CORONAVIRUS! The Nigerian Episode

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.

This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the 11th of March 2020 and is now affecting many countries globally.

According to wodometer as at Saturday, 23rd May 2020, the official toll of Covid-19 cases stood at: Confirmed Cases 5,306,235, Total Recovered cases 2,160,159, and Total Deaths 340,047. 

On the 27th of February 2020, it was alleged that an unidentified Italian man tested positive to the virus in Lagos, Nigeria. This marked the genesis of what will become a phenomenon in the country. 

Unlike other Coronaviruses outbreak, the novel Covid-19 has been trailed with a series of controversies and several conspiracy theories, with most remaining an ordinary theory due to lack of factual evidence.

In the global vista, Donald Trump had alleged that the WHO has not been transparent in its handling of the pandemic but had rather been a stooge for the Peoples Republic of China from whence the virus broke out. A reason he suspended the U.S funding of the global health organization. Again in a letter addressed to the DG WHO, the American President reiterated his commitment to further stop funding of the organization and also withdraw his country’s membership if the organization does not do the needful. This was after he received a report of an investigation carried out to look into the alleged compromise of the DG WHO.

In other climes, according to an article published on Reuters by Elias Biryabarema on the 3rd of May 2020, President John Magufuli of Tanzania stated that results of tests carried out on goats and pawpaw returned positive. Again, Dr. Chris Oyakhilome the Founder and President LoveWorld Incorporated also known as Christ Embassy, alleges that the outbreak is a sheer controversy to cover up more sinister activities by world powers to control humans worldwide and as such posits that 5G is the cause of the ravaging deaths recorded. Even though this remains a conspiracy theory, an American thriller movie Blindspot Season 6 seems to be more. Yet again, the drama between Madagascar and the WHO is a thing worthy of note.

Nigeria has not been left out among the countries suffering from the controversies trailing the Covid-19 pandemic.

For instance, Sen. Shehu Sani a former Senator representing Kaduna Central stated on twitter that “I hope this Italian is not a spirit from Rome; no name and no face yet”. This position seems to go with a lot of persons in the country.

As at Saturday, May 23rd 2020 6:30am, the official toll of Covid-19 cases in Nigeria stood at: Confirmed Cases 7,261, Total Recovered cases 2,007, and Total Deaths 221. 

Several personalities have come up to debunk the figures trooping in from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as mere gimmicks. Others had kept insisting that they don’t have the virus but the government is saying otherwise. A case to bear is Susan Okpe’s case as the index case in Benue State. Until her discharge in May 2020 after over 50 days in Isolation Centre, Mrs. Susan kept insisting that she doesn’t have the virus and any symptoms whatsoever. Another example, Raymond Dokpesi, who was recently discharged as a Covid-19 patient, queries why malaria patients are taken as Covid-19 patients. To him, that’s food for thought for another day. In another narrative, Jerrywright Ukwu in a piece published on Dailypost on the 21st of May 2020, claimed that a discharged female patient aged 36 from Warri Delta state, stated that the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria is a scam. The patient while speaking with journalists insisted that she never received or saw her results. In her words, “it was an audio result that I got”.

With markets crowded, social distancing and healthy preventive measures not adhered to; one begins to wonder what the virus is waiting for before it wipes every human being living in Nigeria. 

In Nigeria, the case is quite pathetic. First, it was the extreme anxiety to place Nigeria on the global index of Covid-19 cases. Later, it was the desperation of the government to ensure that the entire country is declared a Covid-19 zone.

Of all the 36 states of the federation and the FCT summing up to 37, 35 of the number had claimed to have the virus in their shores. The other two, Cross River and the Kogi States have repeatedly claimed that their states are free of the virus. This position seems very disconcerting to the federal government.

In what seems to be a response to the Director-General Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, in a statement signed by Hon. Kingsley Fanwo the Hon. Commissioner of Information and Communication and published by GWG on the 29th of April 2020, the commissioner posited that “The attention of the Kogi State Government has been drawn to reports in sections of today’s press credited to Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, the DG, NCDC insinuating that states which are yet to record cases of COVID-19 are either negligent in testing and tracing, or actively hiding the disease within their territories.  Since Kogi State is one of only 3 states (at the time) in the country yet to record any case of Covid-19, and indeed the DG NCDC is quoted to have mentioned us by name, we find the said comments, along with the unfair attempt to name, defame and shame us incredibly distressing. 

Kogi State confesses that she is not aware the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria is a one-legged race to see which state can put as many cases as possible into the national incident basket, and even if such were to be the case, the current administration in Kogi State does not play such games with the lives and psychology of her people”.

He further stated that “Kogi State has religiously followed all the NCDC and World Health Organization (WHO) CoviD-19 advisories, both for identifying cases and preventing spread. 

Why is the Federal Government insisting that both Cross River and Kogi states must have the virus? Why is the government so desperate on the states posing that they are Covid-19 free? Why is the government not rather interested in knowing the measures the states had taken to be Covi-19 free? Why have the three states and lately Kano state where the federal government took up the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, recorded very high statistics in infections and death rates compared to other states where it wasn’t involved? The whys seem not to abate.

Even though the government is supposed to be at the fore searching for a cure or a vaccine, or working towards salvaging and restoring our K-legged economy which is nose-diving and almost crashing, it is rather playing politics with Cross River and Kogi states. Authorities in both states believe there is a plot to compulsorily report Covid-19 cases in the states.

There seems to be more from this game been played by the Nigerian government and the global authorities than meets the eyes.

Since there are no records of unusual deaths in these states unlike in other climes, the NCDC should as a matter of life, urgently consult them, to ascertain and learn from what they’ve done or have been doing to be Covid-19 free. Also, they should partner with these two states on how to contain the virus, and not making unreasonable and infuriating statements.

As at Saturday, May 23, 2020, the entire samples tested in Nigeria stood at 41,907 which is way below what a country with over 200 million populations is to have covered in almost 3 months. What has the free-will donations from people of goodwill used for?

As controversial as the first case in Nigeria is, the manner the government is handling the situation is even more controversial. Here, the alleged $10 million bribe from Bill Gates to the leadership of the House of Representatives by Imo Ugochinyere to pass a controversial bill, “Control of Infectious Disease Bill 2020” at a time when neither a cure nor vaccine was yet to be found comes to fore. Indeed we have conceded to the fact that Covid-19 is real, another thing is how the government is handling the pandemic.

Nigeria doesn’t need to go with the crowd. What Nigeria needs to do is to set the pace for other African countries to follow. As a matter of fact, the Nigerian government and the NCDC should stop playing puppets to the global authorities and carve out an unyielding stand as Madagascar did. 

Home-made solutions will do the nation tremendous good. Since the international community has not only expressed enthusiasm but rather shown readiness in assisting us with millions of their taxpayers’ money and also equipment which we are in dear need of (which they have practically done), to enable us to tackle the pandemic, it will amount to monumental disgrace and shame on us to be found at slumber. 

Leaving the fate of over 200 million people in the hands of barely a hundred is ill-fated and criminal and also a recipe for anarchy. Competent individuals should as a matter of urgency be immediately consulted and involved in the quest of salvaging our people as a nation.

The government should begin to prioritize the Health sector and do the needful by releasing funds to scientists, the likes of Prof Maurice Iwu who claimed to have a breakthrough in finding a cure for the virus, to carry out and continue with their research which will bring us a cure or a vaccine. These initiatives should be quickly welcomed and supported by every means possible. No council should be rebuffed, if anything, all gates which appear to lead to a holistic solution should be wisely implored and employed.

Nigeria needs to begin to look inwardly, to see how it can better its people well. This will translate into the African continent and the world eventually will be healed. The process has to be transparent and open so that all can see, learn and contribute to resolving the abnormally. The federal government should allow for active involvement and collaboration with states government and private organizations in the war against the enemy. The enemy here should be Covid-19 and not this or that state, or those people perceived to be enemy of the state.

Comrade Odugbo Enenche Justin is the author of the ‘Problem With Nigeria: Ensuring A More Cohesive, Peaceful and United Nation’. 

He is a young dynamic and energetic Nigerian youth, a blogger and an erudite speaker. 

He is highly passionate about the Nigerian project. 

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