COVID-19: Was Yahaya Bello Right After All?

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Almost throughout the season of Covid-19 panic and frenzy in Nigeria, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State stood out, not as an object of praise and adoration but as a public figure of scorn and ridicule because of his notorious stance and fidelity to his conviction that there wasn’t any coronavirus case in his state.

Both federal and state health experts did all their best to “prove” that the virus has invaded Kogi State just as it has in several other states, but GYB stood his grounds, and at each given moment he would reiterate that there wasn’t a single case of the disease in his state.

Because of the panic, anxiety and frenzy that gripped not just the nation but the whole world due to the virus, it was very easy for even the most intelligent people to doubt the governor’s sanity and the reasonableness of his stance on insisting that his state wasn’t going to lockdown, so much that in the heat of the brickbats between him and health professionals, he became a target for all manner of press reviews, including even comic cartoons and daily ridicules from his state’s opposition politicians.

Yet he remained unshaken in the face of all that.

But looking back now, particularly at this time that Nigerians have become more relaxed as opposed to the tense period between March and July, when many parts of the country were in total lockdown, and looking at how Kogi State has remained unscathed, with no reports of predicted mass deaths in the state, shouldn’t we begin to look at the possibility that Bello was right all along while most of us were wrong?

And when I say wrong, I’m simply being particular about Kogi State, not the entire country or the world, because we have all seen proof of how the virus devastated (and still devastates) many parts of the world and some parts of Nigeria.

There was this uncanny feeling then that because GYB was deliberately denying the existence of the virus in his state as most people erroneously thought, bodies were going to be falling on the streets of Kogi in scary numbers and the state was going to be the Ground Zero of the pandemic in the country. But goodness, none of that happened till date. So, what could have been responsible for this anticlimax, and isn’t there something about leadership that other leaders and the general public should learn from the stubborn fidelity to conviction that GYB displayed against all odds?

To quote the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher “Don’t follow the crowd. Let the crowd follow you.’ If you are sure of the truth and facts available to you, and you doggedly stick to their veracity even if you are the only one in a multitude of unbelief, then you will definitely stand out.

People with such stubborn convictions and fidelity to their convictions don’t always follow the crowd, but will rather have the crowd follow them, especially when the crowds later realize that your singular conviction was right after all. That’s the stuff of leadership. Apparently, Governor Yahaya Bello was right.

In the era of mistruth, only those with stoic resistance to falsehood survive. Bello like Donald Trump, are two irrepressible references of those who refused the narrative of the new normal; they chose the old order- which embodies truth! So far, their stance on the COVID imbroglio seems plausible.

Sharon Faliya Cham wrote from Abuja.

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