There is a new phobia (excessive fear of something) in town and its name is Ebolaphobia. We woke up last month to face a new challenge, as if the deadly problems we are facing are not enough. “One mad man,” as President Goodluck Jonathan put it, “brought Ebola to us”. Now, the fear of Ebola is the beginning of wisdom. Everywhere you go, it is all about Ebola and the awareness is at fever pitch.

The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a serious matter indeed. Spread through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of infected persons, not many people know that the dreaded disease had been in existence since 1976 when it was first “discovered” in a United States laboratory.

Our knowledge of the Ebola saga began with the fateful arrival of the late Liberian diplomat, Patrick Sawyer, in Nigeria on July 20, his subsequent death, the death of a nurse that came in direct contact with him, the spread of the disease to about eight Nigerians and the surveillance of about 200 people. As at the beginning of this week, 1,013 people have died and 1,848 cases have been recorded as a result of Ebola since the current outbreak in our African Ebolaland.

But with all this publicity on Ebola has come a disturbing trend of scare-mongering. While it is good to take precautionary or preventive measures, including those recently announced, Ebolaphobia is fast becoming a sort of harassment and psychological terrorism. The other day, it took a lot of effort to convince members of my family that bathing oneself with salt solution and drinking salt water could not have been a possible cure for a disease that no one is known to have been infected with in my location. This is a disease “that cannot be spread through casual contact or breathing the same air as someone who is infected,” as we have been told.

I have listened to someone who said this is the time not to shake one’s wife, not to talk of hugging or other forms of intimacy. Rather than emphasise the need to wash hands with soap regularly, we have been told not to shake hands at all and “Ebola greeting”, which consists of waving at each other at a far distance, has appeared in the public domain.

The panic on the social media, the aggressive circulation of fake Ebola messages and the prompting of others to circulate them to the loved ones have made many people do the unreasonable. A particular message was viral last week. “According to a lab scientist, the Ebola disease is now airborne, the remedy is put salt in water, boil it, drink and bath with it right away. Pls communicate to others,” it read.

At the end of the day, two people were reported to have died with several others falling ill as a result of the expensive joke. It eventually turned out that someone in need of medical attention started it as a joke and the prevalent Ebolaphobia made many people fall for it. This is rather unfortunate.

Along with this Ebolaphobia comes bad business for some people and they are crying out loud. According to the National Hunters Association of Nigeria, the outbreak of Ebola is being used to harm the business of its members. The National President of the Association, Chief Ishola Olasehinde, during the week complained that the campaign against bush meat is hurting their business.

“This is our only means of sustenance. Even if there is any virus in these animals, once they are boiled and fried, it gets killed,” the President said. The argument is valid in the sense that cooking animal products thoroughly is identified as one of the ways of preventing Ebola. A representative of the Association in Oyo State, Mrs. Funmilayo Gbadamosi, also lamented, “Since this issue started, we have been living below the usual standard. My children are in higher institutions and this is the business I rely on to sponsor them….Government should please save us from hunger.”

While this season will also pass like the season of “killer beans” some years ago, it is important to adhere to the authentic preventive measures, which fortunately appear on the pages of newspapers. It is also necessary to avoid being duped by faith healers and witch doctors. This explains why it is commendable that the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, who has demonstrated leadership and forthrightness since this problem began, has warned those who peddle rumours of cure through eating bitter nuts or salt water that they risk arrest.

It is also hoped that this disease without “any known cure” will not be a decoy by some foreign pharmaceutical companies to create markets for some drugs being worked on. In other words, one hopes that Ebola is not ultimately going to be an archetypal system virus created by some unscrupulous anti-virus companies in order to draw sales to their products.

In any case, as we live through Ebolaphobia, “the important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing” as Albert Einstein once suggested. I keep questioning till this deafening noise on this Ebola will recede in din.

AFTER ELECTION, WHAT NEXT?

Last week, I attempted to assess the outcome of the well-contested governorship election in Osun State while advancing reasons for which the incumbent Governor would win. The election has come and gone, with all the suspense, intrigues and desperation.

The Federal Government, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies should be commended for ensuring a successful election devoid of major problems, despite the challenges and reported cases of harassment. The Osun State electorate also deserve commendation for deepening democracy and being vigilant that their votes counted.

I congratulate the Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, on his electoral victory. I also congratulate his main challenger, Dr Iyiola Omisore, on the several thousands of votes that he garnered. It is not always easy to defeat a performing Governor in a climate of free and fair elections.

Now that the election has come and gone, what is important is to de-escalate tension and for all parties to work together to ensure that peace, progress and prosperity continue to reign in the acclaimed State of the Living Spring.

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