By Ladesope Ladelokun
IN spite of the incalculable havoc precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic across the world, it remains a riddle why Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State has been vociferous about his unshaken belief that the confluence state is COVID-19-free, even in the face of stubborn facts.
At a prayer session held recently for the late Chief Judge of Kogi State, Justice Nasir Ajana, who died at a COVID-19 isolation centre in Abuja, the governor described COVID-19 as a disease out to ‘shorten the lifestyle of the people’.
He added that the disease was propagated by force for Nigerians to accept. Hear him: “Whether medical experts and scientists believe it or not, COVID-19 is out to shorten the lifestyle of the people, it is a disease propagated by force for Nigerians to accept.”
But it cannot be inapposite to ask: Is there a trophy to be won by any COVID-19-free state in the most populous Black country in the world? Is it possible that there is some supernatural power insulating Kogi from the dreaded virus, even when all its neighbours have all recorded cases of the deadly virus? Or, could it be that this is a ploy by the governor to shy away from his responsibilities?
If we take the claim that there is indeed no case of COVID-19 in Kogi as gospel, then the young governor of the confluence state should be kind enough to save humanity from the deadly attack of a virus that has sentenced hundreds of thousands to early graves by revealing the magic wand he waved to make his state impenetrable by COVID-19.
Sadly, the governor’s position is at variance with the soldiers: health workers trained to fight the current war against humanity. So, do we believe the accountant-governor of Kogi or the health workers working tooth and nail to conquer the virus threatening mercilessly to decimate the population of the entire world? Of course, it is only sensible and safe to believe the soldiers on the battlefield.
In a memo jointly issued by health workers union in the state on June 26, 2020, they had lamented the approach of the government to the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 in the state, stating that the Accident and Emergency unit of the Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja, Kogi State “is closed down due to exposure to patients who later tested positive for COVID-19.” Again, who do we believe? An accountant or health workers?
It is bad enough that COVID-19 has caused havoc of monumental proportions across the world, but it is devastating to deny its existence, or even downplay its severity.
It is no fairy tale that there are still doubting Thomases who would swear by the moon and the stars that COVID-19 is just a hoax. Tell them it is here, and they would tell you it is just a scam by state governors to get funds from the Federal Government and international donor agencies.
But the bad thing about ignorance is the fact that it leads its victims into a well of fire and get them roasted without any hope of redemption. That is why it is hard to fault Martin Luther King Jr when he quipped: “Nothing in the entire world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
However, those who occupy leadership positions must understand that their action or inaction on sensitive issues could either bring joy or agony to their people. It is doubtful if the worrying denial of the existence of COVID-19 by the Kogi State government will birth joy. No doubt, the first step to addressing a problem is to admit its existence. How then do you tackle a problem you do not believe exists? How do we even begin to quantify the havoc caused by the harmful information dished out by the governor and his men?
The Kogi story reminds one of President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil who recently tested positive for COVID-19. Before the deadly virus struck the 65-year-old Brazilian leader, he had played down the severity of the virus he called a “little flu”, boasting that his history as an athlete would protect him from the virus.
Specifically, on March 20, 2020, he boasted: “After being stabbed, I’m not going to be brought down by a little flu”. Bolsonaro opposed lockdowns and attended public events without a mask,shaking hands with his supporters and mingling with crowds. But his history as an athlete failed to protect the Brazilian leader as claimed. The “little flu” brought him so down that he now does all that he had earlier scoffed at. The one who freely mingled with crowds without a face mask now practises social distancing and wears a face mask.
Indeed, Jim Rohn was right when he said: “Ignorance is not bliss.Ignorance is poverty. Ignorance is devastation. Ignorance is tragedy. It all stems from Ignorance.’’
As of July 11,2020,Brazil had recorded more than 71,500 deaths and 1.9 million confirmed cases,trailing only the US in cases and deaths.Though Bolsonaro’s detractors have turned death-wishers because they believe that his irresponsible conduct as the leader of the South American country contributed in no small way to the disturbing deaths and cases occasioned by the virus, it remains to be seen how that would bring back those said to be led to graves by the conduct of the leader.
While one does not wish that Yahaya Bello suffers the same fate like the Brazilian leader, the Yahaya Bellos of Nigeria can learn from the Bolsonaro example. No follower deserves to die because of a leader’s irresponsible conduct and sincere but toxic ignorance.
Bello,like other Nigerian leaders, swore to protect their people. And that he must do conscientiously.
Ladelokun, a commentator on national issues, wrote via: [email protected]