COVID Denialism: The Unprinted Tragedy of Gov. Bello’s Propaganda

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Yahaya Bello

Eze Jude O.

Although the last has not been heard of Covid-19, partially due to what can be described as WHO’s cluelessness or meddlesomeness in the murky waters of politics of clinical science; most people, hate to hold intellectual discourse on the infection, because of crass ignorance that pervades our space with regards to the veracity of the plague.

The point I’m trying to make here is:
Many people still don’t believe that Corona virus is real! And such dilemma impedes honest appraisal of the situation, by some writers.

Among those that reject the reality of the pandemic were illiterate, ignorant and unenlightened people at the grassroots. We can pardon them, on the ground that lack of basic education is the worst opacity one can ever be in. But on what ground can we pardon elites like Gov. Yahaya Bello, who have not only refused to believe that Corona is real in private, but went public about it?
Nothing can be more troubling than seeing a man in position of authority, mislead his people on matters of health and wellness.
He is inadvertently making Kogi a ticking time bomb in the fight against the pandemic. Nobody has ever cured an illness by sheer denial of its existence or effect.

After having physical contact with Late Abba Kyari, who returned from Germany, a human vector of the virus, Gov. Bello refused to observe the safety protocols. Rather, he dropped a video clip of himself in a gym parlour, cursing his people and those who say he had Covid.

In his words: “Ain’t got no Covid, and anyone who wish me Covid, I wish him HIV.” This is what he sang while sweating on a thread mill; an evidence of youthful exuberance taking its toll on a governor.
He wished HIV to those who asked him to isolate.

By implication, the governor is saying HIV/AIDS is the worst of sicknesses. This is against the anti-stigmatization law of our land. The 2014 HIV/AIDS anti-discrimination act makes it an offence to refer to people derogatively, or discriminate against them, on the basis of their perceived or real HIV/AIDS status.

How do you think people who are HIV positive in Kogi state will feel seeing their governor make jest of their condition?
A governor! He didn’t stop at that. He hosted a press conference, in which he pointedly denied the existence of corona virus. And to my surprise, many people (who belonged to the group described earlier) applauded him.

His ego, inflated by lack of basic knowledge of health science, moved him further to counter and fight the NCDC each time a case is reported in his territory.

His argument was ineffectual too – because “Covid infection presents the same preliminary symptoms as Malaria, catarrh or dry cough,” he dismisses it as a hoax.

Okay, let’s agree with him that what we morbidly dread as Corona virus is “mere febrile” malaria infection, but is he not aware that malaria kills an estimated 162,000 people annually in Nigeria (with the riverine areas of Kogi having about 21% of the number?). So even if Covid is a hoax, as he claims, why not use the opportunity to save the numerous impoverished Kogites who die as a result of untreated malaria?

He ended up making a mess of his disillusioned and unlicensed ‘expertise’ in medicine, when after all his denials, two index cases were reported in his state.

He imposed a lockdown in the affected local government, but presumably sensing that it could damage his earlier ground, retrieved the order swiftly.

The dreadful concern which health authorities raise about Kogi situation, is due to the future danger it poses to the entire country, in that Lokoja is a confluence city where many travelers converge en-route their destinations.

Former President Thabo Mbeki did same with HIV/AIDS in South Africa. He publicly dismissed the killer disease as “America’s ideology of abating sex.” Like Gov Bello, his convened a world press conference and refuted the scientific consensus on the veracity of HIV/AIDS, calling it mere “effects of malnutrition.” In the year 2000, he established a denialist panel of health workers to wave off the deadly virus in people’s mind. Today, South Africa is arguably a global reservoir of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, with annual death of over 110,000.

With Bello’s uniformed propaganda against NCDC, which betrays the national fight against Covid, Kogi is predictably ferrying around fatal health Bermuda triangle.

Prof. Ayade of Cross River wanted to toe that path. But coming from the academia, he was more tamed in his utterances.
Two days ago, the Chief Judge of Kogi State, Justice Nasiru Ajanah reportedly died of Covid-19 at Isolation centre in Gwagwalada Abuja. Yet, his state Government said he died of ‘undisclosed’ ailment.
They keep living in day-denial.

The death five days ago, of a doyen of Clinical Sciences, Prof. Okwudili O. Udemezue in NAUTH was a deep-sitted shock to the world that knew him.

Prof. Udemezue is a Medical doctor, and the provost of the College of Health Sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nnewi Campus. He is a household name in the medical community. Anyone who passed through that College cannot deny his resourceful impact in the course of professional training. His overwhelming influence made people in some corners to tip him for the post of Vice Chancellor.

He died of Covid-19 in the early hours of Thursday, June 25, 2020. As it stands he is the latest dagger-drawn affront against mankind by the mystic pathogen. A huge lesson to the likes of Governor Bello, who are still in doubt if Corona is real or not.

Can you imagine that being a management staff in an institution, that host a Teaching Hospital, housing a sophosticated implements in medicine, Prof. Udemezue couldn’t survive it. Report said, varied respirator tanks and oxygen concentrators couldn’t sustain him as he gasped for breath!
We need to thread with caution and argue sensibly. The fact that the mortality rate of this plague is very low, does not in anyway obliterate the peculiarity of our individual health and biochemical makeups.
That Mr. A survived it doesn’t automatically mean that Mr. Z will be that lucky.

Ebola was more deadly, we all agree. But that should be the more reason for Covid to be dreaded most; for while Ebola strain is unmutated with defined symptoms, and transmission occurs only via symptomatic carriers, Covid is novel (new strain) and diverse in its pathogenicity, epidemiology and therapeutics.

Inasmuch as we have our reservations on the shoddy manner and some sort of ‘insincerity’ on federal government’s approach in the fight, we have to agree that beyond the rhetorics, the stark reality on ground is that Covid is real and here with us.

To those who insist on seeing a Covid patient, survivor or casuality before they could believe, let the death of Prof. Udemezue, former Oyo governor, Abiola Ajimobi, and Kogi Chief Judge, in a space of one week starve their unbelief. Govs. Ikpeazu of Abia and Bala of Bauchi were survivors. Let that clear their delusion too.

The three precautionary steps of regular hand washing cum sanitizing, nose masks wearing and physical/social safety distancing cannot be overemphasized.

May God grant Prof. Udemezue and all the casualties of this pandemic eternal rest, healing to those suffering it, and those still in doubt the light to see the reality. Amen!

Stay safe!

––Eze Jude O writes from Lokoja.