BusinessDay
Nigeria's leading finance and market intelligence news report.

Why prominent Nigerians are dying more than the poor

For the first time in over a century, the world is dealing with a global pandemic that has left a path of distress in its wake.

Truly, the coronavirus pandemic has no boundaries.

In Nigeria, the pandemic seems to be increasingly making its way into the elite class, killing more prominent Nigerians than the helpless masses. From records of infected people in isolation centres, private hospitals and the number of deaths, it seems that members of the elite group are dying more from the pandemic.

From Abba Kyari, former chief of staff to President Muhammadu Buhar;, Abiola Ajumobi, former governor of Oyo State; Johnson Olubunmi Irefin, General Officer Commanding 6 Division Port Harcourt; Adebayo Sikiru Osinowo, senator that was representing Lagos East Senatorial Zone; Suleiman Achimugu, a former managing director, Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), to recent deaths of Oyewusi Ibidapo Obe, a former vice chancellor, University of Lagos; Ndubuisi Kanu, former military governor Imo and Lagos states, and many other prominent Nigerians who have died of the pandemic, coronavirus is increasingly making its way into the ranks of the elite class.

Another sudden death that confounded Nigerians was that of Bolu Akin Olugbade, a wealthy businessman, and chairman of Bolu Akin-Olugbade Limited, who died at the Paelon Covid19 Centre, Ikeja, Lagos, this January.

Apart from business, the late Olugbade was a successful lawyer and a man who lived a life of unabashed luxury, as the biggest collector of the high-end Rolls Royce in Nigeria. He had virtually all of the series of Rolls Royce and was the first Nigerian to take delivery of the Rolls Royce Cullian, the first Rolls Royce SUV.

While Nigerians thought Abba Kyari, who died during the 2020 lockdown was the highest profile person to have died from Covid-19, it seems more prominent Nigerians are even dying now since the advent of the second wave of the pandemic.

But why are the rich and mighty dying more from Covid-19 in Nigeria unlike in Europe and America where the virus is killing all classes of people in their thousand?

According to Doyin Okupe, a medical doctor, and former adviser to two former Nigerian presidents, Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, sunlight is the magic.

“People who are daily exposed to sunlight are able to convert some chemicals in their skins to Vitamin D, especially D3. Scientists have incontrovertible evidence that Vitamin D seriously boosts the human immunity and actually has the capacity to prevent respiratory and lung diseases. In the case of COVID-19, Vitamin D3 can prevent infection in some people and in others who still get infected, it decreases the severity of the infection and recovery rate is far better”, Okupe disclosed.

The medical doctor-turned politician also carried out an investigation to further confirm his theory of sunlight. He visited Sabo Market Sagamu and the tomato market at toll gate in Ogere, both in Ogun State, to enquire from some traders if they had issues of missing members or possible death of their members from Covid-19, and he found out that all the stores were open and members alive.

He attributed the less prevalence of the virus among the lower class to their more exposure to sunlight as most of them toil in the sun to eke out a living.

“Many of us elites in Africa are also Vitamin D deficient and this makes us ready targets for COVID-19 infections also. This is because we are hardly in the sun all year round. Yet a 30 minutes lounge daily in the bright sunlight gives one about 20,000 iu of vitamin D in our blood. This figure is much higher than our daily requirement, which is about 4000 iu of vitamin D.

“This is why young people, students, hawkers, traders and many who toil daily under the Sun have very high immunity against Covid-19”, Okupe concluded.

Toeing Okupe’s line, Adanma Ojike, a Nigerian doctor in London, blamed the high mortality rate from Covid-19 in the United Kingdom and United States of America on vitamin D deficiency.

“Most Europeans and Americans hardly have effective sunlight for just a few months in a year and hence have large numbers of the populace suffering from vitamins deficiency leading to high rates of susceptibility to Covid-19 infections and deaths,” she said.

Another reason Covid-19 is killing prominent Nigerians is because of the lockdown, travel restrictions and scarcity of flights to some destinations, which made it difficult for most Nigerian elite to travel abroad, to their usual hospitals, for medical checks and treatments.

Sadly, the country is losing more than $1 billion annually to medical tourism as tens of thousands of Nigerians travel abroad in search of the best treatment.

“In the case of Abba Kyari, he would have survived if there was no lockdown. There were private jets to fly him to London for medical attention, but the hospitals they usually visit abroad are fully occupied by sick Europeans suffering from Covid-19 then, and the doctors were overwhelmed across the world. So, it was difficult to receive help then,” Amos Yakubu, an Abuja-based doctor, explained.

Speaking further, Yakubu noted that even India, which has become a medical tourism hub for Nigerians and other African countries, there was no space in the hospitals, doctors overwhelmed and the country insisted on treating Indians first before others. “Do you blame them for building one of the best medical facilities, quality manpower and medical powerhouse in the world today,” Yakubu said.

Obviously, every country was in distress and was using its own facilities and health professionals to fight the virus, hence Nigerian elite couldn’t travel because they will not be attended to.

But health officials and some medical professionals argue that good care is available in the country, but at private clinics, which the elite still do not trust.

According to Nadey Hakim, a transplant surgeon who has been practising for more than three decades, there is quality healthcare in Nigeria.

The transplant surgeon argues that Nigerians should not travel abroad for transplant when there are qualified professionals who can do it in the country.

If the elites have identified and trusted some of these good medical outfits and qualified professionals like Nadey Hakim, may be, many of them who fell under the pandemic would have been alive today.

Another reason, according to some health experts, is because of the luxurious lifestyle most Nigerian elites live.

“When you jump from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car, luxury airport lounge, first class cabin, to centrally-controlled air-conditioned rooms in cozy hotels, you will pick a lifestyle that will impact your health negatively. If Europeans sunbathe, we should not run away from it because there are many health benefits from exposure to sun,” Ojike advised.

Going by the records from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the prevalence of noticeable infection with Covid-19 is less among the lower class and fatalities appear to be higher among the upper class.

However, some people think that the poor are also dying from Covid-19 but unnoticed, while the cause of death is often unconfirmed by the families of the dead.

According to Okupe, deaths among the elite class readily get media attention than those of regular folks, while Paul Akalite, a pathologist, lamented that the poor keep turning away from going to test for Covid-19, believing it is God’s way of punishing the elites who have looted Nigerian treasury.

“The numbers of infected people and death from the NCDC are from those who went for Covid-19 test and they are usually people from the upper class or some middle class who need to travel. But the intrigue is that millions would have died from community infection, because the poor are the ones who care less about safety, yet the less infected,” Akalite said.

Proffering solution, Okupe said young people, students, hawkers, traders and many who toil daily under the sun have very high immunity against Covid-19, and that the Nigerian elites should learn to sunbath.

“So, my dear elders, VIPs and Ogas, please walk leisurely or lounge in the sun for 20 to 30 minutes daily, and with your face masks always on in public and observing normal Covid-19 protocols, with daily supplications to the Almighty, you will place a ban on Covid-19 from affecting you and your household,” he advised the elite class.

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.