COVID-19: Borno people’s negative obsession

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Unfortunately, this can’t be. Similarly if it were possible to avert the entry of the coronavirus into Borno State, the COVID-19 Response Team headed by the Deputy Governor, Umar Kadafur, in its determined efforts, would have done it.

Even when Borno State eventually caught the virus, the response team, ably supported by the state government, rolled out measures to contain the scourge, but ran into troubled waters, which is the making of the people.

Whether by design, default, ignorance, illiteracy, nonchalance or willful disobedience to constituted authorities, the bulk of the people’s response to the efforts aimed at checking the spread of COVID-19 in the state is that of negative obsession. The utter disregard to the rules and regulations bordering on hygiene, social distancing, staying at home, wearing of face mask, application of sanitiser and others, pose serious threats to ongoing efforts to curb the ravaging pandemic.

In addition, gathering of friends in groups, better known as “majilisar,” at various  designated points is still very much in vogue while even when prayers are to be conducted in groups, distancing is not observed. While some, including the educated ones, would point out that the coronavirus is not real, others will tell you to your face that this is just a passing phase, saying, “Ebola has come and gone. Lassa fever has come and gone. COVID-19 has come and it will go.” Even in Maiduguri, the state  capital, violation of the rules is pronounced, especially in high density areas where life goes on as usual and you will be told, “One must die of something.”

Notwithstanding the enormous challenges, members of the state’s COVID-19 Response Team remain undaunted. For example, a member of the team in person of Mallam Babakura Abba Jato, the Commissioner for information & Home affairs, pointed out that the violators of the rules will not be spared. He made reference to a recent incident, where he berated three Imams who defied the lockdown order to hold Friday congregational prayers in Maiduguri.

According to the commissioner, “The imams responsible will be reported to the Shehu of Borno to face the full wrath of the law.”

Still on the activities of the COVID-19 State Response Team, the commissioner for Health, Dr. Salisu Kwayabura, another member of the team, stated that efforts were on to evaluate and re-strategise on the activities of the response team to meet the emerging trends and challenges.

He added that efforts were on to establish additional isolation centres, enhance the testing capacity to 1000 person per day and make the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital(UMTH) a testing centre.

As at the time of writing, the number of people that had tested positive stood at 53 with six deaths recorded.

For the success of the ongoing efforts of the Zulum administration to combat the coronavirus to be a reality, the need for the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders is imperative.

Let us not forget the indictment by President Muhammad Buhari, who, on his last visit to Maiduguri, blamed the uncooperative attitude of Borno elders as being partly responsible for the prolonged Boko Haram terror war. May we and the state not be indicted the same way on the ongoing battle against COVID-19. Amen

. Victor Izekor is a journalist and analyst. He writes at victorizekor@gmail.com