Complete Sports: Could you kindly introduce yourself, sir?
Professor: I am Professor Innocent Ujah, a gynecologist and currently the Director General of Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Lagos.
CS: Why is there so much panic surrounding the Ebola virus in West Africa?
Prof: Let me start by saying the panic is created by the press/media. We’ve had series of epidemics (in the past) but probably because of the speed at which people die of this virus; I think that is why there is so much panic among people.
But in my opinion, the reason why the Ebola has caused much anxiety is because of the way and manner it is contracted; shaking of hands, through sweats, urine, bloods, etc and it is obvious people don’t want to die. But I’m happy Nigerians have responded very well to the issue of this virus because it is real, unlike before when people would have doubted (that) such a thing
CS: Countries like Cameroun have closed their border with Nigeria. And Lesotho pulled out of U-20 football match with Nigeria in Kaduna and were walked over and eliminated rather than travel to Nigeria. Rwanda also raised concern over Calabar where they were scheduled to play a Nations Cup qualifier with the Super Eagles. Do these countries have good reason to be scared?
Prof: Well, this is an opinion. If in their opinion they believe they don’t want to expose any of their people to this virus then they are right. However, Cameroun has no business closing its border with Nigeria because we don’t even gain anything from there. As for Lesotho, I think they’re just pretentious. First of all, there is no Ebola case reported in Kaduna. I may say it is obvious they knew they were going to lose the game and it was better for them to conserve the limited amount of money they have. But in all, I think it
We are all here in Lagos and nobody has contracted the disease apart from the primary contacts. Even the secondary contacts that are quarantined, none of them has been reported positive (as at the time of this interview). So with the anxiety and the pretence
of some international communities giving the impression that they love their people more than we do, then they are wrong. But if it is just to contain the disease, I have no problem with that.
CS: Are you saying Rwanda, Lesotho and other future opponents of Nigeria are just looking for excuses?
Prof: There is no evidence of any Ebola case in Enugu till today. The truth is that, apart from Lagos, Ebola has not been recorded in any other part of the country and that means if they don’t come to play, then we win. There are just three countries that have been
designated to have the case of this virus i.e. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea; Nigeria is not one of them and that is why we won (against) Lesotho. Their fear may be justified, but it is
CS: Is it possible for an athlete who is infected with Ebola to participate in sporting activities. Is it possible to contact it on the field of play?
Prof: You see, the symptom of this Ebola is similar to that of malaria and typhoid but the only difference is that at its critical stage, you experience bleeding all over your body.
So if you have malaria, you won’t be able to do anything likewise an Ebola at its infectious stage, you won’t be able to do anything let alone participating in sporting events. Therefore, the best to do is to go to the hospital.
CS: Finally, what hope do you have for the international sporting communities who have upcoming sporting engagements in Nigeria?
Prof: What we need to do is to give the right message. There is no Ebola in Kaduna and Calabar. They should know that Nigeria is a big country. There are some countries that are not even up to Calabar in terms of population; such countries should not have that
impression that the whole of Nigeria is infected with Ebola. We should let them know so that we don’t create unnecessary anxiety. But in all, I think it is overblown.
Prof. Ujah spoke to TUNDE KOIKI on the radio programme, SPORTS PLANET, a production of COMPLETE SPORTS STUDIOS.