By Uche Nnaike
A pharmacist and former Lagos State gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general election, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, has suggested non-pharmaceutical interventions like social distancing and proper hygiene as well as advocacy in the fight against the second wave of COVID-19 since the country cannot afford another lockdown and cannot access enough vaccines for its citizens.
Agbaje, who was a guest on The Morning Show on ARISE NEWS Channel, the sister broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, noted that the challenges of COVID-19 are the same everywhere in terms of the people.
“Not everybody believes in the seriousness of the pandemic. So the first problem for the government is advocacy-to make people realise the seriousness of the disease,” he said.
“In terms of how the government has managed it, Agbaje said they have managed it as best as they can because “like I said, it is more about advocacy; it is more about the non-pharmaceutical interventions that will help us, especially with our weak health system.”
In the area of COVID-19 vaccines, Agbaje regretted that the country is not in charge or in the driver’s seat “in the sense that we belong to the category of what we call poor countries, in which some people are taking care of us, where some people are negotiating on our behalf as to how much we can get free and how much we can pay at reduced prices.
“Unfortunately, there is also a reality, and that reality is that even with that arrangement, it’s estimated that just about 20 per cent of our population will have the vaccination in 2021. So if we take that average, you are looking at a situation where if we have 200 million people, we are not going to get more than about 30 to 40 million people vaccinated in 2021, and that means we have to go back to the non-pharmaceutical interventions, which is going to be our strength, and that is the reality we are in at the moment.”
Asked why no Nigerian company is manufacturing the vaccine, he said: “In our own part of the world, vaccines are normally managed by the government, and therefore, whoever wants to go into manufacturing of vaccines must have a measure of understanding with the government.”
According to him, the government has been trying to work with one of the major pharmaceutical companies in the country to produce vaccines. “I am not sure that that is yet on board, but there is a new task force on COVID-19 in terms of vaccines and vaccines production, where one of the terms of reference is the possibility of producing some of the COVID-19 vaccines, and how far that will work, only time will tell.”
On political matters, Agbaje agreed that the country is not properly working with the way it is currently structured, thus, there is need for restructuring to devolve powers from the centre to the federating units, which are the states.
Asked if he will contest again as a gubernatorial candidate 2023, he said: “Am I still in politics. Yes I remain in politics. My running for office has nothing to do with running at all costs. So what role I will play is still very unclear, but definitely I believe that I have a role to play in the politics of our country and Lagos State, and in what capacity, I believe time and events will tell.”