Governor Yahaya Bello had discovered a 'vaccine' before pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Moderna did in the United States of America.
Speaking with faith and positive thinking, Kogi State is a blessed state. It gained prominence on social media in 2016 when the winner of the governorship election, Abubakar Audu died on the 22nd of November, 2015 while voting was ongoing. He was winning the keenly contested election.
The story was sensational and it shook the Nigerian media space. The politics that followed soon ushered in the present governor, Yahaya Bello who was labelled a beacon of hope for the Nigerian youths due to his age.
While his PR team did a fantastic job in polishing his image, Governor Bello soon got Kogi trending again for the wrong reason. He embarked on a supposed war against ghost workers and the exercise cost bonafide workers their salaries for several months. In no time, news of civil servants committing suicide out of indebtedness started grabbing the headlines. Kogi became one joke of a state. The former lawmaker representing the Kogi West senatorial district, Dino Melaye, failed to give the confluence state a reputable representation. His clownish nature coupled with his squabbles with the governor soon created an image of the popular sitcom, the 'Fuji House of Commotion'. From kidnapping to robbery to road accidents and poverty, good news hardly emanates from Kogi. It almost appears that only the governor and his associates are enjoying the dividends of democracy in the state.
In the year 2020, Coronavirus came. Governor Bello wasn't ready to entertain the foreign virus. He decided to borrow a leaf from the playbook of the supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un. The strategy is simple, just hide any information about the virus. North Korea is the only country that hasn't recorded a single case of the virus, even though its borders have been under a siege by the deadly disease. Remember a joke surfaced about the coronavirus during its early days and it was attributed to an African leader. He leader bragged his country hadn't recorded any infection simply because the country didn't have any capacity to test. Governor Bello took that joke seriously and he implemented it in his coronavirus containment strategy. His eyeservice isolation centre rumoured to cost some millions of naira was destroyed by minor rainfall. The before and after photos of the structure soon became a viable object of humour that helped people in battling depression via social media.
Governor Bello was only sending a message to the outside world about his stand on the infectious disease. With time, the very covert message started becoming clearer. Coronavirus spread across the country including Cross River where the figure was allegedly manipulated by high-wire politics. Surprisingly, Kogi was spared and people wondered how because other neighbouring states were touched. How was Kogi doing it? Are Kogites naturally immune to the virus?
An investigative journalist Fisayo Soyombo soon raised an alarm about political interference in testing. Sick people with symptoms were reportedly suppressed by government forces. The NCDC was alarmed and it dispatched a team from Abuja to investigate the rumours on coronavirus invasion of Kogi. Governor Bello later derailed the investigation by asking the team on assignment to quarantine for two weeks. It looks like a precautionary measure by the governor, but it was implemented with ulterior motives. The team got infuriated and abandoned the move to return to Abuja. Governor Bello achieved his goal, he moved!
Kogi later recorded 5 cases which the governor battled to erase. An Imam was treated in Abuja after reportedly contracting the disease in the state. The issue is still being disputed in Kogi till this day.
Governor Bello once made a Trump-like public statement about the contagion by calling the lockdown a 'game'. "We need to stop this game, people are suffering," he said in part.
“COVID-19 is not a new disease in our clime. We have our way of treating it and that is what we should be exploiting, rather than subjecting our people to hardship, hunger and starvation through lockdown,” he also added.
This message made him look like a saint in a city of sinners and swindlers.
Since the disease started its rampage across the 36 states in Nigeria and the FCT, Kogi's number of infections have miraculously stopped at 5, even in the face of the vicious second wave which has made a mockery of countries like Taiwan, Germany, South Korea, Sweden and others, who initially tamed it. How did Kogi do it?
Cynics who believe Nigeria's variant of the disease is COVID-'419', constantly refer Kogi when the NCDC releases new figures on infections every day. They use Kogi to convince themselves that their stance is valid. It is really difficult to argue with them and win.
Public trust in government has depleted globally. For example, just 20% of U.S. adults say they trust the government in Washington to “do the right thing” just about always or most of the time according to PEW research.
Public trust should be at a record low in Nigeria. Since the pandemic gulps so many public funds in terms of palliatives and medical supplies, it has become easier to believe it is a scam considering the massive amounts mentioned on the pages of the newspapers. N10 billion was allocated to combat the disease in Lagos; another N5 billion was given to Kano. Kaduna claims to have spent N400,000 each on a COVID-19 patient and Edo, N1 billion as a whole as at April 2020. An average Nigerian believes these figures have been inflated and you can't blame them. The government in Nigeria has an appalling track record that is nauseating to the devil himself.
Why is coronavirus easy to hide? The question is simple. 80% of cases in Africa are asymptomatic according to Africa CDC. The fact that our median age is 19 put us at an advantage since the young easily recover from the disease. Africa is blessed and the death rate has been low. Even if people fall sick in Kogi, it will be attributed to common ailments like malaria and typhoid fever. When people die, nobody will act like death is strange. After all, people die every day. Since tests are not conducted, nobody knows anything. Most politicians can't control the virus, so they control any information about it and this strategy works. China pioneered and operationalized this containment strategy.
This is the 'vaccine' Governor Bello discovered before pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Moderna did in the United States of America.
Coronavirus is everywhere you go in Nigeria, but it is easy to feel everywhere is safe until testing happens. Let me end this article with a true life story in Lagos. An entrepreneur who has a staff strength of 88 wanted to reopen his company for the year after the Yuletide. His employees who claimed to be healthy were in high spirits to begin the year on a good note. Due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in the city, he decided to run tests. Out of 88 staffers, 20 tested positive. The company suspended it's reopening.
By Osayimwen Osahon George