For those Nigerians, who still doubt the existence of Covid-19, the news that Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, recently tested positive for the virus should further attest to the reality, writes Shola Oyeyipo
As at the time of compiling this report, there were 7.27 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and no fewer than 412, 013 people had died from the virus, which emanated from Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
Out of the figures above, Nigeria recorded more than 13, 000 confirmed cases and over 370 deaths. But despite the negative local and international impacts of the virus, many people still do not believe the disease exists.
Though there have been some high profile Coronavirus cases in Nigeria, particularly the one leading to the death of the late Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Abba Kyari and the president’s personal body guard, Warrant Officer Lawal Mato, those were still not enough to convince the doubting Thomases, who would rather believe the conspiracy theories around the virus.
Latest on the list of state executives, who have felt the fang of the virus, is the Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu. Like some of his counterparts in other states, he also tested positive for coronavirus.
Abia State Commissioner for Information, John Okiyi was the first to make it public in a press statement, where he noted that on Saturday, May 30, 2020, Governor Ikpeazu volunteered his sample for COVID-19 test and subsequently directed members of the state Executive Council (EXCO) and those of the inter-ministerial committee on COVID-19 to do the same.
He said though the test result for Ikpeazu initially returned negative on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 but when on Thursday, June 4, 2020, the governor submitted another sample at the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) laboratory for confirmation, it returned positive.
“As a result, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has gone into isolation as required by relevant NCDC protocols, and he is being managed by a competent team of medical practitioners with a view to nursing him back to good health,” Okiyi said.
Though the governor is asymptomatic, he has gone into self-isolation with experienced medical personnel looking after him and presently his deputy, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu, is acting while he is away.
Of course, there are lessons to be learnt from Governor Ikpeazu’z Covid-19 case. First, Coronavirus is real, and it is not a respecter of anyone – it can infect anybody, and not everybody is lucky to be asymptomatic hence the need for Nigerians to take necessary steps to protect themselves from the virus.
Second, irrespective of who you are or whatever position you occupy, it is important to get tested, when you know you might have been exposed to the virus. The reason is that even if you were asymptomatic, it is likely you might be spreading it to family, friends and colleagues at work without knowing.
Ikpeazu, therefore, enjoined the people of the state and Nigerians at large to continue to take issues concerning the Covid-19 pandemic with seriousness and also urged them to take necessary precautions as stipulated by the NCDC.
Long before Ikpeazu, the Oyo State governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde had tested positive for coronavirus and made the announcement via his twitter handle before he went into isolation. The Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed and his deputy, Baba Tela, also tested positive for the coronavirus disease, as well as the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai too.
The Comptroller General, Nigeria Immigration Service, Mohammed Babandede; the Chief Medical Director, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Prof. Otegbayo Jesse and Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, Frank Okiye, were some other notable Nigerians, who tested positive for the virus at various times since its first index in Lagos on February 27.
Unconfirmed reports are also saying former Oyo State governor, Senator Biola Ajimobi might have also tested positive for the virus. He is said to have been on admission at the First Cardiology, Ikoyi, Lagos, according to the reports.
But despite these glaring proofs of Covid-19 prevalence in Nigeria, a lot of Nigerians still don’t believe that the virus is real – not thanks to series of conspiracy theories flying around and some highly placed individuals, who are peddling false opinions by linking it to the 5G technology.
Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of Christ Embassy caught the wrath of the United Kingdom’s communications regulator, Ofcom, which sanctioned him for allegedly airing falsehood and potentially harmful statements about Covid-19 on his LoveWorld Television Ministry.
The Man of God, in the said sermon, linked COVID 19 virus to the 5G Network and also purported that hydroxychloroquine was a cure for disease condition.
His counterpart, founder and Senior Pastor, Salvation Ministries, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Pastor David Ibiyeomi also enlisted among those doubting the existence of Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria, when he said in a viral video that he doubts if there is anything like Covid-19 in Nigeria. In his view, even if there was Covid-19 in the country, it was being exaggerated.
Views such as these have also been compounded by those, who felt the virus only infects the privileged in the society since, it was imported, thus heightening the risk of community spread, which has become a major challenge in containing the spread and contact-tracing.
Not only that, security agents had the hard task of ensuring that places of religious worships complied with government’s lockdown directive.
In Kano State, which is currently experiencing multiple unexplained deaths, the people ignorantly and blatantly maintained that there was nothing like Coronavirus. Some were seen in videos washing their hands and drinking the water simply to prove that the disease was non-existence.
But the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, recently hinted that as much as 60 per cent of what was tagged as ‘mysterious’ in the state were likely due to the new coronavirus.
The Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF), Boss Mutapha-led task force on Covid-19 resolved to send a team to investigate the deaths and it was revealed that a total of 979 deaths were recorded in eight municipal local government areas at 43 deaths per day, which more than tripled the usual 11 deaths per day.
Mustapha has repeatedly warned that Nigeria was yet to reach the peak of Covid-19 confirmed cases, urging that the battle against the virus would be a long-term one.
He, therefore, suggested that the best way out for the citizenry is that they must pursue a strategy that would help in the control of the spread of the virus.
Also, the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, penultimate weekend, expressed worry that there might be a second wave of Covid-19 attack in the country, if urgent steps were not taken to contain the current increase in the number of cases.
The Ekiti governor was particularly concerned that the seriousness of the virus was not being taken as such by a majority of the people hence they have been placing more emphasis on large gatherings as against effectively arresting the situation.
“I’m worried. We may be in for a second wave. We are not paying attention. This week, we’ve lost two respected Ekiti indigenes to Covid-19. The reality is that this thing is not a joke. People are still putting emphasis on public gathering, when the thing has not subsided. We might have another wave of it,” he explained.
In similar breath, an anonymous but concerned Nigeria, had last week, warned about a virulent strain of the virus in its second phase.
“Good evening. My sources informed me that the pandemic seems to have entered a 2ndphase in Lagos with elevated levels of new infections. The current strain also seems to be more virulent. Please, don’t let your guard down. It’s been a long haul, but we must reach the finishing line.”
But the Lagos State government has denied any such thing, saying apart from the fact that the numbers were slumping, it did not have any facts to support such claims.
Importantly, Ikpeazu, who is currently battling survival and Mustapha, shared the same view: believe it and prevent it! And it is best for the people to heed this advice, because prevention in this case is much better than the search for a cure that’s long in coming.