By Casmir Igbokwe
This stay-at-home order has turned the brains of many Nigerians upside down. They stay in the comfort of their rooms to churn out fantastic breaking news almost on a daily basis.
I was greatly amused when a relative called my wife last week. According to her, we should all get hold of our Bible, open the book of Psalms and begin to look for a strand of hair. “Once you find this hair, put it inside water and wash your faces with it. I have found mine. Pray hard while you check the Bible, you will see it. That is the only way God wants to save his people from the coronavirus calamity,” she counselled.
It was obvious that this was the handiwork of fake news merchants. They had attributed this superstitious solution to COVID-19 to the controversial Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka. The priest not only debunked the story, but also described those spreading the rumour as “agents of darkness, witches and wizards from the pit of hell with a demonic assignment of misleading people over such a global life-threatening pandemic.”
Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, was also a victim. They said he shared some eba and egusi soup to some poor people as his own economic stimulus package for Abians. He got serious bashing for this on the social media. It later turned out that the person who shared the eba is the general overseer of Omega Power Ministry, Apostle Chibuzor Gift Chinyere. His church had opened a free restaurant to feed the less privileged in Port Harcourt following the stay-at-home order by the government to curb coronavirus.
These purveyors of fake news did not spare the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari. They said that President Muhammadu Buhari had sacked him because he had coronavirus. They designed the letterhead of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and therein proclaimed Babagana Kingibe as his replacement.
When this could not fly, they announced Kyari’s obituary, just as they reported that the President had a coronavirus-like cough.
In all this, I pitied the information managers at the Presidency. They busied themselves issuing one rebuttal or the other: “Buhari is not coughing,” “President did not sack Kyari,” etc. In their reactions, they failed to realise that misinformation essentially thrives in a society that sleeps on the bed of hypocrisy and secrecy. When government is not open and transparent, people conjure images and news about the likely happenings around the seat of power.
That was what happened recently when, for many days, Nigerians wanted to know the whereabouts of their President. They got no positive response until penultimate Sunday when Buhari addressed the nation on COVID-19.
This type of attitude has pushed many citizens to become too cynical and doubtful about most actions of government. For instance, many corporate and philanthropic individuals have donated billions of naira to COVID-19 Relief Fund. But there are fears in certain quarters that the funds will not be well managed. The Federal Government has informed us that it would reach 11 million Nigerians with some palliatives. Lagos State government said it would reach some 200,000 households with some food items in the first phase.
In a country that has no accurate data, one can only imagine how these palliatives will be shared. Some community development associations (CDAs) with over 300 houses allegedly received not more than five bags of rice, five bags of garri and a loaf of bread. Some of these communities are still confused as to how to share this economic stimulus package. This is deception.
Meanwhile, inside some worship centres, some so-called powerful men of God either try to play God or be his spokesmen. General overseer of Omega Fire Ministries International, Apostle Johnson Suleman, reportedly said coronavirus was not what medical experts had classified it to be. He said he got a revelation that world leaders would come together and make all religions have a common ground and a new world order. The Pope, he claimed, was part of it and their target was the removal of the US President, Donald Trump.
The founder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, Prophet Temitope Joshua, on his part, reportedly said the coronavirus pandemic would end March 27. But when people started deriding him for false prediction, he changed gear. What he meant, he noted, was that the virus would vanish spiritually by March 27. “As I speak, the virus is no more in the spirit realm,” he added.
In the same token, the leader of the Izala sect in Plateau State, Sheikh Sani Jingir, said the disease was a Western conspiracy against Muslims aimed at stopping them from performing their religious rites. Thank God that what happened in Maiduguri in 2001 has not occurred this time round. Then, an eclipse of the sun triggered a riot by Muslim youths who believed that the eclipse was as a result of too many sins in the society.
Nigeria is an interesting place. Even the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, has gone spiritual too. He said God allowed the coronavirus disease to afflict the human race because the world has distorted God’s vision! He tweeted, “We have so distorted God’s word to suit our own human weaknesses and satisfy our greed, even in supposed Holy Places. We should collectively ask for forgiveness and it will all end in praise.”
I had to re-read this to be sure it was Keyamo (SAN) who actually said it. If we are to follow his theory, it means that Italians, who are mostly affected by coronavirus, are the worst sinners. It means that those countries Ebola ravaged in parts of Africa a few years ago, were in the black book of God. It means that previous epidemics such as Spanish flu, influenza, yellow fever, smallpox and most recently, Lassa fever, were punishment from God. In fact, COVID-19 has not even killed half of the estimated 50 million people Spanish flu killed worldwide in 1918.
Until we purge ourselves of gullibility and superstition, politicians and self-styled men of God will continue to bamboozle and manipulate us to achieve their selfish interests.
Re: Corona and other viruses in power
Casmir, COVID-19 is currently ravaging the world. It will pass away like other plagues. Biologically, Darwin’s theory of natural selection is at play. Only the fittest will survive. We should follow COVID -19 rules as issued by WHO and NCDC. I must commend President Buhari’s speech to the nation. His speech went straight to the point and was encouraging. The Ministry of Health and the DG of NCDC must be commended also for their measured and calm response, the same for Lagos State governor. The panicky response of some states only helped to create hysteria and confusion. Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
– Anonymous, +2348033119751
Dear Casmir, I was surprised to read the President saying coronavirus has no cure. Where have the billions gone into. Abalaka could not get generator from the ministry of health at the time he was curing ECOMOG soldiers of HIV. Even with 20 years of nascent democracy, Nigeria has no university of health. Time shall tell, the future will judge.
– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215
In the first place, who sent Alhaji Abba Kyari to Germany to go and negotiate with Siemens on power sector deals when we have minister for power to do the job? After all, he is chief of staff. What is his concern in power sector? He is working beyond his boundaries. Those that followed him to Germany should be checked and isolated for some time. He just went there to bring coronavirus to Nigerian leaders.
– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535
Casmir, the virus thrives less in hot atmospheres because it is made up of RNA and glycoproteins, which are largely proteinous in nature. Proteins are denatured by high temperatures. The rains are coming. People should avoid food substances they are allergic to. These substances irritate the bronchial walls and would make them sneeze more. Yours truly would be avoiding roasted corn, for example. Everybody should have a handkerchief. The distortion of our personal and social lives by the highly virulent SARS COVI 2 (the causal factor of COVID-19) is another sad tale in the history of mankind. But we take solace in the fact that God did not say he would destroy the world via COVID-19 plague. We are in the end time but there are sequences of events that are yet to occur. We jointly call for God’s intervention.
– Mike, Lagos, +2348161114572
Dear Casy, Nigeria currently has two monsters called corona viruses: Sino Wuhan coro and Nigerian coro. Wuhan is ravaging the world. The government of Nigeria didn’t have any palliative measure to help the masses before sending them into isolation but God has saved the good people here in Lagos. The security forces chased the foodstuff traders away with tear gas on Thursday morning at Oyingbo market. Later, the criminals robbed the people. That’s the APC’s gifts. I appeal to good rich Nigerians to use some banks and send some cash to hapless people through their BVN. All the cash they sent through APC government will find its way inside the belle of python gorilla as before. Let Nigerians go back to God. APC government has no good plan for you. Hunger and coronaviruses won’t kill you.
– Eze Chima C., Lagos, +2347036225495
They said that leopard cannot change its spots. When Buhari was a military head of state, Idiagbon was in charge. At PTF, Tayo Akpata and Sirajo were the ones doing the job. Do you expect a different Buhari this time? No.
– Anonymous, +2348033584682
- First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, 06 April 2020