By Thomas-Wilson Ikubese
The index case of the Covid-19 global pandemic which emanated from Wuhan, China late last year birthed in Nigeria on 28th February 2020 with Ondo state recording its index case, a military officer who returned from India, on 3rd April 2020.
Consequent upon this, eleven persons who made contacts with this military officer in Ondo state have been placed under surveillance.
Before this index case was recorded in Ondo state, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu the executive governor of Ondo state had directed a fortnight earlier, that all religious worship centres, schools, offices and markets (except those selling food and medical consumables) be shut to prevent the spread of the virulent virus.
No doubt, this proactive measures have helped in no small means in curtailing the spread of the virus in Ondo state.
In a new development however, an emergency meeting of Christian denominational leaders held on 7th April 2020 at St. David’s cathedral Akure and a communique signed by the Chairman of the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev Dr Ayo Oladapo was issued.
The meeting was called to review the current situation in the state and rub minds on how to hold Easter Sunday worship service as graciously permitted by the Ondo State governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN.
The following decisions were reached as stated in the communique:
(1) The leaders appreciated the Governor for steps taken so far to contain the spread of Corona virus (COVID-19) in the state
(2) The leaders agreed to adhere to hand washing with soap, water and sanitizers
(3) It was also agreed that social distancing will be maintained
(4) We also agreed to break services to limit crowd; 20 people in a small Church building, 50 in a medium size while big and cathedrals must maintain 3 congregants on a pew.
(5) It was agreed that services will hold between 7a.m. and 12noon.
(6) The leaders agreed to pray more than ever before for the Church, Ondo State & Nigeria
(7) It was agreed that ONLY Easter Sunday service (12th April, 2020) will be observed as agreed between the Governor and the Christian leaders
(8) Members are to continue with syndicated services in their houses ( Family fellowship)
(9) The leaders agreed to prevail on their members not to POST video of the Easter Sunday worship activities on the social media
(10) It was also agreed that the CAN Task Force at State & Local government levels will be activated to monitor compliance
(11) The leaders agreed that each Pastor will be held responsible for violation of any of the decisions reached.
While as a Christian, I understand the significance of Easter celebration, the current pandemic situation does not encourage such gatherings, as this may just open the flood gate for the virus in the hitherto quiet sunshine state.
Besides, if Christians hold the Easter service in Ondo state, what stops the Muslims from making a case for Jumat services or any Islamic festival wherein such falls within this confines in future, ditto for African Traditional Religion faithfuls who may soon be celebrating one of the many festivals celebrated frequently in the state?
Four days ago, Italian authorities issued a release urging Catholic parishioners to stay at home. Holy Week rituals observed at the Vatican will not be open to public for the first time in history as millions of Christians around the world are expected to follow the rituals via online streaming.
In Saudi Arabia, the fulcrum of Islam, all mosques remain shut to curtail the spread of the virus.
It is therefore shocking that the Ondo state government decided to break the restriction of public gathering rule with the support of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Ondo state Chapter, in the face of this ravaging pandemic!
I hereby appeal to His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu to have a rethink and revoke this pass in the foremost interest of the state.
I took a moment off to write this in grief, as I’m yet to recover from the death of my dear friend and colleague who fell to the vicious stab of the Corona virus only last week.
However, should the authorities fail to revoke the pass in spite of all, I urge worshipers to stay at home and worship from the confines of their abodes, as the attendance of this service is not the ticket to Paradise!
*Dr Ikubese, Convener of YesWeFit Movement and former Presidential Aspirant writes from Akure, capital of Ondo state