FORESIGHT, CREATIVITY AND COVID-19

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Adebayo Ojo-Iyara argues that lack of leadership is hindering the fight against the pandemic

The most elementary challenges facing mankind since ages are food, clothing and shelter. However, here we are in Africa and Nigeria especially, as we are, battling with these basics. We are all living witnesses to our historical conditions in the 21st century today, and I need not bother readers with the pathetic details and all the sordid whys. Still, at these challenging and unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic times, the big vacuum of foresight and creativity in leadership, governance and policies in our land becomes extremely worrisome. If only for enlightened self-preservation interests, one would think most of our elites in decision-making positions should have done better.

The Yoruba have a proverb, “Igi ganganran ma gun mi loju, okere la ti n wo,” literally meaning you must see far ahead the path if you don’t want a protruding twig to smack your face. Foresight, simply put, is seeing ahead correctly, while creativity is doing
something new, differently, positively. Vision and innovation are fundamental needful for effective and efficient decision-making and impactful actions in government.

Good leaders do not wait for things to happen before reacting. For meaningful progress and development in their society, leaders analyse realities minutely and comprehensively, anticipate emerging realities and innovatively plan ahead to get the better and best of it. This does not immune them and society from emergencies but those patently unforeseen or unforeseeable developments and force majeure will be few and far between. A credit to their deep vision, creative plans and anticipatory policies and
actions.

On April 16, 2020 at the daily Presidential Task Force briefing on Covid-19, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola spoke about the Tropics and how heat and humidity, especially considering the housing type of the majority of citizens, make outdoor life compelling and protracted total lockdown difficult. He then enunciated that since such lockdowns are presently inescapable, one component of the needful to make it successful in getting rid of the virus is mass production and enforced usage of the face mask nationwide in public places, complimentary to all the other guidelines and rules of hygiene; that if done and rigorously enforced, the virus can be contained within two weeks of total lockdown thereby making way for easing the lockdown. He even postulated on the
economic benefits across several value chains of systematic mass productions of 100 million quality face masks from local fabrics, which at N500 each approximately equals a N50 billion injection into business and productivity.

Ogbeni Aregbesola was not the first to sensitise the global community on the potential of containing the virus with informed and enforced, total face mask use in public places. One of the most vocal advocates of this solution is Dr Jonas Sharma of the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians.

Once every citizen is sensitized or
compelled to wear the mask once outside his house doorsteps and no one can spread the virus in public places, the spread is then limited to family and small communities where it can quickly be isolated and suppressed. Note that the solution is not advocated
as a stand-alone solution in disregard of all the other rules of hygiene and physical distancing.

Despite that this idea was articulated since middle of April, it took most state governments and the federal government till May 4 to announce the compulsory usage of face masks in public places to coincide with the easing of the lockdown, rather than a precondition for it. We all know that during the preceding “total lockdown,”
millions of people in the states of Lagos, Ogun, the FCT and others on “lockdown” continue to move around, essential and non-essential workers alike, even as distribution of so-called palliatives in rowdy conditions abound; such that public spaces are littered with millions of people in close contacts without face-mask usage.

That was when the most community spread of the virus took place without a doubt.

The Yoruba have another proverb: “Ogbon Ologbon ni ki je ka pe Agba ni were,” literally meaning “it is the aggregate of other people’s wisdom that saves the elder from being adjudged insane.” A leader worth his onions does not always need to lean exclusively on his personal knowledge-resources to make wise, timely decisions.

Intelligent, resourceful and innovative thinkers abound in Nigeria, much else on the global online platforms. Why leaders in decision-making positions in Nigeria fail to tap into these resources for making smart, timely decisions, especially when saving lives and fortunes is at stake baffles the mind.

It is not the first time Ogbeni Aregbesola is identified with making visionary policies far ahead of time to avert human sufferings. It is on record that the Minister of Interior, as Governor, State of Osun exhibited similar foresight in leadership and efficient management in anticipating and nipping in the bud the threat to peaceful coexistence posed by age-old and increasing tension between herdsmen and farmers, long before it became a national calamity that wasted several billions of naira in resources and thousands of human lives.

In June 2014, he set up a Special Committee on Peaceful Coexistence tagged “Committee for Peaceful
Coexistence between Fulani/Bororo and Crop
Farmers in the state of Osun” under the Chairmanship of Hon. Mudasiru Oguntola Toogun, having appointed the Seriki Fulani for Osun State, Alhaji Oluwatoyin Sule Muhammed as personal assistant on Peaceful Coexistence Between Fulani/Bororo And Crops Farmers in the State.

The result of the bold step taken by Ogbeni Aregbesola was recognized and popularized through the publication of a research conducted by Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, United States on
Nigeria Social Violence Database (NSVD) in relation to death from
Herdsmen and Farmers Conflict (2016). The report showed that Osun is one of the few states with no ‘Death’ at all in the country during the year under
review. Whatever happened later was after his exit as a governor for reasons that are open.
The award-winning “Opon Imo” Tablet of Knowledge launched in 2013 is another such exercises in foresight and innovation. The portable touchscreen Android powered e-learning device, first of its kind in Nigeria and unique globally, contains all the books
in every subject needed by Senior Secondary School Students. It has written and audiovisual teaching/instructions by teachers in all those subjects and WAEC and UTME past questions and answers from inception till date. With 900 minutes of virtual classroom lessons, it has self-learning tools and exercise platforms as well as other materials on civic and general knowledge.

You don’t have to be online to access its
contents and it can be solar-charged when there is no electricity supply. The import of the deployment of this powerful learning tool is already manifesting in the performance of Osun students in the last six years as they produce award and scholarship winning feats as some of the best secondary school graduating students in WAEC/UTME results.

How good, pleasant and effective it will be if all terminal Senior Secondary School Students in Nigeria today have these tools in the era of Covid-19? The Online alternatives being touted in a country with woeful power supplies and network services even if parents can afford data charges are simply turning out as exercises in futility.

Clearly, good intention and a given quantum of strong commitments to the general good is a precondition for exercises in foresight and innovation in governance. As patently seen, it is not a lack of access to wisdom, even by those in government who don’t have it but need it for a good and timely decision that is the issue. It is said that the difference in today’s world is not between one ideology or the other but simply a
difference between those who care and those who don’t! Our tragedy at home here appears to be a preponderance of careless elites who intensely seek and muzzle their ways into public offices for private reasons.
Ojo-Iyara wrote from Akowonjo, Lagos