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INTERVIEW: Why Kano can’t cope with COVID-19 outbreak–Infectious disease expert

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Nazifi Dawud

In this interview with KANO FOCUS, Professor Isa Sadiq Abubakar, the Director, Centre for Infectious Disease Research, Bayero University, Kano (BUK) and Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), shares his thoughts on the need to prevent the outbreak of the new coronavirus or COVID-19 in Kano state. Excerpts:

Q: It seems that here in Kano, many people doubt the existence of the COVID-19 coronavirus, what do you say to these people?

Professor Abubabar: That is a very costly mistake because it is a reality. We are lucky it started from a very far place, that is China and gradually spread to other countries. So, this thing started in December and we are living witnesses that over the last three months it has been spreading, yet it has not come to us.

But it is a reality that whether today, tomorrrow or another day, it will definitely come to us whether we like it or not. So, the best thing is that we should get out from the state of denial and do the needful.

And one thing I want you to understand is that it is a very dangerous disease that is very easily contracted and people get down with symptoms that could be life threatening because nothing is more important to our lives than the air we breath. If a disease will disallow us from breathing normally, destroy our lungs, definitely it is a very deadly disease and we must do all withing our powers to ensure that it doesn’t affect us.

Q: The COVID-19 is a disease that demands isolation and keeping distance from one another, but with the huge population in Kano and our lack of understanding of the disease, how do you think people can be convinced to abide by the rules. 

Professor Abubakar: Please I want everybody who has a means to tell another person that we should keep away from each other for now. I implore everyone to do this.

Everyone should be informed that staying at home is the best way to prevent this disease from further transmission because the more we come together the more some of us will be having the disease and spread it to other people either through droplets from sneezes or coughs.

Very recently, we were informed that when a person passes out the virus during coughs or sneeze, it lasts in the air for up to eight hours. That is a very dangerous situation we are facing and so the best way is to keep staying at home.

People who have symptoms should also stay at home, rest and drink lots of fluids. They should be in a humidified room and when they have fever, they can take paracetamol to lower their temperatures and can breath fresher air than when they are out.

Q: Nigeria has one of the worst healthcare systems in the world, do you think our healthcare system can cope with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Professor Abubakar: It is a fact that even the super powers of the world have done everything humanly possible to contain this epidemic but they are being overwhelmed.

If you look at Italy, United Kingdom, United States, they are battling the disease and their medical supplies are being depleted, they are calling for help, they are helpless. What about us in the African continent, especially Nigeria that has the largest population.

In terms of human resources, we have one of the poorest indices in the world. The performance of our health system is very low and so we do not have a resilient health system. Should this problem escalate, we are going to be in a very serious crisis that people can just fold their arms and not be able to contain it.

So, we are just hoping that it shouldn’t take us to that level and the best thing is for people to prevent because the health system as I’m speaking to you everything is in scarcity. We do not have enough protective materials for the health workers to work with.

This is a disease that doesn’t have a vaccine, so we don’t have the capacity to confront this disease. We are not ready to battle this illness, so the best approach is prevention.  And the best prevention approach is keeping social distance and hand-washing with soap and water, good coughing habits, wearing face masks and disposing them properly.

Question: Do you advise the Kano government to ban movement of people into the state through closure of motor parks and suspending domestic flights? 

Professor Abubakar: It is up to the government to take necessary measures but what I know is that the coronavirus is a very dangerous disease and government needs to reduce the number of people coming into town.

As of now, there is a plan to screen everybody coming in but at a later time it may reach a situation where people will be stopped from coming in entirely.

Q: What category of people does the coronavirus affects the most? 

Professor Abubakar: Well, it affects everybody but the people it harms the most include the elderly, people with diabetes, people with weak immunity like HIV, cancer patients, hypertensive or heart disease patients and others.

My Advice for them is to stay at home, maintain social distance and avoid any gathering while adhering to hygienic practices.

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My relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari – Salihu Tanko Yakasai

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Yakasai and Buhari

In light of recent events that transpired over my recent comments about the government of President Buhari, I think it is absolutely necessary to shed more light on my decades of relationship with the President, and how I am not doing anybody’s bidding with my remarks but simply reacting to issues that are happening in my country.

What is more, my comments were not aimed at casting aspersion against the person or government of Mr. President.

Far from that!

I joined partisan politics in December 2000 at the age of 24, when I officially became a member of the defunct APP at my ward, Kawaji in Nasarawa Local Government Area of Kano State.

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At that time, Kano State was PDP-controlled under the then governor, Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso.

So, I entered politics as an opposition member in my state. As at that time, I was contesting for the position of a councilor at my ward, which ended with my losing the primary election in 2004.

Pioneer Buharist

In 2002, I was in All Progressives Party (APP) when President Buhari picked the membership card of the party and officially joined politics to run for the presidency in the 2003 elections. At that time, I and millions of people particularly from the north welcomed this decision by the President with enthusiasm and zeal and we supported him 100%.

We were basically the 1st set of the so-called ‘cult-like followership ‘ of the President, simply because we believed in him to deliver and lead this country to prosperity.

He came into politics as someone people trusted and whom they see as an upright person that they can vouch for, earning him the nickname ‘Mai Gaskiya’.

We campaigned for him through thick and thin, street to street, the young and the old, and when it was election time, I was assigned by my party leaders at my ward to be the returning officer of our party, APP, for the presidential election which Buhari was contesting for.

We fought PDP hard at my ward to ensure that we delivered the ward to him in the election.

I did not sleep for almost 48 hours then, because I had to accompany the results to the local government collation centre to ensure that the results were not altered.

President Buhari did not win the 2003 general elections, but our party, the defunct APP won the governorship election in Kano State, which ushered in Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau as the new governor of the state.

But soon after that, there was friction between his camp and that of President Buhari, which later on after the 2007 elections led to the creation of a new political party formed by Buhari, that is Congress for Progressive Change, (CPC).

First meeting with Buhari

I, and my political leader at that time, Hon. Balarabe Wakili, a former member representing Nasarawa Local Government in the House of Reps (2003 to 2007) decided to pitch our camp with the President and not with Mallam Shekarau, and it was through Hon. Wakili that I first visited the President on a solidarity visit back in the early stages.

It is still in CPC that I contested for the State Assembly, which we suffered a lot because of the factionalization of the party that led to a lot of bickerings.

Ultimately, I neither got the ticket nor did our party win the election.

May I use this medium to thank the current Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Hajia Sadiya for the role she played in my election back then when she was the National Treasurer of CPC.

My surrogate father-in-law

The President, also served as my wife’s guardian during our wedding in 2006 on behalf of her late uncle, AVM Mukhtar Mohammed who was a very close associate of the President.

May I use this opportunity to tell my wife’s guardian that 14 years after he gave her hand in marriage to me, we are still living peacefully and blessed with 3 children.

We thank him for his fatherly role during the nuptial rites.

Back to politics, at the presidential level, I served as a member of the Welfare Committee of the Presidential Election of Muhammadu Buhari, with the current Minister of Water Resources, Hon. Sulaiman Adamu Kazaure as the chairman of the committee, during the 2011 presidential election.

After the formation of APC, I also served as a member of the Youth Committee during the 2015 elections, crisscrossing this country to campaign for the President which we eventually won and Buhari was ushered into government with popular national support.

Now having given the background of the long-term relationship between me and the President spanning 18 years to be precise, I have never known a political leader throughout my political career other than Buhari, even though I can count the number of times I’ve met him.

NEPU blood

I did not only wish for his success but I equally worked hard with everything that I’ve got for almost two decades to see his dream become a reality, and I will continue to stand by him.

When I see things that are going not the way they are supposed to, I naturally have that urge to try and express my concern about them, because I want things to work right.

I can understand, if by virtue of my position as an aide to a governor in the same party as the President’s that I have limitations and somehow the spotlight is always on me.

But occasionally, despite suppressing my opinions,

I find the NEPU blood in me triggering me to react.

This is in no way, meant to undermine the President or my dear party, APC.

Apologies to Ganduje

To my boss, His Excellency, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, OFR, I want to use this opportunity to apologise for putting Your Excellency in an uncomfortable position due to my personal opinions.

It is indeed something that I never intended to happen, and I am not happy about it a bit. I do not have a boss-and-aide relationship with Your Excellency; I rather have a father-and-son relationship with Your Excellency.

Indeed, I appreciate the support Your Excellency has been according me in the last five years, and I will continue to remain loyal to you and serve my state and my country through your government and in whatever other capacity.

At the end of the day, our prayer is for Nigeria to be great.

In the words of Barack Obama “Do we participate  in a politics of cynicism, or in a politics of hope?”

I am an optimist, and it’s our ardent HOPE that we will have the Nigeria of our dreams in which development and prosperity will be the norm rather than the exception; a country we can build a secured future for our children and generations yet unborn.

May we continue to do our best in ensuring this is the Nigeria that our forefathers sacrificed their lives for to lay a solid foundation.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Salihu Tanko Yakasai, Governor Ganduje’s suspended media aide writes from Kano.

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Ganduje reopens Kano higher institutions October 26

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Ganduje

Mukhtar Yahya Usman

Kano state governor Abdullahi Ganduje has approved the reopening of state-owned tertiary institutions on October 26.

Kano Focus reports that the commissioner for higher education, Mariya Mahmoud Bunkure announced the decision on Monday.

The announcement follows the resumption of secondary and primary schools in Kano state on Monday morning.

Ms Bunkure, a medical doctor, however directed the management, staff, and students of the schools to observe Covid-19 protocols.

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LG election: KANSIEC begins sale of nomination forms October 19

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KANSIEC Chairman

Mukhtar Yahya Usman

The Kano state Independent Electoral Commission (KANSIEC) says it will sell nomination forms for local government election candidates from October 19 to December 03, 2020.

Kano Focus reports that the KANSIEC chairman Garba Ibrahim Sheka announced that the election will hold on January 16, 2021.

Mr Sheka, a professor of Economics, said political parties are to conduct their campaigns between October 12, 2020 and January 12, 2021.

He said parties should submit completed forms for the positions of chairman and vice chairman of the 44 local government councils at the state headquarters between September O7 and 13.

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He added that completed forms for the 484 councillorship slots should be submitted at the KANSIEC local government offices.

Mr Sheka said the election will take place before the completion of the tenures of the incumbent local government council officers.

“We will hold the local government election on 16th January, 2021 as the serving chairmen completes their tenure on 11 February.” He said

Mr Sheka added that the 2002 Act that established the commission requires it to announce the election date 21 days before it holds.

He however said that due to the huge number of political parties in Kano state, KANSIEC has announced the date 90 days before the election.

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