Not even Nigeria’s political elite can hide from coronavirus

By 'Tofe Ayeni
Posted on Friday, 17 July 2020 14:34, updated on Wednesday, 22 July 2020 17:48

Virus Outbreak Nigeria
Passengers wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus wait at the departure hall of the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos Nigeria, Thursday July 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

At the end of June, the former governor of Nigeria’s Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, passed away due to complications from COVID-19. His death is one of the many victims from the global pandemic that is increasingly making its way into the echelons of the political elite.

For the first time in over a century, the world is dealing with a global pandemic that has left a path of distress in its wake. The coronavirus has no boundaries and has made its way across all levels of society and age.

It has even reached the biggest naysayers of the virus, including UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro after they both tested positive for COVID-19.

And in a country like Nigeria, where the political elite is known to travel abroad for healthcare (since governments continually ignore the dire state of the healthcare system at home) they too can’t hide from the pandemic.

READ MORE Coronavirus: death of Nigeria’s Chief of Staff sheds light on conflicting rules

COVID-19 brought border closures forcing those normally privileged members of Nigerian society to face an overloaded and frail healthcare system.

Politicians who have lost their lives

  • Abba Kyari (67) – died on 17 April


Abba Kyari
Abba Kyari ©Tribune Online - Commons

Chief of Staff to President Buhari since 2015, Kyari was a crucial member of the ‘cabal’ running the country. His influence cannot be overstated – before him, the chief of staff post did not hold much power. However, anyone who wanted to see the president, including ministers and governors, had to go through him.

READ MORE Nigeria’s health and economic crisis: Buhari left to face it without Abba Kyari

  • Abiola Ajimobi (70) – died on 25 June
Abiola Ajimobi leaves a polling centre after verifying his voter’s card during the governorship election in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria, April 26, 2011. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

A former two-time governor of Oyo State, Ajimobi’s death was met with mixed reactions. Although members of the political elite publicly mourned him, the general public in his state was not as supportive of his time in power. From the closing of universities in his state to his unapologetic disregard for the needs of his citizens, Ajimobi was not widely liked, and unsurprisingly will not to be widely missed.

  • Wahab Adegbenro (65) – died on 2 July
Wahab Adegbenro (

The Commissioner for Health in Ondo State, his death caused panic within the other state health officials, and the task force against COVID-19, which he had been leading. Although he had underlying health problems, Adegbenro insisted on attending to sick patients in his private hospital, which led to his being infected, and eventual death.

Politicians infected with coronavirus

Executive Governor of Kaduna State Nasir El-Rufai speaks during an interview with Reuters in Kaduna, Nigeria November 1, 2016. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

A wide range of public officials have tested positive for the coronavirus, but have fortunately recovered:

  • Governor of Abia State Okezie Ikpeazu
  • Governor of Bauchi State Bala Mohammed
  • Deputy Governor of Bauchi State Baba Tela
  • Former Member of Benue State National Assembly Rebecca Apedzan
  • Chief of Staff Benue State Terwase Orbunde
  • Head of Service Benue State Veronica Onyeke
  • Secretary to the State Government Benue State Anthony Ijoho
  • Commissioner for Information Delta State Charles Aniagwu
  • Secretary to the State Government Delta State Chiedu Ebie
  • Governor of Ekiti State Kayode Fayemi
  • Governor of Kaduna State Nasir El-Rufai
  • Immediate past Commissioner of Works and Infrastructural Development Kano State Muazu
  • Magaji (sacked for celebrating the death of Abba Kyari)
  • Governor of Ondo State Rotimi Akeredolu
  • Secretary to the State Government The State of Osun Wole Oyebamiji
  • Governor of Oyo State Seyi Makinde (as well as four other members of his cabinet)
  • Member of Yobe State House of Assembly Lawan Nguru

What does this mean for Nigeria?

Many are hoping that the federal and state governments post-pandemic will focus on improving the public health system, though others are more cynical, thinking things will soon return to normal.

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