By Funmi Branco
When, last Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari imposed a lockdown on Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory, the Ogun State government displayed ample evidence of critical thinking. It did not begin the implementation right away. Having already taken far-reaching decisions and reached significant milestones in the bid to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the Dapo Abiodun-led administration decided to appeal to the President to shift the lockdown to Friday’s to enable it finalise the mechanisms for the distribution of relief materials and food items ahead of the total lockdown. As Governor Abiodun explained, “Our government is conscious of the implications and discomfort associated with these measures. Nonetheless, we are constrained to do this because the available options are limited. Not taking these measures would have dire consequences.
Coronavirus has upturned people’s lives and destinies and we have to fight the killer virus with everything that we have, including stepping down our individual preferences and freedoms. These restrictions will be kept under constant review. We will relax them if the evidence makes it compelling. The restrictions are without prejudice to the need for people to reasonably move within their neighbourhoods to buy essentials such as food, drugs and access healthcare, as contained in Regulation 8 of Ogun State Corona Virus Disease (Emergency Prevention) Regulations 2020.” In a clime where officialdom often puts the cart before the horse–witness the protests by angry citizens in states where palliatives were not put in place before the lockdown–this step was nothing short of classic.
But before going into the specific details of the Ogun Covid-19 intervention, some flashbacks are necessary. Nigerians would no doubt recall that immediately news filtered through that the virus might make its way into the country, the Ogun State government set up an intervention committee headed by the state Commissioner for Health. The promptness of its action helped in moving the index case, an Italian, to Lagos for quarantine. In no time, his contacts were tracked down and quarantined. Currently, the government has been able to provide over 500 bed spaces in four isolation centres. Apart from the first centre located at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu, it has set up isolation centres in Ikenne and Iberekodo in Abeokuta.
The Ikenne centre is of course the biggest, with two wings and emergency ambulance buses and response team vehicles. Then there is of course the isolation centre donated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The 32-room former residence of the ex president had earlier been converted to a hotel – an extension of Legacy Resorts headquartered at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), before it was donated to the Ogun state government. To say the least, the capacity to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in the state has been bolstered to a great degree. But the Abiodun government was not done yet: it set up the state’s own medical molecular laboratory to test suspected cases in the state, thus eliminating the need to go to Lagos, or all the way to Abuja, before getting the test done. The bio-laboratory is the first State-funded molecular lab in the entire country , apparently integral in minimising the test turn-around time, currently between three and five days, and fast-tracking the treatment of positive cases. Crucially, this is apart from reducing the period of apprehension and anxiety for those suspected of infection, and for their relations. This is proactiveness writ large, governance driven by positive vision. You just can’t make this stuff up!!
But there’s more cheering news: the Abiodun administration has procured an additional 12 ventilators in addition to the ten inherited from the Ibikunle Amosun administration. And on its part, the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) also provded two ventilators. The patient to bed ratio is currently very low, as we should pray it is: there are about 500 bed spaces with less than ten patients. Beyond these technical stuff, though, Nigerians certainly would acknowledge the fact that Governor Abiodun’s proactiveness in respect of the Osun State indigenes who recently returned from Cote d ‘Ivoire saved the day. About 12 of these compatriots tested positive to the dreaded disease. But for the intervention of the Ogun State government which tracked down the returnees from Cote d’Ivoire as soon as they entered the Nigerian border and alerted the Osun State government about the situation, asking that they be immediately quarantined, the situation in Osun and by implication the entire country would by now have been very severe. Thankfully, the returnees have so far not been reported to have infected anyone. In any case, efforts were made to ensure that another case discovered in Shagamu this week was quarantined.
The Abiodun government has stepped up the provision of face masks and hand sanitizers to wage maximum war against the pandemic. What is more, even though the Federal Government gave no financial support to Ogun State compared to the gesture extended to Lagos, which got a N10 billion lifeline, the Ogun State government has been able to track and monitor people moving from Lagos, the epicenter of the outbreak, into Ogun. It has fully mobilized health workers to do serious battle against the pandemic. It has mobilized security operatives to monitor movement, so as to contain the disease. Above all, it has followed up with the provision of basic food items on a ward-to-ward basis. This is to ensure that as many citizen as possible benefit from the stimulus package. And even the private sector and public-spirited individuals have taken strategic positions on the Covid-19 front lines in the state, donating foodstuff and other essentials.
It is fitting to end this piece in Governor Abiodun’s own words: “Last night, I had a meeting with all 20 LG Transition Chairmen in Ogun State, when we defined modalities of the stimulus package distribution that begins on Saturday, 4th April for the period of the lockdown which takes effect tomorrow. I instructed that all Chairmen should firstly begin sensitisation programmes within their LGAs today, to further enlighten the people on the Coronavirus pandemic and inform them on how the packages would be distributed. The target of the stimulus package is 500,000 homes with an average of 4 persons per household. The packages, which are now bagged, contain food items and hand sanitizers that will last help household for the initial stage of the lockdown
It is essential that everyone complies with the stay-at-home directive, as it will ensure that all households are reached and the social distancing advisory is followed. Distributing officers have been trained specifically for this purpose. Please, be informed that the distribution will be done across party lines and preference will not be given to any set of people or homes for any reason whatsoever. In the meantime, I again urge everyone to maintain the social distancing advisory as they go about their normal activities. Panic is not an option at this time.”
*Branco, a medical doctor, contributes this piece from Kuto, Abeokuta.