By Casmir Igbokwe
If he had been a medical doctor or pharmacist, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State would have been a disaster. His COVID-19 cocktail would have been a bizarre mixture. But he is not in the medical profession. Hence, it is still a puzzle where he got his coronavirus mishmash from.
Recently, Bello bellowed that COVID-19 was a hoax. He warned his people not to give in to what he called fear and evil on the issues of COVID-19.
“It is a disease that has been imported, propagated and forced on people for no just cause. Nothing kills faster than fear. I urge you all not to accept cut-and-paste as COVID-19,” the youngest governor in Nigeria cautioned. He added, “Whether medical experts and scientists believe it or not, COVID-19 is out to shorten the lifespan of the people. It is a disease propagated by force for Nigerians to accept.”
He also believes the recent death of the state Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajanah, was natural and not COVID-19-related as reported.
Last Wednesday, precisely a day after Bello’s outburst, some hoodlums attacked the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital. They reportedly carted away computers and other sensitive materials from the administrative department of the institution. Some of the materials were used for data collection and management of COVID-19 in the state. They also took away laptops and phones of some members of staff and patients. The management of the medical centre and the Kogi State government had been at loggerheads over the COVID-19 pandemic. The same strong dispute defines the relationship between Bello and officials of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). At a point, he barred NCDC officials from conducting any test in Kogi and asked them to leave his state or go on 14-day quarantine.
But, could it be true, as the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleged, that the “target and mode of the attack (on FMC) strongly expose a desperate mission to destroy gathered information, suppress statistics and completely disrupt COVID-19 management effort in the state”?
Only Bello can answer this. Nevertheless, his efforts to suppress the search for truth about COVID-19 have won many converts. To these converts, the daily update on the number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria is mere manipulation of figures. They think that some officials in charge of the management of this virus are profiteering from it and would not want an end to it. Their recurring questions are: if the disease is in Nigeria as such, why have we not seen many corpses in many places like we saw in Italy, Spain and some others? Since the disease has no cure, what medication is the government administering on the patients who have reportedly recovered from the disease?
I’m not sure if there are clear-cut answers to these questions. Even, the manner some state governors glibly announce their fall and recovery from the knockdown effects of this disease leaves some question marks as well. Ordinarily, our leaders are too secretive to talk about any sickness that knocks them down. But the reverse has been the case since this coronavirus surfaced in our country. The other day, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State announced that he had the disease. Hardly had sympathy messages finished landing on his desk when we heard that he had started playing table tennis and had fully recovered. Now, Ebonyi State governor is the latest patient among the governors. Also, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo and Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta are currently down with the disease. Let’s watch and see how many days their isolation will last. Some other governors who had suffered and recovered from the virus include Governors Bala Mohammed of Bauchi, Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna and Seyi Makinde of Oyo states, respectively.
Well, even if COVID-19 is a scam in Nigeria, is it not better to err on the side of caution? Did the same disease not kill the former Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and the former Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi? What will it cost us to observe the safety protocols so that we don’t transmit it to the vulnerable members of society?
The doubts people like Bello created in the minds of some Nigerians negated the earlier ban on interstate travels by the Federal Government. In theory, there was a ban but in practice, what the government did was to open channels of multiple incomes for the security agencies. Drivers were made to drop as much as N1,000 per checkpoint. They passed the cost burden to the commuters who had to pay between N12,000 and N15,000 per trip from a place like Lagos to the East.
It was good that the Federal Government lifted the ban on interstate travels because the lockdown had collapsed completely. Some transport companies had to use vehicles without brand names to commute people. I don’t so much blame them because most of them had been knocked down economically. They lost billions of naira to the lockdown. A new luxury bus reportedly costs about N200 million. Many transporters took loans from banks to buy new buses only for the COVID-19 pandemic to surface and cripple their business. The implication of this is that they have to increase transport fares in order to meet up with their obligations to the banks and others. Even now that the ban is lifted, the major transport companies will spend a lot of money to put their long-parked vehicles back to shape.
The airline industry faced a similar challenge. They also lost billions of naira to the pandemic. For those that will still remain in business, regulatory authorities will have to ascertain the safety of their aircraft before they start flying again as many of the planes were grounded during the lockdown.
As it is now, COVID-19 does not appear to be ready to leave us soon. Rather, what we see every day is an increase in the number of cases. Currently, Nigeria has over 28,000 cases and over 630 deaths. Worldwide, over 11 million people have contracted the disease and over 500,000 deaths have been recorded.
What this entails is that we have to adopt different strategies to evade the disease, hoping that there will be a breakthrough in the research for drugs or vaccines to tackle the problem. The Federal Government is moving in the right direction by trying to open up the economy again. The hunger pandemic appears to be even deadlier now than ever before.
However, people should not let down their guard. When in public places, they should wear their masks and maintain social distance. They should also cultivate the habit of washing their hands regularly and using hand sanitizers when necessary, until we see a significant drop in the rate of infections.
May I, at this point, draw the attention of Bello to what happened in Ghana last Friday. Carlos Kingsley Ahenkorah was forced to resign as Ghana’s Deputy Trade and Industry Minister for disobeying coronavirus self-isolation measures in spite of being COVID-19 positive. Ahenkorah, who is also a Member of Parliament, visited a voter registration centre in his constituency, as Ghana is compiling new electoral roll for December elections. This drew condemnation from his countrymen. Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo, did not waste time in accepting his resignation.
There is every need for our own leaders to be more serious with this pandemic. Lagos is showing good example. Last Friday, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu reiterated the mandatory use of face masks in public places and warned that enforcement agencies would begin to charge defaulters to court. The Lagos State government has also accredited seven private laboratories to conduct COVID-19 tests at reasonable cost. Testing and treatment in all state-owned health facilities remain free.
Community and religious leaders as well as corporate bodies and non-governmental organisations should join hands with the government to enlighten people about this pandemic. If, at the end of the day, it turns out to be a hoax, we will hail Bello and urge the President to give him a national award. But for now, let him join the train to drive coronavirus out of our lives.
Re: Edo and the APC ‘corn men’
Chinua Achebe’s ‘The Trouble With Nigeria’ squarely rests Nigeria’s problem on ‘a failure of leadership’. And by extension, let me add that Nigeria’s problem cannot be divorced from a failure of followership as well. An enlightened and disciplined followership necessarily evokes a strong and vigilant leadership. Nigeria’s failure is two-pronged: failure of leadership and followership. Oshiomhole’s chairmanship of the APC is an unmitigated disaster: a direct departure from the purposeful and progressive era of the Oyegun-led APC. The experimentations of Oshiomhole on Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu have merely depicted a man whose agenda was to extract his personal pound of flesh, even if the APC must die. An embarrassed President Buhari must have been relieved when he finally latched on or relied on an existing court order to cage the marauding Oshiomhole who has all along been acting like a Bull in a China Shop.
– Edet Essien Esq., Calabar South, +2348037952470
Comrade Oshiomhole going back to his vomit over supporting Pastor Ize-lyamu governorship ambition is very unfortunate. With the ugly names the APC former chairman called Pastor lyamu in 2016 governorship election, Edo electorate should vote wisely to avoid resource looting at the end of the day. The Edo electorate should know that the devil they know is better than the Angel they did not know.
– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia,+2348062887535
Dear Casmir, according to Winston Churchill, the war time British Prime Minister, “a soldier dies only once but a politician dies many times before his death”. Politicking is about marketing of policies and principles but in Nigeria it’s about stomach infrastructure leading to social suicide. May God save us.
– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215
Casmir, Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu’s crisscrossing or swapping drama episode would make for an interesting blockbuster, best seller movie. Before you say Jack Robinson, they swapped in grand style and in record time. They are phenomenal. Their politics is worth researching into. Has there ever been such in world politics? Please, I need an answer, as I think it should go into the Guinness Book of Records.
– Mike, Mushin, +2348161114572
- Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 6, 2020.