It was a text message that brought the reality of Ebola closer home for me last week. My son’s school was scheduled to open on September 6 before Patrick Sawyer, as reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), brought Ebola to us in Nigeria on July 25 thereby forcing a postponement. Previously, I had watched, as it were from the sidelines, the hysteria, confusion, sheer madness, stupidity, and amazement at least on the part of the Lagos State Government, how the outbreak of the disease had turned some Nigerians into zombies. Who could have imagined that emergency doctors in the land would recommend a bath of salt water as preventive cure for Ebola?
I’ve observed some of the fallacies and myths constantly thrown around, even by those who should know, concerning the Ebola disease. Of course, we are a people still controlled largely by fables and a large dose of ‘spirituality’ without the appropriate grounding in rationality, knowledge, and science. After all, a minister actually told us that we have stocked vaccines even though neighbouring countries were already battling with the disease, thereby ensuring that we all dozed off forgetting we were susceptible. Painfully too, some journalists at the briefing did not have enough knowledge to challenge the minister that there is no vaccine for Ebola.
Some people, including our political leaders, have refused to shake hands with others in the curious belief that the disease is transmitted through handshake. The disease has also become a boon for those who sell hand sanitizers while some fast moving consumer goods manufacturers are now demonstrating to the public how to wash our hands properly with their brand of soap as the best for such routine exercise.
When EFCC started that campaign of corruption kills and that we should kill corruption, perhaps not many of us could imagine the lethal nature of corruption. Why did we wait until Sawyer jetted into Nigeria before we commenced checks at our airports? Were there contingency plans in place for such eventuality? Or we were just praying off such with the constant refrain of ‘not my portion’? One can also imagine the foolishness of the medical doctor who agreed to treat someone already exposed to the primary contact at home for the disease. With porous borders that have been left unmanned for a long while, we were sitting ducks for Ebola.
Look at the confusion too over schools’ resumption date. The federal government has been flip-flopping over the matter and the result is a subtle class war of parents of public schools’ students’ and the run-of-the-mill private schools on the one side with the elitist private schools students’ parents on the other side. Or who does not know that most public schools do not have basic toilet facilities or even first aid boxes? When you listen to some of our government officials talking, the only sense you get in their yarns is the complete disconnect with the situation on ground or how else do we explain the often-ignored fact that poverty is a major factor in a disease outbreak? Just remember that some states in Nigeria are still battling with cholera in the year of the Lord 2014. We have also seen selfishness and greed as exemplified by medical doctors who never thought it wise to call off their strike when Ebola broke out now sermonizing that it is unwise for students to resume on September 22. Another mess of a performance is seen in the House of Representatives which will be discussing the resumption date of schools later this week as though it is a matter for folks in Abuja to determine when schools resume in Ughelli, Ikere Ekiti or Minna. Why can’t we be serious for once?
But it is not all gloom. We have seen a coordinated and vibrant approach from the Lagos State government eliciting fulsome praises from international agencies. That was the spirit that drove the late Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh to insist on the correct protocol in managing Sawyer at the hospital she worked. It was, therefore, not strange that the Ghanaian government had a night of tribute in her honour last week with the president, John Mahama, in attendance with other officials in Ghana in attendance. However, our high commissioner to Ghana, Ademola Onafowokan, was absent showing how we treat our heroes. I had thought that the Health minister would announce something befitting of the sacrifice Adadevoh made in ensuring that Sawyer did not spread the disease last Thursday at the service of songs instead of the platitudes. It is not too late as her action shows that we still have committed people who can put their lives on the line for the good of others in Nigeria. That should be the major lesson of this period.