government and NCDC.
More worrisome is the growing aparthy of Nigerians about the strategy being adopted by the Presidential Task Force, NCDC and different states of the federation. It is also very disturbing that the current strategy is just to push out information and orders and new policies without bothering about feedback , workability and impact on the people . The information is certainly not getting to the grassroots and therefore at that level social Distancing and wearing of face masks are being routinely ignored. Some will argue that the same situation holds in more sophisticated sections of the society.
The rising figure of rate of infection which should lead to trepidation and concern is achieving the direct opposite. The claim is that there are not enough facts behind the figures.
On the Facebook page of NCDC for instance questions being asked by members of the public are ignored and angered by this they resort to abuses and denigration of the efforts of NCDC. Indeed it’s almost like NCDC is only interested in listening to its own voice.
There so many damaging information on the feedback channel that nothing has been done about . Some unscrupulous persons are taking advantage of the tardiness of those managing the platforms by using its comment section to perpetrate fraudulent activities Including soliciting for funds and promising bogus palliatives. Yet this has not been taken down.
To put things in perspective and show that there is some flaws in the information flow, there is this NCDC Update that looks like the real NCDC that pops up when you are searching for information on COVID-19. It’s on Facebook, Instagram etc. The way it is designed has a veneer of officialdom.
But apart from posting official updates from NCDC , there are lots of inanities and ribald jokes and all that. The impression that it’s linked with the NCDC is always there.
Can we call the attention of the NCDC to this abberation. If it is linked with NCDC , it should be pulled down immediately…Such comical postings should not be associated with the NCDC at a period of National Health Emergency. And if it’s not a public disavowal and repudiation should be done immediately by the NCDC.
The states Governments have compounded the situation with tentative approach to the lockdown order. They are not all on the same page and the desire to score some cheap political points has seen some State Chief executive playing to the gallery with some of them openly disavowing the seriousness of the pandemic.
There is too much muddlement and self inflicted errors. Ordinarily the controversy over the “Chinese Doctors” was needless. However the fact that the fact was not put in the public domain led to wild speculations and did a lot of damage to the PTF.
Then the different figures being bandied about as the cost of anyway is also a cause for concern.
And how come people said to be undergoing treatment for COVID-19 were engaged energetic and pulsating activities and dancing as seen in some covert videos recorded in some of the isolation centres .This issues has never been addressed by concerned authorities.
There should be transparency and accountability in managing all aspects of the battle.
The truth is those responsible for the battle against COVID-19 need a new approach , new strategy and new policy framework that should centre around the people they claim they are working for .
The managers of the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria should set New Agenda for the battle ahead.
The focus of PTF , NCDC and Governments at all levels should be how to devise a safe way to open the school system at all levels , ease the lockdown and make Social Distancing and wearing of facemasks mandatory. Of course this cannot be decreed by fiat. It will take education, Public Enlightenment on Prevention and Social Distancing.
The NCDC and its affliates should then improve on monitoring, TESTING while the Federal and State Governments and the PTF focus on Enhancement of Health Care facilities.
Of course some will continue to discredit the process, NCDC should carry on with its tasks regardless
The gains and verve achieved at the onset should be rekindled and improved upon. This is not a time to lose the battle .The drift must be halted.
-Adebanjo, a journalist and social analyst, writes from Abeokuta