Opinion

Opinion: Governor Seyi Makinde and the Secrecy Around COVID-19

by Abigail Anaba

Governor Seyi Makinde is in the news again. Then again, he never seems to leave. In just about a week, we learned, first,that he was confirmed positive for COVID-19. This bit of news was ‘celebrated’ in some quarters with a video of him seemingly making a joke about the existence of the diseasemaking the rounds on Social Media. The governor would later clarify that his statement was metaphorical, using Coronavirus to represent the rot that a party chieftain had said existed in the opposition party.

And then about six days later, he announced that he had received two negative test results for COVID-19 and was now free of the virus. Throughout his time of ‘illness,’ he said he never showed any symptoms. On the two occasions that he called into the Fresh FM 109.5, Ibadan studio; he demonstrated that his temperature never rose above 36.5 degrees. It was mind boggling to many that this disease that has been ravaging the world would take less than six days to ‘cure.’ Yet, the disease has no cure and no known vaccine.

In one of those interviews, after he was given the all clear, Makinde made another comment which has been twisted and distorted to read that he was ‘cured’ of Coronavirus by taking blackseed oil and honey.  The governor said, “My good friend and brother, Dr Muyideen Olatunji, he is the one in charge of the Primary Health Care in Oyo State, he came to me and said, look I am going to send you this blackseed oil, it boosts immunity. So, I mixed it with honey and took one teaspoon in the morning and one in the evening. So, there are local solutions to boost immunity.”

Several online media have reported that the governor claimed that blackseed oil and honey is a cure for Coronavirus. Most of these are click baits because when you do click and read, you will find that some of them actually reproduced the governor’s words verbatim. However, the nature of social media is that people often just read headlines, and so many ran with that. But the fact remains that Governor Makindespoke about boosting his immunity.

A secondary factor that may have led to the governor’s words being taken out of context is the secrecy that has surrounded the management of COVID-19 patients in Nigeria. When the UK Prime Minister took ill and had to be moved to ICU, it was front page news. Anyone in the world who cared to know could access information as to how he was being managed. 

In the United States, the debate about using chloroquine as a treatment for Coronavirus and even how they can be used is in the news for anyone who cares to access. In fact, the US Federal Drug Agency’s trial and approval were all in the news. 

In Nigeria, Governor Makinde is the only high-profile case who gave anyone any type of insight on how some patients are managed. Many never knew that it was okay for some patients to self-isolate at home. Many others did not know that a person who came down with COVID-19 may not show any symptoms nor require any treatment. 

In fact, it was in answer to the question of why Governor SeyiMakinde recovered so fast that the Director General of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, acknowledged that 90 per cent of COVID-19 patients in Nigeria will recover without any intervention. This means that their body’s immune system will fight the disease. So, in Makinde’s case, his doctor friend recommended that he take blackseed oil and honey, known natural immune boosters to help his body fight the disease. 

Perhaps, if there were not so much secrecy around the management of COVID-19 cases, there will be less a need to guess and create conspiracy theories around it. I read somewhere recently that there are two conditions that help spread the Coronavirus disease:1. Places where the population is dense2. Places where the population is dense

Clearly, Nigeria has a large section of its population fit into both categories. But knowledge is light. When we spread knowledge, answer questions clearly and truthfully, we are able to uproot lies and disinformation.

It cannot be debated that there seems to be a culture of secrecy around the Nigerian medical profession: from doctors scribbling in indecipherable handwritings to nurses unwilling to answer simple questions about a patient’s course of treatment. When problems are identified, they should be tackled headlong.

Of course, no one in their right senses will be asking for specific information about how each case is handled but general information can help educate the populace. For now, it is evident that many Nigerians do not understand why they are being asked to stay at home. Many have asked why they are hiding from a disease that 90% of the time, those who contract it will not need treatment. Providing clear communications about COVID-19 in a way that counters disinformation remains a key way of fighting the Coronavirus disease.

For example, when people ask why they should stay at home despite 90% getting well without treatment. The answer could be because out of that 90% that get well, some may not even know they have the disease and will show no symptoms, but they can spread it to the 10% who may die of it. You may be that person, I may be, so we need to stay home so we don’t spread the virus. 

Or in the words of Governor Seyi Makinde, “I was asymptomatic throughout. So, without the test, I would not even have known that I had COVID-19. So, this is the more reason why we are advising social distancing at this time, as there may be people with the virus who are also not showing any symptoms.”

COVID-19 is real. Stay at home. Wash your hands always with soap and water. Stay safe. But more important, let us spread accurate information around the Coronavirus disease. Fake news kills, let us kill fake news.

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Abigail Anaba is a writer

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