Nigerians are reducing the effect of COVID-19 denial narratives with powerful online Twitter campaigns like # MyCOVID19NaijaStory (My Nigerian COVID-19 Story) and #COVIDStopswithME (COVID stops with me).
The goal of these counter-narratives is to demonstrate that the deadly coronavirus is not a hoax and, more importantly, to encourage people to adopt good public health behaviors to mitigate its spread.
As of July 29, Nigeria had 41,804 confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded, 18,764 recoveries and 868 deaths.
Denial of COVID-19 in Nigeria
Many Nigerians believe the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax, according to Yemisi Adegoke, a BBC Africa journalist who spoke in an investigative documentary about the Lagos University Hospital (LUTH), where COVID-19 patients are being cared for. .
This denialism is due to a chronic lack of trust exacerbated by many years of unfulfilled promises by past and current governments.
# COVID19 cases in 🇳🇬 are rising, but some people still don't believe the virus is real.
The scenes at LUTH tell a different story.@josh_akinyemi and I were granted access to the COVID wards there & met the doctors and nurses on the front lines.
Full video out 07/08/20 pic.twitter.com/eqyIwLgH4W
– Yemisi Adegoke (@briticoyemo) July 6, 2020
The cases of COVID-19 in 🇳🇬 are increasing but, many people still do not believe that the virus is real.
The scenes at the Lagos University Hospital tell a different story. Josh Akinyemi and I had access to the COVID-19 wards and met the doctors and nurses on the front line.
Full video aired on July 8, 2020.
Furthermore, the common view that the virus is a foreign invention is backed by Nigerian politicians and their cronies who describe it as the new goose that lays the golden eggs.
For example, Bill Gates recently donated one million dollars (383 million naira) to Nigeria to fight COVID-19. In addition, various Nigerian state governments continue to receive funding from the federal government.
Unfortunately, this perception has gained traction as public officials have stolen funds intended to fight the pandemic.
On July 27, Aderemi Ojekunle of Dataphyte, a group of media experts, reported that the rampant kleptomania of some federal agencies mismanaged a COVID-19 fund for masks and liquid soap worth 1.69 billion naira, that is, about $ 4.4 million.
Similarly, in Enugu, southeastern Nigeria, aid packages for the poor and vulnerable during confinement never came, reports the Ripples newspaper.
On the other hand, other citizens think that this disease only affects the upper class and the wealthy or that it is being exaggerated.
While this does not justify denial of the coronavirus, it explains why this attitude is very common among the majority of Nigerians. This explains why these two campaigns are going to great lengths to demand a truer, fact-based narrative.
# MyCOVID19NaijaStory (My Nigerian COVID-19 Story) has popular validity as it encompasses all Nigerians from all walks of life, from those who have recovered from the disease to those who are working to mitigate the pandemic and treat patients infected, thereby humanizing the dialogue as it focuses on real people in local languages.
On its Twitter account, the Nigerian Ministry of Health published this video of a woman who became infected with the virus and tells her story in Nigerian Pidgin (N. of T: simplified language, created and used by people from communities that do not have common language or know enough of any other language to use it among themselves) as part of the # MyCOVID19NaijiaStory campaign:
Many people don't believe that COVID19 exists in Nigeria. # MyCOVID19NaijaStory makes us understand how this disease has affected people across the country.
– Federal Ministry of Health, NIGERIA (@Fmohnigeria) May 30, 2020
Many do not believe that COVID-19 exists in Nigeria. My Nigerian COVID-19 story makes us understand how this disease has affected people across the country.
Not all infected have symptoms or take responsibility or follow preventive measures. Watch and forward.
In the video the woman said:
I did not believe that COVID exists. They brought the coronavirus samples collection unit to my area and asked us to get tested. I accepted and did the test. I did not believe that COVID was real because I thought our government was using this as another new means to embezzle funds.
After three days, they (health officials) called, informing me that my test result was out. I was told I was positive. (…) I also did not travel. That's why I'm puzzled how I got the virus. When I was told that I have the disease, I said that it was impossible, that I don't have it. Being infected is real. But that's not a death sentence.
He did not believe that COVID existed. They took the coronavirus test kit to my area and asked us to do the test, I agreed. I did not believe that COVID was real because I thought that our Government was using this as another new means of embezzling funds.
Three days later, (the health officials) called me to inform me that I tested positive (…) I didn't travel either; so I am puzzled about how I got the virus. When they told me I have the disease, I said it was impossible, that I don't have it. Getting infected is real, but it is not a death sentence.
COVID-19 denial is not limited to the lowest class.
Damilare Ojo, a lawyer living in Abuja, tested positive for COVID on May 18. A week later, on May 25, he was released from the Gwagwalada Isolation Center. On June 8, Ojo shared his story on Facebook with the warning that “COVID-19 is real in Nigeria.”
In a short thread of comments on Twitter, a doctor and resident of Abuja, tells his story of COVID-19, including his symptoms, treatments and how he coped with it. The thread ends with a strong plea for good hygiene and protective measures and urges listeners to resist COVID-19 denial:
I started having symptoms of COVID-19 23 days ago. I got tested and result came out positive.
I went through a torrid time with symptoms such as; fever, headache, throat pain, chest pain, vomiting, diarrhea, swollen lymph nodes and chicken pox like skin eruptions for 14 days pic.twitter.com/hRvNjDStrz
– TH3 L3G3ND (@the_drterry) July 15, 2020
I started having COVID-19 symptoms 23 days ago, I did the test and it came back positive.
I suffered the unspeakable with symptoms such as fever, headache, sore throat, chest pain, vomiting, diarrhea, swollen lymph nodes, and chickenpox-like rash for 14 days.
# MyCOVID19NaijaStory also pays tribute to brave front-line Nigerian healthcare operators, such as Dr Opeyemi Adeyemi, who works at a COVID-19 isolation center in Southwestern Nigeria's Ogun State.
Adeyemi had the complicated task of making the relatives of a deceased COVID-19 patient accept that her mother's burial would have to be different than usual, according to the Nigerian Health Observatory. She added that, in addition to enduring long ten-hour shifts, she also had to endure stigma from her co-workers who did not want to approach her because they feared the risk of infection.
Nurse Adebusola Adewole worked as a volunteer in the Intensive Care Unit of the Eti-Osa COVID-19 Isolation Center in Lagos; “Sometimes I considered the possibility of retiring,” he said. She was overwhelmed by the increase in cases and the general stress of working on the front line.
Dr. Adedapo Adesanya also worked as a volunteer at the same ICU:
“I waited many years for the opportunity to serve my country during a pandemic. You can only imagine the joy I felt when I got the phone call to inform me that… ”
– Nigeria Health Watch (@nighealthwatch) June 19, 2020
“I waited many years for the opportunity to serve my country during a pandemic. You can imagine the joy I felt when they called me to inform me that… ”.
-Adedapo Adesanya, frontline health worker during COVID-19 in Nigeria.
Due to the harsh economic reality in Nigeria, many Nigerians could not afford to volunteer. It is therefore doubly heroic for Adewole and Adesanya to volunteer as front-line volunteer health professionals during the pandemic.
# Covid19StopsWithMe (COVID stops with me) is a campaign to publicize and promote good behavior in public health launched by music producer Michael Collins Ajereh, popularly known as DonJazzy. Seeks Nigerians to embrace efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
On June 23, DonJazzy posted a video showing the precautions he takes before cutting his hair: his hairdresser uses disinfectant and he wears a mask.
– 🧞ITS DONJAZZY AGAIN🧞 (@DONJAZZY) June 23, 2020
Good Morning! I would like to know some of the precautions you have learned to take to keep yourself and your family safe during these times. Resend, please! Thank you!.
DonJazzy used his influence on social media to promote the message: with 4.7 million followers on Twitter, the video had 19,000 views on Twitter and 212,208 on Instagram on June 29.
He also got other celebrities to join this campaign:
– 🧞ITS DONJAZZY AGAIN🧞 (@DONJAZZY) June 23, 2020
Thanks Daniel Amokachi!
In the video above, Daniel Amokachi, a retired professional footballer and deputy director of the Nigerian national soccer team, uses a mix of English and Nigerian Pidgin to advise Nigerians to wash their hands frequently, observe physical distancing, and assume the responsibility to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
DonJazzy too promoted blogger Oliseh Kadishi's YouTube video on the importance of regularly using hand sanitizer.
The protagonists of these campaigns speak directly with citizens, which has a strong impact on the lives of ordinary people because they can identify with them. These counter-narratives manage to address the root cause of coronavirus denial because they lack the usual mistrust associated with government interventions.