The last couple of weeks has been a trying time for countries across the globe. Between February 27, 2020, when Nigeria recorded its first case of the novel coronavirus pandemic and now, when the scourge is already raring its ugly head within communities, Nigerians have witnessed a poignant live show of intermittent parody and many tragic episodes.
Codenamed COVID-19, the outbreak has elicited fear and grief among the people and thrown many households into mourning. At the time of this writing, over 100 coronavirus deaths have been recorded in the country. In Kano alone, no fewer than 150 people, who reportedly displayed coronavirus symptoms, suddenly fell to the cold hand of what was described in the news as “mysterious death.”
This is unarguably a trying time and we are all co-travellers in the tempestuous voyage. Sad enough, in the middle of this are some clownish characters distracting us with an unsolicited farce! Imagine a man who pilloried the government of the State of Osun for not extending palliatives to him in the comfort of his home in a Government Reserved Area, the police officers who attempted to bestialise the enforcement of lockdown orders of the government and some unrepentant wailers who would stop at nothing to discredit the good efforts of the government at curbing the spread of the virus.
Curiously, this challenge has afforded us the opportunity to better appreciate our leaders who are at the forefront of this collective battle against a common enemy, coronavirus. Of all, the Governor of the State of Osun, Adegboyega Oyetola, conspicuously stands out. He has established himself as a leading warrior on the battlefield, exemplifying responsible and responsive leadership, particularly in this trying time of global pandemic.
To borrow the words of Batiatus in a recent Hollywood blockbuster, Oyetola remains “the Champion of the Capua.” His proactive approach towards curbing the spread of the coronavirus in Osun and even in the country at large is legendary. For instance, if the 167 Cote d’Ivoire returnees had succeeded in sneaking to their various destinations within the country, the consequences would have been nothing but doom. By his proactiveness in isolating them at the state’s isolation and treatment centre in Ejigbo and ensuring that their samples were taken and tested at the NCDC accredited testing centre, the African Centre of Excellence in Genomics of Infectious Diseases, Oyetola averted what would have been a national disaster.
The administration’s strategic approach and commendable efforts have recorded a near 100 per cent success in spite of the perfidy of some corrupt and unscrupulous security officers who compromises the state’s boundaries and the flippancy of recalcitrant residents, who were surreptitiously receiving visitors from outside the state even amid the lockdown, against the directives of the government.
The Government of Osun has been on its toes to forestall hindrances to the success it has already recorded in the battle against the novel virus. And this determination must have informed the decision to inaugurate a Joint Task Force and set up Amotekun Corps, all saddled with the responsibility of securing life and property of the citizens.
After the inauguration, men of the Amotekun Corps were immediately deployed to man all boundaries and mining sites in the state. This action was timely and commendable as it assisted the government in intercepting some northern youths mostly Zamfara indigenes coming into the state while the state was on total lockdown. In less than a week, the Joint Task Force launched a sting operation around Ilesa and Ife axis of the state and arrested 27 illegal miners, including 17 Chinese, nine locals and a traditional chief.
Aside from ensuring that those arrested are prosecuted, the state government has assured members of the public that the offenders would pay compensation for the damage their illegal mining has caused. With this, it is crystal clear that amid the fierce battle against the pandemic, the government is not distracted from doing the needful in protecting the environment and blocking economic leakages.
Typical of a visionary leader, Oyetola was quick to foresee a possible threat the COVID-19 could pose that was why, as far back as March 2020, even before many of his colleagues in other states began to take necessary steps, he declared a two-week holiday for civil servants in the state. He equally placed a ban on all public gatherings, announced indefinite closure of the shopping mall, markets as well as set limits on public transport’s loading capacity. However, before the end of March, he announced a total lockdown of the state, an action that has been widely applauded as a most proactive step to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Osun.
Furthermore, as a kindhearted leader, he would certainly not abandon the people, particularly the vulnerable, in the lurch. Oyetola set up the Osun Food and Relief Committee, comprising notable philanthropists in the country and eminent indigenes of Osun. The committee, chaired by the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God worldwide, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, was saddled with the responsibility of raising funds to provide palliatives for indigent residents of the state during the period of the lockdown.
To compliment the efforts of the committee, in spite of the state’s lean purse, the administration of Adegboyega Oyetola purchased over 6,000 (50kg) bags of rice, which were distributed to the vulnerable across the state regardless of their social, political and religious affiliation. The totality of gains emanating from this laudable initiative and the kind gesture on the indigent has continued to enjoy a reverberation of accolades from the beneficiaries, traditional rulers of their respective communities and many keen observers of Oyetola’s responsiveness during this pandemic.
The palliative distribution exercise has continued unabated as sizable packs of rice, beans, gari and other food items are being doled out to no fewer than 30,000 households across the 30 local government areas in the state. The exercise is being carried out in a most fair and transparent manner as seen in the various video clips circulating on various social media platforms.
The beneficiaries, in an apparently elated mood and with voices laden with emotion, described Oyetola and members of the committee as “God-sent.” Without recourse to exaggeration and as confessed by some of the beneficiaries, the foodstuff as shared in the videos could sustain an individual for more than one month.
According to a septuagenarian beneficiary, Pa Lamidi Bisiriyu, after he received his relief items at his Ofatedo residence in Egbedore Local Government Area of the state, he said, “despite the pressure and challenges occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic, our Governor thought it necessary to feed the vulnerable in the society. He went ahead and inaugurated a committee to provide this food that I have gotten today. Oyetola is not an ordinary man, he is definitely God-sent.”
In addition to the palliatives provided by the government as supported by the 21-man relief committee, some kindhearted individuals, particularly among government functionaries, also purchased and distributed food and relief materials to the vulnerable in their respective communities. Taking the lead was the wife of the governor, Mrs. Kafayat Oyetola, who personally handed out relief packages to the vulnerable from house to house, regardless of their political, religious or social affiliation.
Others that followed suit were the Deputy Chief of Staff, Prince Abdullah Binuyo, the Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, Commissioner for Works and Transportation, Engr. Remi Omowaye, Special Adviser to the Governor on Water Resources and Energy, Engr. Adeniran Felix Ibitoye, and member of the House of Assembly representing Odo-Otin, Hon. Adeyinka Michael, to mention but a few.
In supporting the efforts of the state government through their personal resources, these government officials have, no doubt, convinced the good people of the state that they are part of an administration that believes in leadership by example and prioritises the welfare of the people of the state.
For Oyetola, not even the cynics would dispute his ability to lead a responsible and responsive government desired by the good people of Osun both in good and trying times. He can only be told to keep up the good work he is doing in the State of Osun. His efforts then, now and always shall surely be crowned with success.
•Oyekunle, a public affairs analyst, writes from Osogbo