In my view, the problems we faced and are still facing in Nigeria have really not been about the problem. It is rather the attitudes of Nigerians to these problems. In the case of the threat of an Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) spread, there are Nigerian attitudes that I fear will exacerbate the problem.
For many years now, we have become a people who are insincere, self-centred, incompetent, corrupt, having a problem-focused mindset and a wrong but powerful religious belief system. These attitudes exhibited by the majority of Nigerians have since become the culture.
The outcome of this sort of culture is a nation with weakened communities, citizens with a high level of fear and uncertainty, the scarcity mindset (fear of not enough to go round, leading to impatience and taking more than what is needed) and negligence of citizens’ role in governance.
So, now that the Ebola virus has come to town, the efforts of government and international agencies will be hindered by citizens who would rather go to church than visit the hospital when they develop symptoms. Citizens would rather apply methods from unverified sources, no matter how ridiculous, than do the work of researching for the right information and fully implementing it. Many wouldn’t even admit they have the virus for fear of stigmatization or as their practice of faith words and actions.
Even funds generated by government, corporate and individuals will be an opportunity for some people to attain the Nigerian definition of success (mansion, jeeps, children schooling abroad, designer clothes, etc.). Did I mention, even the professionals (health workers) wouldn’t mind going on strike during this period and as I write I wonder if the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has called off their strike.
Listing our problems is not the focus of this article but by doing so, I seek to highlight the fact that the threat of Ebola virus, like our other previous and current crises, highlights our current culture (way of life) which has been the biggest hindrance to the building a developed Nigeria.
Let’s talk about some solutions for those willing to participate in fighting the threat of Ebola virus spread and create a new culture that will build a developed Nigeria.
Be solution-focused: One of the key reasons we are apathetic about national issues and yet carry a high sense of fear, is our problem-focused mindset. We would rather invest most of our time reading, listening to and discussing reports on problems. Instead, adopt a solution-focused mindset that would ask questions and then goes in search of the answers. Knowledge empowers us.
Get well informed from reliable sources: The growth of Social Media has made information sources unlimited and many incompetent people have become experts. This has made Ebola worse than the reality on the ground.
Here is the reality. The Minister of Health at a press conference on Monday 11th August 2014, said: “It has been 22 days since EVD first landed in Nigeria. As at today, 177 primary and secondary contacts of the index case have been placed under surveillance or isolation. Nine had developed EVD, bringing the total number of cases in Nigeria to 10. Of these 10, two have died – the Liberian-American and the Nigerian nurse – while eight are alive and are currently being treated.”
With a solution focused mindset, emphasis will be in seeking information from verified and official sources. A good website to follow for information is www.ebolaalert.org
Apply the knowledge gained and share with others: We must put to action the knowledge gained from the information gathered. Also, we must share the knowledge with citizens with little access to relevant and verified information.
Share the knowledge in such a way that relatives in the village, our domestic staff, street vendors in our community, etc., can understand and apply it too. Verify all information you receive and if it is not from an official and verified source, do not apply the information or share with others.
Volunteer Resources (time and if need be, money): After properly safeguarding yourself, family and community, also volunteer your time to organisations leading the campaign against the spread of the virus. The key area of need is community mobilisation and the organisation Ebola Alert is soliciting volunteers in Lagos State. Join the community – www.ebolaalert.org/join/
If you live outside Lagos, I recommend you research information into organisations leading similar efforts in your area. If there is none, then encourage the health professionals to create one and volunteer your time to assist its activities.
Write to Your Legislative Representatives, your Local Government Chairman and Governor: This is a democracy and therefore, the political office holders are there with our mandate. Write to your Councillor, LGA Chairman, House of Assembly Member, State Governor and National Assembly members (House of Reps and Senate). Make them feel the pressure of the people so they can ask the necessary questions and take the necessary actions.
Lagos State has set up an Ebola Virus Isolation Centre, not enough for Lagos but a good start. Mount pressure on your representatives to ensure your Local Government and State have Isolation Centres and these locations are well publicised.
Generate Solutions: If you are a health professional, Nigeria demands that you to commit time to generating solutions to these and other epidemics we face (we still have cholera and measles, with more casualties, in our midst). We need research into drugs, vaccine, medical gears (clothing), equipment, victim management processes, information management, airports and borders check processes, etc.
Non-medical professionals can also generate some of these solutions. Let us cut back time spent on leisure and challenge our brains to generate solutions. For example, is there a way a Nigerian pharmaceutical company can procure the licence for the Ebola drug from the American company and accelerate its development for clinical trials and mass production? If need be, our government or we the people can raise the funds through some investment vehicle.
We need solutions and citizen participation in nation-building still remains our greatest need to create a new culture that develops Nigerian solutions for Nigeria. For this participation to be effective, we the citizens need to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset and allow the adoption of core nation-building values, and both are possible if we strongly desire Nigeria to become a developed nation.
The question to you then is, ‘Would you commit to build a developed Nigeria?’