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COVID-19 And The Assault Against Freedom By Emmanuel

That all living things by nature love to enjoy their freedom to the fullest is an established fact. Though freedom is not absolute, even in the best democracies, those who are privileged to exercise such guard their liberty jealously.

Therefore, when there is a threat to such rights, even animals frown most times because they often feel like fish out of water, if such liberties are denied.

In most democracies, the people often resort to the judicial system if and when their rights are infringed on to get the much needed reprieve.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has since changed the story, with its attendant consequences across the globe.

From Asia, to South America, Oceania, Africa, America and the world over, the fear of Covid-19 is now the order of the day and the fear it brings to the minds of human beings is better imagined than seen.

This is not unconnected with the fact that it has affected everywhere and everything, even as casualties keep growing across the world.

Worse still, there is no known cure for the pandemic which was said to have originated from China and has no known cure till date, even as scientists and the World Health Organisation are battling to find a cure.

Its assault on the human race is unimaginable, dealing a heavy blow on all critical sectors, businesses, tourist sites, aviation, agriculture, infrastructure, sports, religion, the list is endless.

That COVID-19 has dealt the greatest blow on all frontiers of freedom in the 21st century cannot be overemphasised as governments, institutions and people have had to infringe on human rights to outwit, and confront the disease.

In the sporting area for instance, every known sport has had to hurriedly come to a close, even as billions of dollars in revenue have been lost to the pandemic, leaving businesses and economies badly hit.

Religion moves the North, politics moves the West, ethnicity moves the East
These include revenues expected from sponsorships, advertisers, fans etc, especially in such sports as football, basketball, golf, and athletics, which command a lot of following across the world.

Worse still, this sector has a large pool of supporters most of whom are fanatical as far as the sports they support are concerned.

For instance, the English Premier League has the largest following all over the world and is reputed to be worth billions of pounds, as millions watch the sport live every week or do so through cable television.

The betting side of the sport is so massive as football betting across the world is said to be in the region of millions of pounds weekly.

Worse hit are the fanatical fans who are so much in love with their clubs, though many of them are several miles away from England, home of the EPL.

The joy, camaraderie, chants that come with such matches are gone, at least for now, no thanks to coronavirus.

The story is the same in Spain, home of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid etc, where their league has also been put on hold, the same as Italy where Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan and others who make the sport highly competitive.

This is why across different parts of the world, governments are not leaving anything to chance by coming up with different measures to ensure that their people are safe at all times from this pandemic.

All those who would have loved to exercise their freedom to move around are today in the lurch, for something beyond their control in the name and style of coronavirus.

Even if they decide to go to the playing grounds of their beloved clubs, they will meet nobody as those grounds are today deserted because nobody wants to be a victim. Others like Manchester City’s Etihad are turned into isolation centres.

Back home, even foreign travels are being curtailed, to ensure Nigeria remains safe from the pandemic, even as the Federal Government has stopped its officials from travelling abroad, at least for now, and on Sunday shut down movement in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja for 14 days.

Even those who have the resources to travel cannot as domestic and international air travels have been prohibited by government for now.

Nigerians and foreigners alike who would have travelled for Easter break have shelved such plans.

Pupils and students who would have loved to conclude their studies before going on holidays have been told to go home, the same for their counterparts across the globe.

The story is the same for those who have been practising to showcase their talents at the National Sports Festival tagged “Edo 2020” which has been cancelled by the Federal Government. Even the Olympics Games scheduled to hold in Japan in 2020 have been rescheduled to 2021 by the International Olympics Committee.

For such people, the hope of winning laurels has been shattered albeit temporarily, as an opportunity to display their talents has been cut short by the deadly virus.

Even freedom of worship has been largely affected as Nigerians have been told to avoid places with more than 20 people.

This has negatively impacted many worship centres, especially churches and mosques especially the big ones who have asked their members to keep away, at least for now.

Perhaps, for the first time in a very long time, Nigerians are witnessing a very strange scenario where churches and mosques are greeted with empty seats during services.

But this is a major sacrifice we must all endure, at least for now, because this is not a time to take needless risks, to avoid stories that touch the heart. Statistics of those who have been killed by the pandemic are no joke and should serve as a lesson to all patriotic Nigerians in these very trying times.

This obviously is not the time to be talking about exercising certain rights, as if we cannot do without such, as doing so may come with unpalatable consequences, not just for us, but for the majority of our citizens whose lives we may also be putting at risk, without knowing it. It is therefore better to cooperate with the Federal Government which has done well so far by being proactive on the pandemic, going by the effective and efficient manner the issue has been handled by both the federal and state governments.

Kudos must be given to the President for displaying uncommon and dynamic leadership in confronting the disease by ensuring that a high-powered committee was set up with a view to tackling the pandemic frontally and giving Nigerians necessary information on the pandemic. Nigerians must therefore follow suit by cooperating with the authorities to ensure that we jointly win this war, a war we cannot afford to lose by giving the much needed support to the government and ensuring they remain safe at all times.

Emmanuel Umohinyang, President, Centre for Leadership and Justice, wrote in from Abuja.

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