From Tony Osauzo, Benin
All 41 athletes and 35 officials on the Kogi State contingent to 20th National Sports Festival ongoing in Benin City, Edo State, have tested negative for the dreaded COVID-19.
The team which got their COVID test results early yesterday morning, was subjected to a rather lengthy wait under the elements. Observers noted that suspicion from the NCDC officials was high and not unconnected with Kogi State’s official stance on the Coronavirus disease which has killed millions around the world and 2,058 in Nigeria.
Recall that in the early days of the pandemic when panic measures was the stock response from many world leaders, the Kogi governor, Yahaya Bello, was caught on video declaring, ‘we ain’t gat no covid!’ as he dismissed reports that he either had the disease or that it had reached his state. That video, which subsequently went viral early in 2020, set the pace for the young governor’s controversial positions on the disease over the next one year.
Swimming against popular tides, the governor refused to institute a universal mask mandate, would not join in the lengthy lockdowns adopted by his colleagues at the NCDC’s insistence and kept his state and economy open throughout. He still campaigns against copycat advisories and use of unproven vaccines till date.
This set him on a collision course severally with the NCDC, the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and other bodies in the coalition managing the disease for the country. When an NCDC team visited his state in May of 2020 to test for the disease, he tried to quarantine them for the 14 days duration and they fled back to Abuja.
He would later point to the WHO team which went on investigation to Wuhan in January 2021 and accepted quarantine for the 14 days duration by the Chinese authorities as proof that he was right and they, wrong.
In his defense, the governor had warned early that he would only accept ‘a synergy between science and common sense, medicine and governance’ in applying COVID-19 regulations to his state, and refused such guidelines when he thought they would work undue hardship on his people.
So, from the onset, Kogi State has remained something of an outlier in the national COVID records. Yet, it has broken all paradigms relative to the disease in the country and sits at the bottom of the NCDC’s daily updates with just 5 confirmed cases and zero deaths.
By comparison, Zamfara, the state nearest to it has 232 and 3 deaths. Other states have tens of thousands of confirmed cases with hundreds of deaths. The NCDC says it is because the state is not testing enough. Kogi officials counter that they have conducted thousands of tests and subjected their state to various bodies for review, including to an NCDC investigation team which spent four weeks in the state and found nothing.
It is against this background that the closer than usual spotlight put on the Kogi State contingent to the ongoing 20th NSF by the NCDC did not come as a surprise to journalists covering the event.
It is the 100% negative result for COVID-19 which the team members received that is now raising inconvenient questions such as Could Yahaya Bello have been right all along? Should we have listened more to him?