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Published On: Wed, Apr 22nd, 2020

Coronavirus and the infovirus

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Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to the President of Nigeria

WEDNESDAY COLUMN by  USSIJU MEDANER

info@medaner.com, justme4justice@yahoo.com

Mallam Abba Kyari was an unsung hero; a classic target of character assassination and a victim of INFOVIRUS. We hated a man we should have celebrated because we were told he was our problem; but was he our problem?
This is really a trying and sad time for us in Nigeria. The deaths of Nigerians means so much and is our greatest casualty to the ravaging coronavirus. It has taken it’s tolls on families, institutions and the nation’s altogether; it has no respect for status or age. On the eve of Friday April 17, 2020, the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari submitted to the cold arms of death.
The nation, Nigeria mourns one of its greatest but unsung assets; a man who, though in the eye of the storm of unruly, unpatriotic and persistent media attacks, remained undaunted in the delivery of his service to his principal and the motherland, even till the last hour of his death.
At a time when Germany wasn’t on code red alert and there wasn’t any travel risk on the nation, Abba Kyari – apparently following the order of his principal – went to Germany in the company of the Minister of Power Engr Saleh Mamman to discuss the resuscitation of our national power sector. He was in the country to perfect a partnership with the energy giant Siemen to remedy the problems bedeviling our power sector.
While there toiling for the cause of Nigeria, he unknowingly contracted the virus and now, has paid the ultimate price for the nation. Mr. President has lost a friend, a confidant and a trusted ally. My prayers and condolences go to the family of late Abba Kyari and to all other Nigerians whose loved ones have succumbed to the grasp of the virus. May Allah console us all.
Had we been privy to deeds and facts we are just knowing now about the late Abba Kyari when he was alive, perhaps, we would have treated him very differently. In the last one day, I have heard so much accolades of great deeds from both friends and perceived enemies of the man and I could not but aspire to live the life he lived. So quiet a man despite all the accusation from within and without; he did not for once rose to defend himself. Even his exceptional good deeds, he preferred they remain anonymous, in a society where people cannot visit an orphanage without taking the press along. His holistically sponsoring of 1000 orphans since 2001 and insistence to not let the public no know about it is an uncommon feat.
There are a number of positive lessons from the death of this great man. Nigerians, except for a handful incorrigible haters, have set politics aside to pay tribute to this worthy ambassador of the nation. When the likes of Femi Fani-Kayode emotionally scripted “I have lost a friend of 40 years. We were at Cambridge together. We worked in my father’s law firm together. We remained close throughout right up until the end even though we disagreed politically. Abba was a good man; a man of honor and a loyal friend. May his soul rest in peace,” we realised how right Mr. President was to have trusted his Chief of Staff to the degree that few were not comfortable. Indeed, Abba Kyari was a reliable and trusted public servant. We lost a die-hard loyalist and friend to the President; one who was more than ready to take all the bullets for his principal without complain. He never spoke out, never got distracted nor deterred from pursuing the policies of his master and friend. To many, his unforgivable crime was just being a hard core loyalist to the President.
Secondly, our eyes are just opened to the fact that we cannot continue to trust the present breed of opposition and their statements on national issues and political figures in the government. They successfully poisoned the minds of Nigerians with the falsehood that Abba Kyari was a problem to the nation’s growth, when all along they knew he was the best any president could have at the gate. Can Nigerians ever imagined that this is the utterance of Femi Fani-Kayode about the personality of Abba kyari: “The Chief of Staff position is a very key position, I hope Buhari finds someone as reasonable, intelligent and accessible like Abba Kyari or Nigeria is in bigger trouble. What people say on media is not the way Abba Kyari was. He’s one of the best people I have been with in Nigeria.” And Reno Omokiri has this to say about the same man that “mallam Abba kyari is dead. If you cannot say something good about him, please QUARANTINE your mouth and SELF ISOLATE your fingers! The man was a personal staff to General Buhari and he displayed one trait which I so admire, because I also have it- loyalty. I respect that!……..if you have a friend as loyal as Abba kyari, God has blessed you.” These are some of the people that smeared him and did everything possible to destroy his character of integrity while he was alive for political reasons but are now opening up on his great personality and even what they admired about him now that he is gone.
Can anyone ever believe that Kemi Olunloyo knows so much great, positive and worthy emulating qualities about the late Abba Kyari? She does but saying them wouldn’t have raised her ‘celebrity status’ because they were not what the people, her audience want to hear about him. So, she had all along been telling the people what they wanted to hear for her selfish ends. She now suddenly realised we should know Abba Kyari was an unsung hero; he was responsible for maintaining sanity in Aso Rock. She said Kyari as the hero I knew him to be… should be an eye opener for all haters of the President because you were told and taught to hate him. The last Spanish flu pandemic lasted from January to December in 1918, at the end about 50 million lives were counted. We are in an ongoing pandemic, it is too early to celebrate who died. We are all under a threat of extinction.

This touches on a very sensitive and critical ailment bedeviling Nigeria. It has been with us and we seem to prefer to perpetuate it; that is, the misappropriation of political games and moves resorting to machination of hatred, dissemination of hate-laced fake information and infecting and enabling unscrupulous elements of the society with the cureless InfoVirus cum Hatevirus.
Thirdly, COVID-19 pandemic is real and as real as it can ever be. We cannot continue playing politics and the game of denial with it. Not limited to Nigeria, globally, the virus easy spread has been aided by the society’s failure to unanimously accept its reality and ferocious capacity. And much more, by the magnitude of fake information( what I called InfoVirus) and propaganda that has become an integral component of the struggle against the pandemic.
The year 2020 actually started on a sad tone globally. Nations came into the year with hopes of substantial economic growth and improved social stability, except for few, but the turn of events, has without doubt, stranded the hopes of nations and set a new category of struggle unlike any seen in the nearest past.
The ideology that COVID-19 crept in unaware is subjected to scrutiny; and is not expected to be applicable to all nations. For China, it is appropriate to deduce that ideology; recording the index case of the virus attack in December 2019, and the gap between the actual infection and clinical recognition did put the country in a position different from every other nations without exception.
Unlike China, every other countries had a minimum of 30 days grace period, being the period between the first diagnosis in Wuhan and the date of the first diagnosis in Japan, being the first country outside China to record a case of the COVID-19.
Some countries like the USA and Nigeria had well above 40 days to proactively prepare ahead to prevent and contain the virus. That was ample time enough to draft a comprehensive response manual – if not already available – to respond to the virus.
This is not the first time the globe is struck by a virus pandemic. No nation, citizen or government should have assumed it was safe or chose to, for whatever reason, deny the veracity or even the reality of the virus, when the news first broke out of Wuhan.
The time grace was reasonably enough for all nations to ramp up sufficient measures to prevent importation of the virus, empower relevant health agencies to be ready for mass testing, isolation and treatments. Social engagement of citizens; orientation of citizens to create national awareness and expected responsibilities as well as necessary sacrifices from all quarters were supposed to have been quantitatively carried out within that window of grace.
The question, what do we do if it becomes a pandemic was one all nations and governments – particularly the elite intelligence and national security community – should have asked and answer in the early days of January. The decisions of what to do with the economy, the national education and strategic national institutions shouldn’t have been ones to make in a hurry in the middle of the pandemic as we see in the USA and even in Nigeria.
It is about 120 days now since the announcement in China; no single nation today is exempted from the injuries the pandemic is inflicting across global health, economy and interrelationships. Today, nations that are proud of low physical invasion of the virus cannot say the same of their economy. We are all affected; albeit almost equally but perhaps from different perspectives.
This write-up is an attempt to understudy and comparatively analyse national responses and disinformation ( InfoVirus )tools that have in no small measures undermine the fight against the pandemic. It is clear that there are two levels to the fight against the pandemic: the national level responses and the international response.
At the national level, an identification of internal collaborations of units, institutions and biases within the nation, acting as adjuncts to the state and federal governments’ efforts and action directions is the first point of call. It is a time period when political differences, religion differences and even ideological variations should be set aside for the common goal of safeguarding the people and the national economy. And more importantly, is the dissemination of accurate and instructive information.
We become susceptible to the pandemic because we ignored our responsibilities to the nation and put above all consideration personal gains; and resulted to dissemination of fake, misleading information to serve personal and group ambitions. The United States of America found itself in a very bad shape today because it was very difficult for the leaders of the country to choose between what has to be done to remain electable sometimes later in the year, and what must be done to handle the pandemic, leading to the unholy resolve to transform the media to a weaponised tool.
President Trump had to consider his rating as he goes into the last few months of campaign for his reelection bid. The consideration for what effect a necessary action against COVID-19 would have on the economy; on the stock market, on how making Americans stay in door might jeopardise his return to the White House, seems to preoccupy his mind more than any other and was mostly responsible for the Administration’s initial downplay of the pandemic, the birth of a season of fake information, unpreparedness and wanton death of Americans.
When America should be preparing for the virus, Trump was busy denying its veracity because accepting would have stopped him from his campaign in the early week of January. So, by denying the possibility of what America is currently facing now, he was able to continue with his re-election campaigns all through January and February. The US tactically turned it into an inter-party game of response; the great nation’s response to the virus became shaped by hyper-partisan politics. While the state of New York, Florida and other Democratic party held state were responding by imposing forced stay-at-home measure, closure of public facilities and preparing for the health eventuality of the traveling virus, Republican states, on the other hand, refused to impose any closure; even when the Center for Disease Control (CDC) had advised against gathering of more than 50 people, the Republican states were still bubbling. Beaches were filled and crowded, schools were operating. They were less eager to close business just as much as the president was not ready to respond. In fact, governor Jim Justice of West Virginia on March 16 was still heard prompting his people to ignore threats “Go to the grocery stores. For crying out loud, go to the grocery stores; if you want to go to Bob Evans and eat, go to Bob Evans and eat.”
America’s response to the coronavirus became like a war of response between Trump’s Republican states and the liberal, progressive Democratic states. Early in January, despite experts’ presentations, president Trump insisted it was all Democratic Party’s gimmicks to destabilise his government. He publicly declared COVID-19 was nothing but a normal flu that would go away pretty soon. Weeks later when the nation started counting body bags and yet wasn’t prepared to respond to the pandemic, the media attacks, the blame game and the attempts and efforts to save face by the Trump government become another impediment to a concerted and united fight.
Trump had praised and blamed China at different times; he has blamed ex-president Obama for not leaving behind enough testing kits; he has turned to blame the Democrats for distraction; he had and is still blaming the media for not accepting whatever he says whether right or wrong; he has recently turned to blame the World Health Organisation (WHO) for being pro-China.
So, president Trump make daily COVID-19 address that further take the nation away from getting it right because the information were either wrong, unfounded or political. Instead of collectively fighting the pandemic, America is today divided in the media, spreading and refuting of fake information. As it stands, the US. has the highest death count and number of infection globally. Summarily, America’s problem wasn’t just unpreparedness but the refusal of its leadership and institutions to agree to work together resulting into a media long war of fake information dissemination and the resulting round-about motion.
I made the detour at the USA because we share something in common in our handling of the current pandemic. Our response to the pandemic is only different in the reversal of roles. While in America, the problem is with the government and transmitted to the citizens, here in Nigeria, the people are more of the problem.
We all remember what it took the Oyo state governor and the major opposition party in the country to accept the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. If as we speak today, the governor was not infected and Atiku’s son was not infected the narrations would still have remain what it was. We would still have been in the era when they were publicly telling Nigerians to disregard the government, and that the coronavirus claims in Nigeria were APC’s gimmicks to steal money; it would still be the era when Obasanjo wanted to meet the Italian and contract the virus to accept that the virus is in Nigeria.
Perhaps, we won’t be here if they have not chosen to play politics with the coronavirus response. Till today, what we are doing is extracting those that contracted the virus and those they had contacted till now and the circle is not ending.
Our gross distrust has altogether jeopardised and is still jeopardising our struggles against the virus. While respected Christian clergies were busy refusing to accept or rather agree that the implication of disobeying the global order for shutdown is wanton destruction, their Muslim compatriots in the north are busy refusing to accept closure of mosques until a state like Kano become vulnerable.
But the worst of our problems aren’t the aforementioned. The biggest battle we are fighting and have to win against the coronavirus is the battle against InfoVirus (misinformation).:The social media platforms have represented a potent danger to our winning this war. Individuals, groups and even political parties are manufacturing non-existing, fake information. The nature and potency of the misinformation going around the country is just enough to distract government actions, misdirect the citizens and create chaos in information-response sequence for the nation.
It is for this reason that majority of us are not obeying the necessary stay-at-home order; it is for the same reason we are taking every opportunity to congregate despite the necessary social distancing measure; it is for this same reason we enjoy generating and disseminating intentional fake news about the sensitive issue all day long.
Can we imagine what our infection number is today? It shows no sign of plateau; it is rising and more worrisome with a sign of community cultivation emerging. We hear what is happening in America and other similar nations and we see nothing wrong in driving our nation into the same state of despair, body bags and national agony.
GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA!.

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