Two weeks ago, Nollywood A-list actress, Funke Akindele held a party to celebrate her husband’s 43rd birthday. Funke’s party had an attendance of over 20 people, this was in direct violation of the lockdown/social distancing order imposed by the federal government. For violating the order, Funke was arrested less than 24hours after a public outcry when the party was made public via an Instagram post by her husband. She was arraigned the next day. Funke, alongside her husband were forced to pay N100,000 each and mandated to undergo a 14-day community service which were to serve as reparations for their transgression. The couple were also told to submit the names, phone numbers and addresses of everyone who attended the party.
With this development, one would have thought it will be a precedence for all including the high and mighty to avoid similar scenarios so as to prevent Nigerians from the deadly corona virus pandemic but this was hardly the case some weeks later.
Barely two weeks later, tragedy struck the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Friday, when it was announced that chief of staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari lost his battle with the novel coronavirus. The powerful government official was buried the next day at Gudu cemetery in Abuja with several presidential aides in attendance in contravention of the federal government’s announcement last week that corpses of COVID-19 patients will not be claimed for burial, instead the bodies will be incinerated in order to destroy traces of the virus within the corpse. In contradiction of its directive especially as it pertains to global standards in mitigating the spread of the deadly virus, the corpse of the Chief of staff to the president was released for burial because of the seeming position of the person in question. The law was disregarded by those who are supposed to uphold it while the lives of Nigerians were put at grave risk in a country where there is apparently no balance and respect for human lives.
When Channels Television released footage of the burial ceremony. It showed attendees violating the social distancing laws imposed by the government. As a good number of them were not wearing masks or hand gloves and Personal Protective Equipment’s (PPE) where necessary as directed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and many other prestigious health agencies. According to WHO, wearing of masks is not enough to curtail the spread of the deadly virus as they revealed that the virus is spread through droplets that exits in the body of an infected person. The droplets the agency says can only travel as far as 1.8 meters so it is advised that during a public gathering individuals are expected to keep at least 2 meters apart from each other. The attendees at the ceremony can be seen standing shoulder to shoulder (a direct contravention of the 2 meter rule ) as they mourn the deceased chief of staff. It has been over 24 hours since their violation of the social distancing rules were made public and they are yet to be prosecuted for their actions
These are two similar scenarios of social gatherings that clearly contradict the order imposed by the government for the sole purpose of containing the spread of the deadly disease that is currently ravaging the world. The only difference between the two occurrences is that one received a well-deserved punishment as prescribed by law while in the other people were merely told to self-isolate without punitive consequences. The Latter went further to contravene the directive made by the government which states that the body of a deceased Covid-19 patient cannot be claimed for burial and most be cremated. This law was however not adhered to but was ignored and a ceremony was conducted where the crowd that attended unheeded the social distancing rule putting the lives of others at risk.
But the crux of the matter is that the ceremony should not have been conducted with such crowd. It was reckless on the part of those that attended which should have known better. Double standards does not take any society far. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander. If Funke Akindele could be made to go through such humiliation and punishment for conducting a party for her husband why should the same authority turn the other eye for a similar situation. The bottom line is that we must not continuously bend the rules when it is convenient especially when the lives of Nigerians are at stake.
For the sake our or collective goal we must endeavour to eschew all form of hypocrisy and leave above board at all times
Though all the Aso rock staff that attended were denied access into the Villa in order to protect others from a likely spread and were told to self isolate. But the ideal thing is that the gathering should have been avoided in the first place. Throwing more light on the decision, to deny them entry into the villa, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu explained that it was regular administrative procedure that should not have generated any furor. He said, “standard protocol was behind the decision by security officials stopping attendees of the burial ceremony of the late Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, from entering the State House.
This development is just another proof of the unapologetic inequality within the Nigerian system and this has called many to compare our society with that of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. For a brief summary, Animal Farm is an allegorical novella by George Orwell, first published in England on 17 August 1945. The book tells the story of a group of farm animals who rebel against their human farmer, hoping to create a society where the animals can be equal, free, and happy.
One social commentator wrote, “Not all of the animals on the farm, depicted in George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, are equal.
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
Abba Kyari is more equal than other victims of Covid-19”
Another social critic wrote, “I read Animal Farm as a kid. I didn’t know it was going to be a perfect description of my life as a Nigerian living in Nigeria.”
Renowned actor and comedian also added his voice on the subject after posting a picture of people adhering to social distancing in another country and situating to the one of Kyari’s burial which contradicted government’s position and concluded saying the actresses Fine of hundred thousand should be returned to her so she could give it to out to someone who needs it.
The Above listed comments begs the question: Is Nigeria an Animal Farm. Sadly, the answer is: YES
But the oppressed characters in the “Animal Farm” collectively put in considerable efforts to usurp their oppressor. In Nigeria, the youth in particular have not done enough to eliminate or at least mitigate the scourge of inequality that plagues our land. Most have preached that “power belongs to the youth for we are in the multitude” but the youth are too lazy and distracted to take hold of that power. Characters in the Animal farm fought relentlessly to break the chains of oppression, but what most youths do today is voice their dissatisfaction on several social media platforms and forget all about it the following day. This lackadaisical behaviour is what motivates the tyrannical government to continually desecrate the so called democracy they claim to uphold with impunity.
George Orwell’s Animal farm did not have a happy ending, yes the animals succeeded in usurping their “farm owner” oppressor but all they did was create a power vacuum that allowed another oppressor to take its place. Still, Nigerians, specifically the youth should take notes from Orwell’s book. The Youths must learn how to invoke more enthusiasm and solidarity towards achieving true equality. We must also use the book as a precautionary measure to avoid replacing one oppressive government with another.