EDITORIAL: Ebola Conquest; Everyone Is A WinnerFeatured, Featured Contributors/Columnists, Latest News Saturday, October 25th, 2014
By Tajudeen Balogun, Head, African Examiner, Nigeria Bureau, Lagos
Victory is sweet, pleasant and desirable by everyone. When last weekend the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Senegal free of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and promised that Nigeria would follow suit this week, many were more anxious than being excited to receive the news. In actual fact, not only Nigerians were cut in this euphoria, but so many non-nationals, in different parts of the world, look forward to the day and await yet another global health body historic declaration.
And here come the D – day – Monday, October 20, 2014 and the big announcement. “ “The lines on the tabular situation reports, sent to WHO each day by its country office in Nigeria, have now been full of zeros for 42 days”, (twice the maximum incubation period for Ebola virus disease). WHO officially declares that Nigeria is now free of Ebola virus transmission”.
With this clean bill of endorsement, Nigerians were excited, relieved and very proud, that the country eventually survived the outbreak of the fatal virus. ‘Bye – bye to Ebola’ immediately became the popular acknowledged reaction from so many who either heard the good fresh news or were later later informed. Indeed, it was a great Monday for Nigerians and a very good ‘week starter’.
The Nigerian successful war against Ebola did not come on a platter of gold. Of course, the story’s profile has its casualties, heroes as well as failures. As it is a common knowledge that Lagos state was the first recipient of the infected victim and recorded the first and only index (Liberian – American, Patrick Sawyer) out of eight casualties in the country, the state Governor, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), his health Commissioner, the regular and voluntary health workers deserve good mention.
Specifically, the promptness, zeal, commitment, mobilization, public sensitization, consistence and positive spirit displayed by them from July when the first victim landed in Nigeria till when it lasted in the state, were commendable.
Similarly, the immediate past Health Minister, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu was a valiant on the won battle against Ebola in Nigeria. The very coordinated working relationship that existed between him, the Lagos state government, other states of the Federation and stakeholders, such as WHO, regarding the information gathering, their processing as well as their management was professional and perfect. In fact, the working synergy between him and the Lagos state government authorities and later Rivers state all through the Ebola crisis period was quite impressive. Again, Onyebuchi and Fashola must be commended for their leading and exemplary roles in the EVD curtailment in Nigeria.
The Governor of Rivers State, Chibuke Rotimi Ameachi also deserves recognition. Having acted promptly and not leaving anything to chances when the virus was confirmed in his state, calls for kudos and good complimentary. His coordinated actions and other relevant agencies within and outside the state like in the case of Lagos saved the state from suffering high casualty.
Also loudest ovation for the Health workers who in the course of their duties – handling and treating the infected, sacrificed their lives. They included the female Consultant physician of the First Consultant Medical Centre, Lagos that attended to late Sawyer, Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh, a nurse at the centre Justina Echelonu, another nurse who had contact with the country’s index case and Dr. Iyke Enemuo (secondary contact) were victims. They were the heroes who unwillingly paid the ultimate price while Nigeria was still under the Ebola siege. May their souls rest in peace.
Again, the Medical doctors in Lagos, who were confirmed to be infected with Ebola (five of them) in the course of attending to the first victim and others, but who narrowly survived the wicked claws of the virus deserved recognition and being identified with. Congratulations to them all and their families on the victorious battle and for living to witness the glorified impacts of their professional inputs in ensuring that Nigeria is free and safe from the dreadful disease.
Although, he has been faced with the controversy of ‘stealing’ the Ebola credit from those who really deserve it, President Goodluck Jonathan certainly makes the list of those who must be praised on this national victory. Just like his former Health Minister who rather than being political in his approach, demonstrated astute professionalism while Ebola was still in the country; it was the same to a large extent, on the part of Mr. President.
For the President to have shown keen interest in the states affected and the rest in the country; for him to have issued directives to the relevant agencies to be on their guard; to have quickly declared state of emergency on the virus and directed that measures to check further outbreak of the virus be put in place across the country; for him not be passive and went to the extent of releasing the sum of N200 Million to each of the two affected states, despite difference in political affiliation, showed and confirmed that the President was spurred into action and influenced by the public and national interest. Although, his supportive donation has been considered belated and meager in certain quarters, yet it is still better than never and was a demonstration of commitment. So, kudos to Mr. President, for leading creditably here!
A little history here. If the over politicization of issues did not arise between the former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Lagos state Governor, Bola Tinubu in their first tenure (1999 – 2003) on the Lagos Independent Power (IPP) Project, perhaps, the level of power generation and transmission in the state and the country in general, would have been better than the presence. Today, the state’s IPP is still restricted, hence its limited impacts. Similarly, at the national level, Obasanjo’s administration inherited in 1999 a paltry power generation capacity (not sure reached 3000 MW) from General Abdul Salaam Military junta.
The administration (Obasanjo) promised and expended heavily to deliver 6000 MW. The efforts failed then and efforts by the successive governments to meet the set target are yet to translate into a desirable result. Generation capacity in Nigeria till date keeps fluctuating. Presently, it has dropped from about 5000 MW to 4000 MW, returning the era of power rationalization, which now leaves many household in darkness longer hours and industries groan under pains over high cost of production daily.
It was also owing to over politicizing of very germane issues between Obasanjo and Tinubu that truncated the idea of creating state Police in Nigeria. Although, the fear of undoing of the disgruntled politicians, rubbishing and abusing such public institution were the concern raised by some then. They were of the opinion that if the politicians and the rich individuals could pocket the National police, the case will be worst should there be the state controlled Force. This underscores our retrogressive political orientation and culture, which till the moment and to a very large extent is parochial.
Former President Obasanjo over politicized so many sensitive national issues especially with the opposition and some of the devastating impacts still live with us till date.
Recall the tussle between the Federal Government under President Obasanjo and Tinubu, over the creation of the additional 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDA). Since Obasanjo was averse to the creation and Tinubu was bent on sustain ing them, the former withheld the state’s monthly allocations which accumulated to about N30 Billion! – including the state’s expenses on the state Federal roads as at May 2007, when Tinubu was handing over to the incumbent Governor Fashola.
The fact is that all the issues that occasioned flexing of muscles ought not to, as they are fundamental features of true fiscal federalism. But when ‘bad’ politics is allowed to erode the overall interest, the people and good governance seriously suffer.
And this is exactly what was avoided and resulted in the globally applauded victory over Ebola outbreak in Nigeria.
Less we forget, the WHO is also a winner as far as the war against EVD is concerned in Nigeria. After the death of the first casualty and the Lagos state isolation/quarantine centre began to receive high traffic of the confirmed or suspected Ebola cases, the body dispatched its specially trained personnel to manage the patients as well as train more health workers on the proper handling and treating of the virus victims.
Very difficult to forget is the mass media and the parents’ roles, especially on the update and detailed reporting of the trends; the clamours and calls to the government on need to be very sincere, careful and proactive in managing the disease. Recall, the active roles played by them on the heated debate on the school closure and resumption dates. In all sincerity, the media and parents were not asking for too much by suggesting that schools be reopened after the country would have dispensed all its existing cases.
Coincidentally, the 42 days’ WHO incubation period coincided with the exactly a week after the date (Monday, October 13) supported by some parents and canvassed by many some parts of the mass media. No doubt, the parents and media genuine clamours put the government and other relevant agencies on the right track, which largely and consistently aroused a good and systemic fight against Ebola.
However, the failures in the Ebola fight were the private school owners. Agreed, they have put in the measures to put out the virus in their schools, yet their instigating and conflicting roles were very disappointing and discouraging. All through the battle (when debate on resumption date was on), they were particular only about their business, not really about the safety of lives of the teeming, innocent young ones across the country. But despite the greed of some many of them, appreciation to a handful of them who stayed on the side of the public by not only putting in place necessary and adequate measures, but by complying to the letters, the resumption extension date. This few are on the list of the winners. Bravo to them!
The Lagos state government must also be commended again for its initiative of training voluntary health workers, about 21 of them who it has announced would soon be sent to the neighbouring continental nations where EVD is still on rampage.
This brilliant and timely initiative is line with the WHO warning remarks on the need for a sustainable vigilance after the war was over. The agency said: “Nigerian government and health officials, including staff in the WHO country office, are well aware that the country (Nigeria) will remain vulnerable to another imported case as long as intense transmission continues in other parts of West Africa”.
“Many desperate people in heavily affected countries believe that Nigeria must have some especially good – maybe even “magical” – treatments to offer.
“WHO’s Dr Vaz and others see a real risk that patients and their families from elsewhere will come to Nigeria in their quest for first-rate, live-saving care”.
This is like an alarm bell and it takes a foresight leader to be very conscious of the imports of the caution notice and subsequently working on them.
Most importantly as the country is still in a warm and jubilant mood over the Ebola conquest, is the need to sustain the ‘unity of purpose’ as exhibited by all in the fight against the virus. In line with this, bad and treacherous politics on very serious and sensitive national issues should be avoided; allowing cooperation, tolerance, understanding and encouraging cordial working relationship will also take the country far, socio-economically and politically. The above are the recipes to promote good efforts and results in all facets of life.
Finally, the political office holders – the Nigerian leaders and the general public must take a recourse to and work towards replicating the true ‘collective, togetherness and one spirit’ demonstrated to face and conquer Ebola, in the government circle; among the people, in fact to be propagated and promoted as a motto in national life. Let the real and true spirit of “One Nation; Great People” be resuscitated!
Over four weeks ago, another very strange but disheartening development occurred in Igando, a Lagos suburb, under Alimosho local government area of the state. Media reports had it that two killer dogs strayed, went berserk and descended on a four year old innocent boy, bite him and consumed his skull. And boy, Omonigho Abraham bid farewell to the world! What an agonizing, biting and unfortunate incident?
The Lagos State Police Command on Wednesday paraded to me the two ‘insane’ dogs, purposely, for the general public according to the state Police Commissioner, Cornelius Aderanti, to be sure they (dogs) were still in their (Police) custody. CP Aderanti affirmed that the check on their state of health, by the Command’s Veterinary Doctor, Yahaya Usman, indicated they tested negative to deadly disease – free of rabies and other dog-related diseases.
If that may not sound too crude, should these mad dogs by now still be living? For God Sake, we are talking about live of a fresh and innocent soul here. Another fundamental poser are: who are the owners of these dogs and to what extent has he or have they complied to the state animals keeping laws? I personally and strongly feel after necessary check on the animals (for future academic and social references), they should be terminally disposed of and then the state prosecutes the established owner (s).
Similarly, I feel the Police check/test on the animals may not take the public to the desirable investigation level. Please, where are the parents of the unfortunate boy? They should demand for independent test on the animals (that appears late for now). Again, I hold that the Police test only, will not and can never be relied upon.
Will this unfortunate and “untimely” killing of the growing boy confirm the idiomatic expression that ‘a poor man is further touted when down; but the rich is pampered if were in the same shoes’?. African man with potentials, but with negative mentality. After all, similar of justice denial? played out in another bigger African country (South Africa) in the outgoing week, when an amputee – Olympic and Paralympic athlete medalist, Oscar Pistorius was slammed with five years jail term (with the possibility of freedom after about 15 months) having been culpable of homicide – negligent killing of his former girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
This is an offence ordinarily with 15 years’ imprisonment punishment. May be and may be, the Pretoria Court Jurist, Justice Thokozile Masipa, was only mindful of his physical condition and as she established, his contribution to his society. But that may perhaps be a face saving after all. In actual fact, this is Africa, you can rule out some shady dealings.
Finally, my candid wish is that boy Abraham’s case must not fizzle out unattended to. Good spirited Nigerians and members of the public should demand in unison for the owners of these strayed dogs, prosecute them and let the full hand of justice be visited on him or them, whichever is the case.
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