‘Nobody does good to men with impunity.”
Nobody could believe it. The nation is now in panic mode with governance taking a quick flight. For the benefit of doubt, governments at all levels, leading political parties, major national institutions, financial houses, as well as other critical sectors of the economy have all shut down their activities as part of the measures to curtail the spread of the dreaded and rampaging Coronavirus. So far, only one casualty has been recorded in the country from the scourge of the pandemic, but the incidence figure is alarmingly on the increase on a daily basis. Governor Bala Muhammed of Bauchi State is one of the high profile cases that sent shivers down the spine of the ordinary Nigerians last week. For no fault of his, the unsuspecting governor had allegedly contracted the virus through his interaction with Muhammed Atiku, one of the sons of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, on a flight from Lagos to Abuja.
Coming from one of the high-risk countries, Muhammed had defied the directive of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for a 14-day self-isolation. From the information available, this might just be an isolated case among several other deviants, who disappeared into the thin air in the wake of their arrival into the country following the Federal Government’s announcement of closing all international flights. According to a statement by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Muhammed, many of them unpatriotically gave wrong phone contacts and addresses and went to town infecting other innocent citizens. It is even a grim irony that some lawmakers who are supposed to lead by examples are also said to be culpable of this rascality.
More worrisome is the fact that the tune of assurance of safety of the citizens which the authorities have been mouthing since the first incidence case was confirmed is now gradually waning, facing the enormous challenge of contact tracing of 4,370 people who felt too big to submit themselves to the health authorities for routine scrutiny on arrival. Perhaps, those Bala Muhammed had also unknowingly come in contact with in the course of his political gadabout are already included in this estimate. With or without, the figure is more than enough to make everyone cringe, especially in a country where there is apparent lack of capacity to handle a pandemic of this magnitude. Lai Muhammed could not even hide his fears, as he said: “We have 4,370 people of interest whom we are tracing. We urge those who have had contact with suspected cases to immediately report to the authorities. We urge Nigerians to support the authorities in this regard. We are on the verge of reaching the level of community spread. We must stop this immediately or we will record exponential cases in the days ahead. There is no better way to say this.”
By this singular act of irresponsibility as demonstrated by some unscrupulous individuals, who would always like to flout the rules of engagement with impunity, the nation has now reached a level of total lockdown. Despite all the early warning signals, the threat of the pandemic is now steering everybody in the face. How did the nation find itself in this quagmire? Some said the government was not proactive enough in its approach to prevent the dreaded disease from coming into the country. Others commended the health authorities for their good work. Many be and may be not!
What is obvious, however, is that the government in its wisdom decided from the onset of this debacle to put the first last. In the first instance, if the authorities had ordered the closure of international flights, as well as land borders upon the confirmation of the index case, the present lockdown would have been averted and the threat would have been manageable.
Good enough, the virus is a social leveler. It is not a respecter of any individual, colour, race or creed. Both the powerful and powerless, the low and the mighty, the poor and the rich have the same status before it. May God give Bala Muhammed the opportunity to tell his story. For some couple of days now, he has been in self-isolation and he has had a taste of trepidation that could accompany such a dreaded attack. The Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, has also not been spared.
For all those who have taken the country for granted for too long, for those leaders who like to fly abroad for medical treatment with a mere symptom of ordinary headache, and all other accomplices who conspired to make the nation’s health institutions what they are today, this is a time of restitution. This is a time for all to have a feel of how good or bad the country’s healthcare system is.
Lai Muhammed in his last press briefing disclosed that the Jack Ma Foundation in China had donated safety and test kits, including 100, 000 face masks, 1,000 personal protective equipment (PPE), and 20,000 test kits. This is a commendable gesture. But the truth is that the supplies are grossly inadequate to meet the needs of over 200 million people in an emergency situation like this. And it speaks volume to the seeming lackluster attitude of successive governments to the issue of national planning. Lai Muhammed’s statement says it all: “I don’t intend to sound apocalyptic. But the truth is that time is running out. If we don’t urgently and more aggressively enforce the measures I have just listed, we have a short window within which to stop this pandemic or face an explosion in terms of the cases. We cannot afford to be complacent.”
Bala Abdulkadir Muhammed, a graduate of English from the University of Maiduguri, was born on October 5, 1958. Before his election as governor of Bauchi State in 2019 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he had served as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. In 2007, he was elected into the Senate to represent Bauchi South on the platform of the defunct All Nigeria People’s Party. Following his marriage to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s daughter, he defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to clinch the ticket for the governorship election. He defeated the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress in the last election. There has been an air of anxiety in the state since he has been found to be positive for Covid-19 and his subsequent isolation.