Four straight weeks of lockdown and 1,337 confirmed Coronavirus cases down the road, Nigeria’s continuing battle with a virus that emanated from China has spotlighted the very best and the worst of us — from individuals to hospitals, politicians and even the Armed Forces. This ranking is based largely on developments I have personally investigated or witnessed. But four weeks is such a long time in a country of 923,768 km2 by land mass and an estimated population of 200million. This exercise, therefore, is nothing close to exhaustive.
THE PREMIER LEAGUE
The IDH Nurses: The nurses at the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH), Yaba, Lagos, are head and shoulders above everyone else, being the ones saddled with the most frequent physical interaction with majority of the 764 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Lagos so far. They are the ones in the first line of fire. In the early days of COVID-19 when information about the virus were sometimes hazy and other times just guesswork, none of these nurses resigned. Their place on this table is unshakeable. They’re the Liverpool of the current EPL season — 25 points ahead with nine games to go. Irrepressible!
Other HCWs: In a distant but no less valuable second place are other healthcare workers (HCWs). No other hospital may have seen such a huge number of patients at the IDH, but lots of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers at isolation centres in 33 states of the federation are putting their lives on the line nonetheless. In addition to this group are all HCWs in the country — regardless of whether they’re treating COVID-19 patients or not — who haven’t absconded from duty despite seeing the ease of transfer of the virus from asymptomatic patients to HCWs. Superheroes!
BabajideSanwo-Olu: He didn’t have a particularly impressive start to life as Governor of Lagos State, but he has commandeered Lagos’ COVID-19 response in quite breathtaking fashion. On top of shutting down 70% of the state’s workforce well ahead of President Muhammadu Buhari’s lockdown announcement, Sanwo-Olu has been holding almost-daily media briefings ever since, rendering it unusually easy for citizens to access information on the government’s response strategy. Isn’t this what many demanded of Buhari but never got, save three pre-recorded broadcasts? The Lagos Governor sits comfortably atop the first division league. Leader!
NCDC Staff: Say what you can about their late appearance for sample collection or belated release of the results, but my discovery is that almost all NCDC staff — whether they’re call centre agents or ambulance drivers — are currently overworked.
Nigeria never had the health structure to emphatically tackle this virus; there were always going to be gaps. In the last week or so, they’ve become more noticeable. But this is proof of the enormity of the challenge that awaits us should the figures balloon, rather than the competence of NCDC staff. Work horses!
The Lockdown Adherents: It doesn’t matter if you spend more than N100 on recharge cards or your credit bank balance reads more than N5,000. If you really don’t render an essential service and you don’t have 1million or more stashed in your account yet you’ve locked yourself indoors these past four weeks, you’re the real MVP. Whatever progress we’ve made in restraining this virus from wreaking widespread havoc these past four weeks would have been impossible without this class of people. And it can be very frustrating for them to watch the rich and powerful occasionally get away with breaching lockdown protocol. Sacrificial lambs!
The Lying COVID-19 Suspects: I’ have been very deliberate in my use of the word ‘suspect’. Ordinarily, people who suspect they may have the virus or just have a travel history ought to be stark honest with healthcare workers and the authorities. This honesty should come before, not after, their COVID-19 statuses have been confirmed. Some of them have been honest — they’re either recuperating at isolation centres or have been saved already. But many others have been quite dishonest. In the opening days of April, a patient died after he and his relatives lied about his travel history, consequently endangering the lives of HCWs at LASUTH and LUTH. Three weeks later, Oyo State’s first COVID-19 death, a Kano-based Assistant Comptroller at Customs, hid his travel history and his testing by the NCDC at a minimum of three private hospitals he visited before ending up at UCH. His relatives were his accomplices. In fact, it wasn’t until the doctor at the last private hospital referred him to UCH that his daughter confessed that his COVID-19 test result, which would later be positive, was being awaited. Awful!
Professor A. K. Salami: Without his unethical conduct, Kwara State would never have welcomed its index case when it did. But the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) don invited his relative, Alhaji Muideen Obanimomo, who was self-isolating in Lagos after returning from the UK to Ilorin. When matters became complicated, Prof Salami facilitated Obanimomo’s dubious transfer to UITH, exposing staff and patients to the virus in the process. Unprofessional!
Many Private Hospitals: Many private hospitals don’t just get it: A pandemic is officially the state’s responsibility. In Lagos and Abuja, especially, a number of them have managed COVID-19 patients without notifying the government at the right time, as is required by protocol. What’s more, they do this without letting their staff know what they’re getting into. A number of them have released statements announcing their closure after exposure to the virus, but they did it because they’d been found out and compelled to — not because they so wished. Profit-obsessed. Unpatriotic!
Abdullahi Ganduje: Apparently, the Kano State Governor doesn’t quite understand the fierceness of the fire threatening to ravage his state if its anti-COVID response is not expertly coordinated. That’s why he had no qualms about naming his daughter, a medical resident, in the COVID-19 response team he formed. As strange deaths started to rise in the Kano metropolis, Ganduje refused to acknowledge they had occurred at all much less concede they had any links to the virus. Well, SabituShuaibu, Deputy Coordinator of the state’s COVID-19 response team, would puncture that lie, confirming that the state had recorded over 640 deaths in one week. That wasn’t all. Shortly after the denial, Ganduje announced he’d asked the Federal Government for 15billion with which to fight a virus he was insisting wasn’t responsible for the deaths. He would throw in the towel after finding out the game was up, but even this he complicated by blaming the deaths on hypertension, diabetes, meningitis, and acute malaria. Confused!
That UITH Committee: On April 6, the management of the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH) suspended Professor Salami as a Senior Consultant in the hospital, citing his “unethical conduct in the admission, management and eventual release of the corpse of a suspected COVID-19 patient who died in the hospital on the 3rd of April, 2020”. Hours later, it raised a 10-member committee to probe the matter and submit its recommendation within a week of commencement of sitting. The accused sent in his defence, while the committee later demanded and got a one-week extension.
It is now more than three weeks, but nothing has been heard about the committee’s submissions. A follow-up cover-up loading? Time will surely tell.
Soyombo, former Editor of the TheCable, the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) and SaharaReporters, tweets @fisayosoyombo