It is by the Grace of God that Nigeria has finally been certified Polio-Free by the international health community – a no mean feat for a fight which was dogged by lots of bumbling and embarrassing episodes of corruption and inconsistencies.
Indeed we had in the past succeeded – with massive international assistance – against smallpox, ringworm and other ailments of the poor. It is Grace of God that made us now beat Afghanistan and Pakistan in the polio fight, with no outbreak for four years straight.
Already, the current Federal Government is taking credit for this success even though the fight to eliminate polio in this vast country has been on for at least three decades, in addition to the significant game-changing support of the traditional rulers led by the Sultan of Sokoto. But to God be the Glory. If the good feeling rubs off on the Government of the day, as they finally receive the polio-free certification, congratulations!
But let us remember: In the polio fight, Grace of God made it possible for our policymakers to finally think out of the box and jettison many aspects of the ethics of medicine and start the outright ‘inducement’ of parents and children – with soaps and sweets and biscuits – to facilitate the vaccination of the under-fives. And it worked! That, plus the billions of dollars deployed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and its associates such as the Dangote Foundation.
Perhaps in the current medical jihad and crusade against COVID-19, it would be wise to again think out of the box, a la polio, and contemplate the rather unethical incentivising of the populace for them to accept to be ‘sampled’, and hence tested. You see, in this fight, sampling and testing numbers are key. Incentive is the respectable synonym of outright inducement that helped us achieve what we achieved with polio. With a bar of soap, resistance almost disappeared!
Now, in America as in Britain, in Nigeria as in India, nobody trusts politicians. The difference between us – Nigeria etc – and the advance democracies such as the UK, is that whereas their citizens trust their governments (in contrast to politicians), here we neither trust politicians nor government (and nor each other, according to a friend). Our citizens hardly perceive any difference between the first two.
This week, the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, lamented the way Nigerians have become grossly nonchalant about compliance with protocols of the COVID-19 fight. In fact, last week, the same person – call him our Coronavirus Czar – had lamented that even members of his own staff in his own office have turned the facemask into a ‘chin-mask’, and perfunctorily just adorn their chins with the nose and mouth cover. So if the top person in this fight would so complain, what would say all of us?
We just need the Grace of God in this matter.
A certain Civil Society Organisation (CSO) is in court seeking that the government be compelled to come out clean on what it is expending in this fight which has apparently totally and comprehensively failed, according to its own leading fighter, SGF Mustapha. The CSO is asking about the billions raised, total expended, total at hand, and the how, what and where of the expenditure. In plain language, they – and we – need to know how much the PTF takes as ‘sitting’ and ‘standing’ allowances, et al.
Here in Kano, we have seen another week of our zig-zag and ding-dong COVID-19 results of sampling and testing. As we lamented last week in “Now You See It, Now You Don’t”, now it has almost become “Now You Don’t See It, And Then You Don’t!” The way we are going, it looks as if we are all healed from the coronavirus and, going forward, we can all go back to our normal lives. After all, even the Federal Czar has lamented that Nigerians believe that is the case.
The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the leading Federal agency in this fight, is reportedly so frustrated with us here for the discrepancies and incongruencies between the sampling and testing numbers that they are said to have packed bag and baggage and left for Abuja. Without saying it, they are supposedly suspecting under-sampling, suppression of samples and other feel-good but really-bad activities by some key players in the fight.
At present, less than a third of all reported COVID-19 positives here and elsewhere are in isolation – in fact in Kano, one of the isolation centres has ZERO patients. To the NCDC, this is unfathomably inexplicable. To the State Government, it is the Grace of God manifesting in the ‘relentless fight’ against the disease. Indeed there is frustration in the evident lack of movement sampling. In other countries, they are proud of higher numbers. Here, we are ‘happy’ the fewer the numbers.
Therefore, we need the Grace of God to make the citizens of this country present themselves for sample collection. We remember what happened during polio – a vaccinator would be paid per head of children vaccinated; so vaccines were reportedly destroyed or administered on non-human recipients to make up for numbers required after which perfectly-written lists of fictitious names of vaccinated children would be presented. God’s Grace made us succeed, despite and in spite of all our shenanigans.
We don’t want that situation to occur in this fight; we don’t want our sample collectors to become ‘polio-lised’ in this business. Or else they do us a Tanzania – remember President Magafuli’s pawpaw and goat samples which turned out positive and ‘inconclusive’. Therefore, may the Grace of God touch our policymakers to now think out of the box and start the Polio-Style ‘incentivising’ of the populace to present themselves for sampling.
Remember our earlier postulation that no one trusts politicians and, in our climes, no one trusts in government? Yet, despite that distrust, EVERYONE believes and trusts in palliatives. We, therefore, need an intelligent way of turning those biscuits, sweets and soaps of the polio-era into something more tangible so we can sample tens of thousands every day. The only other alternative is to borrow the Chinese style and literally force and coerce people to ‘willingly’ submit to be sampled.