August 17, 2014 – Boko Haram & Ebola Virus Disease: The Twin Devils Of The Season By Chris Okotie
“Like Boko Haram’s crazy insurgents who kill their victims and the soldiers who fight to protect them; the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), kills its victims along with some medical personnel who battle to save their lives. These are the twin devils of the season.
The twin scourges of 2014 share many other characteristics. Their roots date back to decades, but their ravages of human souls across the sub- Sahara Africa only peaked this year, even as a disbelieving world is left agape by their ferocity.
Advancing mercilessly against its hapless preys like jungle predators, EVD and Boko Haram kill with lightening speed, and have so far defied solution. It is no hyperbole to label Ebola as the Boko Haram of lethal, viral diseases, which still confounds the world’s best scientific minds.
These two crises have placed Nigeria on the world’s radar, with Ebola pushing the Chibok Girls’ abduction (a Boko Haram by-product), and some of our familiar maladies like corruption to the sidelines at the moment.
Prior to the arrival of the Liberian man, late Patrick Sawyer into the country, the epidemic of Ebola was widely reported in neighbouring Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where it had claimed more than 900 lives. Our government ought to have known that given the free movement of people across borders in the ECOWAS sub -region, the chance of a carrier of the Ebola virus coming into this country is very high indeed.
Precautionary measures ought to have been taken to thoroughly screen ECOWAS passengers at our entry ports, and land borders. This was not done, even as the EVD recorded serial deaths in the worst hit countries nearby. This apparent policy failure on the part of government led to the spread of this killer epidemic to Nigeria, through contacts by health workers and co-travellers with the index case, the late Sawyer, who was reportedly under watch for EVD in his native Liberia, before he sneaked into Nigeria on that fateful day.
While one must commend the hospital staff who attended to Sawyer for their prompt diagnosis of the Ebola patient, and the government’s swift action in isolating him, these measures appear to be medicine after death as the damage of spreading the virus through unsuspecting primary and, possibly secondary contacts has resulted in the infection of ten people at the last count, and the death of one Nigerian health worker.
The fact that care givers themselves are at risk, makes Ebola such a monstrous enemy. This poses grave danger to our capacity to contain it, moreso, when there’s still no known cure for the disease.
So, we now face the grim spectre of seeing anyone infected, living hopelessly on death row, unless the patient is saved by divine intervention, as the EVD is known to kill 90 percent of its victims.
Any time the Health Minister, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu appears on television to brief the media on EVD, he assumes the unenviable role of an undertaker, who announces the “obituary” of the latest infected victims. The figures keep growing. Almost 180 people are now under surveillance.
The sad part is that, we have no idea when a potent cure could be found. The promise of getting effective drugs on the shelf by next year is not cast in iron. For a disease that kills its victims within days, or at most weeks, this is very sad indeed. At the moment, we can only continue to pray and hope that a wonder drug would come sooner than expected by one stroke of medical miracle.
In the case of Boko Haram, we pin down its apparent success to poor timing response by government, and the obvious lack of effective coordination by the security agencies to the menace at its insipient stage, before it grew into hydra-head monster it is today. The Chibok Girls’ abduction, which spurned the “Bring Back our Girls” hastag that went viral on social media, was the wake-up call that gingered our government into action.
Now, more than 100 days after the abduction of the girls, the multilateral intervention led by the United States, has not freed the girls as widely expected. The initial widespread optimism that the American technology that destroyed Osama Bin Ladin would be deployed against the less sophisticated Boko Haram insurgents has turned out to be an illusion.
Today, what is coming out of the western media is that the Americans and the allies are reluctant to put their boots on the Sambisa forest ground because of the charge that the local war budget is being mismanaged by Nigerian commanders. Tales of extra-judicial killings of alleged Boko Haram being bandied in the western satellite TV networks are reasons for the lukewarm attitude of President Barak Obama and his colleagues in confronting Boko Haram, Ansaru and other Nigerian Islamists.
Realizing that Nigeria must now fight its own war, while America completes its unfinished business in the Middle East, President Goodluck Jonathan has requested for approval by the National Assembly for a $1billion dollar foreign loan to re-equip our military to enhance its ability to meet the present security challenges.
However, people are asking; the Gowon regime fought the 30-month civil war on a shoe string budget, without borrowing a kobo from abroad. Why can’t we do the same with our multi-billion dollar earnings from oil? Until Mr. Jonathan answers this $1b question, this loan request may be another recipe for controversy.”