By Gboyega Akosile
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s performance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Lagos is exemplary, considering what his administration has done in the last six months to ensure that the Centre of Excellence remains on top of the situation.
Looking at the success rate of the State in addressing the pandemic, there is no doubt that Governor Sanwo-Olu has become a shining light and a beacon of hope by providing exceptional leadership in public office in the management of COVID-19 pandemic, not only in Lagos but throughout the country.
Lagos remains the epicenter of the pandemic in Nigeria but the methodical handling of the virus by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is exemplary.
There seems to be a consensus among political pundits and public commentators that if not for Governor Sanwo-Olu’s leadership in managing the COVID-19 index case and several other earlier cases, the incident rates of the coronavirus may have overwhelmed the nation. Thankfully, the Governor and his team’s action has helped the country in no small measure to stem what may have resulted into a crisis of monumental proportions.
Since the first confirmed coronavirus case in Nigeria was announced on February 27, when an Italian citizen in Lagos tested positive for the virus, Governor Sanwo-Olu has been up to the task in managing the pandemic. The governor apart from taking right decisions as Incident Commander also ensured that other sectors in the state did not suffer as he steered the ship of the state successfully during moments of crisis.
Despite the increasing number of confirmed cases recorded daily by the Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC) in Lagos, Sanwo-Olu moved five steps ahead by putting in place some measures to mitigate the effects of the rise in numbers. It is of note that the governor did not wait for Lagos to record any case of the virus before putting several measures in place in preparation for the pandemic.
It would be recalled that almost a month before the pandemic broke out in Nigeria, Sanwo-Olu inaugurated the Incident Command Committee for coronavirus and made himself the Incident Commander. He also gave approval for the urgent rehabilitation and upgrading of the necessary facilities to serve as isolation centres in the state.
After Lagos State recorded its index case, Sanwo-Olu administration didn’t rest on its oars, by ensuring that necessary measures were put in place to address the situation and curtail spread of the virus in Lagos. To strengthen protocol and check possible increase in the cases occasioned by the continued influx of travelers into Nigeria through Lagos from some COVID-19 ravaged countries, Governor Sanwo-Olu on March 17 led some members of the State Executive Council to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, to carry out an assessment of what was being done to screen travellers coming into the country through the state. The visit, according to the governor, who had earlier deployed the Lagos State health workers to the airport to assist in the screening of travellers, was meant to sensitize protocol officers in ensuring that no one is spared in the thorough screening and profiling of travelers.
The Lagos State Government in its quest to check the spread of the coronavirus at the early stage of the pandemic in Nigeria also put in place a strategy to identify, trace and isolate all individuals that had come into contact with confirmed cases in Lagos. It is also of note that long before the Federal Government began to spell out guidelines on prevention of coronavirus; Governor Sanwo-Olu took proactive steps to curtail the spread of the virus through different means.
Worried by the increase in the number of cases of coronavirus in Lagos State a few days after the state recorded its first case, Governor Sanwo-Olu took some decisions to strike the balance between health, economy and security during the pandemic. The Governor immediately ordered closure of religious centres and banned public gatherings.
He also limited gatherings at events to not more than 20 people. Schools were also closed down and all Lagos State Civil Servants from Grade Level 1-12 were instructed to work from home. Public parks and markets, except for sellers of food, medicines, medical equipment and other essential life-saving products, also closed down for some weeks. Lagos State government also embarked on grassroots sensitization on print, electronic, online media and other communication channels. All the steps were taken in a bid to protect residents from physical and other potential threats.
To ensure that lives and properties of Lagosians were secured during the lockdown period, the State Government in conjunction with security agencies beefed up security apparatus to forestall hoodlums taking advantage of the lockdown situation to rob the residents and dispossess them of their personal belongings. The Governor approved funds for the cleaning up of the entire public spaces in the State. Disinfectant equipment was deployed with professional handlers to fumigate the entire state.
As an empathetic governor, the place of the vulnerable and people at the lowest level of the economic ladder is very dear to Sanwo-Olu’s heart. Governor Sanwo-Olu put smiles on the faces of millions of people who fall in this category during the lockdown period by providing relief packages (first of its kind), comprising rice, beans, garri, bread, dry pepper, drinking water and vitamins to cushion the effects of the lockdown on them.
In preparation for an eventual spike in the number of confirmed cases in the state, Lagos State Government, in conjunction with private partners, completed a 110-bed fully equipped isolation centre at Brigadier Mobolaji Johnson Arena. One hundred and eighteen-bed isolation centres in Gbagada; 150-bed isolation centre at the Mainland Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba; 80-bed, 10 Intensive Care Unit isolation centre at Landmark Convention centre and 60-bed isolation centre at LUTH were also activated while the Agidingbi Isolation centre was dedicated to the treatment of the frontline health workers who became infected while treating the covid-19 patients.
To ensure the well-being of Lagos residents during the lockdown period, especially with effect to medical services, Governor Sanwo-Olu declared that all emergencies including accidents, surgeries, deliveries by pregnant women and admission in any of the 27 state-owned general hospitals and other public health facilities should be handled free of charge.
Sanwo-Olu also preached social distance and mandated wearing of facemasks and use of hand sanitizers in the state. The State Government also ensured reduction in the number of passengers by public transport. To ensure that some of the measures put in place by state government were effective, the Lagos State House of Assembly passed into law the Coronavirus Pandemic Emergency Law, 2020, with the aim of giving the Governor the power to carry out some functions in relation to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
To assist people economically during COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Sanwo-Olu on June 18 launched HelpNow, a social intervention platform deployed to support at least two million Lagosians through a crowd-funding model that rallies support of well-meaning individuals and corporates. It is geared towards mitigating the debilitating effects of COVID-19 on the income and livelihood of millions of households in Nigeria.
Though Lagos still remains the epicenter of the pandemic with highest confirmed cases in Nigeria, there is no doubt that Governor Sanwo-Olu’s pragmatic handling of COVID-19 pandemic has continued to earn him the people’s trust and the support of the private sector.
Sanwo-Olu’s administration has enjoyed more support from the private sector and individuals than any other state in Nigeria during the pandemic. The goodwill and relationship contributed to Lagos State cash donations, equipment and facilities such as isolation centers donated by organisations and philanthropists.
The support was kick-started by President Muhammadu Buhari who provided some cash relief for Lagos to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the State’s economy.
Some of the backend approaches that gave Governor Sanwo-Olu the resounding success over the coronavirus pandemic in Lagos State is the creation of structure and super structure with multi-level components for easy and smooth coordination.
Apart from the centrally controlled Incident Command structure, which he heads as the Incident Commander, Governor Sanwo-Olu set up what we call the “War Room Cabinet”, comprising few Executive Council members saddled with different responsibilities during the lockdown. He also set up an inter-ministerial committee for the management of the COVID-19 fund. There is an outer leg known as the coviid-19 volunteer corps, which is coordinated by another Cabinet member. Everyone reports to the Incident Commander.
Effective Communication is key in war situations. Governor Sanwo-Olu effectively communicated to the residents. He was clear about every piece of information he dished out on a regular basis, he was emotive, he was assuring and he carried every citizen along.
One of the major wins for Governor Sanwo-Olu is leading from the front and from behind, where necessary. When he announced an executive decision, such as wearing facemasks, he would lead from the front by wearing it. He also demonstrated how to wash our hands with soap and running water at some public functions. It also applies to keeping social distancing protocols.
Increase in the allowance of health workers and payment of special covid-19 allowance for frontline workers. This move has earned the governor some accolades from far and near. He has motivated and boosted the morale of the State health workers, giving them reasons to do more to save people that have been infected with COVID-19.
Governor Sanwo-Olu’s effort has been commended by millions of Nigerians at home and in the diaspora. Many elder statesmen, captains of industries, professionals, politicians and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), including the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who said the governor has shown leadership in managing the COVID-19 outbreak.
Speaking during a private meeting with Governor Sanwo-Olu on Tuesday March 24, Tinubu threw his weight behind the preventive measures taken by the governor to stop the spread of coronavirus within the State.
Asiwaju said Governor Sanwo-Olu had shown leadership in the implementation of the response strategy to manage confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and tracing of suspected cases, even beyond the borders of the State.
“I congratulate the Government of Lagos State for what has been done so far and the regular information that the Government is sharing with the public. This is the essence of leadership. Nigerians need a lot of education in this challenge period,” Tinubu said.
Mustapha, who is the chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, commended Sanwo-Olu for setting up a world-class facility to assist to manage people affected with the COVID-19 disease.
The SGF, who gave the commendation on Tuesday April 7 during a tour by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 to the facility set up by the State Government in Lagos, said that the state government had been on course.
The Lagos State House of Assembly also described the efforts of Governor Sanwo-Olu and his team in the fight against the spreading COVID-19 pandemic as worthwhile.
The House, which commended the executive arm for its cooperation and unity of purpose, said at this period of a major health crisis, it could only take a passionate person like Governor Sanwo-Olu, with the needed support of the state’s lawmakers, to keep things running.
This support, the House said, necessitated the introduction of the Coronavirus Pandemic Emergency Law, 2020, by the Lagos Assembly with the aim of giving the Governor the power to carry out some functions in this case.
A member of the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC), the apex leadership of the Lagos State All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Lanre Razak also expressed confidence that the way Governor Sanwo-Olu, is handling the issue of the COVID-19 has reinforced the belief and confidence the Lagos populace reposed in him.
Speaking at a media parley in Lagos, Razak said that the Governor’s performance so far on the Coronavirus matter and other developmental issues in the state have brought the best out of him, adding that the governor’s performances have been heart-warming and impressive, which showed clearly that Governor Sanwo-Olu has not disappointed the people that gave him their mandate to be their governor.
As the world continues to find solutions to the virus, Governor Sanwo-Olu is not relenting in his efforts to ensure that Lagosians are kept safe and healthy. He also believes that the residents should complement what the government is doing in the fight against the covid-19 pandemic.
He has advised people to start taking responsibility for themselves and their loved ones, adding that “Self-regulation is the order of the day, and you should not wait for the government to regulate you or your conduct, even though we will be doing so, you must ensure as matter of responsibility, that you are self-regulating yourself in the interests of yourself and loved ones.”
*Akosile is the Chief Press Secretary to Lagos State Governor.