Oyo COVID-19 Emergency: Between Public Health And Sophomoric Politics | Olusola Sanni

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Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde
Governor Seyi Makinde

Whoever was in doubt about the notion that the people remain the centre-piece of the Seyi Makinde’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration in Oyo State, the method and manner the state government has adopted to respond to the emergency situation arising from the COVID-19 pandemic should clear such doubts.

Covid-19 is a highly infectious disease and it has claimed many a life across the globe. There are 11 confirmed cases of the disease in Oyo State, with seven victims being fully treated – including the governor himself.

Just about the time that the disease broke out in Nigeria, the Oyo State government took a proactive step by promptly being one of the first states to set up a diagnostic centre at the University College Hospital in Ibadan. It also provided isolation centres in Ibadan and Ogbomoso, while the government, in partnership with a corporate organization, is also setting up 100-beds isolation centres each in Saki and Iseyin. As a proactive government, the Oyo State government has perfected plans to set up isolation centres in all the five administrative zones of the State, with the four-beds isolation centre also due to be expanded.

The State was able to do achieve the feats on setting up a diagnostic centre and isolation centres even at a time when Lagos State, which is the epicentre of the disease in Nigeria, was still grappling with getting grants from the federal government to put up a diagnostic centre.

What is commendable still is that the diagnostic centre in Ibadan remains the only in the country that was put in place by any state government without grants from either the federal government or any international donor. That goes to show how proactive the Makinde government is.

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Again, while other states are busy promulgating laws on how to effect a full lockdown without any sign of concern about how that decision could affect the daily livelihood of the common people, the government in Oyo State took a different course. It is very easy and fashionable this time round for governments to decree a stay-at-home order to the people. It is the standard procedure that governments in the Western hemisphere employed in order to flatten the curve of the spread of Coronavirus infection. But be that as it may, there is no single government from Beijing to Madrid that has caused a lockdown of their streets without a provision of palliatives for the people.

This is even more so in those countries where governments have a credible data on individuals’ businesses and returns.
In Nigeria on the other hand, many state governments have joined the bandwagon of a total lockdown not minding how that action would affect the daily living of the people. It takes just a stroke of the pen for any governor to sign a law prohibiting people from looking for their means daily survival. But the people, who will be at the receiving end of that policy, would go through a lot of hardship to keep families whose only meal of dinner is dependent on their daytime toils. It is not even surprising that some inconsequential politicians of the opposition bulk have launched a barrage of attacks on Governor Makinde for not effecting a total lockdown of Oyo State, attacking the governor on account of his concern for the economic wellbeing of the people.

What those opposition politicians fail to remember is that unlike when their party was in government few months back, the new administration in Oyo State thinks of the people first. That is why the new government is very quick to constitute a diagnostic centre to make sure that the people of Oyo State who may get infected with the disease wouldn’t have to scamper for a facility elsewhere before they get diagnosed. It is obvious that the concern for the people is the reason why Governor Makinde is employing a partial lockdown as well.

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And, in any case, there are quite a number of economic consequences that would trail a decision to cripple business activities in a state like Oyo. Apart from the fact that 75 per cent or more, of businesses in the state are largely subsistent, a state government that is embarking on an aggressive campaign of increasing its internally generated revenue figure wouldn’t make an arbitrary order shutting down businesses just because everyone else is doing so. There are 11 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 infections in the State, with seven already testing negative and no record of death. If, God forbids, the figure hikes to more concerning proportion, perhaps then, the state government could consider a total lockdown. But the statistics as of today does not reasonably justify such an extreme, obnoxious measure.

In the one week that businesses open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., there was no single case of reported infection in Oyo State. No one can conclude, therefore, that ordinary people who go about their businesses are the cause of any spread of the disease. So why would anyone advocate for a total lockdown to punish the people when the realities on the table don’t support such action? In fact, the two new cases that Oyo reported last week were those of a returnee from UAE and a close relation of an existing case of the infection. That goes to show that the Covid-19 Task Force in the state is on top of its game on contact tracking.

Across the city of Ibadan, people comply strictly with instruction on washing their hands regularly to such commendable extent that most households even have buckets of soap water and water at their entrances. Almost everyone goes about with hand sanitizers and the state government continues to make public notice announcements on social distancing.
In addition, the state is mulling the idea of promulgating a law that would provide legal framework to guide operations during the Covid-19 emergency.

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The state’s Commissioner of Justice and Attorney-General, Professor Oyelowo Oyewo said after the State Executive Council (SEC) meeting on Tuesday said that the executive council discussed the establishment of Oyo State Coronavirus Disease Emergency Prevention Regulation 2020. The law will enable the state government to have the legal framework for making the order for social distancing and the regulation of movement of transport system within the state.

The law will also check law enforcement agents in the way they deal with people in a manner that will guarantee their constitutional rights.

These are social safeguards that the Makinde government has put in place to ensure that the spread of this dreaded is contained in Oyo State while at the same time, the economy of the state is not put in jeopardy.

It is, therefore, reprehensible for one colourless politician or a political party to turn this whole thing about the Coronavirus emergency into an enterprise where they seek to make some political gains.

Sanni, a policy analysis expert, sent this piece from Ibadan

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