SUSAN LAWANI: The Conscience Of Our Lockdown

By Bolaji O. Akinyemi

The story of Susan Lawani is an interesting dynamics in the COVID-19 conspiracy. While it is insane for anyone to believe that Corona virus does not exist, it is equally dumb to accept the public relations aspect of its management hook, line and sinker particularly as it concerns the attitude of our Public Servants. I may need to clarify my usage of the phrase, “Public Servants”.

Susan Lawani

Susan Lawani

Since the culture of monarchy that the colonialists came to dislodge to set up the sycophancy that saw our people betraying themselves to have favour with the White men which elongated the stay of the colonialists and left us with what Fela Anikulapo called, “colo mentality”, their final exit paved the way for self governance or independence of the Nigerian State.

This however was short lived as the military rascals took advantage of the immaturity of our political elite and the sentiments of the masses to perpetuate themselves in power. Eventually, the people rose up to the occasion and sent the military back to the barracks.

We enthroned democracy via the mandate of the people but left the impunity that characterised public stewardship in the hands of the Public Servants who now bestrode the space like colossus.

Susan Okpe Lawani’s case has exposed the inhuman tendencies and arrogance of power of our Public Servants, from top to bottom. But let me limit myself with relevant officers of our Covid-19 struggle.

First, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation who also doubles as Chairman Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and second Governor Otorm who announced her case as the index case for Benue State even before her result was out and yet to be shared with her.

Whatever Ortom’s interest, do I need to dignify such misplaced zeal which obviously did not accommodate the wellbeing and welfare of a Nigerian needing professional handling as it relates to the psychology of her case. Not even the Federal Government who took over from Benue State has fared well in this regard. Briefings go on daily.

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Even tailors are brought in to tell us how they will assist the Federal Government in producing face masks locally. But a case requiring counselling and psychological management has gone on without any provision for this specialized service.

Unfortunately, ours is a country with little professionals and professionalism in this field. And Pastors who by calling can render covert services in this area are ignored and locked out of the COVID-19 operations.

The servants of our Public Servants who see the rest of us as lesser mortals to their masters are unnecessary evil in our chains of unproductive governance. They not only shield their principals from the crowd but often also from common sense. They are lost to the reality that we hired their Principals who in turn hired them to do the job they are doing, and our interests must therefore be in their hearts.

Susan is a mother who left her family behind in the UK to dash in and briefly attend to a duty we all pray to God to discharge towards our parents. I am shocked at the heartlessness of my friends in Government who called to say they are surprised at my writing. One even said he thought I was with them but has now turned to an attack dog. All because l dared to stand up for Susan?

Another accused me of attacking Gov. Ortom who is a Christian brother like me. How so silly? Is Susan a Muslim? We are doomed if bigotry that our political elites has found as a veritable weapon of division is not rejected and thrown back at their faces.

Beyond the unreasonable detention of Susan, are the number of days she has been held not border our leaders? A

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viral infection that cannot but show symptoms in 14 days, maximum, has dwelt in her body without any medication for 50 days running and she is yet to become a critical case study? Who did this to us? All I hear is “she is stubborn”. “She is not accepting medication”. “She is not submitting herself for test”.

We even enlisted some dignitaries in her locality to prevail on her. And on and on goes their excuses. In a 21st century world blessed with 5G technology, our Government in Nigeria is referring a person requiring professional handling to people from her village! What insanity?

One person even said Susan was a psychiatric case. Yet she has not broken a window in a bid to escape from where she is held or gone violent in any way.

She has rather resorted to civilised means of pressing for her freedom refusing to speak to our Ministers of Health but instead referring them to her Lawyer and her Doctor. How mature and open to dialogue can an individual be on a subject where you are a novice!

The mental illness finger pointing may surprise the world, but not some of us. A rejected Governor once brandished it to tarnish the image of another preferred candidate. We know what we know and what goes down! I have spoken with Susan and l cannot get where the issue of mental illness is coming from. She is sound, coordinated and articulate.

But come to think of it and for the sake of argument, let us even assume for a moment that this may be a case bordering on mental instability, has it not exposed our lack of capacity to manage people within our population who may have mental illness and are infected with COVID -19? I am so sorry for my country right now that duties are excused with such flippancy.

For whom should our Government take responsibility; the sane and sensible? Whatever eroded the values of Government “pikin”, a description for people with mental illness when we were growing up.

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My challenge with the Nigerian public is that they do not ask critical questions neither do they give attention to those who do. There are questions we must implore Gov. Ortom to answer, if not for anything, at least, in helping to contain the spread of this contagion.

How many members of Susan’s family with whom she mingled before coming to the hospital have been tested? Was the hospital shutdown and all staff who interacted with Susan quarantined? How many of the persons in each of this group was found positive? Nothing has been communicated to convince us that the Government knows their job and is seen to be doing it. Yet, we are expected to stand in line; hailing, go Government go! Go where?

I am not in for excuses on Susan Okpe Lawani, and Nigerians are not either. Nigeria, yours, hers and mine, must dignify her humanity, and it must be proven now. I want to see my Government take responsibility. Susan Okpe has not committed any crime.

This name calling and stigmatising for all I care demean our entire COVID-19 Team, without sparing our nation. From the way Susan is being treated, I do not see others having her experience after a trip considering the option of going to the hospital.

All am asking from our Government and all Nigerians is that Susan Okpe Lawani’s case be better managed and we must all rise up for her.

Dr Bolaji O. Akinyemi writes from Lagos

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