THE experience of the Abuja-based journalist, Fred Chukwuelobe who quarantined himself for 14 days after returning from a trip to the United Kingdom (UK) now trends as an example of what active citizens should do in this period of universal fight to curb the spread of coronavirus and it’s most dealy variant, COVID-19.
Mr. Chukwuelobe was in London when the COVID-19 disease was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and nations, including UK and Nigeria began frantic efforts to curtail or contain it. Upon returning to Nigeria, four hours beforecommencement of President Muhammadu Buhari’s order to restrict movements in Abuja, the Federal Capital Teritory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states the Anambra State-born journalist put himself in a solitary confinement to ensure that, had he contracted the coronavirus during his stay in UK or during his return journey in which had companions from high-risk countries and a stop-over at Ethiopia.
According to Chukwuelobe, apart from the virus being prevalent in UK, in his flight there were many Chinese travellers in it and several reasons for him to conclude to he had to ascertain his health status before rushing to interact with his family and the larger society which according to him would be a willing attempt to harm people.
In an interview he granted GbengaAruleba of the African Independent Television (AIT) ‘COVID-19 Watch’ program, yesterday, after he completed his self-sequestration and tested negative, Chukwuelobe who once served as the chief press secretary to a governor of Anambra State said: “I took the decision because I knew how dangerous it would be if I took the disease there and passed it on… That would be terrible.”
Further in the interview, monitored by National Light, Chukwuelobe observed that the biggest challenge Nigeria has currently in the fight against coronavirus is the stubbornness of and deliberate aloofness of citizens who, sadly would be terribly hit if the current effort by government to curb the pandemic fails.
Referring to citizens’ resistance of lockdown rules and the fact that many people, including those who should know the dire consequence of their actions, who returned from journeys like his, did not sequester themselves or submit themselves to appropriate authority as required by worldwide anti-COVID-19 campaign, Chukwuelobe said that what he did is a recourse to his conscience and what he knows to be right.
“In whatever you do, you will always have deviants. Some of them you can call social deviants. And, it is a matter of choice. You have to decide where you want to belong to. I don’t want to be a deviant. I don’t want to be a rascal. So I believe that the proper thing to do was to go into self quarantine. And I did it for fourteen days. It wasn’t easy. It was difficult for me to do. At a point I felt like breaking it. But I kept to it for fourteen good days. Before coming out from my room.I remained indoors for the two solid weeks,” he explained.
When his interviewer asked him what he was doing every hour, through the two weeks, if there were no friends calling to urgehim to break the regime, Chukwuelobe replied thus: “Yes… Didn’t I say something about our society; that even when one wants to do something right, there are pressures from left, right and centre. Pressures from family members, from friends for you not to do that which you feel convinced about as the right thing to do…I just felt I should continue in what I did, ignoring them.
“I told myself: what you should do is to stay on course.Once you believe in a particular cause you feel is right you do that.
As I was indoor, I was watching the television, listening to the views of experts. Of course,I heard those from the Northern part of the country saying:“Mallam ya che babu Corona, Mallam told them that there is no corona”. I think it is ignorance.
And it behooves their leaders to go and educate them, to tell them that there is actually something called Coronavirus. And it is a respecter of nobody. It can kill anybody. Someone said to me that I was afraid to go into self-quarantine. The person was expressing a wrong opinion.
He didn’t understand it. It was now left for me as a mature person, as someone that is exposedand as a responsible citizen to do what was proper to do.
And that was why I decided to ignore him and go into self-quarantine and because of what he said I was more convinced more than ever, to go in there and stay there for fourteen days. So that when I come out and tell my story nobody will begin to ask me: “but you opened your door and came out, and went out and you were also spreading it.
“I sat down there and I made sure that I didn’t step out of that room…I was drinking water, reading my novels, listening to your programs, listening to CNN and listening to other people speak. And getting more information on how to avert it and then what you should do incase you have the symptoms. And thank God I didn’t develop any of those symtoms for good fourteen days.”
Choosing between ignorance and deviants, the one Nigeria is suffering from most in the current campaign against coronavirus, the media man settled for ignorance using the on-going effort to use the issue of 5G in telecommunications to distract people from the very import global push against the pandemic.
“We are suffering more from ignorance than deviants, because I overheard people talking about coronavirus and 5G. I don’t get it.I listened to a Man of God, a pastor who has large followership talking about something he is not vast in (laughs). I don’t get it… I think at this point in time, if there is anything anybody can do, the best anybody can do is to listen to the experts. Listen to the infectious diseases experts.Listen to the government, and do what they asked you to do. And if you develop any of this symtoms, you go and treat yourself,” he said.
Asked if he took the contacts of people who came in contact with him when he arrived the airportbecause if he had turned COVID-19 positive,tracking the persons would have been very important. He informed that he did.
“Futunately enough, the person that came to pick me at the airport is somebody I know very well.So what I did was that the moment I came down from the aircraft and cleared customs and immigration, I called him. He came. I first of all, gave him the hand sanitizers I brought from UK.So he sanitized his hands and cleaned the doors of the cars and the rest of them. As someone I know very well, I used to sit in the front seat and chat with him. But I told him that I was going to the back to stay so that we can give ourselves some social distances.Even when I got to the back, I made sure I sanitized. And when we got to my house, he didn’t come down from the car. I told him to stay there. I came down, he opened the booth, I picked my luggage and left. I have called him since then. He is okay.
“Let me also tell you something. Before I left London, I was hungry. I couldn’t get Nigerian food to eat, and I was tired of eaten biscuit and drinking coffee. I simply visited a friend of mine who lived very close to the hotel. We stayed about three days together. When I came to Nigeria, I was so worried and I kept calling him asking him to go and run a test. He ran it and told me that he was negative. So I was happy. I actually took precautions. I was not afraid. The driver that brought me from the airport is very okay.”
In my view, Chukwuelobe has emerged a champion of sort in the nation’s anti-COVID-19 quest, at least for showing what ‘people who should know,’ should do. Unlike the FunkeAkindele’s, Naira Marleys et al and the several disappointing elites of this period, he showed the light.
He made his “final appeal” in the interview thusly: “In the first place let me also appeal to the government before appealing to the people. I think you can simply say that a hungry man will not be able to readthe messages you are sending if you don’t take care of them. Many people are hungry; many Nigerians feed from mouth to mouth on a daily basis.
And you are asking the person to go inside the house and sit down. What will he eat? How will they clothe himself?But the citizen despite his complaints has to know: You have to be alive to see the other side of coronavirus. And the only way you can be alive is to observe social distancing. Stay at home; stay safe; wash and sanitize your hands and you will be okay. Find a way to manage.
And those who are public-spirited should find a way to help those around them who are not able to cope with the difficulties we are experiencing. But most important, people should think of their lives. Stop listening to people who are spreading fakenews. Listen to the government, listen to experts. Don’t wait until it happens to you before you learn. It is only a fool that learns from his own experience.And if you do that, you will be safe and be able to suvive the pandemic.”