by Olutayo Irantiola
All across the world, there has been series of measures by all governments to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) since the beginning of the year, 2020. It has become very expedient for all levels of leaders to take appropriate measures to safeguard the lives of their citizens as the world has transited into another phase of the dreaded pandemic.
From the United States of America, President Donald Trump holds daily news conference to intimate the world with all that is happening in the country. Asides his efforts, various State Governors and Mayors in the country also had to use their discretion in coming up with various measures that will help them in reducing the mortality attached to the pandemic. This same trend was seen in the United Kingdom too, unfortunately, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, got infected by the virus but thankfully, he has fully recovered.
Coming to Africa, the continent has her fair share of the pandemic, Egypt was the first country to experience COVID-19, before it started moving on to other countries. According to Tedors Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Chief of the World Health Organisation, his concern was the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems. Also, the Head of Emergency Operations in Africa for WHO, Michael Yao noted that the continent’s health system was already overwhelmed by many ongoing disease outbreaks, early detection is vital.
Eventually, February 27, 2020 came like every other normal day but COVID-19 broke out in the country. It was brought into the country by an Italian who transited from Lagos to Ogun State. As such, Nigeria started the battle against the disease and it started spreading across the country. After a while, President Muhammadu Buhari declared a five-week lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun states.
As a state that is as heterogeneous like Lagos, Rivers State, headquarters of the hydrocarbon industry, has to take proactive steps in reducing the spread of the virus to the state. The Governor was the first state helmsman to sign an Executive Order that led to Border Closure and other actions. This was done on March 19, 2020. This was announced in a state-wide broadcast that all the land and seas borders in the state will be on lockdown and he also banned vehicles from entering or leaving the state. This was one of the early moves to show that the welfare of the citizenry of Rivers State is of utmost concern to the Governor. After initial criticisms, other states followed suit.
The Governor did not stop at this, at some point, he started getting some fillers that there was a kind of sabotage of his efforts by a Deputy Commissioner of Police after he had ordered the lockdown in Port Harcourt and Obi Akpor Local Government areas of the state to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. This effort showed the bravery of the Governor who is deeply concerned with the welfare of his people rather than allowing his people to contract the dreaded virus.
The People’s Governor decided to call a Stakeholders Engagement meeting with Government recognised traditional rulers and Council chairmen where he urged them to sensitise their people on the Order 6. The order is said to have banned the operation of hotels across the 23 Local Government areas of the state.
Subsequently, the Governor inaugurated the Local Government Taskforces on COVID-19, where he sounded the warning strongly. The Eleme Local Government Taskforce went to implement the Order and were attacked and brutalised with head injuries. It is disheartening that the Rivers State Government Wednesday announced the death of a member of its Taskforce on COVID-19 attacked by hoodlums at the demolished Prodest Hotel in Port Harcourt, the state capital.
The Wike dictum of leadership is similar to that of President Muhammadu Buhari, He is ‘for everybody and he is for nobody,’ he ordered the demolition of the hotel, Prodest Hotel, Adole, Eleme that even belonged to a member of the Peoples Democratic Party. The PDP Youth Leader in Eleme, Princewill Osaroejiji who is now on the run masterminded the assault. The Government has placed a N5m reward for any person who will give information that will lead to his arrest. Another hotel that got demolished is the Etemeteh Hotel, Onne in the same Eleme Local Government Area of the state.
The former President of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Chief Onueze Okocha (SAN) has declared that the Executive Orders signed by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike are appropriate. Okocha (SAN) advised anyone who is uncomfortable with the Executive Orders to approach the courts. Chief Okocha (SAN) lauded the steps taken by the Rivers State Governor to fight Coronavirus. He said the steps would help check the spread of Coronavirus. He commended the Governor for these bold and very laudable steps.
It is important for Nigerians to take cognisance of the fact that the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has showered praises on the Governor for his outstanding leadership role in the fight against Coronavirus when he visited the state recently. In his words: “I want to thank you for your firm, strong, committed and personally led response to COVID-19. We thank you very much for your leadership and we need your leadership to continue our work nationally.”
Aside Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory, if the pandemic thrives in Rivers State, it would become very disastrous for the communal good of Rivers’ people. Governor Wike has done well in curtailing the pandemic in Rivers State with good intentions. Nigerians must take government orders seriously, while ensuring that the world is a better place for everyone in this critical time in human history.