Bird flu and beyond

Reuben Abati – GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER (NIGERIA)

FRIDAY 10 FEB 2006 – Copyright GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER (NIGERIA)
“DID you get the text message I sent to you yesterday?” “No. I have been busy. No time to read text messages.”
“You better read it. Someone sent it to me too. It has to do with this outbreak of bird flu in the Northern part of the country. The thing has been confirmed. So for God’s sake, don’t eat chicken o. If your Madam still has frozen chicken in her fridge, let her go and throw it away. I have already told my wife, no more consumption of chicken in the house until further notice. And I mean it”
“In my case, I am going to place a ban on the consumption of any type of bird. Turkey, chicken, bush meat, whatever. Anything that flies, or has wings or can be remotely associated with a bird. Banned”
“In this country, you never know what people are up to. Government has directed that all the affected birds should be destroyed and that the farmers will be compensated.”
“They will have to monitor the process very carefully. I hope they have the capacity to do so. I don’t trust our people.”
“Same here. I can’t put anything past Nigerians. I won’t be surprised if some of these guys who sell chicken suya find a way of getting those birds. They will sautee the thing, add groundnut oil and spices and before you know it, you are consuming a deadly meal.”
“They say the kind of bird flu found in Nigeria is the pathogenic one.”
“I don’t want to know what it is, whether it is pathogenic or benign or… What I know is that I am not going to take any risks. Do you know one fellow was even making a joke out of it? He said the Western world is merely making so much fuss over nothing. He said when he was young, it was a common thing for birds to have flu. The Yoruba call it kooli. The only thing, according to him, is to make sure you kill the bird before it passes out completely. Once there is still blood flowing in its veins, you can actually eat the bird and nothing will happen. He says such chickens actually taste good. I listened to him. I pitied the fellow. This is somebody who is supposed to be educated but he never really left the village.”
“Many Nigerians are like that. They don’t believe that there is death until they experience it. That is why HIV is spreading… Poor poultry farmers. They are going to lose a lot of money.”
“How does that affect me and my family?”
“It is not like that. There are many Nigerians who earn a living from poultry farming, and selling birds. Take all these fast food joints. The trade in chicken and scotch eggs and chicken pie is perhaps one of their major sources of income.”
“Are you there? Let them sell something else. If they like let them sell dog meat. In fact thank you for reminding me, I will add eggs to the list of banned items in my house.”
“Eggs are not affected. Don’t go about raising false alarm.”
“What is the difference? Is it not birds that produce eggs? Look: government has to do a lot of public enlightenment. I am worried about the ordinary people who are not likely to be bothered one way or the other. They are the ones who are likely to say that kooli is not a new thing and they will go and eat birds infected by what is that thing…”
“HN15”
“Sounds like HIV of the birds. In fact the way the CNN was reporting the incident in Kaduna, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone comes up with the theory that avian flu originated from Africa.”
“I listened to that report too and I was a bit disturbed. CNN added a touch of drama to it that was curious. I thought they even made the point that in a month’s time many Nigerians will be migrating towards Europe for holidays. I also read somewhere that many Nigerians live close to a poultry.”
“They have started again o. Before you know it now, embassies will start insisting on bird flu test as a condition for issuing visas.”
“You can take that for granted, especially if you go there looking like you just left a fast food joint. You know in international relations, there is always a strong sub text to every gesture. Those people in CNN know that many Nigerians eat a lot of chicken. To remove chicken from the menu is like cutting off the only source of protein for many families.”
“A friend of mine says the World Bank is providing grants for any efforts at controlling the spread of avian flu. He wants us to form an NGO and make some money.”
“Money. That is all you can think of?”
“What’s your problem? If you can make some dollars just because birds are dying, what’s wrong with that? Besides, it is not as if this thing is killing human beings like that. Across the world, only 85 persons have died from it, and just because they are saying the strain of bird flu that has shown up in Nigeria is the deadly type does not mean every part of Nigeria is affected.”
“In fact, if I have my way, I will advise that the whole of the North should be quarantined. They should not allow any chicken to escape from the North across the Niger please.”
“You are looking for trouble. This is a public health issue. It affects all of us as Nigerians. It is for government to rise up to the challenge and where it lacks the capacity to contain the situation, it should seek external help. I have told you, the World Bank is giving out money; there is a trust fund put together by the international donor community to fight bird flu.”
“As long as it is not a loan. Nigeria must not take any loan please.”
“By the way, did you watch the Super Eagles match against Senegal?”
“I did, but to tell you the truth I think the performance of the Eagles at the Nations Cup was not bad at all. Those boys met as a team for the first time in Egypt. And yet they managed to finish in third place. We have something to show not because football administration in Nigeria is good, but in spite of the politics of the Football Association, NFA.”
“But the quality of play was very poor. We had brilliant individual players, but not quite a team. Bonfere Jo had to complain that the Eagles were playing African football, kick and follow, just running all over the pitch.”
“Let Bonfrere Jo go and sit down. We are talking about results. Kick and follow. The Eagles kicked and followed the ball, and they ended up in third place. The people who didn’t kick and follow: Togo, Angola, Tunisia, Ghana, what did they do?”
“I see you like the Eagles. And I thought you said earlier that you are going to stay away from anything that looks or sounds like a bird?”
“Go and sit down. The point is that we need to do something about sports administration. As far as I am concerned, Eguavoen and Siasia have shown that they have real potentials as football coaches. Let the country send them for training. Let us look for others like them and send them abroad to have the relevant exposure.”
“Football analyst, Baba!.”
“When they won’t allow us to comment on politics, we can at least talk about football.”
“Who says you can’t comment on politics?”
“The people who have captured power; the people who are sending text messages around. I actually received a text like that begging me to support Obasanjo for another term to ensure continuity. Haven’t they sent it to you yet? That is what they are now using the GSM to do.”
“This could be the handiwork of mischief-makers who want to embarrass government?”
“But look at Thabo Mbeki, the South African President”
“Oh yes. Some Nigerian copy-cats have been lobbying the man to amend his country’s constitution to allow him stay in office for a third term. The man simply put his feet down and said he will not do such a thing. His party has no plans to amend the Constitution, and that once he completes his second term in 2009, he will vacate the Presidency.”
“That is a sensible man. That is how a responsible leader should behave. I salute Thabo Mbeki.”
“You know when the man sacked his Vice President a few months ago, I thought he did so because he did not want the man to succeed him. But do you know that today, Jacob Zuma still stands a chance of becoming President after Mbeki?”
“Mbeki has shown that he is a man of character.”
“He is an educated man, very polished. He simply told the sycophants who were beginning to preach the gospel of continuity to him to shut up and perish the thought”
“That is a man who knows what he is doing and what he wants.”
“You can say that again. Here in Nigeria, we don’t always know what is good for us. Even NEPA is threatening to increase tariffs by 60 per cent. The management wants to charge appropriate rates in line with market forces.”
“PHCN, not NEPA”
“What is the difference between Never Expect Power Always and Power Withholding Company of Nigeria? NEPA should stop talking about tariffs. They should talk about quality service delivery. Seven years down the line, the energy sector reform is yet to bear fruits and so much money has been spent.”
“Wasted. That is the word. And those guys in charge of power supply and distribution, they have no shame at all. I don’t know of any company that relies on NEPA for its operations. Every other family owns a generator…what are we talking about?”
“One of these days, Nigerians would have to troop out in protest against PHCN or whatever they are called.”
“In fact, I feel like staging a protest of my own. I have suffered so much in their hands, I can’t even tell the story.”
“The media should start something. Cartoonists can do caricatures about NEPA.”
“You know cartoonists are in trouble at the moment in the world. Some Danish cartoonists working with a newspaper called Jylands-Posten went and drew cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and that has become a big issue in Europe now. From Denmark to Georgia, it has led to a clash of civilisations and a major confrontation between the West and Islam.”
“Please, I don’t want to touch that subject. In this matter, you don’t know what you would say and you would extend the Danish problem to Nigeria, so I beg don’t even go there at all.”
“Why? But let’s talk about it. This is about free speech and the culture of tolerance.”
“Na lie. No be me and you. Go and find someone else…”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *