How Kogi State Is Battling Coronavirus In A Dangerous Way

 

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State appeared indifferent about the scourge of coronavirus from the start, at least, his actions and inactions gave him away. When the disease started spreading in Nigeria, Governor Bello accidentally came in contact with Abba Kyari, former Chief of Staff of President Muhammadu Buhari, who later tested positive for the virus and passed away weeks later. Other political leaders who reportedly came in contact with Kyari namely Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Governors Godwin Obaseki, Kayode Fayemi, Rotimi Akeredolu and more, subjected themselves to tests and made their results public. Bello never did, instead of talking about his result, he created distractions with boxing contents posted on social media. Internet users mounted pressure on him till they gave up. Bello moved on to another thing.

As the disease started spreading rapidly in Nigeria, most states started establishing isolation centres to house any infected person at the end of the day. Bello was able to set up a makeshift isolation centre rumoured to have gulped millions of naira. Kogi experience a minor downpour and the isolation centre was utterly destroyed. With the quality of the structure, it was clear that Bello was only following trends. He wasn't interested in fighting the virus in his state. Bello then went on to create a mobile application which reportedly took notes of the symptoms of coronavirus towards recommending the person for further tests. The fact that the mobile app was launched in a state that is largely dominated by rural dwellers who are not widely tech-savvy was laughable. Bello was only saving face and pretending to work.

A popular investigative journalist, Fisayo Soyombo, soon took to Twitter to claim that someone had developed coronavirus symptoms in the state, but for some reasons, the hospital management has failed to take the sample of the patient for testing. The news went viral and Kogi State was forced to release a bold statement debunking it. More pressure from the Nigerian Medical Association, Kogi Chapter attracted the attention of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19. Officials of the NCDC were later dispatched to visit Kogi State and investigate the rumours about the undetected or covered up cases of coronavirus. But Bello had other plans. He made a mockery of the officials by instructing them to be quarantined for two weeks on arrival in the state. This indirect move to stall the investigation process angered the officials who turned around and moved back to their base in Abuja. Again, Bello laughed off the whole scenario as he took pride in the zero cases recorded in Kogi. This is synonymous to how the American boxer, Floyd Mayweather brags about being undefeated in 50 professional fights. 

Bello's administration later accused the leadership of the NCDC of having sinister motives in Kogi and also attempting to force the state to record coronavirus cases. When it was discovered that testing is Kogi was suspiciously low (just one single test as at the 18th of May), the administration announced that it had tested 111 samples which miraculously turned out negative when coronavirus had infiltrated 34 out of 36 states in Nigeria. It would be recalled that only Kogi and Cross River States stood out as clean as at then. An undercover journalist would later visit Cross River for a test and fail to receive his test result about a week later.

In the coming days, the NCDC would later announce that Kogi had recorded two cases. One of them was an influential cleric, an Imam who later survived after being transferred to Abuja, Nigeria's capital for treatment. This was a confirmation that coronavirus was already 'familiarising' itself with some Kogi indigenes. As usual, Bello disputed the numbers. One of his foot soldiers, the Commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo dangerously went on a national TV and made spurious accusations against the NCDC. He explained that the state wasn't ready to be a part of a grand scheme to defraud Nigerians. It was more absurd hearing that from a senior journalist like him. His views were clear threats to public health and they punctured the integrity of the NCDC. His baseless were welcomed by some cynics who already didn't believe the coronavirus infection figures being churned out daily by the NCDC.

The family of the Imam kicked. They supported the stand of the NCDC and cooperated with them in the area of contract-tracing and testing. Bello felt boxed to a corner and then, he finally called for a 14-day strict lockdown of the Kabba-Bunu local government area to contain the virus. A third case has now being reported and Mr Fanwo is still out there making statements that would embarrass him in the future. He has alleged that the clinical machines of the NCDC have been tampered with to churn out positive cases. If the custodians of a state believe this, then what is expected to the followers who might not be knowledgeable enough to process the truth. The situation is as dire and dangerous as it sounds!

It is hard to play politics with the virus. President Donald Trump, Wladimir Putin and Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil need to talk to Bello about the dangers of his action. They know better and they have learned the hard way. The luck in Africa is that the death rate has been considerably low compared to other continents. Scientists have been scrambling to explain that. But we can't be too relaxed; if the virus hits the elderly and the vulnerable people in Kogi, it will replicate its feat in Italy. We might have concerns about the modus operandi of the NCDC but we have to trust them for now. Get through this and later undertake an in-depth post-mortem of the battle against the deadly virus.

Kogi isn't going to win a medal for not producing a case. At the end of the day, the protection of lives and livelihoods is all that matters not keeping an inexplicable clean slate. The lies, propaganda and distractions from Kogi state should stop. Good health should never be sacrificed on the altar of dirty politics. The primary goal of the state is to protect the lives of the citizens.


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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 smile2georgex@yahoo.com Phone number: +2347053302356.
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