The Odd Day Nigerians Celebrated The Deadly Virus

Tuesday, the 24th of March, 2020 is an untypical day that will never be forgotten in the history of Nigeria, precisely in terms of narrating the spate of infectious diseases. The dreaded Coronavirus disease which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization suddenly became a 'friend' of the masses simply because it penetrated the secured and well-insulated territory of high-ranking government officials deemed to have plunged Nigeria into despondency with bad leadership and corruption.

The Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari was reported to have tested positive to the virus after returning from Germany to discuss a national power project with Siemens. Kyari is a man of a few words whose reputation appears to have been severely battered in the media. He is believed to be a strong member of the inner caucus of Buhari known as 'the cabal'. Nigerians believe this small group of influential and selfish elites are the ones hindering a feeble Buhari from taking the right decisions in governance. Kyari is believed to be the De Facto president of Nigeria who has been allegedly taking advantage of Buhari's health challenges to usurp his presidential powers, and wield undue influence in the country. His run-ins with the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno has been well covered by the media. He was reported to have also cut the Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo to size after he started gaining national popularity and then touted to be the next president in the year 2023.

As the news of Kyari's Coronavirus result broke, he name started trending across the country. The news wasn't all about Kyari, it was more of who he must have also infected within the Aso Rock Villa in Abuja due to his closeness to the top government officials. Buhari's name was immediately bandied around as a primary contact. It could be recalled that rumours had already emerged before then that Buhari was again dealing with secret health issues and that accounted for why it took him ages to address Nigeria on the Coronavirus scare as other world leaders did. Even when Buhari addressed Nigeria in a recorded short video clip, it proved ineffectual as the delivery of the address was weaker than Nigeria's health system and his failure to properly pronounce the codename of the virus - COVID-19 created much of humour on social media thereby distracting people from the grave issues at hand.

News started to gain momentum that Buhari tested positive for the virus and his handlers had hid the test result just like his school certificate. The Presidency sensed there was a problem and swiftly, it clandestinely floated reports that Buhari tested negative but nobody believed. It remains worrisome that Buhari passed the test but returned to self-isolation. Many believe if indeed he tested negative, it might indeed be 'false negative' due to the elusive nature of the virus which broke out from Wuhan, China in December 2019. In truth, it's hard to detect it at the incubation stage and that is why China has been quarantining suspected carriers for as long as 14 days for it to manifest.

The 24th of March was the day Nigerians displayed their innermost anger and lack of sense of humanity and sympathy for their political leaders. It was a tentative approval rating or a report card riddled with red marks in core areas.

Their permutation was that Buhari, a 77-year-old man with underlying health conditions will have no chance against the virus which has a fatality rate that leans towards the elderly ones. As calculated, Kyari who also attends the weekly Federal Executive Council meetings must have also spread the virus to other key ministers of the Buhari administration after giving the secret cabal its fair share. The indignant people regarded the disease as the needed 'heavenly intervention' to rid Nigeria of a few of the bad eggs through natural and less violent means. Things started playing out as they imagined when three aides of Kyari reportedly tested positive the disease according to mainstream media reports.

You must have noticed that social media users went on profiling the officials Kyari had primary contacts with on his return from Europe and they publicly called on such individuals to take the test. It was more of harassment and shaming which is against the ethics of medicine. The Vice President quietly did and was lucky. Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State also tested negative for the virus. Till date, we were yet to see the test results of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi and Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State but that's an issue for another day. The Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed who had close contact with the son of Vice President Atiku Abubakar had also tested positive but his name didn't have a national weight.

Despite the Presidency claiming Buhari has returned to work, the smoke from the virus has refused to blow over. Critics have been mounting pressure on Buhari with memes and severe fake news. A newspaper report claims that the President just like Kyari is dealing with a serious cough which is one of the symptoms of the ailment. Hearsays have it that Buhari has been ferried to London alongside Kyari for possible improved medical treatment although this has remained unfounded. It would be recalled that Buhari cumulatively spent a total of 6 months receiving medical treatments abroad in his first term in office.

His traducers have also gone as far as doctoring a CNN news screenshot depicting the international American network as claiming Buhari tested positive to the virus alongside Kyari.

It's funny how the disease which has altered social relationships, caused job losses and claimed lives dramatically earned the support of Nigerians who dread its outbreak in the country. As long as it involves our leaders alleged to be feeding fat on the state's limited resources, the poor masses are not ready to show sympathy. Everything reeks of the unpopular nature of this administration and the harsh economic realities people have been subjected to.

But in the real sense, any case of Coronavirus is perilous to the country no matter the status of the person. Most of the well-affected countries like South Korea, Iran, Spain, Italy, U.S and others started with a handful of cases but today, the figures have ballooned into thousands with numerous people dead. There is a need for us to be united against the common unseen enemy. In the UK, the National Health Service, NHS recently called for 250,000 volunteer workers to help the aged and vulnerable across the country during the current emergency period. In less than 24hrs, 500,000 volunteers signed up to help and the figure is now approaching a million. Ex-Manchester United football stars, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville have also closed their hotels to the public and opened them up to NHS staff for free to enable them to deliver their services expertly during the pandemic. Their other colleagues in the sports industry, Robert Lewandowski (and his wife) and Conor Mcgregor also gave a million euros each to support the treatment of Coronavirus patients. Some distilleries in America also started making hand sanitizers and distributing them for free. Nigerians have been busy inflating the prices of sanitizers and other essential products to make megabucks at the expense of others.

People in the aforementioned countries also love money and want to make the most of it but they will never act like us. This is because their eyes are all focused on the bigger picture of avoiding personal vendetta against the government or specific government officials who might be faltering in the delivery of their duties to the state.

In conclusion, the widespread unprecedented actions of the people on the 24th of March, 2020 is indicative of the generally poor performance of government.
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About Osahon

I'm a journalist and a Political Scientist undergoing a doctoral programme focused on media, democracy and governance in Africa. My mission is to uphold the role of the media as the 'fourth estate of the realm' and also tell the Nigerian Story to the world. You can contact me on Phone number: +2347053302356.
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