And the man died. Half of Nigerians went to bed Friday night and the other half woke up Saturday morning with the sad news that President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff had passed away. Mallam Abba Kyari, who had tested positive to the novel coronavirus on March 29, 2020, died of complications from COVID-19 disease. He has since been buried according to Islamic rites. May his soul rest in peace.
There is a lot we do not know about SARS-CoV-2. With each passing day of this pandemic, scientists and doctors are learning something new. The coronavirus enters the body through the respiratory tract — through the mouth or nose and into the lungs — so, to infect a person, it needs to bind to an enzyme found on the surface of respiratory cells. But once the coronavirus is actually in the body, it can get into the bloodstream, and from the bloodstream SARS-CoV-2 can travel to, and invade, other organs. According to reports in Live Science, once it reaches other organs, it attacks them too.
It seems COVID-19 is on a brutal, devastating path. It is killing anything, and anyone so selected on its path. In Africa, the list of victims reads like that of who is who. A brilliant Nigerian doctor, Emeka Chugbo, died on duty in LUTH. Ajmadou Salif Kebe, Guinean elections boss, died of the disease. So did Benedict Somi Vilakazi of South Africa; Manu Dibango of Cameroon; Somali regional official, Khalif Mumin; former Somali Prime Minister, Nur Hassan Hussein; a renowned physician in Ghana, Prof. Jacob Phlange-Rhule; ex-Libyan Prime Minister who served after the fall of Gaddafi, Mahmud Jibril; Senegalese journalist and sports administrator, Pape Diouf; top Zimbabwean broadcaster, Zororo Makamba; ex-Congolese President, Jacques Joaquim Yhombi-Opango; top legal aide to DRC President, Mukendi wa Mulumba; and top legislator in Burkina Faso, Ms Rose Marie Campaore.
In other parts of the world, some celebrities have succumbed to COVID-19’s lethal scourge. These include actors like Lee Fierro and Mark Blum; musicians like Adam Schlesinger and Wallace Rooney; comedian Ken Shimura; songwriter Alan Merril; designer Sergio Rossi; and legendary jazz saxophonist, Lee Konitz.
In treating severe COVID-19 patients in the emergency room, doctors are seeing patients who develop viral myocarditis, or infection of the heart muscle. When a patient with COVID-19 undergoes sudden cardiac death, or a sudden death caused by heart problems, it’s typically from infections around the heart. SARS-CoV-2 can infiltrate both the heart and the lungs, because they each contain cells covered with the surface proteins known as angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which serves as the gateway for the virus to enter cells, Live Science previously reported. Other organs also contain this enzyme, and it is thought that the virus might be getting into other organs in a similar way.
Politicians seem to have their fair share of representation in the number of people infected. In Iran, more than 21 parliamentarians had tested positive to SARS-CoV-2 virus. In Europe, senior politicians in France, the U.K., Spain and Italy are among those infected. These include the French Culture Minister Franck Riester; Nadine Dorries, the United Kingdom’s Health Minister, also tested positive with the virus. Before falling ill, she interacted with Prime Minister Boris Johnson as well as other prominent politicians. In neighbouring Spain, Javier Ortega Smith, secretary-general of the Vox Party, also became ill. In Italy, which has witnessed a high number of deaths and cases, only surpassed by the USA, the leader of the Italian Democratic Party Nicola Zingaretti also tested positive to the virus. Back home in Nigeria, the Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly tested positive to the virus. So did the Governors of Bauchi, Oyo and Kaduna states.
Quite astonishing were the virus assaults on Prince Charles in Buckingham Palace; Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10, Downing Street; Sophie Gregoire, wife of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau; Iran’s Vice President, Eshaq Jahangiri; and our own Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari at Aso Rock. For a while, some pundits with morbid thoughts or weird sense of humour thought the virus was on a purposeful mission. It knows what it is doing. They reasoned that a three-pronged attack on the future king of the British Empire, his Prime Minister, and his Health Minister was meant to decapitate the British leadership for years to come. Nemesis, they reasoned, was perhaps catching up with the Iranian leadership, and as for Nigeria, they waited with bated breath for the next bit of news they were certain would come about the boss in Aso Rock. Even the international community was counting down the days to when the virus would unleash its mission on the White House. The news never came of Aso Rock, and the White House D-Day never arrived. Deflated, the pundits went away to wonder why the virus was still reluctant in finishing the work, and even afraid of getting to North Korea. Who would save the world from the lying, conniving, murderous, and manipulative politicians?
According to reports in Time Magazine, there are several potential explanations for why politicians are testing positive to COVID-19 at higher rates than the general population. For starters, politicians are in contact with many people, probably more than the average person, interacting with constituents, lobbyists, government officials, and businessmen. In their daily contacts, they are always shaking people’s hands and always unable to keep social distance. Politicians may also be more likely to get tested for coronavirus quickly, compared to the average citizen. And politicians tend to be older in age and so more susceptible to this virus attack.
Here in Nigeria, the case with the politicians seems to follow a different trajectory, to the disappointment of many pundits. Very few politicians appear to have been exposed to it. The reason may be the exact converse of those in the western world. Our politicians do not serve the people, the people serve them, and they serve themselves too. Since they are not beholden to the electorate, they have no need to interact with or flatter them. So, on a human contact level, the opportunities of closeness do not exist. In other words, the Nigerian politician has always been socially distant from his constituents.