Unexplained deaths in Kano should worry all of us

Published by Oke Umurhohwo on

Since coronavirus made its way into Nigeria, I’m not sure anything has been terrifying as the unexplained deaths in Kano state. In less than one week, dozens of deaths have been reported in that state, yet, no one has been able to give a clearer answer on what is killing people in that magnitude.

Kano governor, ganduje.jpg

Kano state governor, Ganduje

Expectedly, that triggered anxiety among residents and neighbours who pressured authorities in Kano state to give a definite answer on the cause of the mysterious deaths. Disturbingly, the state government kept people in suspense and freely, fears of contagion rippled the most populous state in Nigeria.

When the government eventually speak up, it tried unsuccessfully to dissuade doubts that the cause of deaths is coronavirus as it was the case in other part of the world. Muhammed Garba, Kano’s commissioner for information, dismissed insinuations that COVID 19 is responsible for the surge in deaths in the state, noting that preliminary reports on investigation to unravel the cause of deaths revealed something entirely different.

“Although an investigation into the cause of deaths is still ongoing, preliminary reports from the state Ministry of Health indicated that the deaths are not connected to COVID-19 pandemic,” the state’s spokesperson noted, adding that “Reports have shown that most of the deaths were caused by complications arising from hypertension, diabetes, meningitis, and acute malaria.” Muhammed didn’t stop there but went on to disclose the facilities already put in place to battle the disease and safeguard people of the state.

But his position was at variance with that of a distraught 70-year-old woman, who suggested in viral audio that the state is facing a possible outbreak and that the government is not sincere with the populace. In that audio, the bereaved woman indicated that her very promising son-in-law died from the mysterious illness ravaging Kano and cried out for help to save her daughter and grandchildren from suffering a similar fate.

Disturbingly, she wasn’t alone with such a horrible story. Just as the old woman was struggling to find answers to what could be responsible for her son-in-law sudden demise, the same thing was going on with some other families, who in recent times have turned up at the cemeteries to bury their loved ones. In less than 12 hours, Kano lost at least, 12 prominent persons to strange deaths.

On the list are professors, bankers, editor, well-accomplished traders, but still, the government consider the spike in deaths as nothing unusual. That this gale of unexplained deaths are coming at a time that COVID 19, a deadly disease is ravaging the world, makes it so hard for the government to convince people in the state that they are safe. Something is wrong and it is not hard for people to notice any longer.

Few days ago, a former governor in the state, Rabiu Kwankwaso, joined the list of those who have expressed their concerns on the rising number of unexplained deaths in the state. In a letter written to President Muhammadu Buhari, the former governor noted that “Hundreds of funerals have been recorded in cemeteries of the right metropolitan local governments alone”, suspecting just like the old woman who lost her son-in-law to an unknown ailment, that there is a strong likelihood that the novel coronavirus has spread in Kano state more than it is disclosed.

And that is very possible because, for nearly a week, the testing centre in the state was not operational after some officials tested positive for COVID 19. Within those periods, no test could be conducted in that facility nor were samples of anyone showing symptoms of the disease taken to centre outside the state for examination, leaving a big doubt on the insistence of the government that the surge in deaths in the state are not connected to COVID-19. How did the state government come about that conclusion when it couldn’t test them?

The Ganduje government is not doing the right thing. Let us, for the sake of argument, accept the narrative of the Kano government that the spike in deaths are not caused by COVID 19 but other ailments, even that should worry any government that cares for citizens. None of the excuses put forward by the state government could justify why people should be dying in ‘normal tens’ and cemeteries be filled with corpses with no reasonable explanation on what is the cause.

But the truth, though, the government is trying to conceal it, is that COVID 19 is running riot in Kano and the authority is too sluggish to slow down the rate of transmissions, and possibly, deaths. This was the same fear rallied by Professor Usman Yusuf, who submitted in a recent article that “Kano city is now the killing fields of COVID 19 in Africa.” That sounds outrageous? But going through his view especially where he noted that “It is now common knowledge in Kano that NCDC officials in the city are not responding to people’s distress calls because they are short-staffed and have no working materials or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)”, you’ll be left disturbed.

Kano’s unexplained deaths and the irresponsible posture of the government should worry all of us. Going by 2006 population census, Kano has the largest number of residents, and even frightening, is the volume of ignorant people, who will hardly accept the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Two days ago, someone sent me a video of a young guy washing his hand in a bowl and later drank it– something that inferred that coronavirus isn’t as real as being painted.

The danger of the video, which seemed to have gone viral, is that his sheer ignorance may be replicated by many like him and make it difficult to limit the spread of the virus. And the frightening thing is that if the spread of a disease as contagious as coronavirus go unchecked in Kano, it would pose a grave threat to neighbouring states and other parts of the country. Already, we are seeing the likely threat posed by such development as Kaduna state government reported that five of the Almajiris repatriated from Kano have tested positive for the virus.

Now, take your time to imagine how easily the virus could spread to other northern states and eventually the whole country. The damage is better not imagined because it would be fatal. And gauging measures and proactiveness of government in the state shows them to be insufficient. Though, Buhari recently placed a two-week lockdown on the state but that measure would have a better result if an aggressive test is undertaken and those who have the virus are quickly isolated. No doubt, the situation is frightening but it can be reversed if the federal government and Kano state government fiercely takes the fight to the virus and not wait for the numbers to go worse.

Written by Oke Umurhohwo, a Political Analyst and Strategist. He tweets via @OkeStalyf and can be reached via oke.umu@gmail.com

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