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{MAGAZINE} COVID-19: Getting The Situations Right

{MAGAZINE} COVID-19: Getting The Situations Right
  • PublishedApril 24, 2020

Still on the lockdown imposed on states of the federation, brought about by the Coronavirus Pandemic and its adverse economic underpinnings. NIYI OLASINDE solicits understanding and forbearance of the populace in coping with the vestiges of closedown on the economies and seeks to proffer possible ways out to diverse challenges that may roar their ugly heads as aftermath to the shutdown.

THE first phase of two-week
​​lockdown imposed on the State
​​of Osun, which had confined residents to their homes, reached its full count last week Tuesday. Even though there was much apprehension, then, as to whether it would be safe enough for the State Government to totally remove the stay-at-home order or relax it so as to allow some socio-economic activities to kick off and operate in the meantime; it is no longer news that the Government of the State of Osun eventually got the restriction order extended by an additional two-week period, commencing from the dawn of Friday, April 17, 2020.That was after allowing a window period of two days, Wednesday, April 15 and Thursday, April 16. This was clearly done in copious demonstration of sensitivity and responsiveness to the wishes and plight of the teeming masses in the state.

It was as clear as crystal in times preceding the extension that if majority wish of residents will be anything to go by, it would be safe to conclude that people were fed up and totally exhausted, since there had been no means of replenishing their stocks of essentials and necessities. Similarly, the two-week period that comprised the first batch of the lockdown had not allowed residents access to means of income and livelihood. Even those traders who had stock of wares on ground prior to the take-off of the lockdown had no means of selling them off to prospective buyers; and in effect, perishables among the stocks have rotten off! Since the lockdown is still very much with us, managing the colossal waste arising from the COVID-19 Lockdown is a topic better reserved for another day.

However, sensitive as they are, the issues associated with the lockdown are not prone to debates or votes. They are a matter of life and death; and as such, decisions, no matter how hard they are, should be taken grimly, in the best interest of all.

It is in the light of the foregoing that OSUN DEFENDER Magazine gives kudos of credence to the Governor Adegboyega Oyetola-led administration in the State of the Virtuous for taking the bold initiative to act, in the face of gravest inconvenience, though, in the best interest of the entire citizenry through an extension. The decision to get the lockdown extended was taken as the most appropriate intervention to consummate the successes achieved through the first batch of lockdown; and to continue to contain and restrict the spread of the dreaded Coronavirus and ward off its entry and reentry into the state.

As at last week, a time period when the fourteen (14)-day period required for the lockdown to last “in the first instance” lapsed (precisely, on Tuesday last week), its extension, as a matter of bitter pill had been expected.

However, what was expected as soothing relief to cushion the harrowing effect of the extension and its biting hardship was that a period of grace be allowed to enable residents recoup and replenish their stocks of consumables, so that they could be better prepared to face another stretch of period that could be declared as lockdown hence. In line with our plea and advocacy, that grace period was granted, and as it has turned out, it made a world of difference in soothing the pans of residents, mitigating the hardship on ground and getting them adequately prepared for another round of lockdown.

The decision to embrace an extension in lockdown, and the attendant sustenance of earlier restriction in human convergence and upholding of social values that will promote physical distancing are highly invaluable at this moment and juncture for a number of reasons.

“Health is wealth”, thus runs the ancient maxim. It becomes more important at this crucial stage to educate our teeming residents more on the larger-than-life nature of containing the spread of the deadly virus and preventing further entry of carriers, thereby making our people totally insulated from becoming vulnerable to contracting it through indiscriminate contacts and (social) proximity.

ON Monday of the same week
​​under reference, the two-
​​week lockdown order imposed on three major cosmopolitan areas in Nigeria, specifically, Lagos and Ogun states and the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja and environs) lapsed. Following that expiration, the President of the nation and Commander-in-Chief of its Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, addressed the nation. One thing that became most striking in his long but emotion-laden speech is the compassion and empathy with which he addressed the pressing issue of extension of lockdown in the three areas. The soberness of Mr. President on the occasion of his broadcast suggests the mood and countenance which periods like this impose on all of us.

Relevant portions of the Presidential broadcast speak, and will continue to speak eloquently of a man who realizes the inconvenience and depth of discomfort that the lockdown has caused for his people but recognizes the overwhelming importance of observing the lockdown so as to save lives and sustain wealth for the nation. Relevant portions of the speech of Mr. President presupposed great relevance and application for the State of Osun. As early in the broadcast as the third to the sixth paragraphs, Mr. President alluded reference to the introduction of similar measures by governors of some states which, as democratically elected leaders were not meant to inflict undue hardship on residents, but to nip disasters and catastrophes in the bud.

Like it did before now, OSUN DEFENDER Magazine here again lauds the degree of compliance, especially when it is considered against the backdrop that it is not easy to adapt quickly to adjustments in routines and chores of life, considering the fact, in particular that such adaptation borders on means of livelihood of a people.

Further in this connection, we like President Buahari did, OSUN DEFENDER Magazine here attempts rating the performances of the sit-at-home measure so far, which is also adjudged satisfactory preventive effort, put in together in unison to confront and combat the albatross head-on. Within our means and arsenals as a state, we strongly commend all hands that had been on deck so far. Mr. Governor did a good job in his speech, rolling out the list of virtually all individuals and groups that deserve commendation in this regard. It requires to be put on record here that the State of Osun stands as an illustrious example of states which exertions have so far helped in curbing the  of spread of the COVID-19 virus. This reason accounts for the non-increase in the figure of cases in the state for a consistent period of about three weeks! As a matter of fact, none of the cases recorded so far contacted the virus from internal sources. They were all imported into the state through immigrants from shores of other lands.

While the foregoing attests to the effectiveness and efficacious quality of painful sacrifices so far made by all residents, we are charged, more than ever before, to defend jealously the grounds gained and ensure that we do not retrogress. This justifies the rationale behind the extension in the lockdown period.

It is glad and reassuring that our people are a prayerful bunch of devotees, along the lines of their various religious leanings and belief patterns. At this point OSUN DEFENDER Magazine expresses its being on the same page with residents by sharing in their prayers that the spread would abate in no-distant time.

Here comes the long-awaited juncture, where we need to acknowledge why the lockdown in our situation in Osun is justified. Nations that are renowned for their superlative healthcare delivery packages, advancement in science and technology and other positive strides in development have been humbled and brought to their knees by COVID-19 infection. As a matter of fact, if such nations are on lockdown, physical distancing and other measures as the most effective means of combating the spread of this palpable and debilitating disease, then ours cannot and must not be different.

An instance from the last broadcast of Mr. President resonates:

“In the same period, we have seen the health system of even the most developed nations being overwhelmed by this virus.

“…This is not a joke. It is a matter of life and death. Mosques in Makkah and Madina have been closed. The Pope celebrated Mass on an empty St. Peter’s Square. The famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris held Easter Mass with less than 10 people. India, Italy and France are in complete lockdown. Other countries are in the process of following suit. We cannot be lax”.

If it were not for factors not unconnected with limited space and time, we would have gone ahead, rolling out contemporary statistics, revealing a run-down to the extent of spread and ravaging effects so far made by the COVID-19 virus across the nation and across the globe; a prelude to why prevention and remedial actions should not be reneged but rather intensify, not only in the three areas but across the entire nation as a whole. Today, as it stands, (at the time of compiling this report), the figure for Nigeria, as released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), stands at 627; out of which the State of Osun has not recorded more than 20 for some weeks running. It is even cheering and heart-warming that substantial number of these cases has been treated, discharged and reunited with their families.

With God on our side, we are already on a victory path, not only by virtue of capacity on ground, strategy to employ and the overriding importance of the quest to preserve lives of citizenry through scrupulous strategies; but also through declaration of an extension here and in other areas. Such extensions, difficult as they really are, have become a top necessity in times like this.

WITH the foregoing, it
​​becomes essential to look at
​​the policy as it applies to the State of Osun, which, as a subset of the same country with Lagos and Ogun states and the Federal Capital Territory, has much the same albatross to grapple with. As at the time of compiling this report, the extension has been imposed and we are fully a week into it already.

In a mood of projection, we wish to solicit with the Government of the State of Osun to allow another period of grace, whereby the existing stay-at-home order will be relaxed, prior to the off-take of the Muslim Faithful’sMonth of Ramadan: month of sacrificial fasting.

The lockdown was extended here, as it had been done in those other places under consideration, in view of conditions that are similar to explanations that necessitated it in those other places. However, relaxing it on occasions and as exigencies demand would be necessary too, so as not to close down the economy permanently or subject the people to a situation of untold hardship and harrowing precariousness.

However, in actual fact, within the past three weeks, people and homes have been devastated, works have been left unattended to, events and programmes have been put on hold. As a matter of fact, activities, programmes and policies of government have as well suffered terrible setbacks. Of a truth, Mr. Governor himself could hardly go places. His itineraries and schedules, as presented on executive manifest have been stepped down for the time being.

In the light of the foregoing, the State Government of Osun will have to tow the same line of caution with the Federal Government by encouraging citizens to be sincere and help report least symptoms suggesting infection of their loved ones with the virus.  

The Governor of the State of Osun, like President Buhari, should give consideration to all classes of people along all classes and caste and income cadres. In a sober, empathetic and responsive mood, the President declared:

“No country can afford the full impact of a sustained restriction of movement on its economy. I am fully aware of the great difficulties experienced especially by those who earn a daily wage such as traders, dayworkers, artisans and manual workers.

“For this group, their sustenance depends on their ability to go out. Their livelihoods depend on them mingling with others and about seeking work. But despite these realities we must not change the restrictions.”

In this connection, days of grace should be made again, before the commencement of the Holy Month of Ramadan. Not only will this be just, it will make the devout happier and fitter to pray for the plague to abate, so that subsequent extensions of the lockdown will no longer be necessary. Collective prayers of the devout across the divides will nail eventual coffin for COVID-19.

Further in this connection, Government of the State of Osun should not take with levity the distribution of palliatives, relief and stimulus packages to the citizens to cushion the arduous effects of the hitherto-imposed lockdown and the extension currently in vogue.

The Government of the State of Osun should take a cue from measures put on ground by the Federal Government, which the President assured will be sustained, when he said:  

“In the past two weeks, we announced palliative measures such as food distribution, cash transfers and loans repayment waivers to ease the pains of our restrictive policies during this difficult time. These palliatives will be sustained.

“I have also directed that the current social register be expanded from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million households in the next two weeks. This means we will support an additional one million homes with our social investment programs. A technical committee is working on this and will submit a report to me by the end of this week.

“The Security Agencies have risen to the challenges posed by this unprecedented situation with gallantry and I commend them. I urge them to continue to maintain utmost vigilance, firmness as well as restraint in enforcing the restriction orders while not neglecting statutory security responsibilities.

“Fellow Nigerians, follow the instructions on social distancing. The irresponsibility of the few can lead to the death of the many. Your freedom ends where other people’s rights begin.

“The response of our State Governors has been particularly impressive, especially in aligning their policies and actions to those of the Federal Government.”

Furthermore, the following gestures which are to be demonstrated by the Federal Government should be emulated at the state level:

“In the coming weeks, I want to assure you that the Federal Government, through the Presidential Task Force, will do whatever it takes to support you in this very difficult period. I have no doubt that, by working together and carefully following the rules, we shall get over this pandemic.

“I must also thank the Legislative arm of Government for all its support and donations in this very difficult period. This collaboration is critical to the short and long-term success of all the measures that we have instituted in response to the pandemic.

“As a result of this pandemic, the world as we know it has changed. The way we interact with each other, conduct our businesses and trade, travel, educate our children and earn our livelihoods will be different.

“To ensure our economy adapts to this new reality, I am directing the Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Communication and Digital Economy, Science and Technology, Transportation, Aviation, Interior, Health, Works and Housing, Labour and Employment and Education to jointly develop a comprehensive policy for a “Nigerian economy functioning with COVID-19.

“The Ministers will be supported by the Presidential Economic Advisory Council and Economic Sustainability Committee in executing this mandate.

“I am also directing the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, the National Security Adviser, the Vice Chairman, National Food Security Council and the Chairman, Presidential Fertiliser Initiative to work with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to ensure the impact of this pandemic on our 2020 farming season is minimized.”

These measures, replicated at the state level will lessen the hardship brought about by this lockdown and remove the likely evils that may come, concomitant to the extension in the COVID-19 lockdown which is now already half-spent.

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