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SEQUESTRATIONS (A Poem About Covid-19)

Mankind had become a nation
Well, not quite, but
As there ever was

If, by time you reckon –
That is, discounting wars
Of all kinds – economic, political and so on

Indeed, we thought we had seen it all
Given the passage of all of ten and three scores
Since the Last Great one – Hitler’s War
The war to end all wars, it was called

So, we lulled ourselves
Into a false sense of security –
After all, what hadn’t we seen?
Unknown to us, however, “we ain’t seen nothing yet”

For, lurking in the shadows, beyond physical reach
Was a foe deadlier than the mightiest army or terrorist,
And more challenging than an idealistic
Environmental activist –
A Greta Gurnberg or Greenpeace

An enemy as undiscriminating – nay, more
Than the fairest, blindest judge
For, this enemy knew neither creed nor race
As far it was concerned, all was fair game

As so it came, like a thief in the night
In a place hitherto known for enterprise
Wuhan, in the Chinese Province of Hubei

At the dawn of a twin-year: 2020
Whoever foretold it would have been – well, crazy
A guy called Nostradamus, in fact, did

A famous psychic, he foresaw all the Great wars
He said this plague would ravage the land of seven hills
And where else might that be, but Italy

This single-cell “weapon of mass destruction”
Had (and still has) all the world’s
Scientists scrambling for a cure

Covid-19 they called it, a novel Coronavirus
Who cares, as long as it is overcome
As, a rose by any other name . . .
Hang on, this is no rose – it’s not tame

Never in human history have such multitude
Been affected by something so little
At the last count, fully a quarter of us
Had been forced in-doors

Quarantine or self-isolation:
Whoever defied it was called a “Covidiot”
If in doubt, just ask a celebrity power couple in Lagos
They dared the law

Codified in the Regulations
Newly-minted to contain the virus
For them, the show must go on
Or so they thought

However, much to their chagrin
They were charged to court
Faced with a reality check
They quickly accepted the court’s sentence

Now, the message was clear
The Government meant business:
All hands must be on deck
To stop the virus in its tracks
Anything else would be a disaster

In due course, at least two other guests at the party
Surrendered to the authorities
They were contrite and asked for clemency
It was duly considered

And they were let off with a slap on the wrist
Leaving some to wonder
Why the same deal
Was not cut with the organizers of the party

And yet, the pandemic
Does need to be put in its proper perspective:
As, an overwhelming number of those infected –
As much as 80 per cent
According to the Government, do, in fact, survive

Big deal, you say – it doesn’t matter
What matters is a fool-proof barrier
Against the scourge of a demon
Which can strike in a second

Especially as some of its vectors are asymptomatic
Another ‘new’ word in our rapidly expanding vocabulary
Spurned by this disease:
It simply means the ability to spread it
While appearing to be healthy

Given the novelty of the virus,
It Is hardly surprising that
It has caused widespread panic and confusion
And, of course, fear – that mortal enemy of man

So much that it prompted an exodus –
A repatriation of foreigners – homeward-bound, of course
Which, while not exactly biblical
Was certainly disruptive and stressful

Economists and sociologists
Have tried to count the cost of the pandemic
But, surely, it is premature, isn’t it?
As the situation remains fluid and continues to shift

Nevertheless, it has not deterred some
From speculating that its eventual toll
Would be far worse
Than the 2008 global recession

What to do? Easy, everyone knows . . .
Social distancing (another new phrase)
Wash your hands regularly with soap
Avoid touching your face

Wear a mask
But, which mask?
Home-made, surgical or N-95?
The experts are divided, so the masses are in the dark

Talking about Covidiots,
They are nothing compared to the tales spun
Of conspiracies
And other theories
Of world domination
Through mass elimination

Even the masks and medics
Offered as charity
Are rejected by skeptics
Who suspect a plot to use “us” as guineas-pigs
By that, they meant Africans

Africa – ever the cannon fodder
Dumping ground
Where rules are lax
Or non-existent
But not this time – we’ve learnt our lessons

Never mind if that is the biggest lie
As is the fact that our infection rates lag behind
Those of the rest of the world – bar none
In truth, those figures reflect the state of our infrastructure

Or lack of it – in the most critical sector of all: health
So, the admonition that “health is wealth”
Has been observed in the breach
Over the years – as our rich sick
Became medical tourists
In countries far afield

It’s so bad that large parts of the country:
The rural poor and the hoi polloi
Lack access to basic necessities:
Running water and electricity

Surely, you can only wash your hands
With water or a sanitizer
If it is available
Or affordable

As for the dislocation
Caused by self-isolation
The Government’s supposed palliatives
Have been mirred in the usual controversies

‘Not good enough’; ‘Too little’
‘It’s being misappropriated’ or shared to the favoured few
In other words, it has been skewed
In line with our usual prebendalism

Noticeable amidst the din
Wrought by the disease
Is the deafening silence
Of those who normally commanded attention:
Clergy – the supposed men of God

Whoever coined the phrase: “Missing in Action”
Must have had them in mind
For they are surely one of a kind
Seemingly having answers to every affliction

Not this time – Covid-19 has got them stumped
Even the “big guy” himself – Donald Trump
The “All-knowing, Invincible One”
Seldom has he been so stung

Not into silence, you understand
But into attacking an enemy that
Is neither Democrat
Nor Iran

Qassem Soleimani is a distant memory now
Trust Trump, however, after all, his other name is “Teflon Don”
(Is it? I thought that was Tony – Tony Blair)
Whatever – who cares?

In an election year
This is possibly his worst nightmare
And yet, there is no one to blame
Not the usual suspects:
Everyone, that is, except himself.

And so, the disease persists
With a fury
And a reach
Truly global and terrifying

In the Indian sub-continent and beyond
Millions were compelled to work from
Home, as only the most ‘essential’ workers
Were given a Pass

At a loss
For a solution
In the face of mass failure
Of authority – or at least its symbols

Many turned
To a long-forgotten God
Surely, HE had to exist
Notwithstanding His invisibility
After all, so is the disease

And so,
In droves,
Many trooped to places of worship
– in some instances

The whips
Which those in authority
Deployed against them
For daring to challenge
The anti-congregation directive

How long will this last?
Is it too early to forecast?
Some say it depends on discovering a vaccine
Predicting precisely when that might be?
Anything from 12-18 months
According to the most informed

Can the world afford to wait that long?
How much longer will we be in suspended animation?
Nothing has been spared nothing is untouched
Sports, the Olympics, all recreation:
The Premier League, Wimbledon
Rugby League, Formula One

The elite, in particular, have been hit hard
Abroad, the Prime Minister of Britain
The Prince of Wales
At home, the President’s Chief of Staff

And the Governors of two States –
Bauchi and Kaduna
As for that of Oyo, Seyi Makinde
He appeared to be super-human
As, his recovery was like quicksilver

Still on Governor El-Rufai:
He confounded his enemies
By sharing a video
Of him singing with gusto
A song called “Rastaman Vibration”
He seemed to say: “Isolation? What Isolation!”

Thus demonstrating clearly
That there is hope, even in adversity
Talking of which –
As a Muslim,
He deserves plaudits
For showing that Islam and music
Were not mutually-exclusive
As some, perhaps, would have us believe

In other words, that tolerance and inclusivity
Were about as potent in fighting
Prejudice and bigotry
As personal hygiene, social distancing
Self-isolation and quarantine
Are in tackling Covid-19

If there is one take-away, then,
From this scourge that has levelled men
It is (at the risk of presumptuousness)
That it is not a cliché
To say that the world is a global village

As, boundaries
Race and creed
Are meaningless before a disease
Which does not discriminate between –
Let alone, flee
From mere mortal beings

Abubakar D. Sani, Esq., is an Abuja based legal practitioner

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