By Bala Ibrahim
In one of his books, Want to stay alive? James Hadley Chase talked about how fear was used to unlock the wallet and handbags of the rich. In the fiction book, Poke Tohola, turned Paradise City into a Panic City, by injecting fear into the minds of his target victims, who were given instructions on how to release money and what to do, if they want to stay alive.
In the event of anyone contemplating going to the police to seek protection? He or she was reminded of the consequences, by making reference to Mandy Lucas, who was brutally exterminated, despite the buffer and cover provided to her by the police.
In Kano today, Nigeria’s most populous city and state, a similar scenario is playing out, but this time around the fear is coming from an invisible enemy, wearing the dress of a deadly disease. Like Poke Toholo, the disease is reportedly visiting and ravaging families in and around the famous city, at a rate that is frighteningly alarming.
Multiple sources have confirmed the sudden surge in death around the city in the last few days, with many of them happening mysteriously.
Reading through the headlines of the Judicialsketch, one of the online blogs operating from Kano, I was startled to read the caption, Panic, as Unexplained Death Ravage Kano Metropolis.
According to the blog, Kano State has witnessed a spate of unexplained deaths in the past three days, and the government is yet to come up with modalities to arrest the situation. For instance, attendants and undertakers at the Dandolo Cemetery in Goron Dutse within the metropolis told Judicial Sketch that 61 dead were buried between Saturday and Sunday alone.
Forty-three were buried on Saturday, with 18 more buried on Sunday, they confirmed. Also, at the Gyadi-gyadi Cemetery in Court Road within the metropolis, 31 were buried on Saturday alone.
The Farm Centre Cemetery also within the metropolis witnessed 27 burials just on Saturday. The Abattoir Cemetery around Kofar Mazugal in the metropolis saw the burial of 13 people from Zango Quarters alone within three days last week.
Between Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Chedi, Ciromawa, Dorayi, Sharifai, Zage, an unascertained number of people died and were buried at the Abattoir Cemetery.
Many other sources, including medics working at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, AKTH, have confided in me about the worrying and disturbing rate of deaths in the city. Certainly something is going wrongly.
Although there is no consensus on the exact cause, the fact that the state is already under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic makes many to suspect a correlation between the Coronavirus and the sudden deaths.
With a population of nearly six million people, many of whom are living under poor conditions, in areas outside the availability of safe drinking water, inadequate excreta disposal facilities, poor hygiene, and unsafe food, the spread of infectious disease is almost always automatic in the city.
Even if we want to deceive ourselves, by pretending that the deaths may not necessarily be connected with the COVID-19, the fact that people are dying more now, means there is the possibility of an unchecked killer disease. And with an overstretched health system already, it means very soon the state would go into an emergency situation. It is, therefore, time to ask the people whether they really want to stay alive.
Long before now, experts predicted a calamity in the health sector, if the right measures are not taken, and if the people fail to comply with the rules of hygiene, social distancing and other immunity-boosting measures. Its time for the government to read out additional stringent measures, and emphasize the importance of public sanity.
With an unfriendly climate around, which can easily affect the disease transmission, the importance of environmental health, particularly hygiene, need not be overemphasized.
Medical Doctors say there is some evidence to suggest that the disease particles can be spread from one region to another along air streams or by wind, so the cause of death may not be too far from the congested traditional pattern of living in the city. This again underscores the imperative of cleanliness.
Although the Government is said to be looking into the reasons behind the sudden surge in death, through the ministry of health, if nothing is done quickly in addressing sanitation among the population in and around the city, the consequences could be disastrous.
There are alarming reports of many areas already violating the lockdown, through public gathering and the playing of football in places outside the reach of security agencies, just as some continue to assemble in manners that are in the breach of the social distancing protocol.
The government needs to ask these people whether they really want to stay alive. If they do, they must be compelled to comply with the rules of sanity.
Whatever the government needs to do, must be done fast, before the rains come down, as flooding after heavy rains can result in sewage overflow and widespread water contamination.
If necessary, the Government must not hesitate, to seek the support of the federal government quickly, before the situation gets out of hand.
But the best and most important thing to do is to warn the public against the dangers of poor hygiene and violating the social distancing policy if truly they want to stay alive.
If anyone is in doubt or refused to comply, he or she should be advised to visit the cemetery.
Bala Ibrahim, a Media Advisor writes from Kano.