Kwara: Still reopening those mosques and churches?


By Abdullah Abdulganiy

At a time the Kwara State government should be very decisive and aggressive in taking decisions that would arrest the spread of the deadly Coronavirus disease, it appears the guards are being let down. The government is at the loss of proper guidance, especially with the recent decision to reopen religious centres.

One may wonder what the government is thinking of when it declared that religious centres, a hotbed for the transmission of the virus, can now reconvene? Who’s taking this decision for the government? Could it be coercion on the part of the religious elite? Why the rush?

When last I checked, confirmed cases of coronavirus are still soaring with no end in sight yet. Community transmission is also on the increase. So, why the rush? The coronavirus disease is no respecter of anyone, religious or not. It is a hydra-headed monster dealing huge blows to individuals across social divides. We will only be living in fool’s paradise if we say we are on top of the situation despite our modest efforts.

In Nigeria, the testing capacity is very low. Only people who are showing acute symptoms have access to test. On the other hand, our health facilities are very short in quality and quantity. World powers have already had their health systems overwhelmed in the fight against this coronavirus. I am afraid when the chips are down; only a few may live to tell the story here. Those in government should understand that coronavirus is not what should be treated with levity.

The government should not allow itself to be cajoled into rushing to reopen our religious centres. The God we worship is not cruel, and He’s most understanding. He’s available for us wherever we are. So, I see no justification for the rush to reopen religious centres at a time the figures reeled out by the NCDC keep skyrocketing. As we speak, there is yet to be a testing centre in the whole of Kwara State. Lagos State with a testing centre and more sophisticated medical system has since suspended the reopening of religious centres in view of the rising cases. When the chips are down, where shall we run to?

If the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 had lifted the restrictions on religious gathering, it is expected that Kwara State would assess its peculiarities before accepting such a proposal from the Federal Government as it also pointed out. This is a state without a testing facility and a few isolation centres. Opening the window for transmission is therefore ill-conceived at the moment.

Can’t you see how the mighty are fallen? Coronavirus took the life of former Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari; it claimed the life of Senator Bayo Osinowo and many other bigwigs. What’s the fate of hapless Kwarans when our negligence makes things get out of hands? Prevention, they say, is better than cure.

Who assures the government that faithful worshipping in the mosques and churches would adhere to safety protocols? In Nigeria, where rules are flagrantly disobeyed? Can all mosques and churches afford to provide sanitary materials for their congregations? Will faithful comply totally with the use of face masks? What’s chasing us from worshipping with our family members in the house? Did God say He’s not accepting our prayers? Or is this a way of satisfying those who have commoditised religion?

Sometimes ago, Saudi eased down its lockdown on mosques, with a warning of strict adherence to COVID-19 safety rules. The government and the well to do ones provided some of the sanitary materials just to ensure protocols are followed to the letter. What happened next? The rate of transmission was just soaring and soaring. Saudi had to shut down mosques back. Is this the same step we are taking here in Kwara when we can simply avert such? Must people die or catch the virus?

I posit that this rush to reopening mosques and churches amid a spike in transmission and recorded cases is misguided and a misplaced priority. I hope the government will sit religious stakeholders down and explain things to them if the force is coming from them. Religious centres are big windows for the spread of the deadly coronavirus. I hope the window would be shut down as we continue to slug it out with the novel pandemic. Rethink!

Abdullah is a sociologist and researcher. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @halarho123.


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