While millions of people all over the world show empathy for those who have tested positive to COVID-19, many Nigerians are mocking their leaders who have tested positive.
Some of the 46 people who have tested positive to COVID-19 in Nigeria are high political office holders or their relatives. These include the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari; the Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed; the Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Frank Okiye; and Mohammed, a son of opposition leader Atiku Abubakar.
Many others, including several state governors, are on self-isolation after coming in contact with those infected.
Many of the Nigerians who have mocked the politically exposed persons who tested positive based their stance on the poor governance the country has witnessed from different governments.
Although blessed with crude oil and other natural resources, majority of Nigeria’s estimated 180 million people live in poverty, according to World Poverty Clock. The country also lacks basic amenities like constant electricity, good roads, good public schools and quality hospitals. President Buhari and his family members often travel to the UK for medical treatment, an indication of the poor state of the country’s hospitals.
For many Nigerians, the situation is so because of corruption and inept leadership, and for that reason, they are unwilling to show empathy with leaders who are sick.
Award-winning author, Elnathan John’s outburst on Twitter summarised this view. “Actually, you know what? Fuck Nigerian politicians. All of them. Including the ones who are sick. And fuck empathy. They are murderers. Every single person who dies because there wasn’t a ventilator or equipped hospital is on them. Fuck prayers for these fuckers. I reserve my best wishes and prayers for people who are victims of these demons who run this evil regime. Who will be fucked if they need Healthcare in Nigeria. Who have nowhere to go. We will all die. And karma ain’t shit. But these fuckers deserve to pay for their evil,” he wrote.
For investigative journalist Fisayo Soyombo, the politicians deserve what they get.
“As many Nigerian politicians and career officers who have joined in siphoning funds that should’ve gone into building our healthcare, I want Coronavirus to quickly locate them. But I don’t want any of them to die. Just a few days of reality check that we’re all in this mess together,” he wrote on Twitter.
How They Contracted Disease
The fact that many of the politicians who have tested positive may have contracted the disease while on official duties has not stopped the criticisms they face from citizens.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Kyari and Mr Mohammed may have contracted COVID-19 while on official assignments to Germany. Both men have since held important official meetings with other political leaders, leading to suggestions more senior officials of the Nigerian government may have been infected.
Some Nigerians have also blamed the politicians for not adhering to rules on self-isolation after travels to highly-infected countries.
“It is sad that the political class is leading this gross act of irresponsibility,” said broadcast journalist Ukachi Chukwu, on Facebook. “Mr Kyari returned from a trip abroad and refused to isolate…more importantly he exposed the president to the virus.”
They Deserve Support
However, there are many other Nigerians who believe the leaders who have contracted COVID-19 deserve empathy and support.
The opposition leader and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar; former aviation minister Femi Fani-Kayode and former Kogi senator Dino Melaye sympathised with Mr Kyari.
“My thoughts and prayers are with Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari. Allah ya kare mu gabaki daya, kuma ya bashi lafiya,” Mr Abubakar wrote on Tuesday.
For Mr Fani-Kayode, “I just confirmed that my old friend &brother Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to Pres. Buhari, has tested positive to Covid 19. I sincerely &honestly wish him well &pray for a quick recovery for him just as I do for all other Nigerians that have tested positive,including @atiku’s son.”
I just confirmed that my old friend &brother Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to Pres. Buhari, has tested positive to Covid 19. I sincerely &honestly wish him well &pray for a quick recovery for him just as I do for all other Nigerians that have tested positive,including @atiku's son.
— Femi Fani-Kayode (@realFFK) March 24, 2020
“My emphathy and prayer goes to Alh. Abba Kyari ( Chief of Staff) to Mr President. Our Good Lord will heal you and heal our land,” Mr Melaye stated.
My emphathy and prayer goes to Alh. Abba Kyari ( Chief of Staff) to Mr President. Our Good Lord will heal you and heal our land.
Sen. Dino MELAYE
— Senator Dino Melaye. (SDM) (@dino_melaye) March 24, 2020
“I don’t care how close we are, if I see you celebrating the reported Coronavirus status of Abba Kyari, I’m going to unfollow you. And I’m never ever going to respect you again. We can disagree and all, but we should never ever lose our empathy. It’s what defines us eventually,” activist Gimba Kakanda wrote.
I don’t care how close we are, if I see you celebrating the reported Coronavirus status of Abba Kyari, I’m going to unfollow you. And I’m never ever going to respect you again. We can disagree and all, but we should never ever lose our empathy. It’s what defines us eventually.
— Gimba Kakanda (@gimbakakanda) March 24, 2020
Of Nigeria’s 46 confirmed cases of COVID-19, as at Wednesday evening, one person has died while two have fully recovered.
Some observers believe the country’s low detection is because of few numbers of people tested. Quartz Africa reported that less than 200 people had been tested as at Tuesday, quoting official figures from the centre for disease control, NCDC. In contrast, South Africa has tested over 15,000 people.
However, not even the fear that more Nigerians will test positive to the fatal virus has deterred those attacking the politicians: both those who are infected and those who have been unable to embark on foreign trips because of the travel restrictions globally.
“Nigerian Politicians must be the most devastated group of pple in the world right now. It’s like a dream. Just like a flash of light,they can no longer run to the most tastefully furnished hospitals in the world in UK n Canada whenever their farts begin to smell funny
“These conmen have underdeveloped the healthcare system in their own country for decades. Hospitals are unavailable in many parts of the country and in places where they are available, they are grossly underequipped and understaffed,” a medical doctor, Jeremiah Penking, wrote.