By Gabriel Akinadewo
Last Monday, President Goodluck Jonathan described the late Patrick Sawyer, who brought the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) or Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (EHF) to Nigeria, as a mad man. Good talk sir. But do we blame Sawyer, the Liberian-American, for the troubled times Nigerians are living in now?
From findings so far, the disease has high mortality rate, killing about 90 per cent of those infected with the virus. Because its lethality is swift, we must commend the Federal Government and the Lagos State Government for the way they have contained it so far. Honestly, kudos must be given to Jonathan and Governor Babatunde Fashola. But is Ebola responsible for the blood we have everywhere in the country today?
According to experts, this disease first afflicted people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then known as Zaire) in 1976. For years, it disappeared, then re-appeared and disappeared again. Now, it has appeared again with such ferocity that it has killed close to 1,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. It has also claimed three victims in Nigeria.
A friend called me from the United States last week and said that it may be difficult for Nigeria to identify types of the virus because we only have Level 3 Virology Laboratories. To him, we need Biosafety Level 4 Laboratories to tackle the disease effectively.
Because I failed science subjects in secondary school, I didn’t really understand what he was saying. But one thing is sure, Nigerians’ eternal resilience will stop the spread of this deadly Ebola virus. In any crisis situation, Nigerians have been tested and trusted and we have never failed.
But after the stoppage of this disease, what happens to other ‘more dangerous’ Ebolas which have been ravaging the land for years and threatening not only individuals but the existence of this country?
For decades, political, social, economic, religious and cultural Ebolas have been killing Nigerians. In fact, some Nigerians derive joy when all these Ebolas annihilate their fellow beings. These have become a cankerworm, eating deep into the very foundation of the value system of this country.
As usual, the frenzy with which Nigerians react to a ‘clear and present danger’ is predictable. Everybody will become an expert overnight, dishing out instructions to fellow Nigerians on what should or should not be done not to fall victim.
Rumour becomes the order of the day and the rumour monger automatically becomes the new messiah.
I remember in July, 1999 when the first Speaker of the House of Representatives of the new democratic dispensation, Salisu Buhari, was removed, I boarded a commercial bus in Ijora, Lagos on my way to cover an assignment when discussion on the sacked Speaker started.
There was this middle-aged man who immediately became the rallying point for other passengers. What he was dishing out was far from the truth. It got to a stage when he said “I don’t know how the father of Salisu Buhari would be feeling right now”.
Confidently, he told the passengers that the father was Major-General Muhammadu Buhari. With the composure of every other passenger, I was the only one who knew this man was just blabbing. I told him that Salisu was from Kano while General Buhari hails from Katsina but he just said: “You this small boy, what do you know?” At that point, I knew it was useless trying to argue with him because the other illiterate passengers believed him.
The same talebearers are at work now and that is why many Nigerians may die from panic and misinformation than the Ebola disease itself.
My younger brother, Micaiah, an undergraduate in Lagos State University (LASU), told me an incident that happened near his hostel last Saturday when a mother almost killed her children. Why? They refused to have their bath with salty water.
Because of misinformation widely circulated through social media, some people dipped themselves in warm salty water and even drinking same so as not to contract the disease.
I listened to a comedian last Monday who said a man, after eating in a restaurant in Oshodi, Lagos, started coughing and told everybody that he had Ebola. Immediately, other customers disappeared but the owner of the restaurant suspected that it was a ploy by the man not to pay. She told him: “Even if you are the real Ebola, I go chop you and nothing will happen. If you don’t pay my money now, I will beat the hell out of you”.
Of course, when the area boys descended on the man, he paid promptly.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, rumour spreads very fast during emergencies and some Nigerians will always take advantage of this.
Obviously, this Ebola menace will go soon but what of the other Ebolas?
Which Ebola disease could be deadlier than what happened in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State last Saturday when newly-born twins were stolen and the parents murdered?
The twins were stolen not for adoption but for ritual purpose. This seems to be the latest in town now: Abduct newly-born twins and you will become instant millionaire.
How many Nigerians have died in the hands of these ‘Ebolaritualists’?
Three days after Titilayo Kola gave birth to the twins, she and her husband were murdered at their Temidire Street, Ajowa Quarters, Ado-Ekiti and the babies stolen.
While Titilayo was killed in their room, the husband’s body was dumped inside a canal in Oke-Ila area of the town.
The Ekiti State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Victor Babayemi, described it as a case of homicide and child stealing. How many such cases do we have in the country today? Is this per-second killing of Nigerians by Nigerians not worse than the Ebola disease? Violence is now so cheap that when it happens, Nigerians just dismiss it with a shrug. Senseless killings have now become the order of the day. A day after Governor Rauf Aregbesola was declared the winner of the August 9 election in Osun State, supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) clashed, leaving many injured. It is as if the country is demonised.
What of lack of constant electricity supply? Power outage has ebolarised many Nigerians more than any disease. It is now normal for Nigerians not to expect electricity. From ECN, NEPA, PHCN to GENCOs AND DISCOs, nothing good has come out of the transformation of electricity bodies in the country. The other time, some funny workers in one of the DISCOs or GENCOs threatened to go on strike and Nigerians did not bother to comment. Even when Power Minister, Chinedu Nebo, announced a drop in the mewagatts generated, the reaction was that he was not saying something new.
That Nigerians still refer to electricity companies as NEPA shows the level of disconnect between effective power distribution and consumers.
How many Nigerians have been killed by another Ebola called bad roads? These days, Nigerians don’t even complain anymore. What they do is just to manage the craters on these roads.
What of unemployment? Is it not deadlier than Ebola disease? What is being done by the government to cure this jobless Ebola ravaging the land for decades?
On Tuesday, the Ogun State government suspended its plan to recruit 3,000 environmental marshals across the state following excessive applications received for the exercise.
Governor Ibikunle Amosun said that no fewer than 49,000 applications were received and of the applicants, there were some PhD holders and over 600 Master’s degree holders.
For PhD holders to apply to be sweeping streets, which Ebola disease could be more lethal than this?
Amosun said: “”If we have about 600 of those with Master’s qualification and above running around for a job that they would be paid N20,000, then you know that there is a problem. Head or tail, even by the time we employ those 3,000, the remaining 46,000 that will not be taken, people will say they’ve taken forms, Amosun did not employ them, he just asked them to come and take forms. Look at that huge deficit that we have.”
And that is just in Ogun State. What is the government doing to tackle this unemployment crisis ravaging the land called Ebola? Given the fact that the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) test tragedy is still fresh, what can be done to optimally develop agriculture, technical education, the real sector and cottage industries?
What is the way out for this Ebolarised generation?