Covid-19, Governors And Matters Arising

Our COVID-19 Score Card And The Way Forward

Our COVID-19 Score Card And The Way Forward

By Unoigbokhai Adamu

There is little doubt that a post Covid-19 world cannot be the same as we know it. Traditions and myths have been shattered and conventions broken. Even the way we relate and work have changed forever. No one saw this coming! Trillions of dollar have been lost. Our ubiquitous clerics never for once prognosticate the coming of this dreaded virus, even though some of them are now fraudulently claiming to have the cure.

To say that the virus exposed the sad state of our health system is to hit on the obvious. It, indeed, did more than that; the virus as a matter fact, exposed the wickedness of those in authority in the way and manner they have underfunded the health sector for years. Is it not sheer madness that the Aso rock Villa Clinic received more money than ten teaching hospitals combined? or how can it be rationalised that teaching hospitals that are research oriented centres; they train medical personnel and take care of majority of Nigerians are mindlessly underfunded going by budgetary allocations of the past five years?

That is one of the things that this virus exposed. The most disturbing aspect of it is that there is nothing to show for the over N3billion budgeted for Aso rock Clinic. A well equipped State House Clinic should have been the ideal place to treat the late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, of his coronavirus infection, rather than taking him to Lagos for treatment, where he eventually died. How do you want average Nigerians to have faith in our health system when most top government officials traveled out for little things like fixing their teeth? And what moral justification does President Muhammadu Buhari has to tell Nigerians to sit back at home and patronize local hospitals, when he go to London every year to see his doctors?

Indeed, the coming of this virus and its deadly nature cut everyone to size and make it impossible for the elite to shortchange the system unduly. Yes, some are still circumventing the directives of the federal government for them to self-isolate or quarantine themselves at home if they have symptoms of the virus, by going to private hospitals instead of going to isolation centres. But events have since shown that isolation centres are better equipped to deal with the disease and its attendant problems.

Yet, debate is raging whether it was right for the federal government to relax the lockdown when there is no appreciable decease in the numbers of infected persons. Some are saying that Abuja should have extended the lockdown by two more weeks for more testing to be done; while others are of the opinion that Nigerians have tried enough staying at home for more than five weeks without tangible palliatives to cushion the effects of the lockdown. With the gradual reopening of offices and businesses and enforcement of the new guidelines put in place by both the federal government and state governments, some also argued, things can return to normal.

It is however difficult not to see danger ahead, which is the more reason why those in authority should be prepared for worst case scenario. I don’t see how these guidelines can be enforced in a disorganised society like ours, where security operatives are busy collecting the proverbial ‘kola’ than enforcing laws. By the end of next week it should be clear to Nigerians if the policy ideas that went into the series of address delivered by the president were well thought of or it was just an action tailored to address the mood of the nation or was done to follow global trend.

But nothing can be more gratifying than to see the flattening of the curve and for life to get back to full normalcy. It can however be done if we do the right thing; and that is for government to facilitate more testing; for citizens to maintain the spirit of social distancing and all the necessary precautions; for more incentives to be given to frontline medical workers and for palliatives to go round to vulnerable Nigerians; and more importantly, for government at all levels to be responsive and responsible to the immediate fallouts of the pandemic.

Sadly, it does appear that most of our governors don’t appreciate the enormity of the challenges ahead. Expectedly, most of them have been making a show of the current health crisis by rushing to establish isolation centres and even risking the lives of their citizens to commission them. Some ridiculously create media hype of their testing negative to the virus, while others that tested positive ensured that their states went into isolation with them. None to my recollection, abdicate the office for his deputy to be sworn in as acting governor.

More worrisome was the lack of empathy brought to it by some of these state executives who were acting like military administrators. While the actions and measures put in place by the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the wake of the outbreak have been widely commended by Nigerians, other governors have come under intense criticisms for failing to measure up to the expectations of their people, in terms of adequate funding of the health sector and providing palliatives to the people to cushion the effect of the crisis.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has been unnecessarily arrogant and rudely vocal in this case, acting as if his state was no longer part of the republic. His press conferences were usually combative, vitriolic, indecent and autocratic. Wike sees the pandemic as an opportunity to challenge the authority of the President and powers of the federal government as enshrined in the constitution. What about the Ebonyi governor, Dave Umahi, who shamelessly threatened to beat up journalists covering the state for writing negative stories about the virus? He later apologised when the heat was too much for him to bear.

Governor Seyi Makinde, who in the midst of the crisis allowed a PDP rally to be held in his domain, also failed to lockdown his state when it was pretty obvious the virus could easily be spread by people coming from Lagos and Ogun State. The rising number of infected persons in Oyo is becoming worrisome and the blame will be at the doorstep of Makinde.

What can one say about the failure of governance currently taking place in Kano. Governor Abdullahi Ganduje was so bereft of ideas that he failed to prepare for the crisis or was it that he carelessly allowed the virus to spread before taking cogent action. Now, Kano has become the new epicenter as dozens of people have died in the past few days and the situation is getting worse. I however don’t want to believe that some governors are playing politics with the pandemic with the expectations that more funds from Abuja and foreign donors will be allocated to them. It will be tragic if that is what they are doing. But the federal government has a duty to investigate these claims and wield the big stick.

But thank goodness that some of the governors have come to realise that it cannot be business as usual. With the dwindling resources at the centre, they have started to cut unnecessary spending. Salaries of political appointees are being slashed by 50 percent and budgets estimate revised downward. We are however yet to see how states with high debts would cope in this very scary scenario.

As the search for an effective vaccine continues, no one knows the real effects it would have on our daily lives. One thing for sure is that life cannot be the same as we used to know it. And as Bill Gates recently noted, we can only have semblance of normalcy if a vaccine is found.

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