By Emeka Omeihe
Is there some information available to Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello on the corona virus COVID-19 pandemic that is not readily available to the larger public? Or is there anything he knows about the ravaging viral disease that is being hidden from the public by the authorities?
These are some of the posers brought to the fore by the intransigence of the Kogi State helmsman on the potent danger to human existence wrought by the pandemic. If previous events from that state did not give sufficient cause for worry, the statement credited to Bello last week on the authenticity of the viral disease can only be ignored at a huge cost to efforts to contain the killer disease.
The governor while reacting to the death of the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajana, was reported to have said that COVID-19 is an artificial creation aimed at causing fear and panic among the people.
Hear him: “ It is a disease that has been imported, propagated and forced on us the people for no just cause”, urging people not to accept “ cut and paste, as COVID-19 is out to create fear, panic; orchestrated to reduce and shorten the life of the people. 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”.
These views are as weighty and sensitive as they are controversial. When a state governor speaks, we are wont to take him very seriously. As the chief executive of a state, whatever view he espouses has wider consequences not only for the people of his state but the entire country.
When Bello spoke the way he did on the propriety of the raging pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people across the globe and reduced life to a miserable lot, we run a grave risk allowing him get away with such sweeping assertions. It is therefore only proper that such claims are subjected to serious interrogation to determine the veracity or otherwise of the issues bandied. This position is further dictated by the sensitivity of the subject matter and the dangerous repercussions to the war against the pandemic of allowing unfiltered views remain within the public realm without being contradicted.
The summation of his case is that COVID-19 is an artificial creation imported and forced on us to create panic and therefore does not exist. If the dimension of importation of COVID-19 refers to the fact that the disease emanated from outside of our shores, he may have some point. The disease originated from Wuhan City in China before spreading to other parts of the world through human transmission. It is neither original to this country nor other parts of the world that have suffered hugely from it.
That point can be admitted. But does that make the disease an artificial creation? To what extent can we stretch the contention that COVID-19 is artificial in the face of the realities of the times? How do we now explain the several thousands of people that have succumbed to the viral disease the world over, including the most advanced nations with capacities to disprove any fake scientific claims? At any rate, on what scientific pedestal is Bello resting his claims that COVID-19 is the figment of the imagination of some powers desirous to create panic amongst us and shorten our lives?
These are the nagging questions Bello ought to have addressed for his claims to attract any modicum of credibility. And in the absence of any verifiable evidence to disprove the reality of the viral disease, one is led to the inevitable conclusion that Bello’s claims are mere figments of educated guess. But we all know that educated guess is of questionable empirical value. Being an outcome of guess work, nobody should take the Kogi State governor seriously on this singular issue. It would have made better sense if he had contended that the disease is a biological creation to depopulate the world, as some have argued.
But to claim that the disease does not exist in the face of all the realities is a dangerous distraction that should be rebuffed. The reason for his intransigence remains curious. But he was in essence telling the people not observe all the protocols put in place to contain the pandemic. By further extrapolation, there was no basis for the lockdown of the country that has sent millions out of job and about to throw the country into another round of recession. We had no basis to shut our shores and put every life activity to a halt. There was absolutely no reason for shutting down our schools and all the hard measures taken by the government since the pandemic hit our shores. To admit all this, would amount to a vote of no confidence on the federal government.
Curiously, there seems a conspiracy of silence on the part of the federal government to the deliberate efforts by the Kogi State governor to run down the crucial war against the killer virus. Why this has remained so in spite of the potent danger such views portend, is baffling. Sadly, the inability of the federal government to square up to the disruptive effusions from that state government is in part, at the centre of the raging cynicism on the corona virus pandemic.
But, the same government through its relevant agencies has been waging relentless campaigns to redirect the psyche of our people to the reality of the pandemic. That many of our people have continued to breach the protocols to stem the pandemic, is the logical outcome of warped views of the tribe of leaders like the Kogi State governor. That is quite unfortunate.
If the attempt by Bello to discredit the war against the pandemic does not constitute a sufficient cause for worry, last week’s attack on the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Lokoja, Kogi State which is linked to the raging COVID-19 controversy, left a sour taste in the mouth. The invaders struck as workers and doctors of the centre were preparing to address a press conference on COVID-19. Numbering about 50, they were said to have carted away computers and files relating to COVID-19 while injuring some of the staff and patients.
The state government was swift to attribute the attack to alleged altercation by relations of a patient whom the authorities of the centre refused to treat. But some of the placards displayed by the hoodlums, made copious references to the management of COVID-19 pandemic in the medical centre as part of the grouse of those protesting. This fact; the large number of attackers and the sensitive equipment and files carted away do not lend credence to the claim that it was a scuffle between relations of a patient and the centre.
Rather, the attack bears the imprimatur of the controversy between the centre and the state government on the management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the attackers were reportedly heard yelling that the centre was giving the state government a bad name by alleging that there is COVID-19 in the state contrary to the position of the state government. That is the crux of the matter.
Before now, the FMC had been at daggers drawn with the state government over the management of the pandemic. The medical facility had said it treated COVID-19 patients in the centre before transferring them to the NCDC facility in Abuja. But the state government would not have any of that as it insists there is no COVID-19 case in the state despite the NCDC announcing an index case last month. There is therefore everything pointing to a link between the controversy and the attack.
The law enforcement agents should not have any problem in unveiling the source of the attack. The hoodlums spent reasonable time in the hospital. Their placards were captured by the press. So there will be no difficulty in identifying the culprits. The federal government must get at the root of that dangerous attack. If a medical facility can be so brazenly attacked in broad daylight, then that centre has become a great danger to workers and patients.
But more than anything else, the federal government must come public on the embarrassing altercations between Bello and its agencies fighting COVID-19. It is high time the governor is put to serious test on some of the views credited to him. If the federal government fails to put a lie to the claims attributed to the Kogi State governor on the COVID-19 reality, then it stands accused of complicity on the cynicism surrounding the pandemic. Then also, it would have lost the moral right to continue the fight. Bello is giving the pandemic a bad name. The country’s leadership must come clear on the matter if it has nothing to hide.
CREDIT: THE NATION