Opinion

Six weeks out of action

I have been out of the column writing action for six weeks now, to the chagrin of some readers, many of whom called to find out why. But there were many others who quietly celebrated that this man no longer bothers us with his old stories, some of which he fabricated.

Unfortunately, the old story teller is back, not with a bang but with a whimper. Just like government’s reopening from lockdowns, my return is a slow and deliberate process. I am easing my return after examining the scientific evidence as compiled by a Task Force, in this case my own body organs. If they decide there is a spike, I might have to reimpose the lockdown.

In late April I spent a total of eight days on the cramped beds of two different hospitals. Most of the time my eyes were closed because whenever I opened them, I saw the whole room spinning very fast.

At a point I thought I was standing on the edge and witnessing the rotation of the earth, which scientists say is at the rate of 1600 kms per hour. I wondered if that was the route that people follow on their way to join their ancestors. My stomach churned with nausea and I vomited several times, even though the only thing that came out in the vomit was greenish bile.

After I walked out of hospital [hobbled out, was more like it], I still couldn’t go downstairs for two weeks. I walked to the toilet leaning on the wall. I couldn’t lift a pen; I couldn’t punch at a keyboard; I couldn’t answer phone calls; I hated the sight of a screen; I barely tolerated the sound of incoming text messages. I hated the sight of television. I didn’t want to hear my family members endlessly answering phone calls from relatives and friends and saying that I felt better, which was not true. I didn’t want to hear other people whining about the lockdown. Which lockdown again, when I was locked down in a narrow hospital bed?

For a man like me who used to wonder why some people announce their trips in advance on Facebook, it was no small leap of faith that I announced on Facebook that I had been sick. I had to do so because too many people were calling and asking why I did not write a column. It wasn’t enough to say I was sick. People will jump to conclusions that COVID got this man, so I had to announce that it was a spike in blood sugar. I have now outclassed the young men and women who regularly announce on Facebook that they are going from Wuse to Gwarinpa.

It was when I got out of hospital that I learnt that diabetes is a familiar disease; that many people around have been battling with it, some for years, with mixed results. I got a lot of advice from people, some of it contradictory.

My very concerned friend in Sokoto sent a recipe that he probably obtained from a babalawo, that I should drink juice from the bladder of a bull. I hereby thank all the people who showed concern by way of prayers, well wishes and pseudo-medical advice.

There was however a Good Samaritan who went beyond prayers and advice. He brought plenty of oats, protein energy drinks, brown rice, skimmed milk, a blood sugar monitor and lots of fruits to my house. I do not yet have his permission to disclose his identity, so I will probably do so in my memoirs, which is due anytime before 2035.

What did I miss in six weeks out of action? I didn’t miss the avalanche of COVID stories. Radio, television, newspapers, websites and social media had no other stories except COVID, which made me sick.

I was glad to read an advisory on CNN which said one did not have to listen to endless stories about a virus. With that, I reduced my consumption of such stories to no more than two a day, and skipped all the others.

Stories about lockdowns were the second most copious and the second most nauseating, to me. People whined and groaned all around that they had no food, had not seen government palliatives, that they could not go to mosques and churches, that children languished at home with all schools shut, that salaries were being cut all over, that the cost of face masks and hand sanitisers had shot through the roof, and that Chinese doctors sneaked into the country and could not be accounted for.

An alarm was raised that there were mysterious deaths in Kano and in Borno. Three prominent traditional rulers, several university professors and many other eminent people died, some of them due to COVID.

In the midst of that the African country Madagascar, which many African youngsters do not know about since it changed its name from Malagasy, shot into the limelight by claiming that it discovered a cure for COVID.

Its president Andre Rajoelina instantly became the top African witchdoctor by holding out a neatly packaged bottle, its contents unknown to scientists, but which some desperate African presidents accepted without question.

Conspiracy theories soon followed that WHO rejected the “cure” because it was found in Africa, even though WHO’s boss is a bona fide African.

We were regaled by stories of a COVID-free Kogi State. How did this virus go from Lagos and Rivers to Kano and Borno but neatly skipped Kogi, which is the gateway to everywhere? It must be afraid of Yahaya Bello’s ratatata. No less regaling was the emergence of Emperor Wike I, whose lockdown laws in Rivers must have made Draconia to turn in his grave.

ASUU’s war against the Federal Government over IPPIS, which is befuddling to most Nigerians, continued during the lockdown. The news media at first tried mightily to make Prof Ibrahim Gambari’s appointment as President Buhari’s new Chief of Staff a Second Coming of Christ media event but with few straws to clutch on, it soon turned its attention back to morbid virus stories.

Stories of impending economic catastrophe also competed for space. One story, published by a European paper, predicted an impending Venezuelanisation of Nigeria, with empty store shelves, mass starvation and mass emigration across our borders. I wondered why it did not predict a post-World War One Germanisation of its own country, which has more COVID cases than all of Africa combined.

The Chadian army, led by its battle-hardened President Idris Deby, launched a Hitler-style blitzkrieg that drove Boko Haram out of its numerous islands. Our Army Chief Lt Gen Buratai then went to the North East and vowed to stay there until Boko Haram is no more. He has made a big impact there; all we hear these days are a series of battlefield calamities for the terrorists.

With Buratai heavily engaged in the North East, local bandits in Katsina State took advantage and sacked many villages. Now, the Air Force is dropping bombs again in Katsina and Zamfara.

I did not even know that the Ramadan moon had been sighted until I noticed my family members eating in the middle of the night in one corner of the hospital room, and they said they were doing sahur.

This past weekend, there was a lot of kata kata over moon sighting to end Ramadan, with some people saying they saw the moon and the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs ignored them. And yesterday, for the first time in my lifetime, we had Sallah without Eid prayers or social visits in many towns.

This week is a week of public holidays. Two days of Sallah holidays, one Children’s Day and then May 29, the former Democracy Day. Two years ago when we had many holidays in one week, economists said the economy lost N1.7trn due to no work. One Nigerian man then asked, “Where is the N1.7 trillion of last week, when there was work?”

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