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COVID-19: A case for empathy, not death wish

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By Tobi Soniyi

DURING the run-up to the 2015 presidential election, the then governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, was criticised for placing an advert on the front page of a national newspaper suggesting that the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Muhammadu Buhari, would die in office if elected president. The advert carried the photographs of Nigerian leaders who died in office; name it: Muritala Muhammed, Sani Abacha and Umaru Yar’Adua.

The advert was also accompanied by a quote from the Bible book of Deuteronomy 30 verse 19. “Nigerians be warned! Nigeria…I have set before thee Life and death. Therefore, choose life that both thee and thy seed may live,” it said, suggesting that Buhari represented death while his rival, President Goodluck Jonathan represented life. The advert put a huge question mark over the picture of Buhari, which was placed beside the pictures of the late leaders. The advert then asked its readers: “Will you allow history to repeat itself?”

Fayose was heavily criticised for placing such a despicable advertorial in a national newspaper. Rather than discourage people from voting for Buhari, the advert did the opposite. It brought many more sympathy votes for Buhari who did not only win the 2015 election but was alive and strong enough to win the 2019 presidential election.

Many people condemned the advertorial and wondered why a politician would wish death on another politician just because they were not in the same party. The fact that Buhari won both the 2015 and the 2019 presidential elections and remains alive today should have been a lesson to those who thought what Fayose did was right. But alas, we are a people who sometimes appear to be incapable of learning basic lessons.

Fast forward to 2020. It is surprising that some people are wishing the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, dead just because he tested positive for coronavirus. When asked, Nigerians identified themselves as either Christians or Muslims. Interestingly, both religions preach forgiveness, compassion and love. However, times without number, when our faith is tested, these qualities are often found lacking in us. Our religions admonish us not only to pray for those who are sick but to visit them.

Last week Kyari issued a press statement wherein he announced out of his own free will that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. He said he chose private treatment in order not to become an additional burden on the country’s overstretched health system. Kyari said: “This is a precautionary measure: I feel well, but last week, I tested positive for coronavirus, the pandemic that is sweeping the world. I have followed all the protocols government has announced to self-isolate and quarantine.”

READ ALSO: Covid 19: Visiting Chinese doctors must be properly monitored to avoid regrets — Delta Rep

He said like many others that would test also positive: “I have not experienced high fever or other symptoms associated with this new virus and have been working from home. I hope to be back at my desk very soon.” Suddenly, there was a buzz. It started trending on social media that Kyari was dead. Some called it black Thursday. As if that rumour was not bad enough, some started to celebrate his death on social media. I could not but wonder when did Nigerians become  this callous?

Like many others, I certainly disagree with this government on many issues. However, I would not wish any of the officials dead. As Christianity enjoins us, the best I can do is to pray for them. If I’m not minded to pray for them, I would leave them to God. Some of those who celebrated the unfounded dead of Kyari may as well die before him.

Even a die-hard critic of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, Chief Femi Fani Kayode, a man who has suffered untold hardship in the hands of Buhari’s men was infuriated when he found that some people were wishing Kyari dead. In a tweet on Thursday, Fani-Kayode described those wishing Kyari dead because they disagreed with him as “vicious and heartless”.

The former minister, just like other sensible people, said he remained opposed to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. “It is not true that Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to @MBuhari, is dead. Those that are behind that rumour are vicious and heartless. I remain opposed to the @MBuhari admin, but to wish or proclaim someone dead simply because you disagree with him politically is unacceptable,” he tweeted. It is also myopic to assume that the problems with the Buhari”s administration would disappear if Kyari died. When Musa Yar’Adua died in 2010  did Nigeria’s problems die with him?

As Nigerians, we should continue to agitate for better governance. It is our right. Those who say otherwise don’t understand what democracy is all about. We don’t want anti-social media bill passed but we want to wake up in our rooms and be posting fake news, some of which could lead to crisis. Somehow, we have got to devise means to punish those who concoct fake news. It does not have to be through  the social media bill. It is Abba Kyari today. No one knows who will be the victim of fake news story.

The good news is that God is not man. Family sources said Kyari is doing fine. According to them, he is responding well to treatment. A source in the presidency also said: “Since the diagnosis, he has had the occasional cough, which, though not chesty, remained stubborn, hence his decision to transfer to a private facility in Lagos for further tests and observations.

“Up till now, he has had no high fever or difficulty in breathing, and the cough is subsiding after treatment; so he is making good progress. The doctors want him to sleep and rest more for now; so they took his phones away, but he is stable and improving.”

Those who claimed Kyari was dead have no shame and were not bold enough to accept that they were wrong and apologise. The best we could do to protest their misleading us is to unfollow them. If we unfollow them, and they find themselves alone, who knows, they may choose to repent. For now, if we can’t pray for Kyari to recover, we can at least leave him alone. We can at least spare his family the hatred.

Soniyi, a media executive, wrote from Lagos


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