By Akanimo Sampson
Political functionaries in Ebonyi State who are holding juicy offices are no longer finding their seats very comfortable because of the rampaging COVID-19.
Governor Dave Umahi, who is fast becoming a controversial no-nonsense governor in Eastern Nigeria, has threatened to visit the COVID-19 sins of communities on their sons and daughters who are holding appointive offices.
But, in Akwa Ibom state, the killer virus is deepening the political antagonism between President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
APC is claiming that the seeming indecisive Governor Udom Emmanuel has not been visible like his counterparts in other states to lead the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Piqued, the PDP fired back, alluding to public appearances by the governor as recently as April 20 where he reportedly inspected ongoing work in a designated isolation centre located in Uyo.
“The complete disappearance of our governor leaves room for a lot of speculations,” says Dr. Ita Udosen, a chieftain of the APC who also queried if Udom intentionally left Akwa Ibomites to fend for themselves during the crisis or if he had also contracted the disease and being forced into isolation.
The obviously angry PDP is describing the charge as a product of mental confusion, adding “ the allegation that Udom has not been seen in public for one month now, is another strong evidence backing the veracity of the claim that, immediately a person joins the broom wielding party, his thinking faculty, sense of honour and truth are forcefully taken from him, leaving him intellectually bare and morally bankrupt.
“We are certain that the allegation by a doctor that a serving governor, or any other person, has contracted COVID-19 and has elected to hide the disease and diagnosis from the public, is far from being professional or reasonable.”
PDP’s State Publicity Secretary, Ini Ememobong, in a statement said, “Ita Udosen claimed he got the ‘news’ from the rumor mill or what others will call beer parlour gist.”
APC in a statement by its Deputy State Chairman, Dr. Ita Udosen, says the Udom administration has failed to ramp up testing ahead of the April 30 date to end the current lockdown.
Udosen who was speaking for his party as a medical doctor says he is privy to the crisis surrounding the handling of the pandemic by the governor, alleging that his professional colleague who lost his life to coronavirus in the state would have survived if oxygen and ventilator were available to be administered on the patient.
“Example is the avoidable loss of a promising young medical doctor in the state on 16/04/2020 due to non-functional oxygen delivery equipment and none application of ventilator on the patient at the designated Covid-19 treatment centre,” APC alleges.
According to Udosen, selective testing and censorship of medical doctors in the state could derail the campaign against the pandemic and warned against the politicisation of the ongoing fight and the distribution of the government’s palliative to cushion the effect of the lockdown.
He said the food package distributed by the state government was only accessible to members of the party. “Politicisation of COVID-19 presence or absence in the state is very worrisome, where the Health Commissioner will say one thing and other government officials will say another is worrisome.
“The 50 names per village collected across the state was done to the exclusion of the entire APC faithful in the state,” he adds.
However, PDP says the allegation is false, claiming that the palliatives were meant for the vulnerable in the society and Udosen to donate to the cause, including volunteering his services as a doctor to help those in the front line.
“His claim that palliatives were shared along party lines is false, as the traditional institution and other non-partisan structures were engaged to help with the distribution. It must be noted that the palliatives were meant for the vulnerable percentage of our population, not everyone in the community.
“However, cognizance has been taken that due to the large informal economy (especially daily earners) in our state and lockdown, people who were previously above the economic vulnerability line, have slipped into the vulnerable class, making the rush for the materials inevitable,” the embattled PDP says.
In the meantime, in Ebonyi, political appointees whose communities serve as a thoroughfare for violators of the state’s lockdown order on the coronavirus fight will be relieved of their positions.
Technical Assistant Media to Governor Umahi, Lady Monica Eze, in a statement made available disclosed that her principal has noticed with dissatisfaction that people are still allowed entry and exit from the borders at some communities and highways of the state.
According to her, despite the lockdown order and in some cases, “public office holders, including Technical Assistants, Senior Technical Assistants, and Executive Assistants are not seen at the checkpoints in their respective communities or duty posts while others compromise at the checkpoints especially at night thereby endangering the health and safety of Ebonyi people.’’
As a result, Governor Umahi, according to Eze, has resolved that he will not hesitate to sanction any public functionary, including council chairmen, whose borders or entry points are used as a conduit for the movement of people or vehicles into or out of Ebonyi whether in the day or in the night except as permitted by the Government Executive Order.
“The governor has resolved that henceforth, office holders from the border areas where leakages are noted or compromised, the appointees from such communities, including the coordinators shall be removed from office and elected persons from the area shall be suspended’’, says Eze.
Lady Eze, who is also President and Founder of a non-governmental organisation, the David Umahi Nweze Akubaraoha Ebonyi Transformation Agenda (DUNAETA) describes the efforts of the governor to ensure that COVID 19 does not ravage any part of Ebonyi as commendable.
Continuing, she said Umahi’s strategic application of wisdom, inclusiveness and commitment towards ensuring that the state is COVID-19 free is not only paying off, but also setting a standard on how the menace and dreadful virus can be contained and curtailed.
She underlines that Ebonyi is one of the few states in Nigeria that is yet to witness any Index case, and maintained that this was only achieved based on the commitment and seriousness that the Governor has displayed in the war against the pandemic.
“Umahi is personally leading the committee set up by the state to ensure the success of freeing Ebonyi from the virus by moving from one local government to another on daily basis to monitor compliance with the Order of total lockdown along the state borders and entry points from 7 p.m to 7 a.m and other restrictions,’’ Eze says.