So far, the Bayelsa State Governor, Diri Douye has lived up to expectations in the fight against Covid-19, writes Allison Abanum
As countries around the world struggle to curb the spread and win the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic, the spotlight is firmly on governments, the various individuals steering the wheels of each country’s ever-moving locomotive and the decisions they take. Every move made is placed firmly under some sort of scrutinizing microscope. It is clear now that how this dire times are handled, will be a major yardstick to judging the performance of whoever currently has the task to lead anywhere in the world.
This is war on a global scale, only this time we are not jostling for territorial, ethnic or religious supremacy, it’s effectively a fight for the survival of a race against an unseen enemy and we are all in it together.
The effects of the Coronavirus is painfully felt more so in the western world, with the most advanced countries resolving to adopt a rather defensive approach by resorting to allow the virus run it’s course and die out with no globally accepted application of a vaccine visible in the nearest future.
Africa and its countries are less hit by the Coronavirus pandemic thankfully. The situation has prompted its leaders to be even more on the defensive. Rolling out executive orders that take away its peoples freedom of movement and the public happily obliging for their own good. This is largely in acceptance of the fact that we have a very fragile health care system and surely we cannot take the hit other continents are taking from the virus at the moment.
Nigeria is the most populous black nation on the planet, and is at the moment defying predictions of casualties of this war. This is largely due to the relatively quick response the various state governments have taken. Inevitably as expected, the effects of the Coronavirus were first felt in states with direct link to the outside world and it was predicted to be felt more around the country with time.
Bayelsa State in South-south Nigeria as at the time of writing this article, has no record of any case of the Covid-19 disease even as various neighbouring states have already recorded a couple of cases. This is largely due to the commendable proactive measures taken by the state government led by Governor Diri Douye.
His victory and swearing couldn’t have come at a better time as the moves he has made thus far and the way he has handled a potential devastating situation is quite commendable.
Following suit with most state governments, Governor Douye was swift to sign into effect an executive order placing restrictions on activities in the state in order to curb the spread of the Coronavirus and kind of created a shield wall on the battlefield against the enemy virus.
The executive order banned virtually all public gatherings and closure of public places such as event and relaxation centers, private and public schools and offices, places of worship, markets etc. With the Swali market, which is the biggest in the state capital, taking the most hit.
Such order will definitely take a toll on the day-to-day life of individuals especially, in a country where the greater percentage of people depends on a daily hustle. But it is generally accepted for the greater good. Restrictions were placed on movements into, out of and within the state with strict penalties for defaulters. All this a necessary move on the chessboard of operations in this dire times.
In his usual sensitive nature, the governor stated that the executive order would be lenient towards the delivery and movement of food, water, pharmaceutical, medical supplies and other services, which are quite essential in this period, further demonstrating a commendable people’s welfare sensitivity.
The order gave room for grey areas, which will permit exemption provided a permit is obtained from the Governor himself.
This was done taking into consideration the massive effect the order will have on the plans of people in the state as regards important activities like weddings, burials and the sorts. The executive order also allowed the operations of the essential service delivery in sectors like electricity, finance, food, drugs etc.
The idea of allowing exemptions albeit obtaining approval from the Governor himself, further shows that the people have a leader that really does care for their plights. Rather than just constituting a committee or a body that will deliberate and determine which applications are worthy of approval for exemptions, the governor took a rather unorthodox approach by choosing to personally carryout the task.
He encouraged viable applications from the people for exemptions to carry out activities. He is effectively saying ‘come and let’s reason together on a personal level’, because after all we are all in this together.
The above gesture shows a clear and deep connectivity with the people, displayed on a personal level thus giving more credibility to the statement that, ‘A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them’.
Furthermore, executive orders like the one given will have to be enforced and supervised one way or the order and the governor therefore thought it wise to not just leave it primarily to law enforcement agencies, but to also involve ministries of trade, health, environment and sanitation bodies to help in supervising of the order. This is effectively giving power back to the people in some commendable measure.
Very sensitive to the rather unwanted economic behaviour frequently noticed in this part of the world, where a little hiccup in the production and supply chain drastically causes an increase in prices of things by some greedy people. Governor Douye clearly instructed that any unusual increase in the prices of essential goods like food and medical supplies will be frowned at and is declared an offence that will be punished by seizure and forfeiture of such goods and services. Just another example of affectionate leadership in a time where the prices of things have seen an unprecedented surge in most states even before the country recorded it’s first 50 cases of the Covid-19 disease.
The Bayelsa State government also kicked into full gear its intervention strategy to help dampen the blow these restrictions will deal on the business and livelihoods of the good people of Bayelsa State. Foodstuffs and essential goods are being shared to worst hit areas and homes to help deal with the inevitable hardship that comes with restricting the movement and activities of people.
Throughout the state, a robust system was put in place to effectively identify communities and homes that are really in need of succor and adequate dispensation is carried out without any bias to political or any other divide. All this coming in a time when a rather disturbing evidence surfaced online of how in some places in the country, essential help is dispensed to the masses only with political affiliations to the authorities in charge.
While some see this as an opportunity to punish betrayal and non-supporters, Governor Duoye sees it as a time to reconcile everyone in the state, both supporters and opposition alike and therefore ordered the dispensing of food and essential supplies to those in need no matter their political affiliations.
One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency and that’s fast becoming a mantra for Governor Duoye, because as they say, “a stitch in time saves nine”.
Douglas McAthur was very right when he said, “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent”.
As the world continues to trade punches on the battlefield with this unseen enemy, not dropping the shield in anyway is necessary for victory. This is a time for the generals to strategically position personnel and maintain hope amongst the citizens. It is a time to shun fear, rumor mongering and show of power and of course, a time when true leaders step up to take well calculated and strategic actions to make sure we come out of this with shoulders held high. It is safe to say that the Diri Duoye led-leadership in Bayelsa State is firmly inching towards victory.
––Abanum wrote from Yenegoa, Bayelsa State