Understanding the fear state of Nigerians in the outbreak of Coronavirus

The utmost concern of man is striving for self-preservation. This is where in almost all that man does, there is always a necessary connection with fear. Our fear is always positive or negative depending on how the subject of fear – man handles it.

Since announcing that an Italian man who arrived in Lagos (from Milan) and visiting another state (Ogun State) is tasted positive, everything about Nigeria changed. These changes hinge towards the mental and conditions all that Nigerians do, leading to the culture of fear. Culture of fear is a term that refers to a perceived prevalence of fear and anxiety in public discourse and relationships, and how this may affect the way people interact with one another as individuals and as democratic agents.

On the day of the announcement, some said shared on WhatsApp things like:

a. After identifying the Italian man, others who were with him flee.
b. It was a Chinese man who returned from their festival.
c. The Uber driver of the man ran away and is demanding for 100million ransom if not he will spread it all over.

News like this ends up injecting more fear(s) in the society because the fear in itself is contagious than any virus. Thus, the media should help.

The said man, who’s picture was circulating as the Uber driver who carried the Italian man came out to refute the claim, stating that he hasn’t been to Lagos for over 2years. This raises the question if Coronavirus is truly in Nigeria. Because, during the case of Ebola a la Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration as the president of Nigeria, we were informed that the man who brought Ebola into Nigeria is (Patrick Oliver Sawyer a Liberia lawyer was notable for being the index case for the introduction of Ebola virus disease into Nigeria during the West African Ebola epidemic – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Sawyer). Why can’t the government or those in charge disclose to us the identity of this Italian citizen?
Or is it a reason for the proposed 62millionNGN? (https://punchng.com/nigeria-to-prevent-coronavirus-outbreak-with-n620m-minister/).

In a situation like this, there is a need for well-distilled news about the said virus. The news should always come as counseling to help people stay strategically positive (fear-mongering vs fact mongering). However, The mass/social media present many images and ideas that have the capacity to worry, frighten, or even traumatize people.

Steven Hoekstra in 1999 conducted fear-based research at Kansas State University with his associates and the other at the Universities of Michigan and Wisconsin by Kristen Harrison and Joanne Cantor. These independently conceived studies provided further evidence of the prevalence, severity, and duration of fears induced by the media. The data revealed that the presence of vivid memories of enduring media-induced fear was nearly universal among college undergraduates. Both studies reported that generalized anxiety, mental preoccupation, fear of specific things or situations, and sleep disturbances are quite common consequences of exposure to the media.

Nigerians are now faced with the problem of fear-mongering, which helps in toppling the fear matrix of the citizens, thereby making it one of the most fear culture societies on earth (Coronavirus + Boko Haram + Fulani Herdsmen + Bad Road + Bad Health facilities = Fear).

Since Nigerians are more religious than spiritual, making them more attune to faith, this same virus has affected most religious practices as some bishops are already announcing the suspension of rites/rituals in the liturgy. Most parents are warning their kids not to go to school until further notice.

If the fear-mongering of coronavirus is not stopped, it could lead to a high rate of Disorders of Anxiety and Fear which include; phobias, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, PTSD and obsessive-compulsive disorder. These conditions usually begin in lower metrics and increases to a climax. At a point, without appropriate treatment can become chronic and debilitating affecting the society at large. The best way out of this is fact mongering, encouraging scientific research and being positive.

Osinakachi Akuma Kalu
President & Founder of TAFFD’s