Temitope Adedeji, Akure
On Wednesday, when news broke that a strange disease had struck in Ode Irele, the headquarters of Irele Local Government Area of Ondo State, and had killed over 12 persons, some residents told journalists who thronged the town that the cause of the mysterious illness was ‘Malokun’, a deity said to have been defiled by some persons in the town.
Though the State Government through the Commissioner for Health, Dr Dayo Adeyanju, confirmed the casualty figures to journalists in Akure, the state capital, he, however, did not share the version of the story told by the people of the town.
But investigations by WESTERN POST in Ode Irele at the weekend indicated that the story told by the people of Ode Irele may be true after all.
A source in the town who craved anonymity told WESTERN POST that those who died were the ones who allegedly stole and sold some artefacts belonging to a deity called “Malokun” to some white men, forcing the deity to revenge and strike those involved in the act.
One of the chiefs in the community, Chief Oluwole Akiya, confirmed to WESTERN POST that “Malokun” took revenge as a result of the action taken by some miscreants whom he said did not believe in the culture and tradition of the people.
He said the deity had a male and a female artefacts and that it was one of the pairs that was taken away while the shrine was also violated and damaged.
“The magnitude of its vengeance, which has claimed over 17 lives, indicated that, an appeasement would have to be performed, “revealing that, the dead ones were directly or indirectly involved in the act.
One major aspect of the incident that may have added credence and also buttressed the assertion of the people of the town that the mystery deaths was connected to the stolen deity, WESTERN POST learnt were the symptoms exhibited by those who died, which included blindness, loss of voice and consciousness.
In the meantime, the Commissioner for Health, who gave the assurance that government would do everything possible to control the strange ailment, said the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other partners were already involved in the matter.
Adeyanju said because the source of the disease had not been known, government had been engaging in advocacy to ensure that new cases are reported adding that concealment could be devastating.
He advised the relations of the victims from burying the corpses of the affected people at home, saying they should take the dead to the cemetery and be very careful during burials.
Adeyanju said the State Disease Surveillance Team and volunteers that were engaged during the Ebola Virus Disease had been deployed to the area to control the ailment.
He also disclosed that the Personal Protective Equipment purchased by the government during Ebola period had been deployed to the area with the handlers.
Meanwhile, the death toll following the development has risen to 17, but some unconfirmed sources put the casualty figure at 30.
Many residents of Ode Irele have started to flee the town because of the development. Some other persons were moving to appease the deity by pouring buckets of water into the shrine.
The state government at the weekend confirmed that 17 persons had died after being hit by the ailment.
Maintaining that the state government had put necessary machinery in motion to control the disease, Governor Olusegun Mimiko said samples collected did not show that the victims died of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
Mimiko, who said the state had witnessed a major health challenge said the causative agents, diagnosis and cure were also yet to be determined.
He said he was saddened by the losses and the attendant fear of what looks like an epidemic, adding that the government can only bring words of consolation to the families of the deceased just as he assured the people of the state of the government’s resolve to find solution.
Mimiko said the investigating team of experts sent by government to the area gathered that all the casualties died within hours of affliction.
In all, 17 deaths have been confirmed in Ayadi Community and Ode Irele township and all the deaths were preceded by symptoms of sudden blurred vision, headache and loss of consciousness.