Desmond Mgboh, Kano
Certainly, the 2020 Annual Lecture of Barewa Old Boys Association has come and gone. The event, hosted last Saturday in Kano, would remain evergreen. Apart from reuniting old friends and classmates, the occasion was richly endowed in intellectual depth and wealth.
The event, chaired by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Saidu 111, was jam-packed. It started early enough, with a courtesy visit to the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, led by their national chairman, Dahiru Ibrahim.
The guest list included Deputy Governor, Kano State, Nasiru Gwanna; Deputy Governor, Katsina State, Alhaji Manir Yakubu; Minister of Defence, General Basher Magashi and former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido.
Seated on the high table were the host, Alhaji Ado Bayero; Emir of Fika, Dr Mohammed Ibn Mohammed Idris; former Chief of Army Staff, General Alwali Kazil (retd) and the keynote speaker, Professor Abdulrazak Garba Habib. Others were the Vice Chancellors of Yusuf Maitama University, Kano, Kano State University of Science and Technology, Wudil and Ahamdu Bello University, Zaria among others.
Habib’s paper, “Epidemics, Pandemics and Society: The COVID-19 Saga,” brilliantly traced the dissemination of epidemics and infectious diseases to different parts of the world. He held that the emergence of new infections and new pathogens unbeknown to humanity were largely a result of human population and human activities.
His view: “The increasing world population, human activities such as deforestation, intensified agriculture and livestock farming and also, illegal trade in wildlife and climate change, all combined to make a milieu that is cut out for the emergence of new infections such as COVID-1 and COVID-2 and many others to come.
“Taking together, the factors leading to emergence of these infectious diseases includes population explosion, proximity to animals, increasing mobility – the fact that no part of the world cannot be reached with 24 hours- global inter-connectedness, mankind habits as well as environmental changes.”
He stated that weak policies surveillance and contentment measures ensured that these infections were dispersed to different parts of the world. He asserted that 60 per cent of all the infection diseases- tuberculosis, missiles, HIV and others, were actually of animal origin while 75 per cent of the new infections in the world today- Ebola, Lasser and Corona viruses- were again from animals.
Of the seven types of coronaviruses, he said four of them were old while three of them were recent. To the old ones, he observed that that humanity had evolved some form of stability, balance and immunity against them while the new ones are to yet to be tamed.
Moving to statistics, Habib observed that as at late October, about 35 million people were affected by COVID-19 across the world, noting that the most affected countries are US, India, Brazil, Russia and Columbia: “By way of deaths, the five topmost countries are US, Brazil, India, Mexico and United Kingdom.” He added that most recovered countries are US, Brazil, Columbia, India and Russia.
Coming back home to Nigeria, he said the index case was recorded on February 27, 2020, following the arrival of an Italian to the country.
He added that the 75 per cent of the early cases of the virus in Nigeria were recorded among people who had travel history abroad: “At the beginning, responses were marred by several weaknesses. For instance, Nigeria, a country of 200 million people, had only 350 ventilators and six testing machines, one of which was located in Abuja at the break of the pandemic.”
He disclosed that the number of people tested in Nigeria so far was dismally poor: “At the end of September, only about 500,000 people or the equivalent of 0.25 per cent were tested in the country, while by October, Nigeria recorded about 1,150 deaths from COVID-19.
“The number of testing conducted in Nigeria, therefore, cannot throw any meaningful interpretation or conclusion about the status of the virus in Nigeria. The symptoms of the infection included fatigue, headache, fever, running nose and difficulty in breathing.”
He stated that most of its symptoms were located in the lung. He cautioned that as at date, no one knows the long-term effect of the infection: “There is a suggestion that cognition may be affected, that is, our ability to remember may be impaired in the future.”
Gwauna appreciated the paper for its immense quality: “Countries all over the world are struggling to find their feet in the aftermath of this global pandemic, which has not only destabilized economies and social settings, but has also resulted in loss of thousands of precious lives.”
He explained that COVID-19 not only claimed lives but challenged the level of preparedness of government and placed serious strain on the resources: “By God grace, through prayers, careful planning and execution of multi- dimensional heath strategies among others, Kano State is on the verge of eliminating the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He congratulated the old boys for “not only bringing members of the association together to fraternize and to share old memories, but also take a critical look at issues facing the country and how collectively we can address such concerns”
Alhaji Ado Bayero said anybody who knows the history of Barewa Old Boys Associations in Nigeria would surely appreciate the worth of Barewa Old Boys Association. He expressed gratitude to all those who have supported the institution: “The story of Nigeria will not be complete without a mention of Barewa College, given the contributions of their graduates to the development of the country.”