In what has been a relatively slow news week, Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, has got newspapers and online platforms buzzing again.
And for all the wrong reasons.
Nigeria is battling an outbreak of Cerebrospinal Meningitis.
The federal government confirmed that 336 persons have so far lost their lives from the epidemic.
2,997 Nigerians have been afflicted with the ailment, according to latest data from the federal ministry of health.
Cerebrospinal Meningitis is an acute inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
Symptoms could range from vomiting, neck stiffness, headache, to drowsiness, confusion and fever.
Cerebrospinal Meningitis arises from a bacterial or viral infection.
Unfortunately, Nigeria is in the Meningitis belt of the world and this disease comes around between December and June in Sub-Saharan Africa, once in a short while.
Some strains of Meningitis can be prevented by vaccination.
In some strains, antibiotics could do the trick.
16 States are most affected in the latest Meningitis outbreak in Nigeria. Most are in the North, namely; Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger, Kastina and Governor Yari’s Zamfara.
The real tragedy here is that in 2017 and with all the knowledge the internet has availed mankind, a State Governor in Nigeria still thinks that Meningitis is punishment for sins or fornication.
“What we used to know as far as Meningitis is concerned is the type A virus. The World Health Organization, WHO, has carried out vaccinations against this type A virus not just in Zamfara, but many other states”, Yari blithely told State House correspondents after emerging from a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday.
He added that: “However, because people refused to stop their nefarious activities, God now decided to send Type C virus, which has no vaccination”.
Hold on a minute, there’s more.
“People have turned away from God and he has promised that ‘if you do anyhow, you see anyhow’ that is just the cause of this outbreak as far as I am concerned.
“There is no way fornication will be so rampant and God will not send a disease that cannot be cured.”
So, according to Governor Yari who doubles as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Cerebrospinal Meningitis is punishment for fornication and all kinds of sins.
Yari said nothing about why God is only punishing the poor, malnourished folks in the backwaters of Northern Nigeria and elsewhere with the ailment; and not politicians who steal from the people.
Yari said nothing about why this disease doesn’t afflict the rich in posh neighborhoods of Abuja and Lagos.
Oh, I forgot, those ones don’t fornicate.
Or don't fornicate enough to incur God's wrath.
Yari’s utterances are yet another example that our nation has been afflicted with a worse ailment than Cerebrospinal Meningitis—it’s called poor leadership.
Trust me, Yari's comment is the daftest thing you'll hear all year--and we are only in April.
You can hedge your bets on State Governors in the Meningitis belt not doing enough to prevent the many deaths from the current outbreak.
As typical of our leaders, Yari did enough to deflect the blame.
“Leaders are doing their best by enlightening the populace and working assiduously for the good of all”, Yari said in a lie heard round the world.
“Your major assignment as a leader is to convey the message; you cannot go from house to house and arrest offenders for instance,” he said defiantly.
We are seriously paying a State Governor to come up with this tripe?
Even the Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi Lamido, found Yari’s comments indefensible.
"Meningitis is spreading around the country and a Governor said it's the consequences of fornication. 200 people died in a State and when the Governor was asked, he said God was punishing us for the sins of fornication”, the Emir said incredulously.
Unfortunately, Yari is not alone.
In 2013, former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah said a plane crash which claimed the lives of hundreds, was an act of God.
Oduah is a Senator today.
Our leaders blame God and everyone else but themselves, for problems they should have a handle on.
A Governor who sincerely thinks that Meningitis is punishment for fornication isn’t good enough to be referred to as leader of his State.
Yari is a shame on all elected public office holders in our nation.
Worse, he’s a shame on us all.
The rest of the world will be having a laugh at our expense for a long while yet, on account of Yari's utterances.
Of that you can be sure.