Let me hasten to tender my apologies if the title of this piece is found offensive or rude. I first heard about monkeypox a few days ago on WhatsApp when my friend, Adedoyin Aderonke, sent copious analyses about the disease. Later, I discovered that the disease has been spreading like wildfire at harmattan in many states in Nigeria.
Since then, I have waited patiently for the urgent intervention of government in this serious matter. I have taken time to read many leading national newspapers and blogs with the view to discovering steps taken by the Federal Government in countering the challenges posed by the deadly virus. Expectedly – although disappointingly – there is nothing noteworthy coming from the Federal Government as of the time of penning this piece.
Nigeria is a country very easy to rule but difficult to govern. This is evident in the hardship faced by our government in tackling minor issues of concern. We are governed by leaders that prefer jettisoning simple but urgent issues of national importance for frivolities.
The effect of epidemic diseases like this on the collective health of our nation can never be underestimated. At times like this, if the disease is left largely unattended to, mortality rate readily increases. The many helpless citizens continue to die of nonchalant attitude displayed by their government and not necessarily the said disease.
The proper question however is, does this government really give a damn about the health and welfare of any citizen? Do they really care whether the outbreak of diseases like this will increase mortality rate? The answer to these questions is known to the least informed citizen of Nigeria. Our leaders place more importance on their personal welfare than ours – a clear breach of the social contact. They prefer to pilfer from our treasury to proffering solutions to our minor headache, leaving a perforated hole in our hearts.
Let’s take President Muhammadu Buhari’s ailment as a case study. While he was ill, he was immediately flown out of the country for proper medical attention. This is against many promises to improve health sector and forbid medical vacation abroad during the 2015 electioneering. The same government could later spend the citizens’ resources to cater for the President’s health but couldn’t spare little time to cater for this monkeypox affecting many citizens and disturbing our collective psyche? Well, that experience shows the nature of those we glorify as leaders.
We can criticise former President Jonathan for anything but he was globally celebrated for his quick response and attention when Ebola Virus broke out in 2014. This is no way of glorifying Jonathan but a way of revealing the sacred truth which is needed at this present stage – without political sentiment.
The spread of monkeypox has been politicised, replacing the urgent actions needed to curb it. To add insult to the fatal injury, the health minister, Isaac Adewole, said the government had yet to confirm if the ailment spreading across some states was monkeypox, whereas the National Centre for Disease Control reported cases of monkeypox in some states. So much drama and excuses all in the view of escaping responsibility and doing the needless. At this point, what ought to be done is not pointing fingers but proffering a lasting solution.
Public mockery has been made of Section 17(3) (d) of the 1999 Constitution which declares that “adequate medical and health facilities for all persons” is the responsibility of government. Even though that aspect of our grundnorm is not justiciable, it is hard to find constitutionalism in our ruling class. Up till this moment, no vaccination has been conducted by the Federal Government. To confirm this point, the National Coordinator of the NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekwazu, said “we want to rule out categorically, we are not vaccinating anywhere. Absolutely not! As far as I know, there is no agency of the Federal Government that is doing this – civilian or military.”
Additionally, a newspaper reported days ago that military men were carrying out medical services for students as regards the deadly monkeypox disease. Whether the news is true or otherwise, it has in my view succeeded in pointing to the impotency of our health sector. The medical practitioners in the University College Hospital, Ibadan are threatening to embark on another strike barely one month after the resident doctors’ nationwide strike. These are symptoms of how the ruling class has been carefree about our collective welfare. It is worrisome.
In a few words, this monkeypox that is seriously spreading like an inferno is going to kill you if you still await the Nigerian government and her health sector to come to your rescue. It may be too late or her aid may not even come. Begin to help yourself.
Festus Ogun, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State