Editor's note: Abdullahi O. Haruna (Haruspice), a member of the APC Presidential Campaign Council in the 2019 elections and respected author and public affairs commentator, writes on the decision of Kogi governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, not to declare a lockdown in his domain during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
First off, this intervention is not to deny the existence of COVID-19 or the various efforts august scientific bodies and allied global organisations have been making through vaccine production and other means to help curtail the spread of the dreaded virus.
Yes, there's COVID-19 with its various variants, the latest being the Omicron, which was first discovered in South Africa, there is no doubt also that the virus has been wreaking havoc on the world since last year when it was first discovered in Wuhan, China.
Due to the virulence of the virus and the way it spreads like wildfire, many economies of the world, from the global north to the global south, have been brought to their knees, companies grounded, families destroyed and scattered, there has been an increased in gender-based violence, increased depression rates and many more lamentable woes.
Like other countries of the world impacted negatively by the virus, Nigeria is no exception. The losses (more of material than human as there has been less fatality) the country has recorded since last year when the virus first reared its ugly head can only be imagined. Monies that should have been channeled into funding critical infrastructures and revitalizing the economy that's just recovering from two consecutive economic recessions within a space of two years were funneled into building isolation centres, laboratories, and procuring vaccines to help combat the spread of the virus.
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Of all the measures initially taken to help halt the spread of the virus, the nationwide lockdown and travel restrictions took a heavy toll on the country and Nigerians in general. While virtually every voice that mattered in the country spoke in support of the extreme measures emplaced by the federal government and other state governments without adequate provisions to cushion the deleterious effects of the lockdown, Kogi state governor, Yahaya Bello, stood out, warning the country that the measures would rather exacerbate things than make life and living for Nigerians easier. Events have since proved him right.
Governor Bello, unmindful of the loss in socio-political capital his stance could cost him, spoke vehemently against the lockdown and the politics behind it. He refused to lock down his state. The naysayers waited in bated breath thinking Kogi would be the epicentre of the virus and its attendant mortality. Alas, the state suffered less economic ruin and Kogites never dropped dead in droves as pro-COVID-19 propagandists had wanted it to be so they could poke fun at the governor and make him a butt of their pernicious jokes.
Aside from grinding the country to a halt and also paralyzing its economy with a multitude of job losses and a significant drop in revenue to the nation's coffers because crude oil sale, the mainstay of the nation's economy, experienced serious fluctuations in the global oil market, the lockdown also heightened the climate of insecurity in the country as criminals took charge of the lacuna resulting from the forced lockdown to perpetrate all manners of crime against the people.
In retrospect, the incalculable damage hoodlums who hijacked the #EndSARS protests inflicted on the country might not have happened had we listened to Governor Bello who argued passionately against the lockdown, insisting that there is more to the politics behind the virus and the lockdown than meets the eyes. Again, events have proved him correctly to be a man of foresight and clarity.
As a man imbued with vision and clarity of purpose, Nigerians will recall that Governor Bello had cautioned that COVID-19 should be handled like most other ailments on case-by-case management, arguing that the hysteria woven around the virus was borne out of fear fueled by some powerful forces whose agenda is to make profit capitalizing on the predicament of the people. So far, events have continued to prove the governor right when due cognizance is taken of COVID-19 vaccine production, distribution and even efficacy.
While it's not the intent of this article to discourage anyone from taking the COVID-19 vaccine or to water down its significance, it is pertinent to also listen to those who have a contrary view to the general and popular view. There have been cases of those who have been vaccinated twice contracting the virus again. Fatalities have also been recorded in this instance, raising some curiosity over the overall efficacy of the vaccines. Already, there's an ongoing campaign that those who have been vaccinated twice should also take a booster shot to help fortify their immunity against their virus. Evidently, this is a try-and-error thing. It's no full proof.
In a video that has now gone viral, the U.S Vice President, Kamala Harris, was heard lamenting about the vaccines and their potency. She complained that some folks who had been vaccinated twice contracted the virus resulting in fatalities in some cases. There is no scientific explanation yet to help put this in proper perspective.
Take a look at the gang-up against Africa by the superpowers of the world in terms of vaccine supply to the continent. Africa is being shortchanged with nothing being done to reverse the ugly trend despite the outcry of prominent figures like the AfDB President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, calling for more supply of the vaccines to the continent. Does this gang-up not validate the theory of Governor Bello that there is more to the politics behind the virus than what is obvious to the public?
One is even tempted to believe that the latest travel restrictions on Nigeria imposed by the UK, US, Belgium, and others because of the latest variant of COVID-19 - Omicron, is a tool to further decimate the economy of the country which ultimately will render a vast majority of the people economically vulnerable and thus prompt the leaders with arms akimbo looking up to the West for financial succour from their financial multilateral institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Based on the foregoing, it is safe to call on those called Governor Bello unprintable names in the past because of his principled stance against the opaque politics surrounding COVID-19 to tender him an unreserved apology as chains of events over time have validated the doubts, he raised about some of the extreme spontaneous measures taken in the past to halt the spread of the virus. There's a lesson therein for everyone to learn from too: never ignore or pooh-pooh those who raise a contrary opinion or view about a popular view.
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