Column Opinion

COVID19, Those Rumours And More Rumours

By Prince Charles Dickson PhD

When the driver takes an unfamiliar road.. We all remove our earphones to see properly!

Rumours

They get started by certain people

that run their mouths without the facts,

they take a story they’ve overheard

and begin to add to it or subtract,

now the original story gets ‘twisted’

and the believers are agitated

because the stories they’ve just been told

has been completely fabricated,

now everyone starts pointing fingers

placing the blame here and there,

when they all should’ve kept in mind

you can’t believe everything you hear.

Bernard Snyder

“My brother took the COVID19 jab, he’s a health practitioner, he gathered six of us family members and asked us not to take it”

“I took the jab, except just a slight pain, and afterwards I was fine, I have taken the second jab and still fine…and besides I have twins and I can tell you their reactions to same infant vaccinations are different”

I am not taking the jab based on conviction…

“I still find the whole thing unclear, I hear it affects the male reproductive organ.”

And the list is endless, rumour, misinformation, disinformation and fakenews.

In May 2020 I had written that “Too many politicians, businesses and reporters are looking at the COVID-19 pandemic as a sprint rather than a marathon. They keep asking, “When can we get back to normal?” Many believe that “normal” is just around the corner, this May or at least by September. The truth is that we will not get back to normal until the world population is protected from the virus by a vaccine. That could take two or more years, before we say farewell, before the rats die…”

With that said, there was and is still need to address the issues that has come with COVID19 especially in Nigeria and then in places like Jos, Plateau where it is pandemic, plus infodemic and conflict. It is in this light that I appreciate the European Union and Search for Common Ground (Search) for the funding support towards the “prevention of the spread of COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation through rumour management”. I personally join Pwakim Jacob Choji to acknowledge the support of Saji Prelis, Rachel Walsh Taza, and Temisan Etietsola for inputs into the production of the manual. It was an exciting two weeks trying to beat deadlines personally working on developing the manual and it was exciting drawing from my experience as #influencerforchange another SFCG anchored project by ConnexUs also with funds from the EU.

A two-day workshop followed and perspectives also made the final document richer, especially at the level of developing case studies and testing the viability of the draft document. We acknowledge the efforts Jennifer Jacob Yarima, Salika Dasa, Sulaiman Tamim Muhammad, Damla Kevin Mabas and Khadija Abdullahi Musa for their role in implementing the initiative. To everyone at the Jos Stakeholders Centre for Peace JSCP, it remains a remarkable venture that will deepen JSCP’s response to the culture of violence and other drivers of conflict and violence.

Before I delve further into my few paragraphs let me thank Emily Long, Jack Farrell, the ConnexUs Team and my team too at The Tattaaunawa Roundtable Initiative.

So it is not far-fetched that beyond COVID19 the pandemic we are still faced with the bad effects of an infodemic which for many of us as risk communicators we see as more dangerous than the pandemic itself. In Nigeria misinformation about COVID-19 has proliferated widely on social media, ranging from the peddling of fake “cures,” such as the chloroquine treatment, the garlic and ginger therapy and the various kinds of tea, this is outside the different cocktail of teas.

With Nigeria this spread of  COVID-19 conspiracies and rampant misinformation has adversely impacted the effectiveness of both containment strategies and vaccinations. Indeed, misinformation about COVID-19 according to all our participants fundamentally continues to distort people’s risk perception of the virus.

It is not therefore news that less than 4% of Nigeria’s population has been vaccinated, Nigeria is missing out, as 15 African countries, approximately a third of the continent’s 54 nations, have fully immunised 10% of their people against the COVID-19 pandemic and we all battle the issue of the right information about COVID19, and to make progress we must tackle those rumours, and fight more of the rumours through awareness about what is right.

Now the import of the interventions such as the SFCG program and government needing to step up in her advocacy and campaign by keying into nationalising the work of JSCP, Youth Initiative Against Human Violence and Human Rights Abuse, TRICentre and many such partners cannot be over-emphasized, as the fact remains that the government cannot do it alone. Our systems especially the health sector is ill-equipped and was never prepared on a good day, how much a COVID19 day.

Data from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), show that only 4,680,000 Nigerians had been vaccinated against the virus, representing 2.34% of a population of 200 million persons. While we are careful of the other facts, the fact that over 70% of the population still need information, that clarifies what COVID19 is, and what it is not speaks to the need for training of journalists, public health official, development workers, government workers, and communities such that vaccination is voluntary as a result of improved knowledge.

Nigeria cannot come last in every indices of measurement, again COVID19 provides an opportunity to make an appreciable level of progress both in vaccination but also in tackling her numerous security and conflict challenges and put good governance as a conversation back to the front burner.

Sick politicians, sick followership, sick nation, but we keep moving one day at a time. We won’t die, we have a strong resolve, we don’t die, and we believe that it cannot end just like that. Our immune system defies medical logic, but COVID19 defies no logic, good governance defies no logic, rumour kills, so also misinformation and fake news.

We must act on the real news of Nigeria’s poor health sector, from infrastructure, to professionals, it is a sorry story, let us not go into the allied industry like pharmaceuticals, medical education or the technology of medicine etc. let us not discuss misdiagnosis, half baked and unbaked professionals. If we add the damage of COVID19 conspiracies then we are doomed.

The inability to account for CACOVID funds, the fact that we spent N32 billion to construct tents and until now not a single new hospital speaks volume, speaks to our issues around accountability and in the words of Pwakim Jacob Executive Director YIAVHA, “in all we do we try to be accountable, we do not do less than expected, we add value, we try to bridge the gap, it is what we do”, Nigerians and her leaders need to tackle issues of accountability in her communication channels whether in education, health, security and other facets. Government cannot operate in isolation, cannot be run rumours, we cannot do misinformation if we are to tackle the scourge of COVID19 and rumours—Only time tell.

Contact the writer: pcdbooks@gmail.com

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