Uneasy burden lies on the head of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State. His state is currently enveloped in an atmosphere of mass hysteria arising from a strange affliction that has hit the metropolis like solar plexus. It’s griming, scary and frightening. Without a sharp double-edged sword to fight and win the war, the ancient commercial city may be inching towards the fringe of a major disaster. While still struggling to contain the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, the state witnessed yet another alarming harvest of deaths totaling about 190 in less than one week.
As expected, there has been a preponderance of speculations, conjectures and outright misinformation about the actual cause of the sad incidents. Everything looks clumsy and confusing. Some people claimed that the affliction was the result of the lockdown imposed on the state to contain the spread of the dreaded Coronavirus disease, which triggered crisis in ulcer patients for lack of food. It is not impossible, especially in an economy where the majority of the people in the informal sector live on daily income.
So, they could easily have run out of food within a few days after they were barred from their daily hustling activities. But it was a painful decision any responsible government would have taken in the present war situation. During a war situation, as Ugandan President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, rightly said, “you don’t complain of hunger. You bear hunger and pray to live to eat again.” Condolences to the families of the victims who lost the battle during the lockdown. No one could have wished them dead.
As for the medical experts, who attributed the tragic incidents to a sudden surge in high blood pressure fatality, malaria scourge, and diabetes complications, the explanation is incomplete. Science has gone far beyond mere conjecture. Such a hasty submission can only come down like a pack of cards in the face of overwhelming clinical evidence. None is available for now.
On the flip side are those who link the scenario to undetected COVID-19 attacks. This is a much higher possibility. Since the state recorded its first index case about fortnight ago, there has been a rapid increase in the figure of infected persons.
Before then, the people had paid little attention to simple preventive measures like social distancing and suspension of large gathering at worship centres, as well as market places. As if immune from the global pandemic, everyone carried on his or her daily activities in the usual manner. On the day Governor Ganduje himself went on-the-spot assessment of the isolation centre built by Dangote Group in support of the government’s effort to fight the dreaded virus; he brought comedy into the matter. Sitting on one of the beds in the expansive tent situated at the centre of the Sani Abacha stadium, he said: “I am sitting on this bed not because I am positive for Coronavirus. I have been tested and found to be negative.” That didn’t really sound like a funny joke to many bewildering watchers of the event; after all, being in an isolation centre is not a choice of anybody. It is a temporary health challenge foisted on the infected persons by the unseen devil. About the same time the scenario was being played out, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State tested positive for the virus not by choice of his, but by accident of circumstance. His counterpart in Kaduna, Nasir el-Rufai, also had a taste of what the virus looked like. Both of them are already out of isolation and free from the deadly disease. And for whatever they care, they won’t make any unwarranted joke about the pandemic. Their experience must have taught them a good lesson about the ordinariness of all mortals.
The present worrisome situation in Kano too must have subdued Governor Ganduje and even punctured his confidence. Almost simultaneously, deaths reportedly struck in areas like Zage, Kano Municipal, Tarauni, Gwale, Kurna, Dala, Chiromawa, Zango, Kofar Mata, Fagge, Kumbotso, and some local government areas outside the metropolis like Bichi, Kunchi, Wudil, Gwarzo and Shanono, among other areas. The figure of the victims could melt a stone heart.
According to the state’s Executive Secretary of Primary Healthcare Board, Dr. Tijjani Hussaini, the medical cause of the mysterious deaths is yet to be ascertained, but he acknowledged that the situation had “sent residents panicking”. Even medical personnel are now said to be afraid of attending to patients for fear of COVID-19.
Death is death. Whatever might have accounted for the tragedy, somebody somewhere must have been negligent in his line of duty to protect the citizens.
At this critical juncture, therefore, it has become imperative for the administration to scale up its effort towards the containment of the alarming rapidity with which COVID-19 infection is spreading and also expedite action on investigation into the immediate and remote causes of the mysterious death in order to stave off the looming danger of exponential threat to the lives of the people of the state.
Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is a controversial political figure whose experience dates back to the Second Republic when he served as Kano State Assistant Secretary of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) between 1979 and 1980. With the advent of the present political dispensation, he also served as deputy governor twice between 1999 and 2003 and 2011 to 2015. In the run up to the last general elections, the bribery allegation leveled against him threatened his second term re-election bid, but he surmounted the hurdle and retained the mandate. The dust raised by the intrigues that culminated in the deposition of former Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is just beginning to settle when the COVID-19 pandemic threw spanner in the wheel of his administration. Kano is fast becoming another epicentre of the dreaded disease, which Nigerians are watching with concerned interest.