• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Sign of the times; Coro & A season of protests: Dr Emmanuel, students’ parents, and then, CAN


Recent developments from the Coro war front have been encouraging. Schools are opening across the country; modified religious worship and restaurants are being allowed in Lagos; three of our governors have just survived the Coro scare and then joke like joke, the numbers are nosediving from 340 on August 1 to 288 on August 3. I am elated but as always, I warn against premature celebration.

Those who opened up are closing down again following Coro recrudescence, and they include China, Germany, South-Korea, Madagascar, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. Countries are suffering from second and third waves of Coro and in Ghana, 55 pupils of Accra Senior Girls High School have tested positive since the reopening of schools. I am glad that things are looking up here and I thank God for little mercies. I pray that this unwanted guest goes and goes finally but before then, let us keep all precautions because our people say that taking precaution is not an act of cowardice.

I had scheduled the issues to dissect this week and my plans were on track until I viewed the Channels TV 2pm news on 3/8/20. I was enjoying my lunch with spicy nsala soup garnished with dry fish and roasted goat meat when Channels invaded my privacy. And headline after headline, it was about protest, protests and more protests. And most of these protests were related to Coro and other issues of the moment (Corruption and insecurity). I therefore changed my route and here we are.

Last week (30/7/20), I commended Victor Osagie for doing us proud at the global stage with his immeasurable contributions to the war against Coro through the democratisation of ventilators. Before that piece was published, another of ‘our own’ Dr Stella Emmanuel, attracted an even greater attention on the same Coro war front. The Cameroonian paediatrician who studied at University of Calabar and practices medicine in the US, stormed Washington and in an obviously agitated spoken and body language, ranted without restraint and declared unequivocally that hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and antibacterial drug, Zithromax, were effective cures for the Coro; that she had successfully treated 350 people, including those with underlying conditions and the aged; and that face-mask was not necessary.

One thing has however intrigued me about all these protests. By the act of God, all the protesters have received some responses from the authorities!

The first person who gave her a thumbs-up was Trump; who had promoted hydroxychloroquine as a cure and who refused to mask his face until just the other day. She spoke on the side-lines of a whitecoat summit which had the objective of countering “massive disinformation campaign” about Coro, arguing stridently that most of the establishment doctors were deceiving people, that people needed not die for Coro and dared Dr Fauci and CNN staff to prove through a third-party urine test, that they were are not already using chloroquine. She was so agitated or aggrieved that she indulged in typical “street protest” and a lot has been said about her motive and methods, including that she was sponsored by Trump or Trumpeters. But she gained visibility and historic social medial followership, her being yanked off by Facebook et al notwithstanding. And some asked: if Bill Gates, an IT man with no medical background can freely and boldly make declarative statements about cure and vaccine for Coro, why is she, a doctor, being hounded for speaking about Coro treatment? But she is a doctor and knows their idiosyncratic procedures of her profession and should thus not have resorted to the least in the hierarchy of proof in medical sciences (anecdotal evidence).

She is also not the first to speak in praise of hydroxychloroquine. Prof Otegbayo, Chief Medical Director of UCH, Ibadan said he was treated with it and Governor Mohammed of Bauchi took “full responsibility” and directed his medical team to deploy it in Bauchi State. Her case is however different because of har aluta approach and for condemning other contrary medical opinions, calling their purveyors fake and comparing them to “good Nazis” who watched while Jews were slaughtered. Whatever the case, she has attained visibility and her office would be overflowing with patients while manufacturers and dealers in the drug should be going for thanksgiving. A pharmacist in Nigeria is reportedly selling the medicine for N50,000 (for 60 tablets)! NCDC, NAFDAC and NMA also have to do greater job in convincing people not to engage in chloroquine-based self-medication

That was the first in this season of protests. It was a one-woman protest; it was about coro but it was off-shore and we got involved because she was mistaken for a Nigerian, because she is a black and because she schooled in Nigeria. Other protests followed.

The National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) protested at Ibadan and promised to dislocate the already comatose economy if the government did not reopen higher institutions within 2 weeks. They wondered why markets and Churches should be opened while schools were shut. They argued that Coro was not a death sentence, warned the Federal Government to avoid getting entangled with global Coro-politics and advised the government to stop the salaries of lecturers who did not return to school! Parents of exit-class students in private secondary schools in Ogun State, also protested the Coro-Test requirement for returning to school as imposed by Ogun State Government.

The government had undertaken to fund the testing of public-school candidates but negotiated a 50 percent discount for private school candidates, who would then pay N25000 for the tests. The parents were not against the tests but insisted that the government should bear the burden and that asking them to pay N25, 000, to get a child tested, without being mindful of the current economic reality in the country, was the height of insensitivity.

Away from the Coro warfront, students on NCDC scholarship protested in front of the Nigerian High Commission in London, over the non-payment of their fees and allowances just as youths in Yenegoa protested against the rut in NCDC and supported the forensic audit. In a very amusing twist, NCDC has invited the president to come and commission some of its projects. At least to show that all the money did not disappear! And then, not long after the women of Southern Kaduna had undertaken a naked-protest over the systemic slaughter by unknown gun men, Christian leaders of different denominations protested against the killings by armed herdsmen in Kaduna State accusing the President the Governor of adopting a do-nothing strategy in the genocide and ethnic cleansing. It accused the government of culpability because of its actions and inactions and tacit support for the Fulani.

One thing has however intrigued me about all these protests. By the act of God, all the protesters have received some responses from the authorities! The ministry of Education has given the universities up to 5th August to showcase their readiness for resumption; the Ogun state government has made a U-turn on the contentious testing requirement, saying it lacks the capacity to test all the public students before the due-date and that school management and PTAs should decide how they do their own thing for private schools. The President has ordered NDDC to pay the fees and allowances of its scholars this week while the President summoned a security council meeting on 4/8/20.

In effect, the Polytechnic Students, the private schools’ parents, the stranded NDDC pikins and the protesting Southern Kaduna indigenes, have all received one form of response or the other to their requests. I am gathering a group so that we protest about the increasing provision of darkness by the DISCOs. I pray that we shall also receive some reactions when we do so.

As I was writing this, (4/8/20) I attended virtual afternoon mass at Holy Cross Cathedral and it happened to be the celebration of the 8th anniversary of Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins. I join the lay faithful in Lagos to pray: Oh Lord, bless our Chief Shephard and also pray for the fruition of the proposed jurisdictional units