By Kenechi Okenyi

The growing trend on Nigeria’s cyberspace is the dismissing of coronavirus as non-existing or something not different from malaria. This philistine argument is powered mainly by influential persons and clergies for a purpose. While Nigeria and the rest of Africa have escaped predictions of mass deaths from the virus, the reasons are said to be environmental but not yet fully ascertained – caution is, however, required.

Two weeks ago, the Senior Pastor of Salvation Ministry, a Port Harcourt-based church, David Ibiyeomie murdered common sense by asserting that there is no coronavirus in Nigeria. His claims come on the heels of rising public doubts over the existence of the virus in the country. In fact, in the past weeks, the number of people towing that line of thought have had a significant increase. In a video footage which surfaced on the internet two Sunday ago, the pastor was seen doubting the existence of the virus which has killed over 200 persons, including the former chief of staff to President Buhari. According to him “ Coronavirus is a virus that has corona. People are making noise about coronavirus. To me, it is rubbish. Did we make noise about malaria?”
Going further, the pastor stressed that people die more from malaria in Nigeria than coronavirus – a virus which only landed on our shores in February. His argument: “Nigeria does not even have it, because you have heard Dokpesi say that they said he had it but it was malaria tablet that was given to him”. His claims, as sad as they were, are not new. Nigerians were riled up when Chris Oyakhilome, another influential pastor, had weeks ago argued that 5G is the cause of the virus. He was so sure of his claims that he made a powerpoint presentation of the link between the virus and 5G. When presented with evidence, he was forced to recant but began propounding another ugly theory linking the use of masks to mass deaths.

Many persons doubting the existence of the virus in Nigeria have often cited Raymond Dokpesi, the Chairman of Daar Communications, who upon being discharged after contracting the virus, claimed that there was no difference between the virus and malaria. Abbah Kyrari would have loved to retain his job if the virus is same as malaria.

But there are tragedies associated with influential persons regaling the public with disinformation, and in this case, a deadly virus which has claimed over 300, 000 lives across the globe. These tragedies include diminishing of gains made and possible mass death. The reason leaders are expected to operate with a higher standard is due to the influence that they have. Such influence is used to convince the public to tow the right path. However, in this situation, it is being used to herd thousands of people to their doom.

The consequences of the theories propounded by Dokpesi, Ibiyeomie and Oyakhilome is that a whole lot of people have come to believe them, due largely to the position they occupy as businessmen and church leaders. That is why the number of people buying into those empty theories are rising by the day – mostly church goers who see everything that these men say as absolute truth regardless of whether they are or not. These followers have taken angry positions on social media, dishing out insults to those who dared to disagree. A woman who made a video cautioning Ibiyeomie has been gifted death wishes just for daring to speak up. Nigeria is sitting on keg of gunpowder if these men continued with their hysteria but who would stop them? Buhari? Your guess is as good as mine.
It was Garry Kasparov who opined that “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”

Yet, Criss Jami, Killosophy, says that “It’s okay to be honest about not knowing rather than spreading falsehood. While it is often said that honesty is the best policy, silence is the second best policy.”

These claims are not just a slap on the face of the over 200 Nigerians who have died from this virus. It is a ridicule to their families and the front line workers putting themselves at risk to curtail the spread. Yet, one sees clearly the motives behind these pulpit confusions – churches have been closed to large gatherings, so they are bored and cannot perform the activities they have made a routine for years and are now taking actions aimed at derailing the main reasons why their business centers were shut in the first place. It is a fight. But the President has asked worship centers to reopen so, maybe, we can have peace.

Coro-looting

The Federal Government of Nigeria is riding on another comedy circus with its claims of feeding school children with N697million daily at a time that the children are at home. The problem with the looting going on in the Buhari’s government is that it is done in the crudest way and with a high degree of arrogance. The government sees Nigerians as simpletons with no sense of reason. They have so worked on the psych of the people that nothing scares them anymore. The people are busy dealing with the daily assaults unleashed on them by the government that they have lost the power that they have on their leaders – citizens vigilance.

That is why the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouk is engaging in disaster by feeding school children with N697 million daily with no data that will make it easier for accountability. How do one identify eligible school children with no data, and during lockdown? Will it be a community cooking thing where every child on the street is called to come and feast?

The other day, Maryam Uwais, Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Investment, said the government cannot publish names of beneficiaries who received “cash transfer” due to COVID-19. Speaking on Channels TV -Sunrise Daily, Maryam Uwais said the government cannot publish the names of the beneficiaries because they don’t want to be regarded as poor.
Hear her: “Those who benefit from the conditional cash transfer of the Federal Government as a palliative to cushion the effects of the lockdown caused by the deadly Coronavirus don’t want to be addressed as poor people that is why we can’t publish their names.”
Mrs. Maryam Uwais later said that these people don’t exist where normal people exist and this is the reason they didn’t go with any form of press.
“Also, the beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s gesture are invisible and dwell where the conventional society cannot see them and carrying journalists along to investigate the authenticity of the payments to the target persons will be cost implicative to the scheme because the funds at hand can’t pay for extra burden as we are only managing what we have”.
Who ever believes this administration is fighting corruption can believe anything.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government is in the news for spending over 800 million Naira withing 3 months in carrying out about 16,000 covid-19 tests. That’s about 45,000 per one test. In Patience Jonathan’s voice, “There is God!!!. I am waiting to see the figure they will claim was used for treatment. Those billions donated won’t be returned. It won’t even be used to strengthen governance. It will end up in the pockets of a few like Obasa with 64 different accounts.