Irregular narratives in managing COVID-19 in Edo
SIR: Among the states that Nigerians adjudged to have proactively managed the COVID-19 after it hit Nigeria in March 2020 was Edo. One of the first things the state government did was to embark on a massive enlightenment campaign on guidelines for safety. The message Governor Godwin Obaseki successfully sent to Edo people that resonated with that of most Western countries was: Stay home, observe social distance and wash your hands with soap and running water. Obaseki also carried out a near day-by-day update on the COVID-19 situation in the state. And at a time when there were issues related to the shortage of testing of testing kits and personal protective equipment, PPE, Obaseki struck a deal with the Chinese for the provision of screening and test kits and PPE for health personnel.
But things took a curious turn before and after September 19, 2020 governorship elections in Edo State. In the shenanigan revolving around his political survival, the governor seemed to have jettisoned his stay at home-wash-your hands-maintain-social-distance mantra to Edo people and residents. While churches, schools, markets, and businesses were supposed to have remained shut, political activities revved full throttle. People gathered at political campaign venues of both political divides. There was no social distancing and most people did not don face masks.
Yet, the one thing which is testing the COVID-19 narrative on social distancing in Edo is the National Sports Festival, billed initially for March through April 2020. Part of the consideration for moving the festival to October 25 – November 4, 2020 was in the calculation that holding festival in a COVID-19 era could be a recipe for disaster and unwarranted deaths. Over 15,000 sportsmen and women from the Nigerian Federation would have gathered across nine venues in the state.
What bewilders most Edo residents today is that with the ‘second wave’ of the COVID-19 and with news that it has a deadlier strain than that of the ‘‘first wave,’’ the man responsible for doing the utmost to safeguard his people from the COVID-19 is the same man asking the Federal Government to give him money to organise a sports festival in Edo State.
In the light of the above, most Edo people say that Obaseki seems to be making a mockery of the COVID-19 safety rules and guidelines for the sake of political expediency. Today, public buses aka Comrade Buses, and private commercial vehicles are filled to overflowing capacity, even with the ‘‘Coro neva go’’ campaign. How is anyone sure that the same COVID-19 guidelines recklessly flouted in the ‘‘first wave’’ and indeed during this ‘‘second wave’’ would not be flouted at the various National Sports Festival centres and therefore expose us all to a clear and present danger in Edo State?
We call on Obaseki to tarry on awhile for the COVID-19 to be maximally contained before going ahead with the sport festival. Going ahead now, and especially when big fiestas like the Olympics are on hold, would be cutting our nose to spite our face.
Bob Majiri Oghene Etemiku, deputy executive director of the Civil Empowerment & Rule of Law Support Initiative, CERLSI, is a journalist.
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