Coronavirus has lost its shock value in Nigeria. If you think otherwise, the conversations on the official Twitter page of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, will convince you. As soon as the daily number of cases are announced, young Nigerians seeking followers on the micro-blogging platform, storm the page followed by over one million people, to plead for followers. The situation isn’t different on the streets and in the market places. A great number of educated and uneducated Nigerians now believe it’s a hoax perpetrated by the Nigerian government to siphon money.
Although there has been large-scale compliance with the NCDC guidelines by Nigerians, there are still huge doubts in the hearts of the people about the existence of the disease in the country.
Some of the events that sparked doubts about the existence of the virus have been enumerated and analysed below:
(1) Media coverage:
The coverage of the disease outbreak in Nigeria is in sharp contrast to the way it is being done in the outside world. While most local media platforms only report the numbers given by the NCDC, international platforms like CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC and others have been showing video footage of patients in the hospitals as well as televising the testimonies of survivors. A regular watcher of CNN might just think coronavirus is at his doorstep already with the deep and constant coverage of the news on the TV station. A picture they say is more than a thousand words.
(2) General distrust in government:
Due to years of institutional corruption and gross abuse of public office which has made good governance a mirage in Nigeria, most people doubt any figure put out by any agency of government. They generally believe there is a sinister plot against the poor masses in the country. The popular joke on social media is that there will be an unpleasant meeting between the anti-graft agency, EFCC and the NCDC after the coronavirus pandemic. The fate of the almost N30 billion raised by the private sector to combat the virus was a source of concern.
(3) The Kano Scenario:
The rush for coronavirus funds after the Federal Government disbursed N10 billion to Lagos State, the epicentre of the disease, raised suspicions. The governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike was quick to demand a similar allocation to Rivers State. Governor Abdullahi Ganduje would later make matters worse by asking the President Muhammadu Buhari administration for N15 billion, to combat the disease, without any concrete working plan. With money as the bone of contention, people started disbelieving the good efforts of the NCDC.
(4) External influence by big names:
Popular cleric, Pastor David Ibiyeomie expressed doubts about the existence of the disease in Nigeria. Some controversial statements made by him once went viral. Due to his position as an influential figure in the country, many started sharing the same sentiments with him. Earlier, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome opened the floor of conspiracy theories by linking the deaths in Wuhan, China to the 5G technology and not the virus.
Media mogul Raymond Dokpesi soon caused more harm by revealing he was only treated for ‘malaria’ while at the isolation centre in Abuja. Since then, most Nigerians erroneously assumed that the government is treating common malaria cases as coronavirus for selfish reasons.
(5) Stigmatization and the African culture of secrecy:
Most questions people ask themselves is if they have seen or know a coronavirus victim directly. The response is largely negative and this is not far from the fact that Africans have the culture of secrecy about personal affairs especially health challenges. Apart from this, victims of coronavirus also face victimization from people around them. Hence, the reason why they keep their infection private and recover secretly without sharing their testimonies. Meanwhile, some Nigerians have been bold enough to share their survival stories at the isolation centres but they are few in number.
(6) The Benue index case:
Mrs Susan Idoko Okpe was reported as the first case of coronavirus in Benue State. The fact that she had recently returned from the UK prior to the announcement made her a perfect fit. She rejected her result and took to social media to smear the image of the NCDC and the Nigerian government. She spent a record time of 58 days at the isolation centre. The controversy which led to her transfer to Abuja created holes in the integrity of the NCDC. Her controversial personal account seemed believable because she was asymptomatic all through, coupled with the fact that she resisted treatments. She was however released after she mounted pressure on the NCDC. The NCDC was reported to have released despite the fact that she still tested positive.
(7) No wave of deaths:
The Covid-19 battle is entering 3 months in Nigeria and the death rate has remained below 300. This is low compared to the outside world. Although, some northern states like Kano, Katsina, Bauchi, Yobe and others have recorded incessant strange deaths. There have also been images and videos of coronavirus patients at isolation centres engaging in fun activities rather than being confined to the sick beds. This has further reinforced the unfounded view that they are dealing with malaria or other minor ailments and not coronavirus.
(8) Attacks from Kogi State:
The Kogi State government has alleged that it’s under pressure to declare coronavirus cases. The Commissioner for Information, Kingsley Fanwo, recently claimed that the state has refused to be part of the scheme set up to defraud Nigerians using the coronavirus pandemic. The state claims to be conducting several tests which are not recognized by the NCDC. Of recent, the NCDC recorded two cases for Kogi which the state rejected. Cross River is another state that is yet to record a coronavirus case. The lack of cases has been linked to inadequate testing by the state government. In summary, the back and forth argument between Kogi State and the NCDC has impeded on the credibility of the latter.
In conclusion, the coronavirus virus is real. Nigeria has recorded over 10,000 cases as at the 31st of May. On the world scene, over 6.2 million people have been infected with over 372,000 fatalities recorded.