By Jesse Oludare
Right of Reply
I followed Femi Akintunde-Johnson’s writings from the mid-’90s. When the story of the Nigerian media is told, there will be a footnote about how the man, popularly known as FAJ rose to the height of journalism. These days, he writes a column for This Day newspapers, where he “focuses on diverse issues of national importance – political, socio-economical, philosophical…” few weeks ago, his focus was on Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State. It is still difficult for me to understand what that piece aimed to achieve.
First, FAJ suggested that Governor Makinde certified himself positive and then negative for COVID-19. This suggestion calls into question all the data that has so far been released by the Nigerian Government through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Are we to believe that Mr Akintunde-Johnson does not know that tests in Nigeria are only conducted in NCDC certified laboratories? Or is he unaware that certified doctors conduct the tests?
Insinuating that the governor’s test results are a ruse means that Governor Makinde, the doctors who collected his samples and managed his case and the virologists who carried out the tests and generated the results are all in on a scam. Interestingly, in Governor Makinde’s case, his first test and one of the negative results were sent to the Diagnostic Centre at Ede, Osun State. So, by Mr Akintunde-Johnson’s analysis, Osun State is also in on this scam.
Come to think of it, why is FAJ questioning Governor Makinde’s test results? Do we ask who conducted the tests and signed the results for all other cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria or is this something personal? Or is Governor Seyi Makinde’s sin that he has been open, honest and transparent about his coronavirus experience? Even while in self-isolation he granted phone interviews and continuously updated his social media pages. If Mr Akintunde-Johnson was so interested in Governor Makinde’s case, the least he could have done was light research. All the answers he seeks are already available online.
COVID-19 is novel. No one in the world fully understands how it operates in the human body but what is now clear is that people can contract the virus and be asymptomatic throughout. They can infect other people even though they are not showing any symptoms. The test results do not reveal when a person contracted the virus; they only tell that the person has the virus or doesn’t and what their viral load is. The experts managing the governor’s case decided when his repeat tests would be done, as is the routine for all COVID-19 cases.
To be clear, FAJ’s question about the treatment regimen is suspect. There is no treatment yet for COVID-19. Patients who contract the virus have to be managed if they develop moderate to severe symptoms, but it is their body which has to fight off the disease. For their bodies to do this, patients are advised to take certain foods and medicines that can boost their immunity. This is the same advice the governor’s doctor friend gave him.
In fact, the telephone interview with Fresh FM 105.9 on April 06, 2020, where Governor Makinde stated his friend, Dr Muyideen Olatunji, recommended black seed oil as an immune booster which was quoted by Akintunde-Johnson in his piece contains answers to some of these questions. Did the writer only read the part about the black seed oil recommendation and skip the other parts of the transcript? Or is he for some other reason tending towards selective recall?
To show how transparent Governor Makinde has been about his COVID-19 experience, I will demonstrate that the information in my response is already available online. Let’s start with the isolation process.
Governor Makinde was in isolation for a week before his result came back positive because of advice from the Nigeria Governor’s Forum that all governors who attended the National Economic Council meeting on March 19, 2020, had been exposed to a positive COVID-19 case and should immediately self-isolate and test. He revealed this in a phone interview on Fresh FM
105.9, Ibadan on March 31, 2020. The video and transcript of the interview were published on his social media pages on the same day. Traditional media outlets also published the information.
After testing positive for COVID-19, Governor Makinde was in isolation for another week before his results came back negative twice. He stated this in a second phone interview on Fresh FM 105.9, Ibadan on April 06, 2020. Again, the video and transcript of the interview were published on his social media pages on the same day. It was after he received the second negative result that the self-isolation came to an end. This is standard practice everywhere. Daily, we read that state governments all over Nigeria have discharged patients with COVID-19 from their isolation centres immediately after they receive two negative test results. Why should the governor’s case be different?
Governor Makinde observed isolation in his home before testing positive, and after testing positive, he continued to self-isolate at home. His contacts were traced when his test result came back positive, a fact he revealed in his phone interview of March 31, 2020, referred to above.
His administration has been outlining measures it is taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Oyo State. A person who is interested in focusing “diverse issues of national importance – political, socio-economical, philosophical…” would rather dissect the efforts of the Oyo State Government and come up with ideas about how to make things better.
It is on record that Governor Seyi Makinde has been as proactive as the novel virus will allow, while taking into account the local circumstances of the Oyo State people. He was one of the first state governors to push for a diagnostic centre in their state. The Oyo State Government collaborated with the Virology Department of the University College Hospital, Ibadan to upgrade its laboratory to a certified NCDC molecular laboratory which can test for COVID-19. More recently, he has appealed to the NCDC to certify the Diagnostic Centre at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
Governor Makinde is pushing for more testing centres because the more we test, the more we know how the virus behaves. He is aiming at testing 10,000 persons within the shortest possible time, with the first tranche of 2,000 persons already happening at the drive-through/ walk-through testing centre at Adamasingba Stadium, Ibadan.
It is also on record that the governor of Oyo State is the first to talk about the wearing of face masks in public spaces as an added measure to prevent, control and contain the spread of COVID-19. He has gone a step further to commission 100 tailors to sew one million masks. Today, other governors in the country are adopting the same measure.
Of course, no one is saying Governor Makinde is perfect. Even the governor himself uses every opportunity to remind people that he is always open to criticism. But this should not be used as an excuse for nit-picking and drawing funny conclusions. I want to believe that FAJ mistakenly sent in his first draft. After all, he did say that the article was at some point, lost in transit. He probably sent this version out without giving it a thorough read. I believe he is already doing further research for a follow-up article where he will explain what went wrong. I want to think he will do a rewrite when he gets this memo.
–Jesse Oludare sent this piece from Ilaju, Ido LGA, Oyo State.