National Immunisation Plus Days (NIPDs)
By Olugbenga J. Kuye
Monday, February 20, 2012

We were in a large religious gathering when a man came to me, opened his wallet and offered me a N20 note. “No, thank you”, I said cautiously. At another time, as I was climbing the staircase to the fifth floor of Lagos State Ministry of Health, a woman who was descending same route stopped in my front, opened her purse and offered me a N200 note. “No, thanks”, I said again.

I have sighted these two examples out of myriads of cases. For the purpose of this article and by any standard, I am not a rich person. But thanks to God, I am not a beggar also. I have authored two books and I am gainfully employed.

Thanks to Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), the executive governor of Lagos State, for giving me a job at my first call. So, by local or international standard, I can never be rated as a beggar. I work hard to achieve whatever I want, including the registration of my anti-polio outfit, Polio Rescue Association.

Why do people treat me like a beggar? Polio! That is the simple answer. I contracted polio at a tender age of three and lost my left limb and may live with the attendant deformity for the rest of my life. Polio dehumanises us, polio degrades us, and more dastardly polio reduces us to mere animal status by making us to walk on our limbs. Polio is cruel, wicked and callous in dealing with tender and defenceless children in our country.
Polio is (Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria) PAIN. No, polio is PA-N. There is a missing link in the second acronym.

That is the new acronym. India is missing. I give thanks to God for India for being out of the cycle, breaking the jinx of the endemic nature among her people. India had interrupted the wild poliovirus circulation within her borders and therefore out of the list of the polio endemic countries. Can Nigeria get out? Yes, we can. Can polio circulation be interrupted among our children to give us a healthy nation? Yes, it can. How? I had washed part of my dirty linen outside, I had exposed part of the ridicule I am daily subjected to; as part of my contribution and cost of polio eradication. I have written this article to gear us up in the coming days.

Another round of NIPDs is coming soon- an opportunity to prove that we can and that we are combat ready for this fight. Let all of us as a people rise up. Let us fight with determination to win. This fight should not be against polio survivors. Neither should the fight be against any religion or any group of people. In fact, to fight and win, we must pull down all seeming barriers in whatever semblance it may take- religion, ethnic, class, colour, language or even political.

Why have I sighted these seemingly disgraceful examples? Just because of you. I did it for you, for our children and the future of our country. No price is too much to pay to safeguard the future of these defenceless, innocent beings. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t say all this in a public domain like this knowing the social implication. By the grace of God, I am mature in mind and can handle any form of insult. I have fortified my inner man with ingredients of indomitable prowess. Though the road seems rough, I can sail through and reach my desired haven. I can and I will, no negotiation.

With all these virtues that I have as gift from God, can I go to sleep? I dare not. I must write, I must speak and I must join in campaign against polio in all the ways I can. I enjoin you to join me in this noble crusade. Let us rise in unison and defeat this hydra-headed monster called poliomyelitis.

Olugbenga writes from Lagos.

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