Enter the Covid-19 Millionaires

Penny Wisdom

By Emeka Uzoatu

At last, the novel Covid19 virus is getting its mojo back. After months of endless vilification, some of the beneficiaries of its latent advantages are opening up at last. Not minding the rhapsody of negative allegations, those blessed by its cold hands are standing up for the count.

Standing out principally here is a certain man of God. In a viral Freudian slip, perhaps, he had used the same mouth with which he blessed people to acclaim the achievement Covid19 had him assume. According to the accursed, what shall I say else, he only succeeded in acquiring his third private jet courtesy of the pandemic.

And he is not alone. Only that the blessings accorded the rest don’t appear as fond as his. 

Like this bloke that vends facemasks in the Onitsha drugs market. Call him Face. Yes. Actually, his real name is Festus. Yeah, like that checkers-playing wisecrack in the old-time, western Tv serial Gun Smoke. Or was it Raw Hide?

Whichever, it’s just by the way. Just be charitable enough to accept that because of his article of trade all in the market call him Face. 

Now though this guy never gets counted among the biggies, he is never destitute. Not with the reasonable clientele he had shored up over the years. For sure, he barely met all his financial obligations as and when due.

Till came the pandemic. Suddenly, rather than the hospitals in his general area that used to patronise him in trickles, me and you joined his clients. Then the price of the product was hiked upstairs – by fate, perhaps. Presently, no one talks of the rich in the market without contending with his expanded account in all the banks.

And he is not alone. His neighbour down the line sells various brands of the antimalarial chloroquine. Unlike Festus, he had made it big as that drug still held firm in the treatment of that former ‘whiteman’s plague’. 

Then the triple artemisinin combination therapy prevailed as the parasite responsible for the dreaded disease kept mutating. So much did our friend’s sales dwindle that his once beehive-busy shop became a ghost of its old self. Like his customers, like his bank book.

Then the Covid19 pandemic reared its ugly head. In the few early months when the world was yet to get to grips with the pandemic, chloroquine was named as one of its possible remedies. In that brief interregnum, my friend was able to recuperate all he had lost over the years from the backlog he had in stock.

And the beat goes on.

The ravaging pandemic has been blamed for a lot of things. Apart from laying people to waste at their prime, it was also accused of having impoverished all and sundry. Its complementary lockdowns have also devastated our social activities on end. 

Sporting events, ever since its surreptitious arrival are now held without the most tasty spice of spectators.

For that long, it had also penetrated our houses of worship. Churches and mosques, for long, faced lockdowns that only eased to the restriction of numbers.

And this state of affairs has not been helped by the reaction of the few like the two above that it has raised. For them, the epidemic is all welcome.

“After all,” a sympathizer of theirs was overheard saying the other day, “nobody has killed those carpenters making coffins.”

Talk of the end justifying the means. Only that lately money has increasingly become the only justifiable end. And much to our peril.

After all, to paraphrase the last speaker, in the not-too-distant past a Lagos entrepreneur opened a conservancy service named Shit Money No Dey Smell. Making many wonder if indeed money from any other hustle does.

For instance, there is no kind of trade humans have not invested in for the smell of lucre. 

Of these, the horrible trade in human beings should rank highest. Yet when the West engaged Africans with it, it lasted for a whopping four centuries!

One then wonders where the same powers that perpetrated this trade will now have the temerity to blame traders in more mundane articles of trade. 

Any wonder that lately there have been reported bursts of fake Covid19 vaccine companies. One report even has it that one of them in China had grossed as much as three million US dollars in profit before hammerfall.

Or taken here further, it’s well-known that a lot of our so-assumed trillionaires are merely so on account of government levity. Apart from the ‘captains of industry’ so blessed, there are many else. Ordinarily loafers as the word comes, they are transformed overnight into money bags for aiding and abetting corruption.

Anyway, was it not the Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah who said it all in a short story. In it, a worker ensconced in poverty hitherto had only seen the light upon engagement in an anti-desertification NGO. Woken mid-siesta, he came to wishing desertification keeps encroaching till eternity.

Emeka Uzoatu, a seasoned journalist and writer, is the editor of Nairaweb.ng. He writes the occasional column, Penny Wisdom.