Philanthropist, founder and financier of Otunba Adejare Adegbenro Foundation (OAAF), Otunba Adejare Adegbenro, in recent interview with select journalists, said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to save the nation’s economy from going completely comatose should not be sabotaged, among other issues. Charles Ajunwa brings excerpts
You are advocating Herd Immunity Strategy on the fight against COVID-19. What’s it all about?
By Herd Immunity Strategy, the virus will kill the weakest in the society while the strongest will develop immunity against the virus. That is what Sweden is doing and Nigeria has just adopted that model. People will contract the virus, they will either die or recover but the economy will keep going and the rest of the people will eventually develop immunity against it. It clearly indicates that his administration has adopted a method known as Herd Immunity Strategy that would threaten the life of the most vulnerable people in the society while the stronger ones will survive. This is, regrettably, our new reality and if I was in Buhari’s shoes, I would adopt same method.
Can this Herd Immunity Strategy work in Nigeria?
Well, the President has done his best and his efforts should not be sabotaged. He has given directives and also released funds to various agencies of government to combat this deadly virus. So, the government must remain transparent and accountable to the public. We need to know how the funds and donations by charity organisations across the world to Nigeria’s government are utilised. We need a website to track information on the utilisation of the funds and what they are being used for. How many hospitals are being built? How long are people going to stay in the isolation centres? The government must, as a matter of urgency, begin to revamp our health system.
The Governor of Lagos State has been on the frontline in this battle against COVID-19 and has done tremendously great. Also the Governor of Ogun State, Prince Dapo Abiodun is personally supervising all the donations and distribution of the palliatives and ensuring that they get to the appropriate quarters. I will not fail to mention the Honourable Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), who is working tirelessly to ensure that the nation’s Capital City is safe and people stay at home. Former Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State has also contributed immensely to fight COVID-19 in Ogun State.
How can the method help the economy to bounce back?
President Buhari knows his onion. His resolve to adopt the strategy is okay by me because there will be no alternative way of fighting the virus again. And it does not make sense at this point to continue keeping the economy grounded in the face of glaring hunger and imminent job losses. Since Nigeria is not so rich to continue to shut down the economy and at the same time continue to feed the hungry citizens and having run out of options on how to tackle Coronavirus, Nigeria does not have any other alternative than to ease off the biting lockdown by adopting the Herd Immunity Strategy Model.
As a country, can we survive the COVID-19 pandemic going by its deadly nature?
To survive it, our strategy to move forwards against the deadly disease ravaging the whole world would remain only strict adherence to wearing of face masks and observing high level of hygienic conduct. My advice is that when you are going out from Monday, May 4, do all you can to make sure you will not be among the weak that will contract this Chinese disease and die. Protect yourselves. Work from home always if you can and build your immune system up. In my opinion, we must adopt the strategy of working within your locality. For instance, if you are living in Ikoyi, you should work within Ikoyi. You cannot go to Ikeja to work. This will help us to track where and how to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Our mantra should be testing and testing the populace the same method they have adopted in Senegal, Ghana and other places. We must have testing or quarantine centres at the borders of our states and ensure all the drivers bringing food items are tested before entering the states.
Has your NGO rendered any help towards cushioning the effects of the lockdown on the masses?
The Foundation has been assisting the community with essential facilities like boreholes, free eyes test and treatment, feeding of the less-privilege among others. Furthermore, palliatives distribution still continues to the less-privileged people to cushion the effect of hardship and hunger by the lockdown against the spread of COVIC-19. And we have reached as far as Alake and Olowu places, as well as Ifo and Ewekoro Local Government areas of Ogun State. The distribution is a continuous process and it has got to the journalists and various Media Houses. Other aspects of life like education, health and financial assistance to the needy are integral aspects of the Foundation. It is a Non-Governmental and Non-Profitable organisation with a Director-General in charge.