By Prof. Adesoji Adesugba
Sometimes in December 2019, the world woke up to the news of a pneumonia-like symptom from a virus hitherto unknown to humanity, which had affected people in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The virus, a variant of the coronavirus, was later called COVID-19, an abbreviation of Coronavirus Disease 2019. The outbreak of the virus has since spread to about 196 countries and territories in every continent and one international conveyance across the world. According to the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Centre for Systems Sciences and Engineering (CSSE), as of today, over 3,063,814 people have been infected by the coronavirus, with 212,221 deaths globally. Significant distortions had also occurred in global supply chains as factories shut down, laid-off workers, and countries shut their borders and locked down their towns and cities. The economy of the world went on a spiral downturn losing trillions of dollars and heading for a recession.
With a downturn in different economies during today’s COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have started reviewing their strategies in dealing with the spread and impact of the virus. The negative effect of the continued lockdown of cities is mostly apparent in developing countries, especially in Africa, where the effect gravely affects mostly the underprivileged poor who had hitherto struggled to make a living. There is, therefore, the need to seek a workable strategy to combat the virus with a limited impact on the fragile economy of such African countries. Nigeria was not left out in looking for an appropriate approach to eradicate the coronavirus with minimal impact on its marketplace.
Barrack Obama once said that “the best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” Man, by nature, seeks help from higher authorities in times of perceived danger or hopelessness. When situations arise that take people away from usual ways of living, people tend to find solutions by relinquishing their powers to other authorities to resolve such problems or pray to a higher being for such resolutions. Such situations may arise in times of war, in times of natural disasters, or pandemics such as we have today.
In times of hopelessness, we look up to a higher entity to save us from the situations we find ourselves. When we are ill, we submit ourselves to our doctors, in times of war, we look up to our leaders to protect us and give us victory. When natural disasters occur, we depend on our leaders to provide us with hope and protect us from the looming dangers. The quality of the decisions taken by the leader could lead to life or death for many. Taking initiatives that give hope becomes essential to the lives of the people that we rule. Refusing to make the right decisions could, in such circumstances, be disastrous.
Lagos, Ogun, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had been locked down for the past four weeks due to the Presidential initiatives on dealing with the spread of the coronavirus and the need to stop it from causing more havoc in the country. Before yesterday, some Nigerians including members of the Organized Private Sector, and the Nigerian Labour Congress had expressed the opinion that the lockdown initiated by the Federal Government in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory was harming the fragile Nigerian economy, and they had cautioned that this might lead to social disturbances. They thus advised that the government should take a second look at the lockdown strategy it had initiated to stem the spreading of the coronavirus in the country. Yesterday the President of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, gave his COVID-19 briefing to the Nation. The key highlights of the Presidential address were as follows: The President approved for a phased and gradual easing of the lockdown measures in FCT, Lagos and Ogun States effective from Saturday, 2nd May 2020 at 9 am. This, however, the President said, will be followed strictly with aggressive reinforcement of testing and contact tracing measures while allowing the restoration of some economic and business activities in certain sectors.
The nationwide measures indicated that selected businesses and offices could open from 9 am to 6pm; there will be an overnight curfew from 8 pm to 6 am, which means all movements will be prohibited during this period except essential services; there will be a ban on non-essential inter-state passenger travels until further notice; there will be partial and controlled interstate movement of goods and services will be allowed to allow for the movement of products and services from producers to consumers. Strict and mandatory use of face masks or coverings in public will be enforced, and this will be in addition to maintaining physical distancing and personal hygiene. Furthermore, the restrictions of social and religious gatherings shall remain in place.
However, the revised guidelines are not to apply to Kano State. The President said that the total lockdown recently announced by the Kano State Government shall remain and will be enforced for the full duration of two weeks as prescribed. The President said that the Federal Government shall deploy all the necessary human, material, and technical resources to support the Kano State in controlling and containing the pandemic, which seems to have taken an upward surge in that state.
The President’s speech indicated the seriousness he has given to ensuring that the right strategy is deployed towards the combatting of the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria. The strategy review by the government has no doubt taken into consideration the peculiar nature of Nigeria as a developing Nation, the stemming of the spread of the virus by the proactive decisions of the President ever since the index patient was identified and treated, and the effectiveness of the actions of government as indicated by the total number of infected persons in the country. Today according to the John Hopkins University CSSE, Nigeria with a population of over 200 million people has 1337 infected people with 40 deaths, compared to Ghana with a population of about 31 million people has 1,550 infected and 11 deaths; South Africa with a population of 57 million people has 4793 infected with 90 deaths, Egypt with a population of about 98 million people has 4782 infected and 337 deaths. One will not talk of the mortality figures in advanced economies such as the UK, France, Germany, Japan, China, Spain, and Italy as their data account for the majority of those infected globally. Still, it is important to note that with about 3 million affected people worldwide, the United States of America is resident to about 33% of the world’s figures, with about 56,306 people dead (most experts claim that this figure is grossly under-reported).
There is no doubt that Nigeria has so far done well in containing the spread of the coronavirus, and this is a result of exemplary leadership, which is apparent in the implementation of a well-thought government strategy. For this seeming success to continue and to stamp out the virus from Nigerian, the citizens need to play their part by ensuring that they adhere to the various regulations that have been put in place by the government to stamp out the virus. People should use face masks in public, people must adhere to the social distancing rules, our pastors and imams should avoid religious gatherings, and social events should be put on hold and postponed till that time when we are all safe from the virus.
This article will not be complete if I do not mention the patriotic work the health care providers in Nigeria are doing. They have all done very well, and one is happy to note that the President in his speech did not only express his appreciation, but he also announced a welfare package for them, including their insurance. Despite the initial criticisms of their actions by Nigerians, the Nigerian Security services, especially The Nigerian police, must be commended for their efforts. We should not forget the Presidential Committee on COVID-19, and the hardworking officials of the Federal Ministry of Investment, Trade, and Industry for working assiduously to ensure that the private sector continues to function during the lockdown period. However, we will still need agencies such as the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to do much more than they are doing now in educating the mostly illiterate people. The latter still do not believe that the coronavirus does not exist.
I believe it was Thomas Cayle that said, “a leader is a dealer in hope if we lose hope, then we have lost everything, including hope.” Good leaders give hope to their followers. With the Presidential initiatives and the President’s speech of yesterday, 27th April 2020, the Nigerian people have been given hope. As citizens, we have to play our part to mold our faith so we can build a country of our dreams in a post-COVID-19 world. It is kudos to the President and all the dedicated and patriotic Nigerians who are working tirelessly to ensure the total eradication of the coronavirus in our country Nigeria.
*Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, the Provost of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) Business Entrepreneurship Skills and Technology (BEST) Centre, writes from Abuja