August 4, 2014 – Ebola Virus & Boko Haram: The Two Mass Killers Threatening Nigeria By Tayo Ogunbiyi
These, indeed, are unusual times for mankind. Like never before, natural disasters, poverty, hunger, international conflicts and many other strange occurrences are helplessly staring man in the face. There is, perhaps, no other time in history when the ability of man to dominate his environment has been so fiercely challenged than now. Today, the major news items that dominate the airwaves and other communication channels leave much to be desired. Unfortunately, as solutions are being proffered to current challenges, new ones, without warnings, are emanating from the blues. The Middle East, with Syria, Israel, Palestine and Egypt as the biggest boiling points, remain as volatile as ever. Characteristically, trouble lingers in Eastern Europe.
For quite some time, terrorism has posed a major danger to the peaceful co-existence of the world. Perhaps, the most bizarre act of international terrorism in the history of mankind took place on September 11, 2001 in a set of well co-ordinated attacks on the United States of America, when in an uncommon display of evil genius, terrorists hijacked and used civilian airliners to attack the World Trade Centre towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC.
Before now, in Nigeria, terrorism was alien to our culture. But occurrence in recent years has altered the situation. Owing to the dastardly acts of the Boko Haram sect, Nigeria is, today, a focal point of global terrorism activities across the world. Through a series of bloodletting operations, unrivalled in the annals of the country, the sect has, in the past twelve years, held the nation by the jugular. To underline its wide acclaim as a globally recognised terrorist body, the sect was designated by the U.S. Department of State as a terrorist organisation in 2013. In the first half of 2014 Boko Haram killed more than 2000 innocent and hapless civilians, in about 95 attacks. In the last three years, more than 3000, people have lost their lives as a result of Boko Haram operations. A recent research claimed that Boko Haram attacks have left at least 12,000 people dead and 8,000 crippled in the last three years while hundreds of thousands have fled their homes in fear of the insurgents.
Presently, over 260 secondary school girls, kidnapped in a most notorious manner, from their school, Government College Chibok, Borno State, have been in the den of the Boko Haram sect for well over one hundred days. In the past two weeks, the nation has witnessed series of callous bomb explosions, particularly in Kano and Kaduna, resulting, as usual, in the death of scores of people. A former military Head of State and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd), and a prominent Islamic scholar, Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, narrowly escaped being killed in the twin blasts which occurred same day on Alkali Road and Kawo area in Kaduna.
As the nation continues to grapple with the arduous task of containing the activities of the Boko Haram sect in the country, out of the blues came yet another danger of a different kind, but with an equally potent capability to waste human lives: the Ebola virus, the potential mass killer! The recent death of a Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, a WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) consultant at the Ministry of Finance, has heightened fears among Nigerians about the deadly and ‘mysterious’ nature of the dreadful Ebola virus. With several reports of Ebola infection in the West Coast of Africa, countries such as Mali, Gambia, Liberia and Sierra Leone, are currently experiencing the most demanding outbreak since the disease was first discovered 38 years ago. According to the World Health Organisations, WHO, the deadly virus’ spread might continue for several more months in West Africa. Ebola kills up to 90% of infected people. Death can occur in as little as a week while prior to death, patients may bleed profusely. Currently, there is no inoculation and there is no cure.
Neighbouring West African countries of Liberia and Sierra-Leone are the worst hit in this fresh Ebola outbreak. Sierra Leone has announced a state of emergency to deal with the threat. A total of 729 people have died since the beginning of the year, and 1,200 all in all were infected in the country, the World Health Organization says. The President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, said in a recent televised address to the nation that the virus is a high-hazard issue for the country. In Liberia, the government has announced the closure of all schools across the country to stop the spread of the virus. Additionally, according to the country’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, communities would be placed under quarantine as well. Similarly, non-essential government workers will be sent home for 30 days and the army deployed to enforce the measures. The way things are, there seems to be a thin line between Boko Haram and Ebola virus. Both are agents of death. Boko Haram has spread its tentacles across African nations such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Sudan, Niger and Chad. In like manner, the deadly Ebola virus does not respect international borders. Also, like Boko Haram, Ebola virus has little or no respect for social classification as they both kill the rich and the poor, the learned and unlearned, the beautiful and the ugly, the innocent and the guilty. Equally, they both regale in inflicting pains and sorrow on their victims. Think about many orphans and widows that the duo have unleashed on the society. Perhaps more fearful is the fact that, to date, they both seem to defy solutions and as such could not be effectively appeased.
To successfully confront this evil duo, our nation and, indeed, the whole world, need to unite and shun every divisive tendency. We need to put up a common front against the evil intentions of the twosome. Human life is precious and sacred. Nothing must be spared to preserve it. Therefore, we must collectively unite to protect ourselves from these carriers of death. Now is the time to rise up in support of life. This is the time to frontally deal with every condition that poses serious threat to the peaceful co-existence of our world. This is the time to pursue peace and reject evil.
•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja