The ancient city of Kano has been afflicted by boils and may soon boil if not well managed. The image of Kano residents, hiding behind motorcycles and rams, loaded in trailers, fleeing Kano State, depicts the desperation of Africans riding the Mediterranean Sea in dingy boats, fleeing from Africa. To add salt to the sore, Kaduna State Government soon announced that 30 Almajiris, who returned to Kaduna from Kano, have tested positive to the coronavirus pandemic.
Again, the other northern states sharing border with Kano, have also turned back desperate residents of Kano fleeing from what looks like a cancerous boil. Within Kano State, tens of residents have died. Some, from so-called mysterious ailments. In one instance, a dozen eminent personalities died within 10 hours, some admittedly from COVID-19. While Kano State claims the deaths are from strange diseases, it has become evident that Kano State has become an epicentre of the pandemic.
From the reactions of its officials, Kano State did not show capacity to deal with any serious infectious diseases, how much more a pandemic like COVID-19. That is a shame for a cosmopolitan state like Kano, which receives one of the highest allocations from the federal revenue, and with a huge capacity for internally generated revenue. Within the initial two weeks lockdown of the federal capital, Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states, Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, was shown on television, inspecting a so-called isolation centre set up with money donated by Aliko Dangote.
Even without being medical personnel, the so-called isolation centre looked laughable, as it had only a cluster of dressed bed, with nothing else to show for an Intensive Care Unit (ICU). While Aliko Dangote, who provided the fund may be cringing at the so-called ICU, Governor Ganduje, in his usual boisterous manner, said the state was prepared for any outbreak. Regrettably, COVID-19 became a pandemic within Kano State, before the state government, knew the pandemic has berthed in the state.
Now the state is helplessly calling on the Federal Government to come to its aid. Of course, the federal authority should help Kano; but the helplessness of Kano is a crying shame on those who ruled the state over the years. The present regime should hide its head in shame for the apparent mismanagement of the huge resources of the state, over the years. It is an embarrassment to answer an ancient city, with rich long history, and yet have no infrastructure to show for it. But Kano is not alone.
While it is inconceivable that the entire northern Nigeria, had no federal medical institution with a laboratory to test an infectious disease like COVID19 at the outbreak of the pandemic, it is a wringing shame on the state governments in the region that none of the states, including Kano had such a laboratory facility. Let me digress. In fairness to the northern states, the entire southeast was in similar quandary at the outbreak of the disease, as even the test for Lassa fever in the region, were done in Irrua Specialist Hospital in Edo State.
So, like the states in the northern Nigeria, like their counterparts in southeast. Perhaps because the infectious diseases which afflicted the peoples of the regions, until COVID19, discriminated against the poor, the states’ governments in the regions did not bother to build laboratories with such capacities, until now. Last year, I had lampooned the federal and Ebonyi State governments for the absence of a laboratory to test for Lassa fever, without knowing the situation was similar in the northern states, despite their advantages in hosting federal facilities.
I had urged the states in southeast to take their destinies in their hand and provide high-tech laboratory to serve their people; without any inkling that a far more deadly disease like COVID19 was on its way. Commendably, Ebonyi State, has equipped one of its health facilities with the necessary laboratory equipment while the federal authorities complemented with the necessary consumables to test for COVID19.
Still on this digress: I advise the Enugu State governor, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Gburugburu), to sit down and negotiate with the striking doctors in the state, so that they can go back to work. While it is regrettable that doctors would proceed on strike at this inauspicious time, I urge him to ensure that the working condition of doctors in the state is as competitive as what is obtainable in other comparable states. That will ensure the state is not disadvantaged in the long run; with doctors in the state, migrating to places where there are better working conditions.
The Kano experience should be a warning to every state in Nigeria, especially the states in the northern part of our country that they must all gird their loins, since no one knows what tomorrow portends. Clearly, COVID-19 has shown that humanity is one regardless of wealth or privilege. It stole into the world and many nations, including the technologically advanced countries of the world, were caught unawares. So, the blame for Kano is not that it was caught unawares, but that it was caught pants down.
That is why the pandemic is having a field day in the state, and the government is clearly helpless. Unfortunately, the state has performed below par, compared to other states. While like most other states, Kano had no laboratory to test for COVID19 at the beginning of the pandemic, several weeks after, it still has none. Lagos State which Kano State likes to compare itself with, was even more prepared than the federal government, and that is what it takes to be a megalopolis. Otherwise, it will be legitimate to be called ‘Big for nothing’.
So, while many states have quickly gained traction in their reaction to the ravaging pandemic, Kano State government continues to show cluelessness. On the lighter side, the majority leader of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, who recently called himself, the strong man of Kano, because he married four wives and has 27 children, was shown crying like a wimp on television, begging the federal government to save Kano. By that, he shamelessly admitted that without resources from the federal government, he is a weak man of a very weak state.
There is no doubt that the corona virus pandemic, otherwise called COVID-19, exposed the wretchedness of our country’s medical infrastructure. But if I may parody George Orwell’s: ‘Animal Farm’, while all states are wretched, some are more wretched than others. Kano State stands tall among the wretched of the states, apologies this time to Franz Fanon, who titled his book on the evils of colonisation: ‘The Wretched of the Earth’.
•Initially published by The Nation