By Ikeddy ISIGUZO, Chairman Editorial Board
EBOLA was always a distant issue to Nigerians. Discovered in 1976 at Nzara, Sudan, and Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo, now Zaire, it was named after Ebola River, in order not to stigmatise Yambuku which is 100 kilometres from the river. Outbreaks of the highly fatal Ebola have been around Zaire, Gabon, Uganda, Congo, South Africa, Sudan and Cote d’Ivoire.
None of the outbreaks rang the bell of March 2014 when Guinea had what the World Health Organisation called, “the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976.” More deaths than all other outbreaks combined, more spread across countries (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, United States of
America, and Spain) has been witnessed since the Guinea Ebola. Almost 8,000 have died since, with almost all social activities (football games and elections inclusive) stopped in the highly infected countries, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Ebola is deadly. Without a cure or a vaccine, it shares the same symptoms with malaria which is common in West Africa, yet it is worse than malaria. Contact with the infected, or anything that the infected person has used, including bedding and clothing, results in more infection. Transmissions are through blood, sweat, semen and breast milk. Health-care workers are frequently infected while treating patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola Virus Disease.
Mourners with direct contact with the body of the deceased person can transmit Ebola. It is that deadly.
When the Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer arrived Lagos on July 8, he was infected, he was dying. Many factors aided the discovery that he bore Ebola. Before then, the lethal spread had begun. Those who received him at the airport, a very African offering to anyone in trouble, the medical crew at First Consultants, where he was treated, were infected. In all, eight died in the Nigeria infection that got as far as Port Harcourt.
The vigilance of the medical staff at First Consultants, particularly Dr. Stella Adadevoh, who physically restrained Sawyer, helped in containing the spread. First Consultant also had the facilities to detect Ebola.
Ebola practically ruined the hospital. Its expensive equipment had to be stripped, destroyed, to contain the spread. Its clientele fled.
Normalcy is returning, and the Lagos State Government, which set up a camp and tracked those who could have been infected, as was the case in Rivers State, recently compensated First Consultants. Over 1,000 persons, with direct or indirect contact with Sawyer, were tracked and confined. The States and the Federal Government abandoned raging political differences to tackle Ebola.
What could have happened if Sawyer entered Nigeria through the land borders? Suppose he was taken to a hospital without appropriate facilities? Or where the staff were not knowledgeable about Ebola?
The consequences can only be imagined. Nigerians are out-going. We like our hugs, among other body contacts, which are impossible with over 167 million on the move. Common use of facilities is a way of life. How can someone suggest that we restrain our mourning at burials by not touching the corpse, if tradition demanded that we do so? How were we to know that a sick relation had Ebola and should therefore await medical expertise?
The exuberances at our social outings were to be curbed. The use of hand washers became the rule and body contacts were minimised, these were unNigerian. Nigeria’s medical excellence, in this instance, built on commitment, sacrifice and knowledge stunned the world. Nigeria not only halted
Ebola on its strides, but had an expertise that it is lending to other infected countries. This has been barely acknowledged by those who are eager to report bad news about Nigeria.
Vanguard Editors chose Nigeria’s management of Ebola as Personality of The Year, in tribute to those who sacrificed their lives to contain the Ebola outbreak and in celebration of the Nigerian spirit of excellence.
Our Issue Of The Year is the Chibok girls who were abducted in April. We hope they would be freed this year. Tony Elumelu is our Business Personality Of The Year for his commitment to new development to improve businesses across Africa, especially his concept of African capitalism and entrepreneurship.
Nigeria is closing in on its 16th year of democratic governments, which is unprecedented in our history. Our Editors chose three departing Governors for the Democratic Governance Awards. They are Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Babatunde Raji Fashola (Lagos).
Welcome to 2015 with all the possibilities it holds for a greater Nigeria, which you can help in attaining, by the choices you make in the elections that are six weeks away. Hopefully, you would make choices that would place the interests of Nigerians first, in a year of anticipated economic challenges.