Nigeria: Lessons from Ebola disease By Sunny Ngwu

For once, Nigeria has become the toast of the entire world which has unreservedly been impressed by the effective promptitude with which the health authorities dealt with the mortally ravenous Ebola disease when it strayed into Nigeria through a Liberian/American, Patrick Sawyer who died in Lagos.

When the disease was first reported in the contiguous, tiny, poor West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, pessimists and skeptics had feared that it could be catastrophic if the virus got to Nigeria. The pessimism emanated from the global perception of the country as a nation which immense potentials have been wasted by exceeding inefficiency, corruption and other vices.

But Nigeria displayed her positive side with the conclusive manner Ebola was dealt with prompting the president, Goodluck Jonathan to proudly declare in his Independence Day message that “Nigeria is Ebola-free”.

The feat became more impressive given the fact that at the time Sawyer infested Nigeria with Ebola, the core of the Nigerian medical fraternity–doctors working in government hospitals were on industrial action. And it can be rightly concluded that the bulk of the medical doctors and nurses who drove Ebola out of Nigeria were private medical practitioners which goes a long way to expose the depth of expertise in Nigeria’s medical field despite the much-tauted brain-drain in that sphere.

Noteworthy is the prompt public enlightenment on the disease and the strict public compliance with the anti-Ebola measures.

Nigerians went further to take risky desperate measures on their own as evidenced by the unscientific recommendation that taking and bathing with salt solution provided instant cure for Ebola. That millions of Nigerians zealously complied with the bizarre recommendation, testifies to how dearly they value life and desire to continue to live, according to the great Zik, “on this beautiful planet earth”.

More than that, however, Nigeria has shown the world the way to contain the dreaded disease that has killed over 4,000 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and of course Ngieria with only six deaths.

It is then little wonder that the World Health Organisation (WHO) which has proven that it is more adept at dishing out grim statistics and fearful projections on the disease than at practical measures to curtail it, recently requested Nigeria to assist the three most infested countries to fight Ebola.

The secret of Nigeria’s success and one of the lessons to the whole world is the meticulous, prompt and professional approach by the Nigerian medical team certainly anchored on vast experience in dealing with infectious diseases.

According to a popular police parlance, to hasten the extortion process, “delay is dangerous”. Hence, the promptitude with which the Nigerian doctors handled the Sawyer calamity deserves special applause

Promptitude is emphasized because the Ebola disease came to this exponential catastrophy owing to the failure of the authorities in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and the World Health Organization to check it at the initial stage.

Again, the quick follow-ups by the Nigerian medics to trace those who had vicarious and direct contacts with the purveyor, late Sawyer and got them isolated and quarantined was a piece of professional efficiency. Otherwise the highly contagious disease would have spread to every nook and cranny of Africa’s most populous nation. And one shudders to imagine the calamitous consequences with Boko Haram.

It would have been un-Nigerian if Nigerian politicians, in their usual childish style, did not appropriate to their respective individual selves and groups or parties, the glory and credit for the medical feat. We are reminded of the proverbial Igbo saying that the women are wont to make great tales of a battle after the men had fought and won it.

Such irrelevant past-time notwithstanding, the truth of the matter is that the success achieved over Ebola virus by Nigeria is through collective effort.

Though the political leadership at national and state levels were alive to their duties through prompt enlightenment of the populace, the medical profession played the utmost role as they were in direct contact with the purveyor of the disease, providing the competence that eventually got rid of the virus in Nigeria with a few of the professionals paying the ultimate prize.

Not to be overlooked is the uncharacteristic co-operation and compliance of the Nigerian public in the fight against the disease without which all the efforts by the leadership and the medical profession would have been in vain.

That is why those ascribing the credit for the anti-Ebola success to a particular group, party or individual are shallow-minded.

The hedonistic tendencies of Nigerians for which they love life and living, make them see the need for complying with the anti-Ebola measures without the least prompting.

Translated into governance, Nigerians would easily and always co-operate, comply and support government policies, projects and programmes once they are conceived and implemented with honesty, justice, equity, integrity and accountability irrespective of ethnicity, creed, religion and status.

Indeed, the seeming polarization of Nigerians into ethnicity, religion and sect is the handiwork of politicians to serve their selfish purposes, otherwise the average Nigerian is interested only in the provision of the basic necessities of life by government notwithstanding who is at the helm.

That is the main lesson from the successful battle against Ebola by all Nigerians.