Of course, residents like Malam Modu, dreaded it. Borno’s Governor, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum also confessed that he hated it. But it had to be done. It is called ‘lockdown’. A moment since Wednesday, April 22nd, when Borno was brought to a near stand-still that was by virtue of a lawful declaration announced by Governor Zulum in a statewide broadcast two days earlier.
Why did the Governor and residents all hated the lockdown? It was nothing good. Schools, markets, shopping malls, mosques, and churches were all shutdown. Government activities were put to a halt. Workers and all citizens, except those on essential services, were asked to stay at home. It was a period only compared with war-times.
Wait a minute! Wasn’t it actually a war-time? Well, if war is about fights between enemies with mortal threats, then, it was a war-time.
It was a war between Borno’s people and a pandemic called COVID-19, notoriously called Corona virus. The dreaded disease, discovered December 2009 in Wuhan, China, has so far killed close to 300,000 persons worldwide and infected more than four million. It spreads like wild fires in a cotton market.
In Nigeria, where the pandemic showed its ugly face in March, 143 persons have so far died of the disease with nearly 4,500 infected, from which less than 1,000 have recovered.
In Borno State, 15 persons have been killed by the virus with about 160 confirmed cases.
These deaths and cases were what Governor Zulum hoped to prevent when he imposed lockdown on Borno. He responded to the first, called index case, from which a health worker died after making contacts with dozens of persons. A number became infected and they too, may have spread it. There were also other cases not linked to the deceased health worker.
Zulum’s idea of locking down immediately after the index case was to prevent spread from people making contact amongst themselves with relay effect. Carriers of the disease spreading to their families, colleagues at work, friends and neighbors.
That measure was the recommendation of a high-powered response committee for the prevention and control of the virus, ably chaired by the State’s Deputy Governor, Umar Usman Kadafur.
In accepting and executing that recommendation, Governor Zulum did promise while announcing a lockdown on April 20th, that he would monitor the effects of it from Wednesday, and respond to humanitarian needs.
Zulum fulfilled that pledge with the flag-off on Wednesday, April Saturday, April 25, of a statewide palliative distribution. He had set up a committee charged with dozens of trailer-loads of food items in varieties.
He started with IDP camps himself, then the committee he created, began to share food at wards. They began with Maiduguri Metropolitan Council with 15 wards, the highest in the State, and with the chunk of Borno’s population.
The Governor was well aware that with the lockdown in place, economic activities came to a standstill, coupled with the fact that the State was just trying to tear away from the shackles of Boko Haram crises, in which the poor have been at the receiving end.
Zulum’s palliative committee, chaired by Commissioner of Agriculture, Engr. Bukar Talba has so far covered virtually all the 15 wards namely: Bolori i, Bolori ii, Bulablin ,Fezzan, Gamboru liberty Gwange i, ii and iii, Hausari/zango, Lamisula/jabba mari, Limanti, Mafoni, Maisandari and Shehuri north and south.
Zulum’s ascension to grace has certainly been of benefit to the good people of Borno state and to the admiration of most Nigerians.So far, about 40,000 beneficiaries have been reached, including IDPs within Maiduguri and Jere local government areas, and the efforts have really been successful. This action made the residents go agog with sharing their experiences and Malam Modu, a family man with children and resident of Gwange II, was one of those I spoke with;
“By Allah” he swore, “I did not have anything, not even a single grain of rice at home. Now, I’m going home with a bag rice, cooking oil, pasta, sorghum, as well as condiments. Only Allah knows what He’ll bless Governor Zulum with,” Malam Modu said, as he beamed with smiles walking home.
Now, imagine that feeling of a low-income man who had absolutely nothing to eat. Modu was not alone.
As the palliatives distribution continued particularly at Maisandari ward, a woman who simply identified herself as Yakori, also shared her excitement;
“I’ve never seen a person who is qualified for heaven in my life like Governor Zulum” she spiritually said.
“I can swear that he’s a confirmed ‘Dan Al-Jannah’ (inhabitant of heaven)” she concluded.
Yakori was not alone in going spiritual.
Mrs. Cynthia Obi, a resident of Moduganari in Maisandari ward described Governor Zulum as God sent purposely to alleviate the sufferings of the people, who are suffering from a double pandemic – COVID 19 and Boko Haram).
“This man (Zulum) is simply God sent” said Mrs. Obi. Look at the way he’s taking care of the people since he was sworn in. He’s always from this town or another trying to give help to the Boko Haram victims, now he’s doubling that with palliatives because of the lockdown. My brother, the man is God sent” she concluded.
Bulama Bukar, a ward head in Bulabulin also expressed his gratitude and urged his voice be amplified for the Governor to hear that they’re appreciative.
“Please and please, let the Governor know that we are very happy and appreciative. This gesture will surely make people forget that they are in a lockdown. What’s the most pressing part of the lockdown in the first place? It’s lack of food, but our saint Governor reached us directly at our homes. We really thank him. And as a leader of the people, a lot has been uplifted over my shoulders,” said Bukar.
A community leader, who was very impressed by the Engr. Talba led Committee, said he’s very happy the way the distribution formula was brought up. This ensures all part of the society will be reached.
Hajja Yabawa Kolo, the Chairperson of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), who is the secretary of the State’s palliative committee, expressed that the formula for the distribution of the palliatives is 10 percent to persons with disabilities, 20 percent to the elderly, 20 percent to widows, and the remaining 50 percent to the poorest of the poor”.
So far, the palliative committee has been working on daily basis to reach out to the targeted vulnerable as Zulum, Yakori’s Confirmed ‘Dan Al-Jannah’ keeps on receiving loads of prayers and praises from his people.
Jere, I was told, is next as the palliative train accelerates its speed under the direction of Zulum, a workaholic professor of soil and water engineering whose passion for the downtrodden stems from his personal experiences of hardship while toiling from grass to a grace.
Habu Kale Tijjani, writes from Maiduguri.