Columnists are like politicians. They are without borders. In politics as it is in columning, there are only permanent interests; no permanent friends. It is in that spirit that I have decamped from the Blueprint daily which debuted six solid years ago to begin another romance with the Blueprint Weekend, which is making its first appearance on the newsstands today.
It is not the first time I would jump ship. In 1982, a year after I introduced my humour column, “The Man From PPC” in the Josbased Standard daily, I abandoned the paper and crossed over to the Sunday stable. However, I still maintained my identity. This time around, the identity has been changed: from BUTT FROM THE BLUE to SATURDAY BLUES. I trust that my followers would migrate with me from the Blueprint daily to the Weekend edition. I think it is better we meet here so that you can follow me in a relaxed atmosphere that the weekends guarantee.
Don’t you think so? Lest I forget! When the idea of the Weekend edition was mooted a few years back, the Chairman/Publisher of the paper, Alhaji Mohammed Idris, who had been following my style and topics right from the beginning of the paper in September 2011, called me aside in the boardroom and said: “Your stuff s would be better suited for a Weekend paper. Imagine anyone reading you on Fridays before heading for the mosques?”
Although my choice of topics is mixed with satire, humour and revolving around men, women and general issues, I wondered what they had to do with mosquemanship? Would my Muslim readers spend the whole of the day savouring the column forgetting to go for the Juma’at prayers? But while ruminating over the issue, I remembered the “Holy Order” which the late Catholic Arch-Bishop of Jos Arch Diocese, Dr. Gabriel Ganaka, handed down to the janitors at the Fatima Cathedral situated along Katako Road, Jos.
He charged them to ensure that no parishioners entered the church auditorium with copies of the Sunday Standard newspaper. The reason being that whenever he was busy with the homily, some parishioners would lower their heads, not in supplication, but to savour what The Man From PPC had in store for them amidst giggling. Some would even burst into involuntary laughter! ArchBishop Ganaka and I later met after the ban was imposed. He said if he had his way, he would ask the management of the Plateau Publishing Company Ltd, publishers of the Nigeria Standard Group of newspapers, to order my column back to the daily stable where it started, even though he was also a fan of the column.
We both shared a laugh. However, Dr. Ganaka, unlike Alhaji Idris, had his say but not his way. When the news of monkeypox broke in Bayelsa recently, I knew the fi rst casualty would be bush meat, even though primates generally are really consumed by most bush meat lovers. In fact, I was cruising to my bush meat seller located adjacent to the Public Service Institute of Nigeria (PUSIN) along Kubwa Expressway in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) when the news hit me. The question that surfaced on my lips was: “When would the cyclical conspiracy against my delicacy stop?” I did not expect any answer, though.
This gang-up is not new to me and other lovers of bush meat. And we are legion! The first time was in the early 80s when the Ebola virus was reported to have hit the neighbouring Cameroon and we were warned to stay away from bush meat. I obeyed. Years later, Lassa fever came calling. We were as usual advised to avoid bush meat in our own interest. I complied. Other animal-driven plagues have come and gone. Among them were bird flu, bubonic plague, mad cow, swine fl u, etc. Monkeypox, going by the name given to the viral infection, is caused by monkeys. The infection is said to be spreading to the neighbouring Rivers state.
Akwa Ibomites and Cross Riverians are said to be in panic. Judging by the nomadic nature of Nigerians, the plague will spread to other parts of the Niger Delta Region and beyond. However, this is one commodity outside petroleum products that many Nigerians would want the South-southerners to keep to themselves! But that is too late now. For, just as I was putting this piece together, I got an update on Tuesday indicating that the infection had spread to states outside the South-south in a manner that monkeys leap from tree to tree. This deadly monkey business must be stopped in its track. So far, places like Lagos, Ogun and Ekiti states have been sucked in by the virus, with no fewer than 35 cases recorded. As at two days ago, one pox case was reported at the Gwarinpa General Hospital in Abuja just as the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, was denying the presence of the disease in the country. He clarified that a pox disease has come calling but it is certainly not jointly authored by monkeys.
I would rather be on the side of caution than listen to the Professor as he plays the monkey politics with the scary plague. Preventive measures are similar to those observed during the Ebola syndrome: stay away from bush meat, avoid handshake, cultivate the habit of regular hand washing, etc. There is no known cure or vaccine for the poxy syndrome but it can be controlled.
The incubation period is fi ve to 21 days. Symptoms include rashes on the face, palms and underneath the feet as well as intense weakness. And young folks are mostly vulnerable. It is also advisable to cook animal flesh (monkey or not) properly before consumption at this point in time. However, the situation took a dramatic turn mid-week when a footless rumour hit the airwaves, alleging a “monkspiracy” by some military health personnel to infest school kids with the virus in some parts of the South-east.
The rumour has it that the operation is intended to decimate the population of the young ones. Parents and guardians had to scramble to schools to rescue their wards and forced academic activities to come to a sudden halt. What a pity! The Commanderin-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, should do the needful by putting in place “Operation Harbin Biri” in the manner of “Smiling Crocodiles” in the South-south and South-west as well as “Python Dance II” in the South-west to give all monkeys in the country the Egyptian treatment before it is too late. Following the global outbreak of swine fl u in the early 2009 in Mexico, killing over 100 people before spreading to other parts of the world with frightening consequences, the Egyptian government promptly banned the consumption of pork and ordered the mass slaughter of all Egyptian pigs. By the way, “biri” is the Hausa word for a monkey. See you next weekend