COVID 19 & our governors: Unprepared & unserious!
In an interview with African Independent Television (AIT) about two weeks ago on the ‘Implications of the Coronavirus (COVID 19) on our States’, I pointed out that Nigerians are yet to see a proactive approach from any of our governors even though the commendable efforts of Babajide Sanwo-Olu are noted. With the increasing spread of the virus to other parts of Nigeria and the reactive postures from our states, the unpreparedness of our Governors becomes more apparent. Recalling that the COVID 19 that started in China in January 2020 and entered Nigeria on 27th February, has killed over 34, 000 people with over 722, 000 confirmed cases in about 199 countries and territories around the world, the unserious disposition of most of our governors is discouraging.
Even with the infection of two governors, other governors are still behaving as if the COVID 19 is a Federal Government problem with no properly equipped isolation centers in most states and ad-hoc committees just being created. As if they are oblivious of what to do, all the actions so far have been very reactive with no detailed examination of the health and socio-economic implications to their states. On health aspect, it is just copy and paste- quickly create an isolation center, restrict movements and possibly close borders. Just as they do in Lagos for instance, so we will do in our state with limited or no consideration of the peculiarities of their respective states.
Moreover, while the COVID 19 is primarily a health challenge, it is important that we appreciate that the socio-economic impacts of the virus might be higher than the health consequences. This is an aspect that our governors seem not to properly appreciate or prefer to ignore with the possible belief that it will be perceived as the responsibility of the Federal Government. With Nigeria ranked as the poverty capital of the world with over 100million Nigerians described as extremely poor, the socio-economic impacts of the COVID 19 on Nigeria and particularly the poor can only be imagined. As majority of them (poor Nigerians) only able to feed themselves and their families based on their daily toils, the question that should concern every governor is how these Nigerians in their respective states will survive during this COVID 19 crisis and lock-down.
In a well governed environment, an informed and skilled team of experts should have been set up by each state governor since January 2020 to strategize and plan on how to effectively manage the COVID 19 crisis. We should have seen and read properly thought and detailed COVID 19 policy paper of every state in Nigeria. Expectedly, the policy paper should contain good understanding of COVID 19 and robust examinations of the health and socio-economic impacts on our respective states based on identified scenarios. And then the strategic plans of the states on the effective ways to mitigate and manage the crisis. Two key scenarios that can be used include, first- the spread and duration of the virus are limited and short, and second, the spread and duration of the virus are wide and prolonged. With these two scenarios that imply different impacts on the states in terms of health challenges, revenue, unemployment, poverty, insecurity, business environment and other governance factors, our states will be in a better position to plan strategic responses particularly as it affects groups like the civil servants, businesses, students, the poor and other vulnerable groups. As the pandemic will have significant negative consequences on the livelihood of majority of Nigerians, it is expected that every state governor should provide meaningful support in both financial and non-financial ways especially to the poor and vulnerable of every state.
The above is how to respond to crisis such as COVID19 and not the unplanned and unprepared ways we are seeing from our governors. Moreover, the COVID 19 pandemic has clearly further exposed the poor state of our health sector. Of the 36 states and FCT, it seems that it is only Lagos and possibly two other states that can be said to have a reasonable public health sector. The remaining states can only be described as below standards and unserious. This is the reason why the governments of most developed countries are evacuating their citizens from Nigeria even when their countries are experiencing worse COVID 19 challenges than Nigeria.
As the pandemic will have significant negative consequences on the livelihood of majority of Nigerians, it is expected that every state governor should provide meaningful support in both financial and non-financial ways especially to the poor and vulnerable of every state
With the global exposure of pandemics such as COVID 19, it should be clear to our leaders that the sustainable solution to our health challenges is in proper development of our health sector as the alternative of travelling abroad might not be feasible in certain situations such as this. If it was possible, most politicians and rich men would have travelled abroad for better medical treatment. Interestingly with COVID 19, we will all survive or die here! Given our unpreparedness for this pandemic, it seems that we did not really learn much from our recent experience with Ebola. If we did, our approach to this crisis would have been different.
With the hope that we will survive COVID 19 the way we survived Ebola, it is hoped that our leaders and especially the governors will appreciate their leadership responsibility and properly develop our society especially our health sector. As a friend muted, there is a benefit to ordinary Nigerians with this COVID 19. It does not discriminate between rich and poor, Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba, Man and Woman, Muslim or Christian. All of us are equal before Corona and it is teaching us to appreciate that we are same-human beings and that what affects one affects the other. As such we should be fair and concerned for the wellbeing of all and sundry.
Franklin Nnaemeka Ngwu (PhD)
Dr. Ngwu is a Senior Lecturer in Strategy, Finance and Risk Management, Lagos Business School and a Member, Expert Network, World Economic Forum.