Unravelling the mystery of Kogi’s resistance
A mystery yet to be unravelled about the COVID-19 pandemic since Nigeria was hit by it about two months ago is the fact that Kogi and Cross River states are yet to record a single case while it ravages the remaining 34 states as well as the Federal Capital Territory. At the last count, the country had recorded more than 7,000 cases and no fewer than 211 deaths. But like a fleck of fresh yam flour in a morsel of amala, Kogi and Cross River states remain as clean as a hound’s tooth, untouched and undefiled by the deadly virus!
As a non-indigene of Cross River State and one who cannot boast more knowledge of the state than he can of Iceland, it is difficult to fathom the secret behind the apparent immunity of the inhabitants of the South-South state to the deadly virus. This is in spite of the speculations in some quarters that dog pepper soup, a delicacy known in local parlance as 404, is the strength behind the resistance so far exhibited by the residents.
I am also not in a position to agree or disagree with those who have attributed the state of affairs in The People’s Paradise to the pro-active steps taken by Governor Ben Ayade to stop the virus from gaining entry. It could well be that the state remains impregnable because coronavirus is not a candidate for Paradise. I can, however, claim to be in a position to speak fairly authoritatively in respect of Kogi, not only because I am an indigene of the state, but also because I cut my professional teeth with its beautiful newspaper, The Graphic, about two decades ago.
Last week, a mild drama played out between officials of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and Governor Yahaya Bello, following a visit the former made to the state to determine the true state of things in respect of the COVID-19 virus. Like everyone else, officials of the NCDC could not help wondering why a state that should be most vulnerable to the pandemic because it shares boundaries with more states than any other is the one least affected. The North Central state is reputed for sharing boundaries with 10 others, namely Niger, Nasarawa, Kwara, Benue, Anambra, Enugu, Ondo, Ekiti, Edo and the Federal Capital Territory.
The NCDC delegation, however, got the shock of their lives with Governor Bello’s insistence when they got to Lokoja, the state capital, that they would not only be quarantined, but also subjected to COVID-19 tests so that they would not be infecting the state with the deadly virus. It was a situation the delegation had not anticipated, much less prepared for. Perhaps aware of the governor’s desperation for the state to maintain its COVID-19-free status and suspecting that they stood a little chance of coming out clean after the governor had pointedly accused a member of the delegation of shaking hands with a Kogi State Government official in contravention of the social distancing rule, they hurriedly retraced their steps to Abuja.
The NCDC has since accused the governor and his administration of engaging in dangerous self-delusion with their claim that Kogi State is coronavirus-free as they have studiously prevented the carrying out of tests that would reveal the careers of the virus. The disease control agency says that Kogi State has only carried out a test since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country while Cross River has carried out only seven. This has led many to assert that the two states are sitting on a keg of gunpowder because by the time the suppressed cases explode, each of them could have worse scenarios that Lagos and Kano combined.
If only they know that there are peculiar factors that could make the Confluence State impregnable to the menace of COVID-19. To start with, it is not for nothing that it was felicitously named ‘Kogi’, a Yoruba adverbial allusion something or someone that is hard or tough. A state whose workers endured the hunger and starvation that attended the non-payment of salaries for 18 straight months certainly has more than enough capacity to resist a virus so weak that ordinary warm water can eliminate it.
It is not a mere coincidence that Kogi is the only state in the country that boasts an iron and steel industry. Forget that the Ajaokuta steel company has remained still born since its birth was ‘midwifed’ by the Alhaji Shehu Shagari-led civilian administration in the Second Republic. It detracts nothing from the ruggedness it symbolises for Kogi State.
In fact, a very reliable source informed that researchers drawn from Oxford, Cambridge and other world-renowned universities are already on their way to Kogi State. They will not only be establishing the relationship between the coronavirus-free status of the state and the aforementioned factors, they will also be digging for a clue into the inhibiting ability of the meeting point of Rivers Niger and Benue in the state with respect to the spread of the virus.