The global figure of the corona virus pandemic victims has feverishly crossed over 500,000 and death toll has since also crossed 20,000. One felt a compelling need to add his little voice to the deafening chorus. More inspiration came from “Love in the Time of Cholera”, a novel by Colombian Nobel prize winning author Gabriel García Márquez. The novel was first published in Spanish in 1985. Alfred A. Knopf published an English translation in 1988, and an English-Language movie adaptation was released in 2007.
The magical plots of the famed novel show the indignity of aging and a fear of death; cholera, choleric symptoms, and cholera epidemics come throughout the novel; and love is, of course, the one thing that ties all of it together.
The author, Marquez, makes clear that there is no one definition of love but instead many kinds, all complicated, unpredictable. Similarly, while the deaths of all three protagonists are inevitable, the end of the novel complicates the definition of death. Like John Donn mocked death in his eternal poem, Death be not proud, Love in the time of cholera encourages us to win with undying love and deep connection with humanity.
The plague, which provided the canvass for painting the story under review, is reincarnated in the corona virus pandemic in our time. The kind of uncommon expression of love in the reverenced novel is equally called for this time around. We all have to share love, which is so urgently demanded of all today.
The healthcare workers who occupy the frontlines of wedging this pandemic deserve our prayers and affection. Yes it’s their job, training and perhaps their calling. But nobody trains to die. They too deserve to survive the pandemic. Tears flowed down my cheek as the civilised world clapped and hailed the health workers through their windows this Friday. They risk their lives so that mankind may survive. Adadevo did same for Nigeria when she wrestled down Sawyer the Liberian who brought Ebola to Lagos to save the nation.
The National Centre for Disease Control is grappling with challenge while governments, federal and state, are responding in their usual kneejerk. While Donald Trump of America addresses his nation daily, nobody sees our President Muhammadu Buhari. Officials are labouring over explanations on why the President’s soothing and succoring words are not needed at all. Sometimes, one wonders what these government officials take Nigerians for, carrying on as if there is no life after office.
A few governors have taken the seemingly illegal routes by shutting their borders in the hope that nobody would throw in a legal challenge. One will not be surprised if the attorney general Abubakar Malami wakes up tomorrow to query Nwike et al over the legality of locking down their states even while relying on Quarantine law of 1926. These are extraordinary times calling for extraordinary measures. Thank God courts are also shut and so cannot hear such academic frivolity.
My heart also goes out to millions of Nigerian peasants who depend on daily hustles to feed themselves and their families. In lockdowns in other countries, while austere life is now inescapable, government provided reliefs. Britain, for example, is cancelling house rents, charges for electricity, water and so on. The US has come up with even deeper measures, including a $2trn litmus package.
In Nigeria, as the President is nowhere to be found, nobody has an idea what the Federal Government plans for the nation’s stranded citizens. Since government chose to exacerbate the fears and apprehensions of Nigerians by keeping them in the dark and suspense, rumour mills have since taken over even over health of the President himself. Call it fake news or hate speech if you like, but how else do you cure such plausible speculations if not by having the President wave to his people even through a tiny window in Aso Rock if he cannot hold a small meeting to be carried on televisions? Unless the President is indeed sick, no matter what government spin doctors may say, not permitting even such little gestures at these desperate times is highhanded and amounts to holding Nigerians in utter contempt.
The only concern from the federal government over the impending hardships came from the Senate President Dr. Ahmad Lawan… “This is a time to think deep and wide, to provide for our people, in order for us at least to deal with this challenge at the moment,” he said while calling on the Federal Government to release special funds to cushion the effect of stay-at-home order on the ordinary Nigerians in the wake of the pandemic.
Despite these oddities, I still urge Nigerians to hang in there. This coronavirus will pass. Ebola did. Lassa fever went and came back, to go again. We survived Bird flu and worse. This coronavirus, a vile disease with an exotic name, will pass away like its predecessors.
We must not allow it win. Though it has killed hundreds across the globe, it should not be allowed to snatch even a dozen from here. Yes, treat everybody as a potential career. But do not withhold love while keeping the social distance. We need each other now more than ever before. We can creatively use communication and technology to reach out.
Praying for one another is not enough. Think of the poor around you. Yes, you stocked up your house as though you want to start a supermarket, right? Millions cannot do the same. Give out a mudu of rice, garri and anything you can spare. A bank transfer of one thousand naira can save a peasant’s family. Our calling as Christians and Muslims is best shown in this dangerous time of corona. And for Catholics like myself, it is also Lent when alms-giving is obligatory.
Yes, God will see us through but God also helps those who help themselves; for prayer alone without works is dead indeed (James 2:14-26). So, while practicing love in this time of corona, please do not be fatalistic. It is not true that corona virus does not kill Africans. One that has died in Nigeria is a Nigerian and black as well. Even the Italian who first brought it into Nigeria is alive and well, long discharged from the hospital and probably playing golf now
Please keep doing the five: stay home. Leave those social visits for now. Keep social distancing, three feet at least. Leave handshake and hugging for now. Kissing is now a no-no, deep, wet or light. Remember: the other person or you may be a carrier of the virus without even knowing. Keep washing and sanitizing your hands. Sneeze and cough properly and move further away from one coughing and sneezing. It is a red flag. In the absence of tap running water, get somebody to poor it down for you.
Keep your immune system shored up. Look for cheap sources of vitamin C. Ginger, Lemon, Garlic, Uziza (as Ndigbo call it), onions and some others should join our menus now.
We have one advantage over the virus. It is relatively heavy and cannot be airborne as such. Our temperature is also fighting for us as it does not survive in high temperatures. Embrace hot water instead of cold things. Forget ice cream for now.
Given its relatively large size compared to other viruses, almost every mask will be useful if properly used.
Finally, watch your mental health. This virus, which has quarantined the world, will sooner be quarantined to one world laboratory for ever as a relic, and mankind free again.
Do not let depression, which anger brings on occasion such as our isolation, find you. Quickly settle disputes in the home and make efforts to be happy. Happiness improves immune system and gives us greater strengths to fight off all sicknesses, including corona and all its evil allies.
Above all else, pray to God. He has the cure. Let our repentance and prayers force His hands. A contrite heart God will never turn away. With God, care and love we will make it in this time of corona.
See you at the end of the quarantine. Trust me, it will soon be over and we shall kiss, hug and pomp hands again.
•Dr. Law Mefor, a Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist, is coping with corona quarantine with family in Abuja; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org – News Express