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Kano Lockdown: Government should be flexible, says Junaid Mohammed

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Junaid

Dr. Junaid Mohammed, a Russian-trained neurologist, in this interview with ADAMU ABUH via telephone, said it is no longer business as usual since the lockdown in Kano State to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, blaming the federal government for letting the state down in its trying times.

How is the experience like in Kano State regarding efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19?
The situation is generally unpleasant. It is very difficult to survive, not in terms of physical survival, but in terms of interaction with members of your family.

In my own case, because I have friends all over the country and many parts of the world, I get phone calls from people probing to know what the situation is like in Kano. It is not pleasant that people are getting concerned about your own state of affairs.

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Before the advent of Coronavirus pandemic, I had to travel to some countries to attend to my personal medical issues. I was in London in January when the whole thing started in China. I came back, planning to go back to the United Kingdom (UK), unfortunately I got caught up in the lockdown here in Nigeria.

All I can tell you is that it is not pleasant here Kano and being a Kano man, it was particularly painful because a lot of extraneous issues have been raked into the matter.

First and foremost, like everything else in Nigeria, our hospitals have not been properly maintained. We have one of the oldest infectious diseases hospitals in Africa, which has been rendered obsolete. Most of the equipment there are not working. It is either they have been stolen or there is no reliable supply of water in the place and even those that were trained to man the hospital are so badly motivated that they don’t find the job exciting and challenging.

In 1975, there was a major epidemic- malaria, typhoid, cholera and meningitis- all at the same time and it was hell of a situation and quite a number of people, especially politicians, said it was going to be upgraded and that things were going to happen.

We got to a situation whereby an American company called Pfizer came to Kano and used Kano people as guinea pigs to test their meningitis vaccine, which did not work as it should.

What happened in this particular pandemic was that some people thought that they could hide the disease to themselves and also hide the disease from other people and even infected some other people in the market, their neighbourhood and those they work together with in offices, which was a very dangerous thing to do.

People imagine that you can hide a disease from yourself or from members of your family and somehow, the disease would dramatically disappear, but it doesn’t happen that way.

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Now that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is taking over more or less control of the situation in Kano, I hope things are going to change and those infected are going to behave responsibly and those who panic when somebody is coughing or people who have fever or high temperature should be able to report to the clinic or go and see a doctor.

Whatever it is, we need effective government and a government at the national level to treat people evenly and not treat people simply because of their own failings.

Do you think there is need to relax the lockdown in Kano?
I have not been going out that much and even if I have to go out, I am not the kind of person who will break the law. But as far as I am concerned, if Kano people behave well and they respect the law, they should be given the opportunity, at least part of the day, to go out and look for food.

As it stands, people are faced with two unpleasant alternatives- stay at home and then you don’t have the means to feed your family. The result will be death. If you go out and you contract the mysterious illness, it is like a death sentence and you may not even know. So, government would have to be flexible.

We need knowledgeable and efficient administrators who would manage the situation very well. You can see that even in advanced countries of the West and China have a lot of problems, with prime ministers, chancellors and what have you being hospitalised or dying of the virus. So, we have to be very careful and very pragmatic about the situation we have found ourselves in now.

You sound like someone blaming the government over alleged neglect of Kano regarding the spread of COVID-19?
I don’t want to be personal on an issue like this. But when the pandemic got into the country, Lagos got N10billion and I know Kano and Lagos have the same population and in fact, Kano has a slight edge on Lagos as far as population is concerned.

I can’t imagine how anybody can justify giving Lagos N10billion to solve this problem while giving Kano nothing. I agree Lagos has been doing better, but the fact of the matter is that Lagos has the resources, as over 40 per cent of the national economy is in Lagos and they started early and also learnt well from the Ebola disease and used the resources of Ebola epidemic to learn well.

Lagos did very well, in terms of mobilisation. Based on what I saw, the people of Kano or those who are ruling Kano assumed the situation would take care of itself, but the situation did not take care of itself.

I don’t want to engage in the blame game, but I believe Kano deserve to have the federal government come to its aid. And I can’t justify how anybody would give Ogun State N5billion and leave Kano like that. That is not fair and not how you do responsible and fair governance.

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Would you count yourself lucky that you couldn’t return to London due to the lockdown in Nigeria?
(Laughs) I think I am lucky, because I have friends who got stranded there. I know one or two friends who were coming from the United States (US) to pick their children who ran into problems. It was destined that I will not make the journey.

For now, I prefer to stay at home until the situation clears. The British in particular have been hypocritical; they have not been very honest in the way they have been dishing out information about the fatality level. They have been lying about it; they created an artificial segregation.

They were counting only those who died in hospitals. I have never heard throughout my medical education after qualifying over 46 years ago anybody telling me that when people die in hospitals, they belonged to certain category. The illness that kills people at home, care homes and what have you cannot be categorised differently.

At the end of the day, they ended up lying to themselves. That is why Britain is the second European country after Italy worse hit, as they are now ahead of Spain and France. But for the fact that the British prime minister took ill and was rushed to the hospital, the level of lying by the British establishment would have been far less. That shows that they have been lying all along.

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