As the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control confirms 10 new cases of COVID-19, Nigerians are slowly coming to grips with this newly-hatched global pandemic. Although a little too late, the federal government has shut down international airports (Enugu, Port Harcourt, Kano, Abuja and Lagos), effective since midnight and with the exception of ”emergency and essential flights.”
In Lagos, religious gatherings of over 50 people have been banned, church services and prayers in Mosques asked to be suspended to mitigate the spread of the virus. But COZA has other plans. The Commonwealth of Zion Assembly, a religious sect which has had a historically hard time extricating itself from the much-documented rape scandals trailing its head leader Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo, is throwing its doors wide open for Sunday service.
And, in assuring members of a safe, hygienic environment, Fatoyinbo on his Instagram promised there will be electronic thermometers, alcohol-based sanitisers, considerable space between worshippers, effective air-conditioning systems and, how can he forget, the Blood of Jesus. What is particularly worrisome about this state of affairs is the fact that Abuja, where COZA is headquartered, takes a share of the newly reported case of the Coronavirus.
As widely reported in international media, people without symptoms have been shown to spread COVID-19. Circling back to COZA’s preventive measures, how can the electronic thermometer accurately read anomalies in a COVID-19 carrier if their symptoms are yet to manifest? Granted, COZA won’t be the only church disregarding health directives and endangering the lives of congregants on Sunday. And maybe these churches are geared up with their thermometers and an observance of social distancing within their anointed circles, but we, nonetheless, still have to call out this flagrant, insidious display of power, this tone of authority that bewitchingly turns the Blood of Jesus into some provisional immunity against a virus that’s still sweeping through Italy, the epicenter of Christendom.
How Nigeria’s Coronavirus will be controlled, and hopefully eradicated, is dependent on strict adherence to hand washing and self-isolating if virus has been contracted, or even it’s under suspicion and calling the NCDC hotlines. But if we continue to flout directives, especially religious bodies that wield godlike influence over members, then COVID-19 is only just warming up.