OPINION: COVID-19, Yahaya Bello and NCDC by Abdullahi Haruna

OPINION: COVID-19, Yahaya Bello and NCDC by Abdullahi Haruna

Editor's note: Public affairs analyst, Abdullahi Haruna, writes on the recent confrontation between the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Kogi state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello. The writer also highlighted the measures put in place by the Kogi State Task Force on COVID-19.

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Of the 36 states in the country in addition to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), it's no longer news that Kogi state has not recorded any active case of the novel coronavirus otherwise known as COVID-19. The other state that shares this uniqueness with Kogi so far is Cross River state.

It's no longer news also that Kogi state government under the leadership of His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello, has developed an app through which citizens of the state who may have signs and symptoms of the disease can register online and then get called up by the State Task Force on COVID-19 for testing and perhaps checked into isolation centre for treatment if positive for the virus.

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Unmistakenly, Kogi state should be one of the earliest states in the country since COVID-19 debuted on our shores to have carried out aggressive enlightenment campaign about the need for the people of the state to observe basic hygiene, practise social distancing and follow other directives by health experts on how to contain the spread of the virus.

Taking it further, and this is in spite of not having a single active case of the virus yet, the state government, in readiness for any eventuality, has also set up three isolation and treatment centres in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) standard protocols. A nonchalant governor would not bother to enlighten the people about COVID-19 let alone put up isolation and treatment centres in the state.

Yet, despite the proactive interventions of the governor in conjunction with some patriotic citizens of the state to contain the influx of the virus into the state, there is a deliberate attempt by some shadowy group to blackmail the state government into accepting that COVID-19 is indeed in the state.

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It's no election time in the state. By the grace of Almighty Allah, Governor Bello was reelected by the good people of the state for another term of four years. So, the question of trying to smear him so that he won't get reelected cannot possibly arise. What then could be the ulterior motive of this shadowy group bent on tarnishing the reputation of the governor and by extension, the state, with some phantom cases of COVID-19?

COVID-19 is like the sun when it's shining. You can't deny the existence of the fatal virus or its negative impact going by the deaths it leaves in its trail among its victims. If truly the state government is trying to suppress information regarding the possible existence of the virus in the state, will relatives of those who may have contracted the virus or died of it not raise an alarm? In this era of invasive and ubiquitous social media, citizens of the state would have been crying out of massive deaths happening in the state. Thankfully, Kogi has an active virtual citizen base. So far, so good, no one has died of the virus in the state.

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There is another weapon to deflate the falsehood of vendors of COVID-19 in the state: assuming the state government does not want its state hospitals to report any possible case of the virus to the FG, what about hospitals belonging to the federal government, for example, Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja? Who is gagging FMC from reporting to the federal ministry of health or even the NCDC of its findings? Does Yahaya Bello have any control over federal government-owned medical facilities in the state?

Assuming without even conceding the fact that there's COVID-19 in the state, health personnel who work in state-owned hospitals are human beings, too, who are faced with the existential threat that COVID-19 has become to them as frontline caregivers. Do you think they will keep quiet by now knowing full well they can as well contract the infection? They will definitely have protested to the hearing of everyone and if they can't protest openly would have passed the information to those who can make it public.

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While one may forgive the shadowy characters who are clutching on every claw available to justify their falsehood against Governor Bello, what exactly is the interest of NCDC in trying to pin a case of COVID-19 on the state even when there is no evidence of the existence of the virus in the state yet? One only hopes it's not about getting the figures regardless of whether they are verifiable or not, like some critics of the agency are saying, in order to attract more funds from the FG, multilateral institutions, local and foreign donors.

For the records, the governor has no reason to be confrontational with the NCDC, an agency of the federal government which is being controlled by the All Progressives Congress, a party on whose platform the governor won his second term convincingly. He is just being a good father trying to shield his own children from harm's way. If the NCDC officials who visited the state were genuinely sincere about their mission to the state, why did they refuse to self-isolate for 14 days in line with standard protocols before they begin their test or whatever that took them to the state? Rather than follow the governor's directive, they chose to return to Abuja.

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In all of these, it's pertinent to say that Governor Bello has provided responsive and responsible leadership since COVID-19 became an emergency in the country. He has not only emplaced measures to forestall the spread of the disease; as the leader of the people, he is also giving them hope to boost their morale while trying to douse fear and panic which is what any responsible leader will do.

Lest I forget, there is a question that needs be asked: why will Governor Bello want to suppress information about COVID-19 in Kogi state? To kill his own people he swore to protect? How logical does this sound? What does he stand to gain from such a fatalistic undertaking?

Speaking objectively based on what's evidentially on the ground, there is no active case of COVID-19 in Kogi state and if and whenever there is any, even as the citizens are praying and doing everything they can not to have it, the state government is prepared to handle it according to the best of its abilities and resources.

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