At the Ode-Irele General Hospital, doctors and other health officials were busy attending to suspected survivors of the strange illness. The young doctor was covered in sweats as he and his team moved from one bed to another, taking samples from the survivors.
A source at the hospital, who pleaded anonymity, told reporters that samples would be taken to Lagos for laboratory analysis.
But lying on the bed, looking into an uncertain future, 25-year-old Michael Aribo, rued the strange world of darkness that he was suddenly thrown into. “My predicament started on April 12 after I came back from the farm. I had some kind of itching in my eyes and came to the hospital. When I got here, I was told that it was Typhoid fever. At a point, I felt like vomiting and was later placed on drip. Before I knew what was happening, my sight was gone. When I alerted the doctors to my condition, they simply said it was the accumulation of Typhoid in my body that caused it and assured me that I would regain my sight after the treatment.
“Unfortunately, I have not experienced any improvement in my vision since then; I have been thrown into a scary world of darkness where I am not familiar with the mode of operations. Where would I start from if this condition is irreversible and how would my wife and children survive? I had wished to further my studies before this development came up. I am afraid if that would be possible again. My prayer is that God will deliver me.”
Michael, who holds onto God for a miracle, denied any involvement in the looting of the shrine, noting: “It was when we got to the hospital that I heard that some people went to plunder the shrine. I wasn’t aware of it before then. Before God and man, I don’t know anything about the stealing of Malokun. I don’t have any friends among the people they said died.’’
But more confusing was Michael’s claim that he does not drink any form of alcohol. “I don’t indulge in the consumption of alcohol. I never did. I had never taken it in my life.”
A few feet away from Michael’s bed was another survivor, elderly Delta State-born Margaret. Her case also made the whole story more befuddling. She claimed to have just returned from a trip to her home town in Delta State when her challenge began.
While lamenting her present predicament, she also expressed absolute ignorance about the invasion of the shrine. “I don’t know anything about the stealing of the deity. I am not aware of it at all. I am not even from this place. I travelled to my home town and returned in the morning of Thursday. By evening of that same day, I started experiencing a strange headache, after which I was brought to the hospital. After some hours of being admitted, I lost my sight.
“I can’t see anything again as I am talking to you. My whole being has been plunged into sordid darkness. What did I do wrong? If I had known, I would have stayed back in Delta a little longer. I can’t in any way explain what has befallen me. It is strange as I hadn’t any eye challenge before now. I pray that my sight is restored because I don’t know what will become of my life without it.”
In the same room was Iwajowa Ifadaunsi. He too lost his sight after a battle with malaria. He said: “I went to the farm on the fateful day that this problem started. I felt sick right there on the farm and rode on my motorcycle back to the house. I came to the hospital immediately with the hope of getting the necessary medical attention that would restore me to good health. I lost my sight in the process. The malaria attack has been adequately tackled, but my sight is yet to be restored. I have hope that God will heal me and make it possible for me to see again.”
While denying knowledge of the pillaging of the shrine, he, however, confessed that he drinks alcohol, saying humorously that “a man cannot be alive without drinking local gin.”