COVID-19: Ijesaland, the ‘crocodile tears’ and making sense of total lockdown
On Saturday, the Executive Governor of Osun state, Gboyega Oyetola announced another phase of lockdown in the state. Out of six local governments in Ijesaland, four local governments namely; Ilesa East, Ilesa West, Atakunmosa East and Atakunmosa West will be on total lockdown starting from Tuesday for 7 days while other two namely Oriade and Obokun Local Governments will continue to enjoy relaxation of state-imposed lockdown.
According to the state government, these four LGs will be on lockdown as a result of increasing number of positive cases of COVID-19 recorded by the state which were majorly recorded in these four local governments.
The sudden increase in positive cases of COVID-19 in Ijesaland can be easily traced to influx of strangers mostly Northerners and chinese nationals who engage in the business of gold. These strangers did not only occupy farmlands but also took over wives through help of LAPO and properties of the poor. They have become so powerful that they allegedly worked during the first phase of lockdown in the state. They have no regards for the government nor dignify the traditional institutions because these (rulers) have soiled their hands. Despite inter-state travel ban, these people still enter the state freely and continue their gold business. Till now, Chinese nationals including some citizens who were arrested by the gallant Amotekun officials have not been prosecuted because they belong to the comity of powerfuls greater than the state and its laws.
Money and love for affluence have made one-time great Ijesaland to be a den for lawbreakers. Strangers have become warlords, treating owners of farmlands as slaves of their inheritance. Rulers who were supposed to be responsible for the safety of their people are the ones providing shelters and making life easier for intruder. They are enemies of any politics or developments that does not come with money. We shouted and lamented but they ignored our rants. Now that the politics of money did not only defeat peace but also brought a deadly virus, Coronavirus to the land, a sad development it’s.
If traditional rulers and state government still insist that they don’t know about these strangers, their antics and how they brought the virus to the state, then we do not have government or rulers. That these strangers will still continue to work during this lockdown is nothing but a great slap on the government if there’s any.
THE LOCKDOWN THEY GAVE TO US
The newly imposed lockdown is not new to people who know Ijesaland as the new habitat for gold miners and Northerners. The discovery of new cases of COVID-19 in Ijesaland is equally not a surprise but the crocodile tears and its motivator (state government) are quite surprising.
I was on transit when I received the official declaration of the lockdown by the state government. I told the Okada rider who was with me that another phase of lockdown will commence in Ijesaland on Tuesday. I advised him that he should buy foodstuffs at home and ensure that he followed the directive of the government. The bikeman pointlessly told me that he will leave Ijesaland on the eve of the lockdown to another town probably Ijebu-Ijesa to work and later smuggle himself to Ilesa at night by bribing the security operatives till they relax the lockdown. “E ma je ko ya yin le nu, opolopo olokada lo ma se be to ri ebi ti n be ni ilu (don’t be surprised. Many okada riders will leave the town to hustle in another town due to hunger and hardship in the state)”, the Okada rider said.
I only picked the narration of Okada rider who dropped me at home because I do not want to bore you with narratives of other residents (potential carriers of coronavirus) who will not only leave Ijesaland on the eve of lockdown but have other means of flouting lockdown restrictions. Besides Okada riders, some young people in their late twenties told me that they will leave Ijesaland to stay with friends in neighbouring towns. “Ilesa to Ijebu-Jesa is a 10-minute journey. Ilesa to Osogbo is less than 45-minute journey. I will stay with a relative and continue my work”, another resident said. This and many others are challenges of partial lockdown in any unorganized society driven by leadership.
I deliberately started my piece with little exceptions that would make mockery of fight against COVID-19 with partial lockdown because every state governor now has interest in locking down the state or LGs rather than working on possible ways to combat the virus and Osun is no expection.
I have once stated that lockdown without actions or implementable decisions is efforts in futility. The essence of lockdown is to allow government increase testing capacity, boost institutional steps for effective contract tracing and give room to relate with community development areas on pratical ways to combat the virus. Lockdown should not only be about stay at home, don’t work; it should be more of processes and activation of institutions to fight COVID-19.
To the best of my knowledge, there is no testing centre for Coronavirus in Ijesaland and there are no plans to engage community development areas. Apart from residents who might show symptoms in the next 7 days and be taken to Isolation centres, there are no plan to detect the asymptomatic ones who are no doubts the largest population and may no show signs within 7 days. Lockdown will not flatten the curve of the virus if people in these local governments have moved to other areas and if the state government refuses to strengthen institutions in combating the virus.
Imposing a total lockdown without visible plans is not a wise decision unless it is a precondition for being able to take certain vital steps that cannot be taken except movement is severely restricted. What are those steps Oyetola and his fellow ‘lockdown governors’ intend to take during another phase of lockdown?
Poor management of the COVID-19 pandemic from inception and the alleged-plan of some state government to turn it to money-raking ventures coupled with the historical fact that people are always suspicious, hostile and disdainful of government policies owing to lack of trust existing between the duo, people wrongly took the Covid19 issue as either nonexistent or unserious. I forsee a serious fight between the people and government if they keep forcing people to stay at home without taking necessary steps to combat the virus.
There are four critical steps every responsible government must take in climes of weak economy where lockdown can not be properly pronounced for so long. As larger parts of Ijesaland resume lockdown on Tuesday, these four critical steps are very germane; (1) massive testing at random. (2) when positive cases are detected in the random tests; massive contact tracing and apprehension. (3) capacity isolation centres and rapid treatment of cases in an environment that is humane, so those released can convince others to go for isolation. (4) massive enlightenment campaign to disabuse the prejudiced minds of the people concerning Covid19 in all ramifications.
The fourth critical step would give birth to another three positive steps which are; (1) willingness to take responsibility and obey all protocols because they now understand. (2) willingness to submit to tests without fear, and submit to isolation and treatment. (3)willingness to take ownership of the processes going forwards after the end of total lockdown, as not to revert back to it..
State governments, individuals and institutions need to work hand in hand with the federal government in mobilising for research into local remedies pending globally confirmed cure or vaccine. Instead of worsening the pandemic situation by fighting its research manpower, medical manpowers and institutions, they should concentrate on ways to work together in defeating the deadly virus. We have no where to go and the chips are down. It is either we rescue ourselves from the virus or we allow it to change our course to “there was a country”.
The virus is now at the community transmission phase. This is the time to mobilise communities to own the management processes, take responsibility, be empowered and supported for such action. This is the time to engage CDAs and align them with NGOs for support; the largest group at the grassroots which consist of doctors, nurses, clinic, police officers, OPCs, vigilante, clerics of churches and mosques even arear fathers. What a responsible government needs to do is to convince them that it is all up to them and it is our survival that is at stake. Empower them with some bogus regulations, make official pronouncements and give them money and logistics. To enforce social distancing, seeing to the closure of viewing centres, wearing of facemasks and others, they will do a better job and assist the police. There will be misuse of powers but there has always been even with the police but we will be safer because Nigeria police can not ensure the total compliance to regulations because they are outnumbered.
There are 3 critical issues on the face mask use:
A) Majority of the face masks in common use are useless and don’t prevent the escape of the virus from the users… So, your idea of producing STANDARD face masks en masse is very good and timely, and we don’t know for how long we will be in this crises.
B) Even with mass distribution of the face masks, the citizens don’t use them. This is due to foolhardiness and ignorance.
C) Therefore, flowing from B above, there is need for massive enlightenment on NEED to use PROPERLY. There is no use in producing and distributing if they are not PROPERLY Used.
ON ENLIGHTENMENT AND COMMUNAL ENGAGEMENTS:
1. The enlightenment cannot be through conventional adverts.
2. Historically, Government is the “enemy” of the people and the other name for government as far as the people are concerned is “trouble” and “punishment” so disobedient of the government is rampant and hailed.
However, there are opinion moulders and citizens that the people listen to and obey, even at their own detriment. Even if they say they should poison themselves, they will obey.
So there are 2 effective approaches to the enlightenment component of the project.
A. Reach out to all identified opinion moulders, enlighten and persuade and mobilise them to spread the benefit of proper and consistent usage of the masks by all their followers. These opinion moulders are – leading imams and religious people, community leaders, “cult” leaders of various informal work sectors and so on.
B. Social media bombardment on need for CONSISTENT and PROPER Usage every time OUTDOOR! Only few Nigerians in densely populated urban areas are not online today, or close to someone who is their “paddy” that they listen to who is online.
Government have to find ways and means to raise its testing capacity to 50 million tests across the county, and to do so in 2 months maximum. The challenge here is production/purchase of the kits and reagents for the tests.
STEPS TO TAKE IN BOOSTING THE TESTING CAPACITY:
A 2-week total precision lockdown in the identified worst hit LGAs and ramp up random tests, and follow up with contact tracing of positive cases, and follow up the chain all the way. lockdowns are completely useless without doing this.
After the lockdown, and in all 774 LGAs, government have to decentralise the tests to as many as 5-20 designated hospitals per LGAs where people who feel they have symptoms akin to Covid19 can go do the check. The challenge is to support the medics in those hospitals with Personal Protective Equipments in a Section/Ward that has been prepare to meet the Bio-Safety conditions.
Government should reconcile with Universities, Pharmaceutical Associations, Medical Associations, and Trado-medical Associations. They should be mobilised sincerely and given massive support. If they do, we will have a local remedy strong and efficacious enough and widely made available as to end all lockdown and full resumption of the economy in no distant time. Atleast 1 out of 10 poor Nigerians should be tested.
I equally noticed that governments are quick to declare lockdown because the larger percentage of their earnings are not from the productivity of the people. Most state governments have no reliable IGR becausd they depend on free oil money from the federation account monthly. If we run an economy driven by taxes which would force people out daily to produce goods and services or majority of government programmes are driven by taxation, government will be more interested in solving the problem with only the inescapable amount of lockdown possible.
In as much as people who earn on daily basis suffer the most and state governments continue to receive monthly allocations, solution to COVID-19 or let me say effective management towards the pandemic will be of secondary consideration.
Now that we have started another phase of lockdown in Osun state, we look forward to distinct leadership quality in relation to COVID-19 management from the state government. I hope that the state and Nigeria as a nation will take its rightful position in the comity of blacks.
Apagunpote Olayimika Chocomilo (Lawal Sodiq Adewale)