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May 21, 2018

EBOLA FREE NIGERIA!! – THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER (1)

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“When Yahweh delivered Zion from bondage we were like in a dream. Then our mouths were filled with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy. Then it was said among the nations “The Lord had done great things for us and we rejoiced”. Restore our fortunes O Lord!  Like the waters in the Negeb. May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Those who go out weeping bearing the seed for sowing shall come home with shouts of joy carrying their sheaves!” (Psalm 126: 1-6)

The ancient Israelite songs of liberation could in fact be likened to those most Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora sang when after many weeks of anxiety and expectations Nigeria was declared “Ebola Free” by the World Health Organization. That declaration meant much for Nigerians who felt the nation’s soccer team had won a World Cup or returned with scores of Gold medals from the Olympics.

Such was really Nigerians’ songs and the news sounded like a dream, not a reality! The nation that has always been humiliated, always despised, ridiculed became at a glance an Africa’s respected giant it used to be many years back. Why?

Nigeria was declared ‘Ebola free’ by World Health Organization because Nigeria’s leaders and their health workers were declared or confirmed responsible, serious and no-nonsense officials. Days were gone when they used to sit in their air-conditioned offices or even never went to work or cared about what happened in their various ministries.

No! This time the health officials knew when the Ebola virus started hovering around the West African nations and its devastating effects as well known world-wide! We were told that Nigerian health officials organized several conferences and studies to ‘face Ebola disease’. They took most of the precautionary measures required to fight the most dreaded disease of the time and Nigeria was actually threatened. If those measures had not been taken the consequences would have been devastating. They would be too many to recount for a nation already in Deep Ocean barely struggling to keep its head above the raging waters and among the least respected nations of the world!

 

HOW JONATHAN’S FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BECAME POPULAR

Many Nigerians, home and in the Diaspora were really touched and in great excitement of deep joy and for the first time since the elections of 2011 had some good respectable words for the present government of President Jonathan! Some people declared that President Goodluck Jonathan’s government together with all federal health executives should be returned unopposed in 2015 federal elections (for the role they played to “make Nigeria Ebola free”)! Some Imolites who thought state government had hands in the good done to Nigeria in this Ebola saga suggested that the present state government of Rochas Okorocha should equally be returned unopposed come 2015!

This would let our readers realize how this Ebola disease can play out also into politics, whether one cares to understand it or not. This is the truth of the matter. It is a very serious one in deed. But were the Nigerian health officials actually doing anything tangible to make sure that the dreaded disease did not cross the Nigerian borders or was Nigeria simply lucky? The answer is in the positive. We have reasons to confirm at least from some areas of investigation that our health officials were awake and behaved like true patriots and responsible citizens worthy of their high offices. Praise the Lord!

I was returning from the United States at the early part of September when the Ebola virus had started ravaging the named West African countries, and serious ‘documentary’ measures were being taken at various airports and flights leaving and entering West African nations. Some of us Nigerians in a Lufthansa flight to Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt decided to document our own findings.

All passengers – White and Black – on board were issued with the Ebola forms from Federal Nigerian health officials. The forms were to be meticulously completed and handed over to health officials on arrival in Nigeria. Would they check the passengers on arrival? Will they be there at all? Would those be mere ‘formalities?’ Would the Nigerian customs officials collect ‘bribe’ and let passengers disembark and go their way as usual?  We were wondering.

 

BEHOLD THEM! UNLIKE NIGERIANS!

The ‘normal’ customs officials and baggage officials were there as expected to collect their ‘bribes’ after searching people’s belongings, whether passengers carried cocaine, contrabands, and whatever! The foreign currency officials were there to collect their own portion and never checked on the limits that may be imported into the country – dollars, British pounds, Euros and Japanese Yen. Nigerian airports and borders are ever porous. One can bring in any illegal product. You need to ‘settle’ with the customs officials.

What of Nigerian health officials or their representatives fighting the EBOLA DISEASE at the border? Behold! They were there! They were carefully collecting the Ebola forms and checking temperatures of passengers. That was great. Most of us, usually skeptical about “anything good coming out of ‘Nazareth” could not believe our eyes.  I was impressed when a young lady health official collected my own form and checked my temperature and let me go after a few questions.

If Nigerian health officials were doing the same type of exercise I saw at Port Harcourt at other borders, air, land and sea, there is no doubt our country would score high among other African nations in the war against death and disease. And as fellow Nigerians and foreigners who visit Nigeria till date confirm the Ebola exercise has continued with little relaxation of guidelines.

 

THE EBOLA ALARM WAS LOUD ENOUGH

Unlike the former Nigerian public health officials and news media the call for precautionary measures against Ebola was this time loud enough and grass root programs and lectures initiated at village, community and local church levels were prompt to warn every deaf fellow that there was a raging fire! The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in emergency meeting issued minute guidelines that should be followed even in giving out Holy Communion in churches ‘to avoid the spread of Ebola’ in case any had infiltrated the borders.

In churches, Sunday sermons featured primitive basic hygiene, including hand-washing and sweeping of houses and streets. Most Nigerians who never care about ‘Last Saturday Clean-Up Exercises’ seemed to have woken up from their slumber! Nobody wanted to get caught up with Ebola and be buried in a bad bush! ‘Tufia kwa!’

The Catholic Women Organization (CWO) throughout the Catholic dioceses of Nigeria summoned an urgent mandatory Ebola seminar in their various centers and later women representatives had to relate the outcome of the seminar to the rural women in their various parishes and stations. The women at various levels were fighting the Ebola tooth and nail. And it was working.

When schools re-opened the attitude of the returning school children to environmental sanitation started changing. They started washing their hands after touching dirty objects or after labour! What is happening? Everyone is scared of Ebola disease!

 

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