AN OPEN LETTER TO NYSC’S DG, BRIG.-GEN. JOHNSON OLAWUMI
NYSC CAMP AND EBOLA: GETTING THERE IN GOOD TIME
Two months ago, the NYSC cancelled her end of service year and passing out parade activities for the Batch B 2013 corp members. I was among those affected. While we missed the opportunity offered by the parade of getting together with fellow corp members and friends from various local government areas, we understood the underlying reason for this decision. We appreciated the fact that the NYSC had our safety, the safety of Nigerian youths, very much at heart. We understood that gatherings such as the parade provided a mouth-watering temptation to any one with a suicidal bombing intention in mind. Plus, the decision was very much in line with the NYSC vision ‘of developing a scheme that is dynamic enough to meet new challenges …’. Then, as it still is now, security of lives first and property is a challenge in the country.
On the 25th of July, 2014, an American-Liberian citizen was confirmed dead in Lagos, Nigeria. The cause of death was the deadly Ebola Virus Disease. Since then, more cases have been recorded in the country and tens of persons have been quarantined in a bid to stop the spread of the disease. The country is, as the Health minister, Dr. Chukwu, puts it, in a state of ‘national health emergency’. Everyone either is, or is trying to be, on guard. There are measures to screen out-bound passengers from Nigeria. Air passengers now have to self-declare their health status before disembarking from the plane. According to Dr. Sani Gwarzo, director of port health services, it is now mandatory for pilots to declare any event in the air especially cases of vomiting, bleeding, high fever, etc. Border controls are tighter in Nigeria and some countries have placed travel bans on persons from certain parts of Africa. The Nigerian customs service is now on Red alert as declared by her comptroller-General, Dikko Inde Abdullahi CFR.
Health care givers are also on the alert for their safety and that of their family. Sanitary products – hand sanitizers, hand wash, bleaches, clinical alcohol, etc. – are being bought off their shelves in the stores. The number of hands being washed regularly by their owners has increased tremendously and is still increasing. Even the sellers of bitter kola, claimed to stop Ebola virus, are not left out. They are smiling more and more to the bank.
The NYSC poised to ‘…become the leading light of youth organization in Africa’ cannot remain in the dark. Thousands of young Nigerian graduates are living together, since August 5th, in the different orientation camps across the country. They are in groups of over 20 in a room and despite NYSC good intentions, sanitary conditions are at its best, only fair. In most camps, the situation leans more towards being worse. They will eat, work, train and sweat together. So they will remain for 21 days, just enough time for Ebola virus total and complete incubation. The virus is no human. It doesn’t need to be tempted. It neither needs to plan or prepare like the suicide bomber. It just acts. It strikes! Such gatherings like the NYSC orientation camps provide a splendid opportunity for the widespread, literally speaking, of the disease in the zones where these graduates with a fluorescent-lit future will be deployed to at the end of the camp. Then we will have national health emergency plus plus. Then all the efforts to curtail the disease will be like a drop in the ocean of Ebola.
It is not too late. If we want, we can go ahead of Ebola virus. I congratulate your efforts to prevent the scourge among the corp members in the various camps particularly those in Lagos state. Many of my friends are there. I know that every corp member upon registration received some anti-malaria drugs. The aim, I suppose, is to eliminate malaria as an ailment when diagnosing any corper with high fever, vomiting, etc. These symptoms are also those of the Ebola virus disease. I also know that the camp directors have been directed to close the camp gates against anyone returning to camp whether after a partial exeat or a full exit. A friend who had gotten a partial exeat was asked to go back to where she came from, upon reporting back to camp on 12/08/14. That way other corp members do not get to share with her especially if she had contracted the disease.
While I laud these initiatives, I protest that they are not enough. The NYSC CAN DO MORE. The NYSC can call off the ongoing orientation camp as it called off the ongoing end of service year activities in June this year. True, the two activities are not on the same scale. True, it will entail many inconveniences, to both management and corp members, and serious logistical considerations. But what is that compared to human lives, the lives of the leaders of tomorrow? It is one thing to prevent ‘outsiders’ from coming in; it’s another to deal with ‘insiders’ who may, most unfortunately, be incubating the Ebola virus. Prevention is always better than cure. Let the NYSC foresee the future, they don’t have to look too far. Let us be forewarned so as to be forearmed. The second stream of deployed graduates is set to begin the orientation camp in September. Should they proceed to live together in camp as if we have no problem on our hands? Time, and you Sir, will tell.
Arise o compatriots; Nigeria call obey
To serve our fatherland; with love and strength and faith
May serving our fatherland not lead to our death through ineptitude.
Youths obey the clarion call; let us lift our nation high
Under the sun and in the rain; with dedication and selflessness
Nigeria is ours, Nigeria we serve.
Ebola is neither the scorching sun nor the biting cold. Let the youths remain alive to fully answer this call. Let the citizens who make up Nigeria stay alive to be appropriately served.