Vocal Nigerian Catholic priest, Cardinal Anthony Okogie, has described the Coronavirus pandemic in the country as a blessing in disguise because it has exposed its poor political leadership.
Okogie wondered why the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration would spend billions of naira on cars for lawmakers without planning to build hospitals to contain emergencies such as COVID-19.
Okogie went on to call on Nigerians to demand more from their elected representatives especially in times of crisis.
He said, “The outbreak of COVID-19 has been a dangerous yet revelatory moment in Nigeria.
“It is dangerous because this deadly pandemic has infected over a million and killed thousands of citizens of our planet. No one seems to know when and how it will end.
“But COVID-19 is also revelatory, a blessing in disguise because it has exposed Nigeria as a country where quality of leadership is of low grade. What we have known but denied for so long is now shown to us as an incontrovertible fact: that the quality of leadership in our country must improve.
“In the midst of poor-quality leadership however, Nigerians must speak in laudatory terms about Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, his Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, and his entire team for rising to the occasion.
“For right or wrong reasons, Lagosians have been critical of his government since its inauguration on May 29, 2019. But it must be admitted that with a population said to be close to 15 million, if Governor Sanwo-Olu and his team had not provided outstandingly exemplary leadership, we would have had a more dangerous situation on our hands.
“At the risk of making a hasty judgment, it is to be placed on record that as at the time this was being written, Governor Sanwo-Olu and his team had largely prevented the spread of the virus in Lagos. Let us pray for them and encourage them so that they will continue to show exemplary leadership to other political office holders in Nigeria.
“COVID-19 has also revealed to us that rather than invest in good healthcare service delivery in Nigeria, we have a political arrangement that makes it possible to waste Nigeria’s money on government officials and health tourism abroad.
“Thanks to our country’s constitution, government in Nigeria is embarrassingly big, sinfully expensive, prone to corruption, and scandalously inefficient.
“Nigeria cannot adequately invest in the sectors of health and education because among other reasons, the constitution of Nigeria has established offices that will require an endless flow of petrol-dollars to maintain.
“By the time low-grade leadership combines with big government and the seemingly irresistible tendency to steal and or waste Nigeria’s money, you find a country whose hospitals are reduced to mere consultation rooms.
“It is therefore insufficient for our legislators to forfeit their salaries for two months as they have offered, it is also unsatisfactory for Senators to donate half of their salaries to tackle COVID-19. The humongous basic salaries and allowances of our political office holders should become a thing of the past.
“The money should be used to establish a regime of high-quality medical service delivery.
“COVID-19 has revealed to us that if we do not do something positive about our hospitals in Nigeria, if we do not invest our money in medical research, we shall one day find ourselves in a situation where we cannot even board a flight out of Nigeria to go on medical tourism. Let us make hay while the sun shines.
“Constitutional restructuring is a necessary condition for the production of high-quality governance. But if we continue to run the affairs of our country with a constitution that impoverishes and disables the citizens by establishing offices that do not serve the people, then we would not have learnt good lessons from this pandemic.
“Indeed, COVID-19 has been a blessing in disguise. It has exposed the falsehood and hypocrisy we call politics and religion in Nigeria.
“May Nigerians become sufficiently wise to read and interpret the signs of the time. For a stitch in time saves nine. Having taught us the hard way, may this pandemic go to bed early, never to rise again.”