Benue COVID-19 or COVID-419: The Rhetoricals

By Festus Yisa

The COVID-19 pandemic in Benue State, unlike anywhere else in the world, has come with its very unique tales, twists and turns. It has even generated more controversies than the number of reported cases in the state. And this, coupled with the air of distrust in government by the masses, has left very many questions crying out for answers.

First, was the Susan Okpe drama, then came the controversy of whether name calling of the coronavirus patients as engendered by Governor Samuel Ortom, was within the purview of legality or not. This controversy peaked when the Governor announced that one Edward Manger of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) had abandoned duty in Kano State and had returned to Benue with the virus. Some skeptics even argued that the government was just imposing the reported cases on people in the bid to attract "financial attention" from the Federal Government, donor agencies and philanthropists.

As a trained skeptic and thinker, I just can't help but dice the following rhetorical questions: As it stands now, Benue has 13 recorded cases; and if Edward Manger traveled all the way from Kano to Benue probably driving or boarding public transport, when he arrived Wurukum, didn't he make contact with anybody along the way or at any spot in the state, with his fellow passengers as the case may be? How many of the contacts related to him have been traced and tested? Did or does Susan Okpe actually test positive for COVID-19?

Why are there only 13 reported cases in the state? Did Edward Manger and Susan Okpe make contact with only 11 persons upon their return? Does the virus go on recess before it resumes spreading in Benue?  Are Benue people under-tested for COVID-19? Has Benue actually won the coronavirus battle? Is the coronavirus un-benue? Is the State Government deceiving the masses? Is the NCDC deceiving the Benue State Government? Are the masses deceiving themselves by failing to accept the COVID-19 reality? Is name calling of the coronavirus patients legal, ethical or in the best interest of the public?

What are the names of the other 11 persons who have tested positive? Or has the Benue State Governor reconsidered his position on name calling? The State Government was one of the first to "commission" a committee to handle the then impending COVID-19 crisis; what has the committee done so far? Is it an "audio committee" only making waves on the moribund Radio Benue or merely on the pages of newspapers? What proactive measure(s) has the committee put in place should the crisis escalate in the state?

On the part of the masses, are they taking responsibility by adhering to the latest guidelines released by the state government? Does the state committee have a monitoring and evaluation team in this regard? Prior to the recently held local government elections, was the government thinking of the safety of the masses or it was more concerned with the elections?

Finally, is the novel coronavirus a hoax or reality in Benue State? Is it COVID-19 or COVID-419? Who is being true to who? And who is deceiving who?
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