The inventors of nuclear, atomic, biological and all sorts of weapons of mass destruction in the world are being brought to their knees by COVID 19. Science and technology can now see that God remains on the throne. In my article, published by Daily Trust on Sunday, April 26, 2020, I wondered if COVID 19 is “a blessing in disguise”. We are no longer inundated with pontification about whose economy is the best or whose technology is more advanced. Suddenly, we are all struggling to survive and care for one another. Perhaps now we can understand our African Anthropology of Ubuntu better in the Ubuntu Philosophy. William A Flippin in an Article titled: “Ubuntu: Applying African Philosophy in Building a Community” said: “The philosophy of Ubuntu derives from a Nguni word, ubuntu meaning “the quality of being human.” Ubuntu manifests itself through various human acts, clearly visible in social, political, and economic situations, as well as among family. According to sociolinguist Buntu Mfenyana, it “runs through the veins of all Africans, is embodied in the often repeated: “Ubuntu ngumtu ngabanye abantu” (A person is a person through other people).
This African proverb reveals a world view that we owe our selfhood to others, that we are first and foremost social beings, that, if you will, no man/woman is an island, or as the African would have it, “One finger cannot pick up a grain.” Ubuntu is, at the same time, a deeply personal philosophy that calls on us to mirror our humanity for each other. To the observer, ubuntu can be seen and felt in the spirit of willing participation, unquestioning cooperation, warmth, openness, and personal dignity demonstrated by the indigenous black population. From the cradle, every black child inculcates these qualities so that by the time adulthood is reached, the ubuntu philosophy has become a way of being.” As of April 5, 2020; private sector initiative here in Nigeria, All Africans and Nigerians have raised the sum of fifteen billion naira (N15,000,000,000) ($42 million) to assist the federal government of Nigeria fight the corona virus. What an amazing show of the essence of life. For once Foreign Donations did not take the center stage in fighting COVID 19.
Have you imagined the distance from where you are right now to Wuhan? Hundreds and thousands of kilometers and miles away, I guess. There is a distance of 11,200 km according to Google map reader from the Catholic diocese of Sokoto to Wuhan. That’s a long distance. Those who live in the extreme North or South poles will certainly be reading a different distance. However close or far you are from Wuhan, it’s pretty amazing to see how closely knitted we are in the world. It’s an amazing experience. Truly, we can now understand when we say we come from the same Father, that we share the same humanity, that we are all equal in dignity. However, it is sad that it takes some devastating experiences like the ongoing pandemic to wake us up to our fundamental interconnectivity as humans, and members of the same creation. It is tragic that it takes this COVID-19 crisis to help us appreciate how we are simply our neighbours keeper. The vastness of the Atlantic or Indian Ocean becomes like a little stream that we can cross with a tiny boat of care.
Let us think of taking Nigeria First. When the chips are down it is what you sow, that you reap. The Corona virus pandemic has exposed all our inadequacies as a country especially in the health sector. The world is in total standstill and all countries are taking care of their citizens first. As it stands, the world is in dire need of ventilators to care for the teeming numbers of infected patients, and test kits. Rebecca Rosman, an Aljazeera correspondent published an online story on the 27th of March. In the story, researchers in Senegal “began validation trials on COVID 19 diagnostic test that can be done at home in 10 minutes all for $1. The plan is to manufacture the tests in Senegal and the United Kingdom and if the validation testing meets regulatory standards, they could be distributed across Africa as early as June.” That is noble, but one thing is almost certain. The test kits must meet the needs of the citizens of Senegal and the United Kingdom first before considering the citizens of other African countries. Bashir Ahmad, President Buhari’s Special Assistant on Social media, stylishly shaded Nigeria’s indigenous car manufacturer Innoson Motors on Friday the 3rd of April 2020. Ahmad said, “nothing is stopping the car manufacturer from embarking on massive production of the much-needed health equipment at the moment when the entire world is desperately in need of the equipment.” COVID 19 should reset the button in our relations to means of production, because when the world comes to a standstill like this again, every nation will be thinking of its citizens first.
St Augustine was born on the 13th of November 354 AD and died August 28, 430. His understanding of the human person and the soul is unparalleled. He wrote volumes of works that are stilled referred to as Classics. One of such classical works is “The Confessions” where he says: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until it rests in you (Lib 1,1-2.2.5,5: CSEL 33,1-5). In a time of global pandemic like this, suddenly everyone is searching for immaterial words of Comforts, Hope, and Love. At some people’s invitation, we see an Anglican minister, Pat Allerton the vicar of St Peter’s Notting Hill playing Amazing Grace at full volume from his car and praying the Lord’s prayers afterwards with the people from their homes, at Twilley Street, London, UK. Zenith News reporter Deborah Castellano Lubov analyzed this story on the 3rd of April, 2020 and this is what she said. “The Corona virus emergency has revealed a need for prayer and quest for spirituality that surprised many observers. Over 13 million Italians prayed from their homes by tuning in to Tv2000, the television of the Italian Bishops conference, a press release reported. Italy’s primary Catholic TV channel has been followed by millions of people, who have sought in the faith a way of Consolation and reassurance in the face of fear.”
A word for the African Leaders. This is indeed a turning point in world’s history. No one rejoices at the death of any low- or high-profile official. However, at the end of this crisis, Africans, Nigerians especially, must confront their governments with very pertinent questions. For instance, if they had a choice of leaving the country to Europe and America, how many of them would have used our health care facilities in the face of this COVID 19? Now we see that there is no need to send our families out for medical treatments and education abroad? Why have some western countries provided shelter, accommodation and safe haven for Africa’s politicians? There is need for a change of values and orientation. We need to have a rethink in Africa. When the story of COVID 19 is written, several authors will help us appreciate the sacrifices and heroism of thousands of health workers, politicians, civil society organizations, Religious leaders who made a difference. How will your story be written? Be on the right side of history. Be part of the solution; contribute N1 or $1 for the fight against COVID 19. Do something, no matter how small to assist. “Every little Helps,” according to the slogan of Tesco, a leading British general merchandise retailer. When, by God’s grace, we are done fighting and defeating COVID-19 pandemic, let’s use the same energy and commitment to fight Boko Haram, Kidnappers, Bandits, Herdsmen, ASUU Strikes, and bad governance in Nigeria and Africa. Let’s remember: all these issues are still in the cooler waiting for us.
Fr. Stephen Ojapah is a Missionary of Saint Paul (MSP). He IS the Diocesan Director of Inter-religious Dialogue and Ecumenism in the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto. He is a KAICIID FELLOW (firstname.lastname@example.org)