Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Dangers of Anti-Polio Campaign (I)

The brutal murder of nine polio immunization officials in Kano State by yet to be identified gun men is not an isolated incident. It bears the hallmark of the negative campaign launched against the programme, led by Dr. Datti Ahmed, in 2003. Once you play on their emotions of the uncritical or gullible majority, it is hard to convince the people otherwise. Since 2003, there is a significant number of Muslims who still believe that polio immunization programme is a Western or American scheme to induce infertility among Muslims to achieve the single objective of reducing their population. How preposterous!

Unfounded rumours travel fast and cause enormous havoc to society. Sadly, majority of Muslims whose children are victims or potential victims of this groundless campaign of falsehood can hardly ask critical questions about the validity of the claim that polio vaccination is intended to cause infertility among Muslims. Sadder still, this unfounded claim is being propagated by some preachers and imams based on the misleading information fed to them by Dr. Datti Ahmed and like-minded fellow travelers.

For the sake of our innocent children who are being enormously harmed by this dangerous campaign of lies, it is important at this point to raise questions about the reliability of this allegation or claim to withstand scrutiny. The greatest harm you can to do to the people is to exploit their ignorance or gullibility. And to a great extent, the anti-polio campaigners have succeeded in their diabolical propaganda.

Concerned Nigerians have a duty to subject their unsubstantiated claim to logical questions. For example, did these enemies of polio programme present any evidence of Muslims who have become infertile as a result of immunization now or in the past? If such evidence ever existed, why is it available only to them? Why didn't their claim survive critical inquiry from the global scientific community? If they insist on their claim, they should submit a record from 1964 to date of the number of Muslim male and females who have been rendered infertile as a result of exposure to polio immunization. The truth is that they have no such record or data to buttress their claim and, if they have, let them publish cases of infertility ever recorded as a result of immunization.

Do we need to be scientists to ask intelligent and simple questions? For anyone to dogmatically claim that polio immunization induces infertility, especially when he is a scientist, the onus of proof lies with him. Although Datti Ahmed is a first class medical doctor, he deviated from basic requirement of scientific inquiry. Accuracy is described as the morality of science. In the absence of valid evidence to support their claim, should we surrender the fate of our innocent children to the manipulation of these anti-polio campaigners?

What would the WHO or UNICEF gain by deliberately promoting any immunization programme specifically intended to reduce Muslim population in Nigeria or anywhere else? The claim of the anti-polio immunization campaigners stretches our credulity to its ridiculous limit. The business of science is not conducted in the dark corners of secrecy. If the anti-polio immunization campaigners have any valid proof that the vaccination causes infertility, why didn't they put it on the table in the open market of ideas? They have so far failed to do so convincingly.

Science is not about dogmatically making unsubstantiated claims and then imposing them on humanity as gospel truth. Polio immunization in Nigeria has suffered intermittent setbacks, thanks to the inimical campaign by people whose mission is to cause chaos, confusion, fear, uncertainty and disruption of progress at the expense of innocent children who must be protected. It is a purposeless, wicked and misguided campaign against the interest of our children.

Despite the fact that this claim was discredited repeatedly, thousands of Muslim parents are still skeptical or suspicious of the polio immunization. The seeds for this needless fear were laid since 2003 when Dr. Datti Ahmed and his fellow travelers on the train of confusion started the negative campaign against polio immunization. Therefore, the latest murder of polio officials in Kano State has only added a dangerous dimension to the rejection of the immunization programme by Muslims misled by Dr. Datti and his group.

Playing to the gallery with the lives of innocent children is the most irresponsible thing to do by any right thinking person. If the Americans or the West have any policy to reduce Muslim populations, why is Nigeria their primary target? The Muslim population of India is 177 million. Wouldn't you wonder why the West didn't target Indian Muslims with infertility causing polio vaccines to reduce their population? What specifically does America or the West stand to gain by reducing the population of Nigerian Muslims through polio immunization?

In fact, if the claim of Dr. Datti and his group is valid, why are the polio immunization officials in Nigeria not asking parents whether their children are Muslims or Christians before they administer the vaccines? Are they using different vaccines for Christians? Again, are these vaccines produced according to the religious faith of the potential beneficiaries?

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