Stopping the Rampaging Pandemic, by Gambo Dori

If there is anything that had brought complete unanimity world-wide in these days, it must be that the rampaging coronavirus must be stopped. The rampage had gone on unabated in many parts of the world, with such viciousness, leaving many dead in its wake and the world economy in shambles. The toll in this country has so far been massive. And when it arrived in our northern parts of the country, it came with particular savagery going for the jugular in Kano and Borno and taking the lives of the mighty and the lowly alike. It is still ferociously at work in Kano and Borno. It is in this bewildering atmosphere that I was called upon on the penultimate Monday to join in an interactive virtual meeting with colleagues in the Renaissance Development Forum (RDF) and to link up to a presentation by a member of the group, Professor Faruk Sarkinfada, on the coronavirus pandemic with particular reference to its potential for devastation in the northern parts of the country. The RDF is a Pan-Nigerian advocacy group with a focus on the north now due to the debilitating conditions pervading the region. These are some of the first tentative steps by the group to look for informed options as a means of giving assistance for better governance of the society. The group is led by Mohammed Hayatuddeen, a famed banker and consummate economist.

It would be my first time participating in a virtual zoom meeting and I found that it was easy setting up the portal in my study once there was a strong Wi-Fi available. My daughters who are already receiving lessons from their university using that medium helped to put me through. The meeting went on for the better part of three hours. It is fascinating how the virtual meeting operates with participants in different locations engaging each other as if they were under the same roof. The Chairman of the group, Mohammed Hayatuddeen was in Lagos along with some members. Many of us were in Abuja and some were located in Jos, Kaduna, Zaria and Kano. At least, one member was in Atlanta USA.  Professor Faruk Sarkinfada was an engaging presenter. A laboratory system and quality assurance expert, the Professor has over the many years been involved in containing many of the epidemics in this part of the country and was well positioned to lecture us on the subject matter. He got a rapt audience throughout the presentation.

He gave us a status update of the COVID-19, an overview of sorts, touching upon a myriad of aspects. Starting with the general nature of pandemics, Professor Sarkinfada led us to the peculiarities of the one rampaging in the country now. He illustrated the various stages encountered by those exposed to the virus; the development of herd immunity; mechanisms of transmission and routes of entry as well as susceptibility of certain individuals to the virus. He emphasised the importance of government intervention through rapid response and its effect on how fast or slow the epidemic peaks and plummets. This abundantly informative presentation initially centred on the global trend of the virus before focusing on the Nigerian situation. With the aid of graphs, he suggested methods in which Nigeria could curb the virus; namely through effective response to increase our healthcare capacity and by breaking the transmission chain which naturally limits the epidemic. This presentation was followed by the usual opportunity to query. And participants had many questions to ask seeking clarifications on many issues surrounding the virus that are still opaque. The questions and answers session actually highlighted the reality that the general public is not well informed on COVID-19 and is in dire need of enlightenment. Here were well positioned professionals yet many betraying ignorance on some of the basics regarding the pandemic. Thus one of the first things to be agreed upon was need for massive enlightenment of the populace and the need for the RFD members to go on a publicity blitz where members sufficiently knowledgeable on the subject matter appear on television to meet this gap in information. It was further agreed that the enlightenment programmes be directed to other media channels as well, particularly radio stations, as they are the medium that service the majority of the most vulnerable and uninformed in the northern society. As one would expect one of the first to pick up the gauntlet was Professor Sarkinfada who was active last Friday on the BBC Hausa service programme, Ra’ayi Riga, a one-hour length interactive programme on the pandemic. There is still a lot more to be done and I guess RDF along with such similar outfits will soon be on the road to fulfil these expectations. No doubt sourcing of testing equipment and more ventilators, creation and equipping of more isolation centres as well as supply of more PPE to the health staff and looking after their welfare should all be on the front burner. But so should enlightenment. An ignorant populace would just be sitting ducks for the virus. The populace must be educated to adhere to safety regulations particularly social distancing. It is indeed sad that social distancing is still not adhered to in large parts of Kano and Borno. Trending videos of large crowds at burials in Maiduguri and Kano are evidences to the fact that majority of our people do not believe in social distancing. Recently, the Borno Deputy Governor, Umar Kadafur, had to cry out and express displeasure at the unwillingness of Maiduguri residents to keep to safety regulations, particularly social distancing. He was apparently piqued by the large numbers trooping to funerals in total disregard to orders from the state authorities. He reminded the Maiduguri residents that that was how Boko Haram started. As reported in the Premium times, the Deputy Governor said: “This COVID-19 is for us another Boko Haram because it poses greater danger to our lives. When Boko Haram started people didn’t take them seriously. If you want to play with COVID-19, you can choose to, but I will not stop telling you the truth that this is real and as a leader in the state, I won’t get tired of telling them that for their own good and that of others, they should obey social distancing order, embrace hygiene culture and they should put on face masks each time they go out in public places” From my mailbag: My article on Abba Kyari, the late Chief of Staff to the President, elicited a number of responses. Many thanks to our elder, Inuwa Jibrin, the veteran journalist living in Kaduna who phoned to tell me that Abba Kyari attended St Paul’s College, not St John’s College, Wusasa, Zaria. Shehu Ahmed sent a similar correction and also added that Abba Habib was not Abba Kyari’s in-law rather he was his father’s friend. Another reader Barr Major S D Ngada reacted to my article on Government College Keffi @ 70 thus: “Kindly note that further,  the missionary, Church of the Brethren Mission (CBM) covering Borno South and Adamawa North did not only establish Waka Secondary School but also Waka Teachers College, which predates the secondary school. The CBM started establishing primary schools of their own as early as 1923. Yes, the missionaries did a lot for the north not only in education but many other fields.”

Source: Daily Trust

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