The beautiful photos of two Nigerian Engineers, Gyang William and Nura Jibrin who were described by some sections of the media as “the latest heroes in the fight against COVID-19” due to their kindhearted efforts of refurbishing ventilators at the Jos University Teaching Hospital, free of charge, has once again restored hope that better days lie ahead of us as Nigerians. According to reports, the duo who carried out the humanitarian service wanted “to ensure that no patient dies from the virus in Plateau State.” It is the desire of this columnist that the uncanny gesture displayed by these rare gems does not end as either media hype or mere accolades on social media.
By providing a homegrown solution to the COVID-19 endemic, these distinguished Nigerians have written their names in the hall of fame. With this explosive news, Jos, the Plateau State Capital has entered the Guinness Book of Records, not as a crisis-zone but as the home of finest Nigerians who are bent on changing the narrative of black Africa. An elder statesman on the Plateau, Nentawe Yilwatda Goshwe, who could not hide his bragging rights on his Facebook Wall stressed: “It is in the DNA of Plateau citizens to always lead from the front in that respect.” Perhaps their action was in keeping with the motto of the state as “The Home of Peace and Tourism.”
Speaking to newsmen recently at the hospital premises in Jos, Gyang disclosed that the gesture was premised on the critical function of a ventilator in the treatment of Coronavirus cases. He noted that the hospital had a shortage of the equipment and required urgent repairs of the ones that were damaged. Consequently, he assessed the ventilators and discovered that they can be fixed. So, he invited his childhood friend, Nura who attended Technical College, Jos, with him, which resulted in the success story. One ventilator is estimated at $30,000 to $50,000 (Between N12 to N18 million). This is apart from tax, customs duty and freight among other expenses. This is to make the reader appreciate the magnanimous efforts of the pair.
Reacting to the story on Legit.ng Breaking News Facebook Account, many pundits could not hide their feelings about the development. One Austine Onyemalu Obinna said: “The act of love. The donations made by well-meaning Nigerians was an act of love; this same action by these engineers is an act of love. Love is not partial, love is general and it knows no bounds. Let us follow suit in our small ways.” For Miapsuk Madugu, “They deserve National Honours for their kindness to humanity.” On her part, Momoh Celina opined: “Our leaders will learn to fix all [the] fixable in all hospitals in [the] country; I guess [the] era of rushing abroad for common headache has come to an end now.” Another fan Emilian Ibekwe maintained: “You guys are my heroes in the fight against C-19. May God that searches the heart of men bless you abundantly.”
In a country that is often divided against the fault-lines of religion, ethnicity and politics, Gyang and Nura have finally demonstrated that a Berom man can drink from the same mug with a Fulani man. This heroic act also teaches that we can suck from the breast of any magnanimous Nigerian irrespective of his or her religion, gender, tribe, political inclination or social standing. In other developed climes, what counts first is your humanity and what you can bring to the table. Forget about the bad example of White Supremacists. At least, if Barrack Obama, our brother from Kenya can become the President of the United States of America, the lesson should be taken that what matters is not the colour of your skin but the content of your character as demonstrated in that timeless March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom of August 28, 1963 “I have a Dream” speech by the cerebral Martin Luther King, Jr.
Apparently, the two Engineers must have gone to the school at a time when children didn’t bother whether you were a Muslim or Christian. Their story reminds me of my school days at Central Primary School Dengi, Kanam LGC, Plateau State when we used to visit the homes of our Muslim friends and eat with them. Our Mother (May God grant her eternal rest) would often ask about them if they don’t show up after two or three days. We went about together during festivities like Sallah and Christmas to beg for “Goron Sallah” and “Happy Christmas.” No one was afraid that anybody would convert his or her son. It is the considered opinion of this columnist that this is the Nigeria that we need. Unfortunately, our Unity Schools today have become a shadow of themselves.
Going forward, our public institutions must once again be epicentres for raising global leaders who are detribalized. We need a society where Njoka from Gembu will share banters with Adekola from Ado-Ekiti without qualms. We need a country where Rabiu from Katsina will drink Fura Da Nono (cow milk) under the tree with Emeka from Abakaliki to the pleasure of one of the six 1976 musical improvisations of Alhaji Garbo Leao’s Goge lyrics. Our schools and barracks should be able to hatch nationalists who are more worried about humanity rather than where people come from.
By going ahead to act towards the protection of lives, the Gyang-Nura narrative shows that we must not wait for everybody to act before we can do good. Like the moon and the sun which illumine the earth, it takes the little step of one good Muslim and another good Christian to start the revolution. In the face of the current pandemic which does not discriminate, we are called to open the phone lines of communication to initiate a revolution of love. The two Engineers are inviting us into the studio for a duet. They need us as their backup. It does not matter if you are tenor, soprano, alto or bass. What counts is your voice.
The Patriots are not the only Nigerians who have demonstrated that black folks can solve their own problems. The donations made by many individuals and corporate organisations further prove that we are a kind people. We don’t need others to tell how good we are. How I wish the international media will report the news about our COVID-19 heroes. Unfortunately, the focus on Africa is often about the disease, hunger, crises and the like. Sadly enough, academics and the press in Africa have failed in celebrating their own. Like children who have just finished licking their mother’s stew and are proud to share the story with their friends in these words, “my mother’s soup is better than yours,” me thinks that it is these citizens who deserve the Nigerian National Honours.
As it were, we must quarantine our public enemies of hatred and bigotry on the island of COVID-19. While that is done, we ought to cleanse our conscience with the sanitizers of love, equity and tolerance. We need to wear the common mask of humanity. By taming the bestial attitudes which segment us into “them” versus “Us,” we shall triumph.
While the world battles with this epidemic, may the lockdown help us to reflect on the things that unite us rather than those which divide us. These young men have humbled our political elite who often look at the masses only in terms of the election. It was the Clergyman, James Freeman Clarke who said: “A politician looks at the next election while a statesman looks at the next generation.” Gyang and Nura have left us with lessons in statesmanship. These, like all the doctors, nurses and philanthropists who are making deliberate efforts in the fight against Coronavirus want us to sing the same chorus: “Nigeria is greater than any individual.” God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Fr. Justine Dyikuk is a Catholic Priest and Researcher who combines being the Editor of Bauchi Caritas Catholic Newspaper, Communication’s Director of Bauchi Diocese with his job as a Lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Nigeria. He can be reached through – firstname.lastname@example.org.