by Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi
On the 26th of March, 2020, The Bauchi State Governor, Sen. Bala Mohammed tested positive to COVID-19; the corona virus that has now gained reputation as the fastest spreading virus in human history, with no vaccine or anti-virus in sight. Sen. Bala Mohammed was discharged from quarantine and treatment on the 9th of April 2020; and was given a clean bill of health by the National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC. Just after being discharged, as he was leaving the hospital, he said to reporters, “I went through hell while in isolation for treatment, I felt like I was alone but the love, affection and prayers shown to me by the people of Bauchi really kept me going.” Bala Mohammed had also thanked the people of Bauchi State for standing by him all through the trying period. He said, “I cannot hide my health status, but if by doing so I have offended anyone, I apologise for that. It was indeed a very trying time for me, but glory be to God that I was able to pass the test.” Just before Gov. Bala Mohammed became the index case for his state, Dangote had given Bauchi state a cash donation of N200 million naira, to be disbursed as capital to needy women, as start up for various kinds of local enterprise, to alleviate the hardships they encounter daily, trying to make a living.
Mentally, I had penned a letter to Dangote, thanking him for the thought, but basically to urge him to top his donation to atleast a billion naira. Dangote had made donations of cash, housing estates and other palliatives, amounting to billions of naira to Borno state, to help cushion the effects of the Boko Haram war. Bauchi state, which is at the base of the north-east, has served as a trough for the entire people of the north-eastern states and everyone migrating from especially Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, has ended up in Bauchi. With this development, Bauchi has witnessed a very huge population boom and the proliferation of settlements doting the state’s landscape. These settlements have ballooned into towns and now exist as ‘new districts’ within the Bauchi metropolis. Such areas include Kandahar, Sabon Kaura, Wuntin Dada and Yelwa area. There’s also a whole new layout that has sprouted at the Tirwun area, which is towards the Bauchi-Maiduguri road. Also, the numbers of going or achaba riders, keke-napep, and the vectra/sharon commercial motorists, have grown astronomically as most of the okada or going riders, that have been banned from operating in neighbouring states, are now all hauled up in Bauchi. Over 80 percent of the population of people in Bauchi have to get out there daily to earn a living.
The economic landscape of Bauchi is not so favorable, with hardly any manufacturing enterprise or industries in the state. This has therefore made every single citizen in Bauchi state a civil servant. Everyone is a civil servant because – you are either waiting for the salary payment at the end of the month, or as a trader, you are waiting for the salary earners to come and patronize your trade immediately they get paid. So at the end of the day, the entire state population is dependent on the state government for virtually everything. Of the 1.2 million children that are of school age, over 777,000 are out of school, which means that more than half the kids in Bauchi state are out of school. The water reticulation networks are just being upgraded and expanded as the state is witnessing an over population which is stretching its infrastructure and social amenities.
My deep gut fear here is that; were COVID-19 to break loose and run amok into Bauchi and its environs, we would surely have a serious humanitarian crises on our hands. In the first round of infections of the corona virus that got around a few states, Bauchi was lucky that its index case was the state chief-executive himself, and therefore tracing his contacts and being able to quarantine them was a whole lot easier. The state governor had the number one responsibility of being disciplined enough to contain and isolate himself and all his contacts and he did just that excellently. God was kind to the state and the first wave of infections was just 6 infections with all of them discharged and cleared, without a single death. The state government locked down the state from any inflow or outflow of commuters, and the citizenry were free to move within the towns of Bauchi, Azare, Misau etc
Just 7 days ago, Bauchi witnessed an additional 15 infected persons in a new wave of corona virus attacks, spreading from people that have entered the state mainly from Kano and Lagos states. As at today, Bauchi has about 48 confirmed and hospitalised cases, with neighbouring Gombe state registering 92 cases. Because of this and inspite of the difficult economic condition of the state, the state government has had to step up the lockdown features that it had earlier put in place – enabling stricter measures. Only food stalls or shops are allowed to open, Friday prayers were also stopped and all other congregational prayers and sermons of the Ramadhaan Fasting period were also stopped. Okada riders were stopped from operating and the keke-napeps were only allowed to carry 2 passengers at a time. Facemasks were enforced too for persons stepping out in public, and movement in the evenings became restricted. As testing capacities are being improved, it means that towns like Bauchi were among the first, that had shown fewer statistics of infected persons are going to record a significant rise in the number of confirmed cases.
Bauchi is very similar to Kano state in terms of over populated areas, and also the percentage of the disadvantaged or mass population of its citizenry. God forbid were Bauchi to step out the way Kano did, with the wave of deaths from corona and other illnesses, Bauchi’s case is going to be worse because for starters; Bauchi does not have the BUA’s and the Abdulsamads, nor the Dangotes and the Dantatas to come to the rescue with equipments, isolation centres or food palliatives. If the FG is sending 110 trailers of food to Kano, it should send no less than 90 trailers to Bauchi. Kano’s population cannot be more than 2 million people more than the population in Bauchi. If the FG is mulling 15 billion in facilities or funds for Kano, then Bauchi should also have atleast 10 billion earmarked. A stitch in time for Bauchi, will save thousands from dying. Some say the economic hardship is tougher than corona itself but time shall tell. Ghana and Germany have relaxed their lockdowns and have witnessed over 60% rise in their previous number of corona infected persons. Now that the FG is experimenting with relaxing lockdowns which is for sure going to backfire – but then it may also just teach the citizenry of the country a lesson in law-abiding citizenship. It is my hope that the FG would give states like Bauchi and Gombe a kinder attention because on thing is for sure – if the corona re-surges after easing the lockdown, it would be that ‘unprintable’ thing hitting the ceiling fan! States like Bauchi have pre-existing and severe economic conditions that have been screaming palliatives even before corona. May God protect us all and deliver us from this pandemic that even the World Health Organisation is appearing clueless about how to abate or decimate it.