Coronavirus: Why some Nigerians are gloating about Covid-19
24-Apr-2020 | 00:36 am — Author: Staff Reporter
In our series of letters from African writers, Nigerian novelist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani reflects on the different attitudes of the rich and poor towards coronavirus.
Many Nigerians gloat that Covid-19 is mainly targeting the country’s elite, particularly politicians, despite warnings that the life-threatening respiratory illness could hit the poor as well.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has recorded more than 600 cases since the end of February – most of them people who had been abroad, and those they had interacted with after their return to Africa’s most-populous state, which has a population of about 200 million.
So far, Nigeria’s list of people who got or have died from Covid-19 includes President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief of staff, politicians, heads of government agencies, former ambassadors and their aides or relatives.
These are the kind of people who normally jet off to the UK, Germany, or the US at the slightest headache because Nigeria’s state hospitals are poorly funded, run-down, and lack adequate equipment.
Nigeria: Key facts
Population of about 200m
50%live in extreme poverty
70%do not have safe drinking water and sanitation
69%of urban residents live in slum conditions
49%of children under five are stunted, too thin or overweight
23%of labour force is unemployed
Source: World Bank, UN, Nigerian government and USAid
Nigerians spent more than $1bn ($800m) on treatment in overseas hospitals in 2013.
President Buhari promised to end “medical tourism” when he took power in 2015, but he himself spent more than four months in London in 2017 getting treatment for an undisclosed illness and subsequently returning to the UK capital for additional care.
But with borders closed and each country haunted by its own Covid-19 nightmare, Nigeria’s big men and women are now forced to use their country’s hospitals, prompting a stream of taunts and jokes.
“This is your punishment for not investing in your country’s health system,” some say.
“I thought our hospitals were not good enough for you,” others say.