One thing is certain: by the time the world gets over the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be a new rule of doing things. The new kind of lifestyle we would have will not just be limited to the practices we must embrace to stay healthy. In most part too, it will affect even the way we evaluate the performance of leadership in public offices.
One of the most celebrated presidents of the United States of America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, once said “when written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”
There is no doubting the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to its knees. It has imposed on us restrictions that, perhaps, no one alive today had ever seen before. People all over the world are being asked to stay alone and apart and thus eliminating the star feature of what makes us humans – our sheer uniqueness of being the ultimate social creatures.
But as expected, the fight against the COVID-19 virus is not just a battle to restore our normal lives; more than anything else, it is to ensure that after we defeat the deadly virus, humanity and our civilisation would have acquired the necessary capacity to resist any upcoming monster of its kind. The dimension with which every society and government prepare for the capacity optimisation will determine who become the heroes and villains of the Coronavirus pandemic.
At it is today, the most topical news item in Nigeria, like everywhere else, is the spike in the number of infections and fatalities from the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone is literally on their toes and it is not unexpected that during a time of emergency like this, governments and some non-governmental organisations would come together to find a common solution and provide necessary support to the people.
In Oyo State for instance, there have been many such interventions. The state government is among the first set of states to promptly put together a diagnostic centre for the infection and that is in addition to several other social and medical safeguards that the government put in place to reduce the impact of the infection among the citizenry. The state governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, is even forging a path of his own. His approach to the COVID-19 infection is with the precision of a mechanical craftsman who leaves no loose bolts not tightened. His message to the people reflects empathy with assurances that everything is under firm control, while the citizenry must support the government to make the best out of the situations at hand. His messages are clear, consistent and soothing. His approach is not only just resonating with the people on emotional level, it is also working remarkably well.
His most remarkable innovation is in having a master design of how the COVID-19 Task Force in Oyo State would operate. As expected in a time of emergency like this, the private sector and other non-governmental organisations would seek to give some support to the government.
Recently, a set of private sector players approached the government to facilitate the setting up of a 200-bed isolation centre at the state’s Adamasingba Stadium or the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, which the Federal Government had temporarily agreed to concede to the state government as isolation centre. But while the governor thanked the private sector people for their support, he told them that their support would not be in isolation of the state government’s plan and that the objective of their intervention would be more impactful if it was keyed into the government’s plan of action.
Thus, rather than agree hook, line and sinker to the idea of putting up a 200-bed isolation centre at an open stadium which would be dismantled at the end of the COVID-19 situation, the governor said that he would prefer the isolation beds and equipment to be put in an existing healthcare facility which would be of use to the state after the battle against COVID-19 is won.
Consequently, the government approved a portion of the General Hospital, Saki to sit a tranche of 100-bed isolation centre. The other 100 beds were transferred to Igbo-Ora in the state. The novelty in this design is that when the world comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oyo State would have strengthened its capacity for future infectious diseases by 200 beds – thanks to the private sector who offered to help the government with a makeshift infrastructure, but which the government converted to something sustainable.
In fact, apart from these 200 beds, the state government had on its own set up isolation centres in the state: the Agbami Centre in Jericho area of Ibadan and a centre at the LAUTECH Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso. But most impressive is the facility at the Olodo area of Ibadan, which, initially, was designed to be a pediatrics hospital and was at about 70 per cent completion stage when the last administration left. At the outbreak of the pandemic, Governor Makinde promptly redesigned it as a 100-bed isolation centre with built-in facilities for oxygen tubes and ventilators.
On inspection of the facility, named Oyo State Infectious Disease Centre, Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, commended the Oyo State government for putting up such an effective facility within a record time, remarking that the centre will not just serve the state and Nigeria, but the whole of Africa. The NCDC state remarked that the centre naturally belongs in the elite list of healthcare facilities in Nigeria.
So far, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a challenge to the world and even when it is eventually overcome, its impact will affect certain political decisions in the years to follow. The impact of the infection on the global economy continues to spiral and it is not yet known what its ground-zero could look like. But what is certain is that whenever the pandemic ends, some governments will remain standing while many others with wither with it. What will separate the two is the approach deployed to optimise opportunity during a time of despondency. Obviously, Governor Makinde is one of the few seeking to maximise opportunity out of the rubble.
Adio sent this piece from Ibadan.