How Dirty Politics Is Fueling Coronavirus Spread In Kano


In Africa, and Nigeria to be specific, there is a high tendency for individuals to feed on a major problem. For example, the Boko Haram insurgency has become the cash-cow of political leaders using it as a conduit pipe to siphon state funds. The coronavirus pandemic might be the new oil well politicians are drawing crude from.

When Governor Umar Ganduje bluntly asked the Federal Government for a gargantuan sum of N15 billion to tackle coronavirus after recording 73 cases, the general public knew there was going to be a serious problem to deal with. Ganduje must have blindly made the demand considering the fact that Lagos State, the epicentre of the disease in Nigeria, was allocated a sum of N10 billion as monetary support made available by the central government. Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State had earlier frown at such funds, as his state never benefited and he questioned why.

Ganduje promptly cried out to the Federal Government and accused the body of abandoning Kano, with a population of 15 million to its fate. Since the Federal Government expressed reluctance to assist Kano with any funds close to the unbelievable demand made by the governor, the number of coronavirus cases have been rising exponentially. On the 30th of April, Kano State just like its historical antecedence in presidential elections unseated Lagos in the number of cases released by the NCDC. It recorded 80 cases, and Lagos did 45. Yesterday, Kano maintained the top stop with 92 cases while Lagos further dropped down to 30.

Kano started well in the beginning but something went wrong

When patient zero entered Kano and was discovered on the 11th of April, the state government swung into action. Its 600-bed isolation facility at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano was ready for usage coupled with other facilities. Contract-tracing started in full swing, contacts were not only located and isolated but also tested for the virus. Fumigation of places visited by the first case followed. New transportation guidelines, as well as others pertaining to religious gatherings, were introduced. One week lockdown followed and it was obeyed at surface level but the cases surged. Kano struggled to interrupt the local transmission of the virus. Something seemed amiss; politics played a role.

Ganduje reportedly appointed his cronies into the state's Covid-19 Task Force

According to a letter written by a former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, and addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari on the Covid-19 threat in Kano; Ganduje allegedly set up a task force that comprised of his loyalists and not competent people. These individuals later appeared to be more vulnerable to the disease than the masses in Kano State, as some of the key members got infected early. This slowed down the work of the group and coronavirus started preaching its gospel of death with low resistance.

Lack of adequate testing

As Nigeria grapples with the challenge of testing, recording barely 12,000 tests in over 5 weeks, Kano set a record. Kano recorded no test at all. It was reported that some of the workers at the laboratory were exposed to the virus and coupled with insufficient reagents, the facility closed down. For almost 72hrs, coronavirus was spreading undetected in the state with many in need of tests unable to access it.

Mystery deaths

Mystery deaths totalling over 600 rocked Kano in barely two weeks. The passing of several prominent individuals in the traditional Muslim society made the alarm louder. The state government attempted to play the grave reports down but it never worked. It soon concluded that malaria, typhoid and other diseases were behind the causes of deaths while many believe the nature of the mass exodus bears the hallmarks of the imported disease. Till date, no concrete autopsy has been carried out by the state and it has introduced the term 'verbal autopsy' to quell the curiosity of people.

The rumoured exodus of doctors

A number of 113 health workers have been infected with coronavirus in Nigeria because they are in the frontlines. Due to the lack of preparedness by the state government to tackle the virus, about 70% of doctors were reported to have fled their offices to prevent dying cheaply. This was later debunked by the Nigerian Medical Association. 

Lack of synergy between the state government and presidential task force

On the 27th of April, Ganduje blamed the Federal Government for not paying adequate attention to Kano. He fingered the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19. He bitterly complained about a shortage of sample collection equipment. The state lost more time and the virus kept moving like wildfire.

Deportation of Almajiris

Since coronavirus made landfall in the north, the Almajiris who constitute a symbol of cultural and religious values among the northerners have become objects of political brickbats. Suddenly, they have received tentative state identities and have been constantly deported from one place to another. Some of them due to their homeless nature have emerged as potential carriers of the virus which they must have been spreading seamlessly. No state wants to take the sole responsibility of rounding off the ones in their domains for testing and proper care at this time. The easier option has been deportation! Recently, out of the test samples of Almajiris repatriated from Kano to Kaduna, 16 came back positive.

Ganduje's body language and attitude

In less than two weeks of the lockdown in Kano State, Governor Ganduje has called for relaxation twice under the guise of food scarcity. The move might which might be well-intentioned has sent wrong signals to close watchers especially when he is dealing with a virus that doesn't go on breaks, neither could it be negotiated with for a possible ceasefire. Although the calls for relaxation can't be empirically linked to the surge in the number of cases in Kano, close human interactions without adequate measures do. Ghana has recorded over 1,000 new cases since it lifted its nationwide lockdown last week. Additionally, Ganduje reportedly turned down a 60-bed hospital facility donated by his rival, Kwankwaso to be used as an isolation centre in the state. This is coming when the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has called on private individuals to donate their available buildings to the Federal Government for use as isolation facilities ahead of an expected jump in the number of cases.

On a closing note, its crystal-clear that the battle against Covid-19 in Kano State is rooted in politics and its impeding on the containment efforts of the government in the state. For Kano to beat the virus, it needs to get its politics right. This isn't the right avenue for politics but governance. Like the convener of the Northern Elders Forum, Ango Abdullahi also asserted in his recent press release, some state government are using the disease as a measure to curry favour from the central government and international bodies which shouldn't be. Coronavirus is raiding blindly without considering financial or societal status, all hands should be on deck to interrupt its local transmission before it overburdens the already fragile health system.

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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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