Everything about it was mostly shrouded in secrecy and insincerity. At other times, grand equivocation. The story of the arrival of the much celebrated Chinese. Who they came for and what they were couldn’t be pinned down. Initially, we were told they were all top-notch medics coming to share experience with our frontline medics. They would be required to quarantine for 14 days during which time they would hold teleconferencing with Nigerian health professionals to compare notes, a minister gleefully told us. After which they would join forces with us to give the raging monster of a pandemic a hot chase and fight back.
A Nigerian aircraft was sent to bring our “saviours” with an elaborate tarmac reception quickly organised for them at the airport on arrival where they were charitably garlanded with colourful ribbons. They looked like rock stars on a world tour. As my friend Maazi Ogbonnaya would say, they paused, we paused and everything paused for them.
Nigerian doctors raged, lawyers hollered while everybody complained why they should be invited when the law doesn’t allow uncertified foreigners to practise in Nigeria. Some questioned the emergency that warranted their rush to help. While we had our say, government had its way, claiming it’s at no cost to us. A Chinese engineering company sneaked out to say they invited the visitors ostensibly to look after their staff and Nigerians as part its CSR to the country.
Fast forward to this day. The minister of health, Osagie Ehanire, was asked the whereabouts of the supposed medics and what have they been doing in the country since their arrival. A bemused citizenry listened as the minister said he knew nothing about them and that actually not all of them were medics. Really? So we dispatched an aircraft, rolled out the drums, the red carpet at the airport so a gang of sightseers can jolly come moonlight in our shores in the pretext of offering a much needed helping hand?
Nigeria, we hail thee, our land of endless joke and jokers.