Runsewe: To Avoid Economic Pandemic, We Need to Look Inwards

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SATURDAY INTERVIEW

One agency of government at the forefront of educating Nigerians and producing locally made sanitisers and face masks using Adire fabrics is the National Council for Arts And Culture. Charles Ajunwa spoke with its Director General, Otunba Segun Runsewe

Looking Inwards

In the middle of this COVID-19, we should look at what we can do and how best we can position our local industries to help. Two countries of the world today, Madagascar and Senegal have looked inwards up to the extent that they produced a $1 test kit for COVID-19, they also produced ventilators which only cost $60. This normally would have cost about $16, 000 for one. I heard that our Ministry of Science and Technology is looking at one. But what I know is that, for us here, we have been able to come out with a sanitiser that meets the standard of the world, in fact, ours have 70 per cent contents alcohol.

Secondly, our sanitiser is produced with organic materials, so why do have to import it? We cannot sit down and allow people take advantage of us, we shouldn’t allow economic pandemic to catch up with the global pandemic we are battling with.

Impact of COVID-19 on Budget, Economy

I must confess that the scenario is difficult for everyone, government losing revenue fast than ever before, the budget being slashed which again will affect project deliveries and the effects on those who work to eat. It’s a humongous reality but as a people, Nigerians have always in one accord, risen to put down clouds of darkness which threatened our collective existence in the past and this COVID-19 cannot be an exception.

Distributions

We have been able to distribute to media houses, security personnel, stakeholders among others. I have sent a lot to Lagos too. I believe that this is the time we must give our best to Nigeria, we must add up to whatever we have done and this is the time also to address some of the problems.

Kano State Dire Situation

What is happening in Kano State today is because of the ignorance of not believing in what should be done. I have given a recommendation that the state government should call all the Local Government Chairmen and all appointees of the state to move to their local governments to enlighten the people because they speak the same language and understand them better.

Need for Collaboration

A lot of Nigerians are still ignorant of what the cause of Coronavirus is and what we can do to get out of this. Three renowned Professors in University of Ibadan have come out to solve this, also former Vice-Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. We have a lot of credible and tested scientists who specialise in this area, NCDC, NAFDAC and others can collaborate to come out with something that will make a change for this country.
Because of NCAC strategy on face mask, many people are now producing and it now goes as low as N100, this is to tell people that we can do it and we are also going to the community level, if we stay at home, wash our hands, wear masks, this will reduce drastically.
We are going to the local level to sensitise people and tell them how important the mask is, that’s why we have posters, we are going to put them in every strategic places.

Your Agency’s Effort

Our agency have succeeded in doing one thing, we even produced the mask that is being used internationally for the police which we are planning to present to Nigerian Police. If everybody will do a little bit like this, we will get all of this in no time.

Figures of Local Production so Far
On the number of face masks, for the first start, we’ve done up to 8,000, for the sanitisers, we have hit seven drums. These things are easily being produced and all these ones we have done was given out free and we wrote it there, ‘Not for Sale’. The reason why we targeted Nigerian media is because of information, if the media is not aware, who will give the correct information? With this, there will be no room for fake news.

Collective Effort

This is the time we must tolerate each other, this is not the time to play politics or apportioning blames. This is the time we must face reality and come together to resolve this problem that we have. Nigeria will be a reference point pretty soon.
This is the time of reflection and we must look inward, this is the time we can use to plan, some people are writing books, some are developing scientific approach to the future, while some believe this is the time to increase the price of whatever they are doing to make more money, that’s where I come in to appeal to them because people are going through a lot now and I feel for them, that’s why I engaged tailors and those producing sanitisers.

Special Funding Support

People are asking questions if what we are doing is part of the budget and finding out where we are getting funds from but I tell them that this is a national emergency and the truth is that we have to be prepared. All of us must come and plan for post-COVID-19. I commend President Muhammadu Buhari’s effort, from the 1.6 million beneficiaries for the palliative; he increased it with additional 1 million making it 2.6 million.

PMB’s Support

President Buhari, as the father of the nation, is pained about the effects of pandemic on the Nigerian people, hence the very visible interventions and public engagement to discourage panic and fear. For those that will take care of this palliatives, I appeal to them to feel the pain of the President and do the needful by ensuring it reaches the poorest Nigerians.

Cultural History

He recalled the many values of the country’s cultural history, obedience to constituted authorities and respect for the welfare and safety of neighbours as face of several culture value chain, which Nigerians from all works of life must put to practice by observing social distancing, regular cleaning of our hands and other protocols meant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Post COVID-19 Intervention

NCAC will unfold a post COVID-19 cultural intervention through skills acquisition across the nation to help unskilled Nigerians, particularly women to support their families and to help the rural economy to rebound.

Message to Traditional Leaders

Traditional rulers, clergymen and Muslim leaders should not see the COVID-19 protocols and consequent lockdown across country as targeted against them but a sacrifice, which everybody must bear to keep the people and our future safe.

Take a global look at what is happening today and everyone can see even the greater impact. The Saudi Arabia government cancelled the Hajj activities and programmes, the Pope also shut down the Vatican and other grounding of travel, culture and tourism structures, so we cannot pretend these clear potential dangers and damage of COVID-19 in our country and take to behaviours that would endanger the life of our people.