How Nigeria’s Religious Leaders, Others Help Fuel Ignorance About COVID-19, Increase Risk Of Pandemic’s Spread
As the Coronavirus outbreak spreads further, ravaging communities and causing economies to halt around the world, there are many, who have described the existence of the virus as a conspiracy.
In the United States for instance, President Donald Trump has come under fire for allegedly putting aside a January 30 memo by a senior government official warning of mass casualties and economic devastation months before the pandemic found its way to America and disrupted the people’s lives, claiming some of their best and most promising individuals in the process.
Even the World Health Organisation is not spared in this error of judgment.
On January 23, Director-General of the organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China.
But a few days later, WHO backtracked and declared COVID-19 a pandemic. It was too late then, sadly.
In Nigeria, there has been no shortage of COVID-19 deniers despite its glaring effects and danger it continues to pose for the entire populace.
At the moment, the country has 1532 confirmed cases of Coronavirus and 44 recorded deaths.
Late in March, a video surfaced online with hundreds of Nigerians chanting, “Mallam ya ce babu Corona”. Translated to English from Hausa language, it meant, “Our cleric said no Coronavirus, it is a hoax”.
This is really strange, youths in Kano chanting mallam ya ce babu Corona(our teacher has said their is noting like Corona). How can we all work together to curb this menace wit this kind of mindset? May God safe us #stayhome #StaySafeAndStopTheSpread #SocialDistancing #Covid_19 pic.twitter.com/2XYIxP0a2t
— Myndaztouch (@Myndaztouch1) April 26, 2020
In another video, leader of Izala Muslim sect in Kaduna, Sheikh Sani Yahaya Jingir, could be seen describing COVID-19 as an international deceit and Western conspiracy against Muslims.
He said, “Is the virus as effective as fire that could not burn Prophet Ibrahim (AS)? Then the virus is a lie. Whatever people have to say, they should say the truth. A professor has said it was a lie.
“President of Turkey declared that they shouldn’t stop the Juma’at congregation because of Coronavirus because they don’t believe in the virus, they only believe in Allah.”
Shortly after the video went viral, scores of young people especially from Northern Nigeria began washing their hands in bowls and drinking the water in a bid to validate the message by the Islamic cleric that Coronavirus does not exist.
Got this video from WhatsApp and I just don’t even know what to say.
We pray that we are not tested pic.twitter.com/lrogxcePoO
— Muh’d Sani Dattijo (@Dattijo) April 12, 2020
Apart from Muslim clerics, some Christian leaders have also come up with their own theories on the subject matter and added to the culture of ignorance currently prevailing among the people as to what Coronavirus is and how to respond to it.
Recall that in April, founder and President of Love World Incorporated widely known as Christ Embassy, Chris Oyakhilome, claimed that the creation of 5G technology and its deployment to parts of the world was responsible for the outbreak of Coronavirus.
According to him, the new technology was part of the new world order by the anti-Christ, who was bent on establishing a single religion, economy and government for the entire universe.
But his claims rather than create a better understanding of the virus and how people can eliminate it only went on to add to their ignorance of the matter and raised the risk of the pandemic reaching more people.
“Anyone at this point who denies COVID-19 is wicked and deliberately putting the lives of people in their sphere of influence at great risk,” Emmanuel Adetiloye, a pastor with a new generation church in Lagos told SaharaReporters on Tuesday.
He added that Nigerians must take full responsibility at ensuring that they filtered information they received from their religious and political leaders especially at this time before digesting such.
“The spirit of discernment must be invoked at all times to know what information is right and which is wrong.
“The government must also invest in sensitisation and arrest anyone regardless of who they are, who is trying to derail the process,” he said.
In Kano where strange deaths have been recorded amidst a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent days, prominent community organiser, Ibrahim Garba Maryam, said the exclusion of traditional rulers from the decision making process was affecting how people at the grassroots received information on the pandemic.
“The communities have a closer link with the emirs who control the imams but they are not involved and that is one of the gaps we are having.
“Involve the traditional rulers in creating awareness, you cannot just go and lock them up as just figure heads.”
Maryam said misinformation was coming from traditional rulers because they are not properly informed about the virus.
“The traditional institutions are demoralised, have you seen any NCDC personnel visit any traditional leader and tell him this is why we are here? They do not regard them.
“But if election comes, politicians will go to traditional leaders to mobilise communities.”
Maryam called for more testing and investigations to enable a better assessment of the situation on the ground.
He said, “We are now under a difficult situation, we need to tell the truth so these things can be corrected.
“When you lock us down, go from house to house and do swabs, try to know the number of people who need testing. We need to have more testing like Kenya and South Africa.”
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