Salisu Nuhu Muhammad (reachable via Salisu_50@yahoo.com) provides an angle to the unfolding situation in Kano in Northwest Nigeria
Once again, Kano, Nigeria’s most populous state is in the throes of a raging storm. The Covid 19 pandemic which originated towards the end of last year in Wuhan, China, has surreptitiously caught the global community in a state of dizzying paroxysm. From Wuhan, Covid 19 had spread to the wide world at an avuncular viral velocity in a within a twinkle. Its morbid entry into Nigeria through an Italian index case, has, undoubtedly, sent strong shivers down the spinal cords of the exasperated and highly petrified populace.
What started slowly and insidiously like an easy to cure deadly disease has now metastasized into a source of virulent myths and mysticisms defying both traditional and scientific remedies in equal measure. In less than two months from its being declared a pandemic by the WHO, more than two million people have been stung by this killer virus on a global scale.
While the report of nearly two hundred thousand people recovering from this highly contagious disease gives a lot of prospects for delight, the nearly half million lives already lost to the virus worldwide have, sadly, conspired to extinguish the only glimmer of hope rising in the medical horizon.
Included in the above numbers, are the somber records of Nigeria’s rising casualties distributed in morbidities and mortalities. The subject matter of this piece, Kano, by all account, a late comer in the unfortunate league of Nigerian states afflicted by Covid 19, had suddenly come from behind to shoot herself into national attention as she overtook her peers by the sheer scale and symmetry of what may arguably be noticeable fearsome trajectories.
Barely ten days from registering its first index case of Covid 19 in the state are the ominous signals emanating from this ancient center of commerce forlornly disconcerting. With all the vigorous and boisterous mass enlightenment and public awareness campaigns for people in the state to guide, guard and protect themselves against Coronavirus pandemic being sponsored by health ministries, departments and agencies, an eerie atmosphere of obduracy and obstinacy seemed to have successfully combined in rendering these essential messages hopelessly inchoate and palpably ineffective.
Partly due to widely held erroneous and misleading belief in the potency of spiritual, herbal and local remedies against the virus, a make belief feeling of invincibility has gripped the gullible whose number is sizable. There are also many among the notable religious leaders in the state, who see and wrongly interpret the social distancing directive issued by the government as an unspeakable affront against their Islamic Faith.
Against the background of this pervasive laxity which is actively fueled by a deep seated culture of despondency, high level of illiteracy among large section of the populace and rampant poverty, it is obvious that winning the hearts and minds of the “Kanawa” to support the battle against the Coronavirus pandemic is certainly not for the faint hearted.
Credit must be given to the Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, for the timely and pro-active measures he employed in closing all the borders facilitating entry from different directions into the busy State. That singular action with all its inherent imperfections, had gone along way in decelerating the rate of infections that could have allowed the deadly virus free reign to mercilessly ravage the densely populated communities scattered in booming markets, crowded mosques and social gatherings.
Some of the weaknesses detected to be associated with the drastic steps in closing the borders taken by the governor to curb the spread of the virus were more the creation of corrupt law enforcement officials, who unfortunately and shamelessly turned this pestilential situation into a thriving opportunity for gross abuse of their powers and self enrichment. In making the foregoing categorical testimony against just the security personnel, one is not in any way trying to shield the Kano State Government from taking any blame. Far from it. On the contrary, reports from the fields by independent observers clearly implicated the government and its high ranking health officials in the shoddy arrangements we saw being put in place to contain the rampaging virus.
Today, we owe a lot of debts to their valuable insights and priceless findings, as it has become common knowledge that moral integrity was hugely compromised in setting up the Covid 19 Containment Committee with the inappropriate but conspicuous membership of His Excellency ‘s daughter to serve in it.
To proceed, when it appeared like the people in the state became collectively helpless in advising the governor to reverse himself on his highly detestable decision, the Divine hands of Providence deftly sent the mysterious and invisible virus to chastise the abhorrent Team. In no time, exactly half the number of the Committee members tested Covid 19 positive, thus; temporarily rendering the state leaderless in the onerous battle against the disease. As we fervently pray Allah (SWT) to cure them and all those afflicted by this disease, it is also our prayer that our country and the entire humankind be saved and rescued from this Covid 19 pandemic.
We scarcely need to beam our investigative light on the deplorable situation in the Isolation Centers, the blighted story of which is now, not only ubiquitous and the cynosure of all eyes, but intrinsically viral, in the way it seamlessly gets disseminated in the social media. Perhaps it is a mark of the impact achieved by these disturbing stories oozing out of Kano State, that, at its crescendo, this outrage, compelled the nation’s leadership to mandate the urgent intervention of PTF and NCDC, with a view to overhauling the Covid 19 Containment Strategy being earlier instituted by the government.
The news of this national intervention was enthusiastically welcomed by citizens of the State who were enveloped in exasperation akin to mental fatigue from the outpourings of queries and concerns about the eminent threats posed to people’s lives in this time of deepening global health challenge. Going forward with the efforts to drastically curb the spread of this dreaded disease, the Governor of Kano State may need to work extra hard to win the trust and confidence of people in the state because the two had been severely eroded in recent times.
The idea of getting people to comply with simple instructions like frequent washing of hands with soap and using sanitizers; keeping social distancing; and, strictly adhering to covering of ones mouth and nose with face masks may appear elementary at a glance but, in the absence of trust and respect for leaders, achieving such compliance inevitably becomes unattainable.
The damage done to the societal fabric through the enthronement of unrestrained culture of stakeholder insensitivity, crass opportunism and undisguised nepotism has been far reaching in its consequences.
However, one lasting lesson taught us by the debilitating Covid 19 pandemic is the premium we must attach to the supreme value of building the home front. Henceforth, our leaders must ensure that hospitals are well equipped and health personnel adequately remunerated. Doing this would be a disincentive for the phenomenon of health tourism and massive capital flight.
Above all, it would also afford our country in general and Kano State in particular, the capacity to develop the needed human and material wherewithal to confidently tackle any attenuating heath circumstances, be it Coronavirus related or otherwise.