Are bright sides to coronavirus signaling impending death of democracy?

Coronavirus. COVID-19. 3D Render

The bright side that one has in mind is not really the fact that vaccines to protect mankind from being further decimated by coronavirus have been produced, which is good, anyway. Neither is it the number of those struck by the virus and those that have recovered, which is also cherry news.

But one is excited and intrigued by the fact that good things can spring forth from a patently evil occurrence-the plague code-named COVID-19 pandemic.

As most of us may be aware, in life, some bad or dark experiences, often have good or bright sides too.

So, it is not that one is not inclined to have sunny optics of the evil virus that has ravished mankind, especially after the vaccines were developed. But what is amazing is the uncanny ways in which positive results have manifested from the pernicious coronavirus pandemic.

After a little over one year since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic that has been ravaging mankind by afflicting nearly 100 million people worldwide, while causing the untimely death of people in excess of two million, with Nigeria accounting for nearly 1,500 and still counting, many myths about coronavirus have been shattered and stereotypes demystified.

Below is an array of such coronavirus shibboleth that has been unraveled.

After the initial false hope that hydroxychloroquine was an effective COVID-19 cure, a rebuttal of the claim by medical scientists was later issued; there was also the initial thoughts by the likes of Melinda Gates, that had the wrong notion that Africans would be dropping dead on the streets like common house flies, which didn’t happen. In addition to the above, is the ruse that sunshine is an antidote to the plague, hence the death toll has been minimal in the tropics, particularly in Africa, which is a fallacy because folks are dying in large number from covid-19 in Florida and Vegas.

That is in addition to the fake claim that the plague does not constitute a grave danger to children and youths, a belief that when put under scrutiny, has also proven not to be completely true, and therefore mere wishful thinking.

How can we discountenance the current debate on whether droplets or aerosol borne particles of COVID-19 can be suspended in the air beyond 30 minutes and therefore transmissible or contractable to people that come in contact with aerosol borne droplets? While that science puzzle is still being debated, and the jury is still out, it is doubtless that at least, wearing face-covering significantly reduces the risk of contracting the virus from the atmosphere.

By far the most enigmatic COVID-19 jigsaw that has remained unfathomable is how the virus has brought down the USA from its Olympian heights, and to the extent of almost rendering her comatose.  How can a country that used to be the toast of the world, representing all the best things in the universe, be the one whose underbelly has been so stunningly exposed by the astonishing number of deaths that is presently in excess of 400,000, from the coronavirus pandemic compared to its peer countries.

Not even, similarly populous American countries such as Brazil (212,000m) or even the world’s largest democracy, India (1.3) have recorded such an alarming number of deaths compared to the USA, hitherto regarded as the Eldorado that practically every human being wanted to live in or be associated with.

It is also the same country where president Donald Trump has pulled all the stops to repeal a healthcare insurance policy that reduces the cost of Medicaid and Medicare, introduced by his predecessor in office, Barack Obama in the bid to provide affordable medical care for about 30 million Americans in the lower rung of the economic ladder.

Remarkably, it is the same category of Americans-black & brown, colored, and minority, which constitute the bulk of the frontline workers- that Trump so desperately wanted to deny access to healthcare via his proposed repeal of the health insurance policy also known as Obamacare, that are currently the worst hit, and constitute the highest number of victims of coronavirus. One can only imagine how astronomical the number of deaths in the USA would have been if Trump had succeeded in ending the mass healthcare insurance program-an action which he vowed to execute at the inception of his regime four years ago.

There is a convergence of opinion that, had the Covid-19 pandemic not happened, Trump’s last-minute effort to upturn the Obamacare via the Supreme Court where the Republican Party, and himself as president appointed 6 of the 9 justices might have come into fruition. But the reality of not having a robust health care insurance policy cover for over 30 million Americans must have weighed on the minds of the 9 justices seating in the Supreme Court-the highest temple of justice, who overruled Trump. The triumph of reason over politics as evidenced by the humane decision of the Supreme Court judges arising from the precarious health conditions of the vulnerable members of American society is a remarkable bright side of coronavirus.

But the unraveling of the USA is not only in the exposure of the country’s poor health infrastructure which is so dilapidated that it ranks with those in the so-called third world countries. But the demystification is even a triple whammy as it happened on three fronts.

Apart from the mind-boggling and worrisome number of deaths (in excess of 400,000) from coronavirus reflecting the horrific state of the American healthcare system, the demon of racism or inequality of rights and fragility, if not obsoleteness of democracy as a dominant system of government also became stark in the so-called God’s own country.

To put things in perspective, let’s take a few steps back into the past to trace the origin of the unraveling of the USA triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unable to continue to accept the tyranny of constant killing of unarmed black and brown people under flimsy excuses by law enforcement agencies, which is evidence of systemic injustice against the minorities, it was inevitable that the protests that trailed the dehumanizing treatment meted out to blacks in the USA and indeed blacks all over the world, would erupt. Hence Black Lives Matter campaign

commenced in July 2013.  And it was in response to the acquittal of the killers of Trayvon Martin, a black man, that the street protests with the hash-tag #Black Lives Matter was first used to activate resistance by blacks. The case of systemic injustice against blacks is even made worse by the fact that after all, the purported abrogation of slavery by then USA president, Abraham Lincoln in 1864 via the 13th amendment(William Wilberforce of England had abolished it in the British empire in 1807) is supposed to have ended the obnoxious practice. But blacks and other minorities continued to be subjected to inhuman treatments by white racists.

However, on May 25, 2020, after the killing of George Floyd, the law enforcement agencies crossed the line upon which the trampling on the rights of minorities and treating them as subhumans could no longer be tolerated. Hence the friends and families of victims along with fair, high-minded, and sympathetic whites staged the very profound social movement “Black Lives Matter” protests that degenerated into riots.

The massive impact of the protests on the streets of major cities in the USA soon attained tsunami proportions, as the protests spread across the globe, especially Europe.

Perhaps without coronavirus which compelled most people all over the world to stay off work in compliance with the shelter-at-home policy instituted by most governments across the globe to mitigate COVID-19 spread, there might not have been the consciousness or presence of mind for most folks to witness on TV, the murder of George Floyd-the unarmed black man that was killed by a white policeman who recklessly placed his knees on his neck thereby asphyxiating him to death. The outrage that it triggered, perhaps owing to its amplification via social media transmission, and which spontaneously evolved into street protests was reinforced by similar unwarranted murder of unarmed blacks by the police in the USA.

These include the riddling of Breona Taylor’s body with bullets when police wrongfully invaded her apartment in search of a narcotic drug dealer and the shooting of another unarmed black man Ahmaud Arbery while jogging in a street in Georgia by white racist father and son, amongst others too numerous to list here.

As the saying goes, after the rain, there’s usually sunshine.

In the light of the above, Black Lives Matter protests have definitely put the racial inequality in the USA in particular, and across the world, in greater relief. And having put obvious systemic police brutality into the crucible of truth, racism is likely to, in no distant future ebb in the USA, in particular, and perhaps the rest of the world at large. This optimism is derived from the belief that the man who would be the new president in the USA, come January 20, 2020, Mr Joe Biden has a positive reputation of being race and creed neutral in his estimated 50 years of being in the service of his country in both legislative and executive arms of government

So, in the light of the above potentially positive developments, the coronavirus pandemic induced lockdown and consequential street protests- Black Lives Matter, could be regarded as major contributors to the reduction in racism that is currently on the horizon. For those that may still have some fuzziness about the role coronavirus played in the evolution of Black Lives Matter. Well, allow me to reiterate that it is basically while Covid-19 induced lockdown confined folks indoors idling away that the opportunity was created for the masses to witness the murder of George Floyd in cold blood. That is what incensed and motivated them to, in disgust resolve to engage in more committed ways in Black Lives Matter protests.

Thereafter, the resistance to police brutality took on its own life as the revolt provided the impetus for the otherwise confined folks to engage in other activities associated with summers, such as carnivals and other street jamborees.

On top of the aforementioned two events that created the chasm in the socio-economic atmosphere in the USA, is the mortal blow to democracy in the country that prides itself as the leader and bastion of the free world.

To say the least, democracy in that country is currently experiencing convulsions, indicating that the most acclaimed system of government in the world democracy is on death throes in the country that champions it, and which had the reputation of being the most sophisticated democracy in the world.

Who would have thought that the fragility of American democracy would be laid bare by the outcome of the 2020 elections which president Donald Trump lost, and which he has been disputing despite the attestation to its integrity by all the electoral authorities in all the fifty states and the security and intelligence agencies under his command and control, as the president and commander in chief of the armed forces.

The incumbent president’s unprecedented attempts to upturn the result by pressuring electoral college electors in key swing states, inviting electors in other states to the White House to also persuade and even intimidate them, as well as filing in court a total of six scores of cases to flip the outcome in his favor, before finally instigating violent attacks on the Capitol-the citadel of democracy on January 6, have revealed volumes of lies about the often touted inviolability of the USA and its institutions of democracy.

Incredibly, all of a sudden, the outcome of a political party election in the USA in 2020 started looking like and becoming comparable to those held in Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela, Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and Yoweri Museveni’s Uganda in terms of the contestation of the outcome and the ensuing post-election conflicts and violence.

The fragility of the institutions of democracy that form the bulwark of America’s perceived robust and unshakable multi-party political system which was constantly pummeled by president Trump throughout his four years tenure, is a pointer to the fact that democracy as we now know it, maybe going out of fashion,  outdated and therefore a candidate for review to reflect the dynamics of change now pervading the globe. Take for instance the Democratic socialism in the Scandinavian countries- Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark, which is a hybrid of democracy and socialism that has worked very well in the Nordic countries. It is not a mere coincidence that, that part of the world, Northern Europe, where democratic -socialism is practiced, represents the most politically stable and prosperous part of planet earth.

So in very uncanny ways, the coronavirus is creating reasons for the world to revisit and reexamine the nagging issue of inequality in our society as reflected by the devastating impact of coronavirus pandemic on the poor, mostly the black and brown and its less destructive impact on the wealthy white Caucasians in the USA and indeed the rest of the world.

By the same token, Covid-19 is also raising questions about the insufficiency or outdatedness of democracy as the most optimal or efficient system of government viz -a-viz the alternatives,  such as the one-country two-systems philosophy or pseudo capitalism practiced in China and the hybrid socialism and democracy adopted in the Nordic region that are possible good replacement.

Over the past 232 years or thereabouts of the practice of democracy in the USA, a myriad of amendments have been made to the original constitution introduced in 1787, ratified in 1788, and became operational in 1789.

ln my view, amendments to constitutions can be likened to supporting pillars affixed to a wall that is at the risk of or on the verge of collapsing. After some time, the pillars of support become insufficient. So after 27 amendments, the USA constitution that is the driver of its brand or system of democracy, and which it has franchised to most parts of the world (except Russia, China, most of the countries in the Middle East and North Korea) may be under severe strains. In other words, just like products and services have a shelf life,  Democracy may be in the process of completing its life circle.

The current unprecedented onslaught such as the storming of the Capitol-USA temple of legislative power- by those protesting the alleged stealing of the incumbent’s victory, are telling, signs of how weak and susceptible to violation, the democratic system of government has become.

That underscores my characterization of the United States of America, the USA as the Divided States of America, DSA in an opinion piece that l recently published, titled “Coup ln The Capitol Hill And The Divided States of America” focused on the current meltdown of democracy in the USA as symbolized by the insurrection by the far right on January 6.

Arising from the outcome of the November 3, 2020 elections, the USA is currently divided between the 74 million voters who choose Trump and the 81 million that cast their ballots for Biden. So the country is almost split in the middle.

In the light of the ongoing political schism and apparent chasm, the characterization of the USA as the Divided States of America, DSA, can’t be more apt and more fitting. As argued in the aforementioned opinion piece that l published, it took only 11 states in the south to declare a confederacy pursuant to their pro-slavery and slave trade leaning. And it took a civil war waged by the rest of America against the confederates to reunite the country after four years of battle, (1861-5.)

As disappointing and dispiriting as the current unfortunate incidents are, it is the reality that the much-vaunted American Democratic system of government is increasingly looking more like the proverbial or kindergarten rhyme character “Humpty, Dumpty on the wall.”

So, rather than wait for the almighty USA to experience a great fall, like Humpty Dumpty, as symbolized by the attempted insurrection better known as the bloody coup-de tat (5 people were killed) that happened on January 6, 2020 at the USA Capitol Hill, where a blood bath by the bloodthirsty mob was narrowly avoided through the deftness of a couple of overpowered, but clever police officers, why cant the USA proactively reinvent its democracy by rejigging its nearly 232 years old constitution through the jettisoning of its complicated and complex electoral college system? Hilary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate that ran against Donald Trump in 2016 has been making the case for the scrapping of the somewhat archaic electoral college system that has now become vulnerable and susceptible to violation or manipulation by undemocratic elements.

At this juncture, it is imperative to emphasize that were it not for the outbreak of coronavirus which the outgoing president Trump woefully failed to manage dexterously, he was on track to win a second term in office. That’s simply because of the pre-Covid-19 pandemic, the employment rate in the USA was good and the economy was robust.

So by and large coronavirus saved Americans and indeed the world from Trump’s anarchic and tyrannical leadership for another four years by exposing the decay in American democracy under Trump’s watch.

Like USA, like Nigeria.

Back home in Nigeria, the dreaded virus code-named COVID-19 has thankfully not wreaked as much havoc as it has done in the USA, in terms of the death toll. But it has left the economy, which was already teetering and on the brink of collapse, in tatters by plunging it into a second recession in 5 years. With Covid-19 negatively affecting the international price of crude oil-Nigeria’s main source of revenue and as the lockdown of the economy during the first wave stymied productivity, the recession was inevitable. However, unlike the rest of the world where COVID-19 induced deaths have been rather high, our compatriots whose lives have been cut short by the dreadful virus has been less than 1,500 so far.

Nevertheless, the #Endsars street protests by Nigerian youths in October 2020 which was a revolt against police brutality targeted at youths, echoes Black Lives Matter protests in the USA that started in 2013 and which is also a revolt against police brutality encapsulated in the systemic racism entrenched in America’s justice system.

Just as Black Lives Matter has put systemic racism on the front burner in the USA and the incoming government appears poised to enthrone more equity and justice in policing, #Ensars has equally put police brutality in Nigeria in the spotlight with the police unit SARS that drew the ire of youths, scrapped.

Invariably, out of the ashes of both incidents that were characterized by extensive damage to properties and loss of lives, like the proverbial Phoenix that rises from ashes, positive outcomes seem to be on the horizon. That’s reflected by the promise of further desired changes to address the concerns of the aggrieved citizens by the authorities both in the USA and Nigeria.

As a foretaste, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN has set up N100 billion naira intervention funds for the healthcare sector to equip health facilities and N75 billion to boost entrepreneurship amongst youths. Incoming president Biden who empathized with both the George Floyd’s Breona Taylor’s and Ahmaud Albert’s families has also promised to dismantle systemic racism in the USA.

When those lofty promises by governments in both the USA and Nigeria are fulfilled, they would be attributed to no less a phenomenon than the  COVID-19 pandemic. That is because it certainly triggered the not so palatable events- street protests that became riotous and which served as a wake-up call or shot in the arm for governments in both countries.

Timothy Snyder, professor of history, in Yale University, USA and author of the book “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From The 20th Century ” catalogued 20 lessons in the past that we must learn to prevent democracy from being put in peril. Being ready to protest injustice is one of them.

For lack of space, I’m unable to dwell on the 20 lessons.  But l urge those with a keen interest in democracy and how to preserve it, to find the book and read it because it synthesizes the crises that democracy in the USA and other locations around the world have suffered.

While the 81 million Americans who voted for Biden probably read, internalized, and recognized the lessons enunciated by professor Snyder and acted upon them, apparently the 74 million that voted for Trump did not. Hence they wanted him to remain in the White House for another four years or till 2024.

Curiously, Trump’s penchant for instigating violence against those opposed to him has been a pre-existing condition even before he got elected. And it is very well documented by professor Snyder in his very well researched book. As the Yale university Don noted in the book, during Trump’s campaign for the presidency, pre-2016 elections, he never brooked opposition or tolerated those who dared to protest against him while attending his rallies.

To prove the point of Trump’s intolerance of others and his impetuous behavior, Professor Snyder recalled some tyrannical attitude of Trump that should have raised a red flag. He asked “How, for example, can we get used to the fact that “a protester would first be greeted with boos, then with frenetic cries of ‘USA’ and then be forced to leave the rally” not by federal police but by the candidate’s private security detail. “Isn’t this more fun than a regular boring rally?”Trump asked, pushing the idea of political violence. “To me, it’s fun.”

Since then candidate Trump got rewarded with the presidency as opposed to being rejected by voters, in spite of his indecorous approach to politics and the embarrassing as well as immoral revelations in the infamous Access Hollywood video,  the irreverent President Trump might have been emboldened to continue with what most commentators have characterized as his tyrannical predilections. On April  30, 2020, he instructed his supporters to storm the Capitol in Michigan, to protest the stay-at-home order that Governor Gretchen Withmer had imposed to stem the spread of the virus. As they did not succeed in intimidating the governor, they resorted to plotting her kidnap which, fortunately, the FBI detected and foiled.

So the insurrection by Trump’s supporters culminating into the assault on democracy while Vice President Mike Pence was presiding over a joint session of both the Senate and House of Representatives at the Capitol on 6 June 2020 to validate Biden’s victory at the polls, was long in coming. It is a no brainer to figure out that it was a re-enactment of the failed mission in Michigan by like-minded coup plotters against the governor who had been under attack via Twitter by Trump when he directed his supporters to “liberate Michigan“.

The irony of Trump’s nastiness is that Vice President Mike Pence and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell who tolerated or turned blind eyes to Trump’s fascist behavior for about four years, were almost consumed by an angry mob of Trumpists that invaded the Capitol with the intention to hang Vice President Pence, whom President Trump had  railed against at the rally moments earlier by urging his supporters to

“fight like hell or you are going to lose your  country.”

As President Trump, the 45th president exits the White House, midday January 20, 2021, he will be blaming his failure to win a second term and political misfortune on coronavirus. And that would be a correct assessment.

As for former Vice President, Joe Biden,  who will be taking over from Trump as the 46th president, he would have coronavirus to thank for his good fortune.

Those are some of the innocuous but bright sides of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a similar manner, the COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed the fragility of democracy as it has by omission or commission put the most popular system of government-democracy under the stress test.

So the doom and gloom foisted on mankind by the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the year 2020 have in a most unsuspecting manner conspired to save the USA and the world from descending into full anarchy and tyranny under President Trump’s watch.

With collateral damage in excess of two million people dead worldwide and unquantifiable loss in terms of livelihood, there can’t be a more classical case of good coming out of bad.

MAGNUS ONYIBE is an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos.TagsCoronavirusCovid-19

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