For over 30 minutes, journalists waited not knowing exactly what to expect. Would the meeting between Governor Babatunde Fasholaand the Ebola Virus Disease survivors still hold? Nothing was certain; even with the presence of some aides of the governor.
Discussions shifted from the dreaded epidemic to the reality or otherwise of stigmatization of those who came under attack, but survived the scourge.
The event was a visit of the EVD survivors to the Lagos House, Ikeja office of the Lagos State Governor.
At 5.20pm, about a dozen persons entered the mini hall located within the governor’s office. Among them were the seven fortunate survivors, including minors.
They did not appear like they were prepared for generous socialisation, just as those who waited for them did look like they wanted some moment off the business of the day.
Then, the camera started clicking around the guests, which they were not quite comfortable with.
Shortly, Special Adviser to Fashola on Public Health, Dr. Yewande Adeshina, who came in with the Ebola survivors, led the minors out.
The wife of the Port Harcourt physician who died of Ebola after treating a victim, Dr Kelechi Enemuo, who had been extremely uncomfortable, left along with the minors.
She returned about 30 minutes later to take her seat. And even then, she fought hard to avoid the views of cameras.
When it was her turn to speak, the only thing anybody heard from her was her appreciation to God for sparing her life and that of her child. Enemuo was inconsolable. One could see the pains she tried to conceal.
Three doctors who fought through to regain their lives after contact with the index case also narrated their experiences.
For over 10 minutes, Dr Ibeawuchi Moris of First Consultants Hospital, narrated how he received the late Liberian who brought the virus into Nigeria, Patrick Sawyer, who he said, lied to him about the state of his health.
He said Sawyer told him he was picked from the venue of a conference he was attending unknown to the hospital that he actually collapsed at the tarmac of the Murtala Mohammed Airport.
According to the medical doctor, he was left to handle the rest of the critical cares of the late diplomat because he was already exposed to him.
Experts at the Ebola Isolation Centre in Yaba, Lagos had given up on Moris, who personally received Sawyer for admission, before he made dramatic comeback to life.
He said the biggest challenge facing Ebola victims was dehydration.
Dr. Adaora Igonah, another employee of First Consultants who attended to the index case, was more emotional.
Igonah recalled the risk she, along with her colleagues, took to save the country from the enormous disaster, saying they had no regret about their actions.
Others, including Dr Fadipe Akenriyi, another colleague of Morris and Dennis Akagha, whose spouse died of the contagion, told similar movie-like stories and how they recovered.
Akagha, interestingly, was never taken to the isolation centre, but he said he demonstrated positive mindset until he eventually recovered.
He said his late spouse contracted the disease on her first day in office as an employee of the hospital and that he encouraged the two-month-old pregnant woman, to resume at her new work place.
Fashola said the last Ebola victim would be cleared on Thursday night. While he acknowledged the success story recorded by the country, he warned that the lessons must guide “us in dealing with future epidemics” as Ebola would not be the last.
The governor called for love and affection to those who had recovered, saying affection and not stigmatization was what they needed.
At the crucial bridge-building forum, many journalists expected more demonstration of love and affection. A handshake between Fashola and the survivors was expected. But a photograph was the closest contact the guests had with their host.
The survivors also shunned any form of pleasantry after the meeting. Many were not willing to speak with anybody on close contact.
On how real the much-discussed stigmatization was, Akagha, in a private chat told PUNCH Metro that life was just beginning to get close to normal. He told our correspondent that stigmatisation was real.