By Adebayo Abubakar
There is a cliche that says; “after the event, everybody becomes wiser”. After an earthquake, everybody becomes a Geologist”.
Because the inherent lessons are expected to have been fully digested, which is in turn, supposed to be a guide in navigating the routes of uncertainty that lies ahead.
The immediate past year, 2020, was a very turbulent one for the entire human race, as one of the deadliest pandemics in the history of humanity, Coronavirus Disease – 2019, otherwise known as, Covid-19, ravaged the whole world, leaving in its trail, over a million death.
Since the world has become a “Global village”, it stands to reason that, Nigeria could not have been unaffected, considering the fact that, she is a major player in international trade, Relation and diplomacy.
Social thinkers, while the resultant lockdown was on, came up with a term; “New normal”.
What that means is that, the pandemic would not leave the world, the way it met it. It won’t go away without some alterations to the way we relate or do things. And true to the expectation, it has altered some of the institutionalised ways of accomplishing tasks.
People have now incorporated the use of “Nose Mask” into their dress codes. Dresses come with nose mask to match. Apart from hindering the spread of Covid-19, it also prevents the inhalation of dust and other toxic pollutants of the atmosphere, in addition to adding to the decibel of fashion statement.
The culture of washing hands regularly is one that, though, not to be strange, but which practice has been encouraged, anyway, to avoid touching some sensitive parts of the body, with a coronavirus-infected hands.
The most significant of the alterations is social-distancing, unlike how we used to gather in large number for “Owambe” (ceremonies), in the past, without space for people with respiratory challenges, to have access to pure and sufficient oxygen; or providing an avenue for spreading communicable diseases, Covid-19 inclusive.
To further enhance the social-distancing culture, the corporate world has embraced the holding of meeting and other corporate events, virtually.
Events that hitherto, necessitated people gathering in large number, in a place, in the name of board meeting, are now either being held, via zoom or WhatsApp chats, video-conferencing, conference call or Microsoft team, among others. Even wedding, christening, funeral and ceremonies, are not left out. Churches even tried it at a point.
In the past, this would have involved huge man-hour, cost of logistics and risks involved in traveling.
Apart from the new normal, being safe, it also saves time and resources. Meetings are held in real time, with participants, spread across different locations in the world.
In spite of all these inherent advantages; using technology to cancel out any danger or inconvenience, associated with continuing with the “old normal”, some Nigerians, especially the civil/public servants, are bent on frustrating this new innovative way of doing things that would be less, time-consuming, and cost-effective.
Imagine the, cost, in terms of man-hour, risk of road accident, armed robbery, kidnapping and financial implication, if an establishment with branches across Nigeria is to converge on a place, like Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt or Kano for a meeting! Meanwhile, if such a meeting is held virtually, it would cost, next to nothing. All the attendees need to be a part of it is, internet enabled smartphone or desk/laptop, and then, get the link to log in. Simple.
Their refusal to embrace it, however, is not in anyway surprising, as we have witnessed, how much opposition greeted the introduction of electronic payment system, for paying salary in Ministries and Parastatals, by forces benefiting from ghost-workers scam.
Despite the ease, the transparency, and accountability it fosters, some civil servants, for reasons that bother on corrupt practices, constitute themselves, as obstacles to its implementation and take-off.
The reason is not farfetched; it would be difficult to trace the destination of physical cash transfer, as opposed to electronic transfer that leaves in it trail, “digital footprints” that give out the perpetrators easily.
These elements in our public life that prefer physical meetings to virtual ones, are myopically doing so because of sitting allowance and other wastages, like hotel and accommodation they stand to claim at the end of such meeting; but they forget that, they can still be entitled to the sitting allowance, even if they attend in the comfort of their sitting room.
With what we saw in 2020, during the lockdown, when the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC meetings were held virtually, with State Governors being in their respective Government Houses, with President Muhammadu Buhari or his vice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo presiding; who says the States and national legislators cannot hold plenaries in their respective constituency headquarters?
If at all, we must be able to cut down on the cost of running the government in Nigeria, we must embrace this particular “New Normal” (virtual meetings as opposed to physical ones), as thrown up, by Covid-19, in the out-gone year.
Writes from Ilorin.