By Kole Omotoso
The other day a clever man was speaking about the world after corona virus otherwise known as COVID-19. Whichever, way and manner Nigeria may change it will never admit of medical tourism ever again. Someone is going to point a finger into your eyes and demand to know if you couldn’t build a hospital in your country. And secondly “the flower that is today tomorrow dies. All that we wish to stay, shakes itself and disappears.” Nothing is going to be the same again. Most importantly, we as Nigerians must learn to live differently. In a write-up in the WHO publication WHAT THIS – THE LARGEST EBOLA OUTBREAK IN HISTORY – TELLS THE WORLD the following quote stands out: “Our 21st century societies are interconnected, interdependent and electronically wired together as never before.”
Over the years we Africans seem to have learnt some lessons from the Ebola virus. The first is that when you are poor nobody hurries to find a vaccine for your illness. Waves and waves of EBOLA has passed over us nobody is falling over themselves to find a vaccine to cure Ebola. Unless we do it ourselves, nobody will ever do it. There is not enough money in it.
Who could have imagined a situation in which no vehicle moves, no plane flies, no engine stirs out of its parking space? Yet. It happened. All over the world petrol was useless. Nobody wanted it again, as they say in Nigeria. Are we going to fly ever again? Maybe but not as we did before, like 2019 when no plane was large enough to take us all to our next airport. Who is demonstrating in support of the fifth airport at Heathrow? Like it took human beings looking at the Earth from the moon to see how fragile, how vulnerable it was out there. A little pandemic and we are seeing properly again. There planes parked in the desert that would never fly ever again.
Appreciation of those who do the dirty work around us. Suddenly we are clapping for ever for those we hardly acknowledge as we hurry past them. Stop awhile and look around you. Who is this woman? Who is this man? What are they trying to do? Cleaning is what they are trying to do. Give them space to do what they are trying to do. They would reward you with a smile!
Oil and gas might one day be valued at a thousand dollars a barrel. Good luck to the owners of the oil wells. Hopefully, they will remember when the value was minus zero, when you would have to give him money to take the oil off of you.
Imagine a situation where human beings would prefer to go against a law of the land that says stay at home to avoid Coronavirus. Stay at home and starve to death? Or go out to look for the proverbial daily bread and perhaps never encounter Coronavirus? Will our political leaders stand up to build the infrastructure we need to stand tall in the company of other men and women?
So many versions of the same story was told over and over these house sitting holidays. A father who bought fourteen cars one for each of his children. Except that none of the children liked any of the cars because cars had gone on to look different and anyway there was nothing to owning a car these days.
Or a father, who built fourteen houses all in the same complex. In the meantime the children had grown up, flown half way across the world to go and create a different world somewhere else. You and your spouse are busy contemplating your fourteen houses.
At your age and stage what matters are little friendships nurtured from long ago. Going upstairs to look down on the neighbours and neighbourhood? Rheumatism prevents you from going upstairs.
Every act of kindness remembered and cherished, every act of selflessness replenishes our memories as we sip from the wine of splendid possibility we have opened for ourselves.
If you were them, faced with nothing that is taken for granted in other places would you stay in such a place? You are a university graduate, what does your degree fetch you here in Nigeria or outside there overseas? Whichever direction you turn you face rejection. The job you can get to do is the one that nobody wants to do. The job you would not do at home you would go and do it overseas. The money does not carry the dirt of the work.
There is the second iconic tale about the Nigerian who made it because of 100 per cent. And everybody laughs at the joke and quite the opposite congratulate the minister who has made it by stealing 100% of the budget of his ministry.
So many houses what do you do with them? So many cars. Of yesteryears, who wants to be seen in any of these ancient things? Modern cars are driverless and so forth. Of what use are cars with fancy steering wheels?
What is the use of bitterness? Of what use your unwillingness to understand where they are coming from, rejecting your cars, refusing your houses? The challenge of your age was different from the challenge that he and his brothers and sisters face. They face the solo achievement of a drop out who achieved where nobody expected him to achieve. That is where he is headed. Go, sell the houses and deposit the money in a fixed account for your grandchildren. They would need it one day. Sell the cars too and put away the money for one day in the future. It would come in useful, you will see. In the meantime, measure your needs according to your movements. Let the measure of your compound be the measure of your capabilities. To have measured the needs of your time with the needs of his time was to have closed your eyes without opening his eyes. A little opening of his eyes with a little closing of your own would have benefitted you both.