Ancient philosophers and writers believed that one should opt for the lesser evil, when one had difficulties making a decision between two evils.
According to them, there is always a higher choice available, so that of the two evils, it’s more reasonable and safer to choose the lesser. Conversely, Charles Spurgeon prefers that “of two evils, one should choose neither,” and this is perhaps because if one chooses the lesser of the two evils, one is still choosing evil.
Charles Caleb Colton explains this in a more complicated way: “Of two evils, it is perhaps less injurious to society, that good doctrine should be accompanied by a bad life, than that a good life should lend its support to a bad doctrine.”
This is similar to the situation we have found ourselves in Nigeria today as we prepare to face relaxed COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions from Monday, May 04, 2020. See “BREAKING: Buhari relaxes lockdown of Lagos, FCT, Ogun” (27/04/2020: www.thenationonlineng.net).
I have just read, listened to and watched the public statement issued by the Nigerian opposition CUPP rejecting the decision of the President of the FRN, to relax lockdown restrictions in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja. (02/05/2020: “Coronavirus: CUPP Tackles Buhari, Rejects Relaxation of Lockdown” (www.allnews.ng)
The CUPP statement is no doubt very intense and thought-provoking. But the truth remains that more Nigerians are now dying, not from covid-19, but from hunger and starvation induced by government directives requiring stay-at-home without provision of necessary and meaningful palliatives.
There has hardly been any concrete or convincing evidence that Government has provided any palliatives for those people who truly need the palliatives in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun that government has kept under lockdown for about 5 weeks now, since March 30, 2020.
See “Nigeria announces lockdown of major cities to curb coronavirus” (aljazeera.com). Statistics show that about 60 percent of the people who have been on the mandatory quarantine/lockdown inside their homes for the past 5 weeks, are persons who otherwise live from hand to mouth, daily bread earners, and who right now have no food to eat, and no one anywhere to give them food or money to buy food and eat to be able to remain at home longer than the 5 weeks.
If the various Banks, instead of making (as they did) donations that never got any close to the vulnerable people, had used their customers’ BVN and account details to distribute those monies to poor Nigerian citizens who are the banks’ customers, something meaningful would have been there for many poor Nigerians to continue to eat, manage, and be able to endure any further extension of a 5-week-old lockdown that came without food from the government whose duty it primarily is to provide for the people. See “Three banks commit over N500b to stem impact of Covid-19 pandemic” (www.guardian.ng); (2). “UBA to donate N5b for fight against COVID-19 in Africa” (www.businessamlive.com); (3). “COVID-19: Banks, private sector operators provide funding, capacity building (www.businessday.ng).
I have done my personal survey, because I live with and among the masses of the people of Nigeria, because I too am a member thereof. The truth is that over 97 percent of members of the masses want lockdown restrictions immediately relaxed.
Yet, 100 percent want to stay alive after relaxation of restrictions. ”How do we strike a reasonable, safe balance?” is the one trillion Naira question!. In my opinion, neither the President of FRN nor the opposition CUPP has given a clear satisfactory answer to our worries and fears.
On the one hand, Mr President tells us to go out from 04/05/2020 and make a living for ourselves, albeit under certain terms and conditions, but to what extent are we assured that this option would not turn out catastrophic, considering rampant news of steadily increasing covid-19 infections in Nigeria?
On the other hand, the opposition CUPP tells the president to continue to keep us at home even after 5 weeks of stay at home, but fails to tell us how much longer we should remain at home, and without proffering any solutions on how poor Nigerians and their hungering family members and relatives, can have something to eat during a situation of prolonged stay at home.
The question is then thrown up: who loves Nigerians more — is it the opposition CUPP which has asked us to remain at home IN HUNGER in order to avert further spread of COVID-19, or our President who has chosen to relax lockdown restrictions in order to avert massive death from hunger and starvation albeit at a higher risk of COVID-19 infections? See “Why Buhari relaxed lockdown on Lagos, Ogun, FCT – Garba Shehu” (03/05/2020: youtube.com).
To answer this question, one may want to look at the near analogical query posed by writer, Laura Sebastian: “Is it better to have your life ended by someone who hates you or by someone who loves you?”. The problem with Laura Sebastine’s question is that it fails to answer the earlier question as to who loves us more and who hates us more.
Besides, the truth remains that there are only two options available for us to choose from; either way, there are serious implications.
Unfortunately, I’m deeply disappointed that we just have to settle for one of those two evils. To this end, I have reluctantly considered it to be a lesser evil, the little relaxation of lockdown, as suggested by the President, since it is obvious that Government has not done anything that has helped vulnerable citizens to have something to eat at home, and government just can’t do anything for the citizens if stay-at-home is prolonged any further.
However, in settling for this option aimed at saving us from hunger-induced massive deaths, the words of Max Lerner must constantly ring in our ears: ”if you choose the lesser of two evils, always remember that it is still an evil, and not good.”
Accordingly, we must (in our very best interest) work harder to continue to observe social distancing and other safety guidelines. I am however exceedingly and helplessly confused, because while I pray and want my fellow countrymen and women to be free of COVID-19, even as they go out, I nevertheless do not want them to perish out of hunger and starvation arising from stay-at-home conditions.
All in all, world ravaging COVID-19 pandemic has exposed our country’s appalling backwardness beyond the imaginable. May God save Nigeria and give us the wisdom to come out of this hopelessness and helplessness. Amen.
Sylvester Udemezue (Udems) email@example.com. (03/05/2020)