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It’ll Be National Shame if Nigeria Does Not Learn Great Lesson from COVID-19, Doyin Okupe, Former Presidential Aide and Survivor

…Says with about $150 million, it’s possible to build world-class hospital.

Former senior special assistant to Nigeria’s ex-president, Olusegun Obasanjo on public affairs, Doyin Okupe, a medical doctor, and a recent survivor of the rampaging coronavirus disease, has said that the lesson of the deadly disease would be lost on Nigeria if it did not go back to the drawing board to rebuild its health facilities. Okupe who was diagnosed with COVID-19 April 23 with his wife and discharged from isolation May 14, after recovering, said “the problem we will run into, the shame that will overcome this country is if we do not learn a great lesson from this and immediately at least do a standard hospital that will not require any Nigerian to fly anywhere” stressing that this could be achieved at a cost of less than $150 million United States dollars.

Okupe who fielded questions on Monday morning on Channels Television current affairs programme, Sunrise Daily, suggested that the money could be sourced from a recent $3.5 billion loan facility granted the government. The International Monetary Fund, IMF, in April approved $3.4 billion for Nigeria to respond to the challenges of COVID-19 which severely affected crude oil price. Okupe posited that if the estimated $150 million is multiplied by six, “you are not even talking about $1 billion (USD) and we have just been given $3.5 billion dollars as facility and all that. If we just take one out of that and spend it to establish these things, then we would have learnt a great lesson”.

Reiterating what he wrote on his Facebook wall after his discharge, the former presidential aide asserted that “The mistakes of the past are daunting, they are perplexing; they are embarrassing that since 1960 till date, we cannot boast of one major centre in the whole country that makes it irrelevant for you to go abroad”. He said this was in spite of having qualified and competent professionals both at home and abroad with one just appointed as the head of COVID-19 team in Sierra Leone.

On the call for a national strategy to manage the pandemic in the country, Okupe believed it would be counter-productive for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC to force a national strategy on the states without doing the needful. In his words, “We have to sympathise with the NCDC. This disease hit us hard in February and this is just May. Any national strategy must be based on scientific study and the environment. It takes time for such a thing to evolve. But in the meantime, you can’t wait for a national strategy otherwise people will just be dropping off in your state. So, presently, everybody is doing what they can and following the rule of thumb to treat patients.

“But I think I also heard that the NCDC presently is doing a lot of tests and a lot of investigations. It will take time; may be in another two months, they can come out and say this is the national strategy and it’s going to be based on facts, it’s going to be based on science, and that is when we can actually have a universal way of approaching this illness. But for now, it has to be like this. And I think the NCDC, they are doing their best; they are working hard, and they are being professional because they could just come with the hammer and say this is the way and if you don’t base it on knowledge or science, you’ll be doing a lot of harm to the country”.

Calling for patience on the part of Nigerians, Okupe noted that “this thing is new; and it is not just here. Everywhere in the world, nobody knows which direction to go. That is the truth. That is why I went to the direction of God and He saved me”.

Defending his position that COVIDD-19 is air-borne, Okupe explained that “When a man sneezes in the air, or coughs into the air, if it is an open place, the wind blows it away and there may not be enough concentration for it to be infective. But if you sneeze in a room, especially a closed room with air conditioner, and you all stay there, then the concentration is enough. The longevity, the lifespan of the virus is good enough to stay there for five hours and infect those of you who are in that room. Or in a car for instance, if an Uber car carries somebody who is infected and he sneezes in the car, he coughs in the car but the car is air-conditioned, and he drops off at the next junction, or at the next spot, and you called the Uber, and you now enter into it, you are in trouble”.

He therefore suggested that any car that is carrying more than two people must have its windows down. “You must insist the windows must be down. That is how you can be safe. The air-borne route is becoming more of the likely ways that the virus is using to infect us”.

Reacting to the disclosure made on his Facebook wall in respect of the drugs he took which elicited reaction from the government and concerned Nigerians, Okupe said “People were asking me what drugs did you take; they were asking me in private, they were asking me publicly and people were very, very scared. So, I only just responded to the questions by saying oh, these were the drugs I took. There is a danger in that, I agree. My cousin just called me and said ah, somebody said he should thank you for giving that information; that he had run to buy chloroquine. That was not injection and that is why when government said we shouldn’t do it, I’ve taken it out of my wall and I also wrote a rejoinder”.

He however insisted that “But then, there is no place for secrecy any more in management of people and illnesses. There is no place for secrecy. Government must be transparent. Different isolation centres in this country use and employ different treatments. What they do in Ogun is different from what they are doing in Lagos; it’s also different from what they are doing in Oyo or Kano”.

For those who believed that COVID-19 was a scam, Okupe asserted that people must realize that “this thing is for real”. According to him, “People close to me and my family were previously saying that these people that are saying that they have COVID-19, government has given them money to come and advertise it and all that. I mean my case is past that. I’m an elderly person, I’m a statesman. I am not a member of this administration; I don’t belong to their party, so, why should I connive or conspire and say that I have COVID-19, my wife has COVID-19, when we don’t have it? Nigeria must begin to look at this thing as a serious thing; it is a serious thing. That is why people like us are talking about it. We have gone through it; it is real. But it is not a death sentence…because consistently, the death rate is three per cent and below and it is global. So, 97 per cent would get out of it and majority of them may not even require hospitalization”.

Recounting his experience and the lessons learnt, Okupe who was thankful to God for surviving the infection said “I am a doctor, and when I was going to the isolation centre, I knew what I was going into. Even that I didn’t reveal to my wife; but my wife also knew. Number one, I had virtually all the risk factors that are against survival. I am 68 years old which is not a correct bracket for COVID-19. I am hypertensive; hypertension increases your tendency for fatality by about five to six per cent. I was recently diagnosed with diabetes which also increases fatality by about six or seven per cent. I had issues with me that naturally would complicate my situation. So, as far as I am concerned, the Doyin Okupe before April 23rd that everybody knew had died. God has just given me a new lease of life. I am a brand new person and therefore I want to take a new breathe of life and that is why I sad look, in order to show gratitude to God for sparing my life, I want to forgive anybody who has offended me, and I want everybody I must have offended or wronged in any way whatsoever to please forgive me.

“For me now, it is only service to God and to the nation. I have no personal ambition to pursue because if I had died, that is the end of it; period. My family itself would not even see the dead body. So, for me, it’s a new lease of life; it’s a completely different ball game entirely”.

Doyin Okupe Photo
Doyin Okupe
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