By Paul Okah
Despite demands from Ebonyians for him to disclose his COVID-19 status, Ebonyi State Governor, Engr. Dave Nweze Umahi, has paid deaf ears and has remained dumb in addressing those asking him to go into isolation; for gathering half of Ebonyi State residents at the Akanu Ibiam International Conference Centre, Abakaliki, on May 29, 2020, to celebrate his fifth year in office and also to inaugurate the Chairmen of Caretaker Committees for the 13 Local Government Areas in the state.
In the aforementioned event, like other top government officials, Umahi was seen in trending pictures and videos without facemask and freely shaking hands with participants, against the protocols advocated by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and even the Ebonyi State Government on social distancing.
Contrastively, unlike Umahi, the Governor of Abia state, Okezie Ikpeazu, on Saturday, 30th May, 2020, volunteered his sample for COVID-19 test and subsequently directed members of the state Executive Council (EXCO) and those of the inter ministerial committee on COVID-19 to submit themselves for the same test.
In fact, in a statement made available to the media Monday (today), Abia State Commissioner for Information, Mr John Okiyi Kalu, said that Ikpeazu had gone into isolation before his result returned positive and had directed the deputy governor to act on his behalf and that, “on Tuesday, 2nd June, 2020, the result of Governor Ikpeazu’s test returned negative”, but added that the governor tested positive two days later.
He said: “On Thursday, 4th June, 2020, the Governor submitted another sample at NCDC laboratory for confirmation and the result returned positive. As a result, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has gone into isolation, as required by relevant NCDC protocols, and he is being managed by a competent team of medical practitioners with a view to nursing him back to good health.
“Consequent on the above, the Governor has directed his Deputy, Rt Hon Ude Oko Chukwu, to act on his behalf pending his full resumption of duties. We wish to urge all Abians to take the fight against COVID-19 serious as the disease is real but not a death sentence. Our state has the resources to manage patients back to good health.”
Speaking to this reporter on the situation, a medical doctor, Dr Nathaniel Nnaemeka Ifeanyichukwu, said that “the action of Umahi governor is hypocritical, insensitive, unbelievable, condemnable” and that Umahi should be held responsible for any spike in COVID-19 infections in the state, even as he advised the governor and others to go into self isolation immediately.
He said: “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I watched videos and pictures of Umahi freely touching bodies with many people in Abakaliki during the celebration of his 5-year-old government. I was dismayed to see thousands of Ebonyians hugging, shaking hands and doing everything to disobey social distancing, as stipulated by World Health Organisation, NCDC and other authorities. Many of them were not even wearing facemask, including the Governor, who could be recalled to have openly directed for anyone seen without a facemask in public to be flogged. Also, it is very hypocritical of a governor, who has been lamenting about lack of testing kits, to gather Ebonyians for COVID-19 infection.
“In fact, I am of the opinion that Umahi should be isolated immediately. Furthermore, all those who attended the event should be identified and isolated for, at least, 14 days. This is if the governor really means business in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, otherwise Umahi is only being hypocritical, which points to insulting our collective intelligence, to say the least.”
Also speaking, a resident of Afikpo, Rita Eleje Maureen, said she identified the caretaker chairman of Afikpo North Local Government Area, Hon Amauche Otunta Godwin and many other dignitaries contravening the social distancing rule and requested for their immediate isolation, otherwise “the governor would be sending a wrong impression to Ebonyians, especially as many people believe that COVID-19 infection is a hoax and that the state governor is siphoning funds by announcing figures and names of faceless people as being positive”.
“I can’t say anything other than that Umahi should be isolated as a matter of urgency. There is nothing to argue about here. Also, in several videos and pictures trending on social media, I identified different personalities, including the Speaker of Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Francis Nwifuru, who is also Chairman of COVID–19 Welfare Committee, caretaker chairperson of Afikpo North LGA, Amauche Otunta, former Chairman of Afikpo South LGA, Eni Uduma Chima, Omerikete among others.
“Therefore, their isolation will convince people that, indeed, Umahi means what he is saying about the COVID-19 pandemic being in Ebonyi State. Anything other than that would tantamount to their being hypocritical, selfish and what have you. In fact, there are no two ways about it, neither is there supposed to be an argument with regards to this. The NCDC should intervene and force them into isolation, otherwise we are all at risk,” she said.
With recent developments in the state, especially with the Governor shutting down government’s offices last week and advising his EXCO members to go for testing, especially with confirmed cases in the state at 103 (as of June June 6), it is hoped that Umahi will obey the demand of Ebonyians to go into isolation and then present his own test result for Ebonyians to see his COVID-19 status.