If you close your eyes in order not to see the bad people of this world, your eyes may still be closed when good people are passing by. So, keep your eyes open. The world is replete with the good and the bad in indeterminate measure.
In an era when many of those in government at all levels give the impression that they are doing the rest of us a favour by ruining our lives through their acts of ommission and commission, it is quite reassuring and worthy of note that there are some who inspire the most noble of instincts in us and give us hope that tomorrow may be better than today. Take a bow, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Babagana Zulum!
It took the worst of the Covid-19 scare in Lagos to bring out the best in the trio of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Deputy-Governor Obafemi Hamzat and Health Commissioner Prof. Akin Abayomi. Together, those three have inspired confidence in Lagosians and other Nigerians in a way that captures the imagination. Their commitment is absolutely riveting. Their claims are verifiable. Their strategies are creative and quite comprehensive. They have shown us that crisis management is not rocket science and that keeping your eyes on the ball of emancipating the people from the scourge of disease is beyond political rhetoric.
With Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat and Abayomi, there is no drama. What you see is what you get. One gets a feeling that any of those three can hold their own in a similar capacity anywhere else in the world. They have shown competence, empathy, creativity, all-round understanding of the problem, and their messaging has been coordinated and logical. They have even done better than some so-called First World countries who are now regretting their tepid response at the onset of the Covid-19 scourge.
Sanwo-Olu has demonstrated great leadership qualities. It is as if his very life depends on how many lives he can save from Coronavirus. More than any other government in the country, Sanwo-Olu’s administration has learnt to communicate effectively with the people. It may not always be good news, but he ensures that the people are not in any doubt about where the government is headed and their role in ensuring the attainment of that goal.
In his daily briefings, he tackles festering rumours headlong, gives updates from the war front and lists what to expect in the days ahead. He leads from the front, giving citizens the assurance that, no matter how bad the situation is, there is somebody in charge. He cuts the picture of a good listener, careful planner and team player.
Covid-19 did us a favour by entering Nigeria through Lagos. I shudder to think what could have happened had the disease made its entry through another gateway with a less competent governor. There is no doubt that so far, all the tested individuals in Lagos have been accounted for, mortality minimised and a realistic plan for tackling the expected escalation of cases drawn up. The Mobolaji Johnson Arena in Onikan is now a sprawling medical facility in anticipation of the projected rise in curve.
The intervention that takes the cake is the distribution of food items to 200,000 households. This is more remarkable because this is not campaign season when politicians bribe the electorate. This is just plain common sense. A hungry family may not cooperate too readily with the stay-at-home order.
“This first stage is targeting 200,000 households at an estimation of 6 people per household… The stimulus package will contain bags of rice, beans, garri, bread, dry pepper, drinking water and vitamins. We want each ration to last for 14 days as we continue to evaluate the impact of COVID19. Please stay home with your loved ones”, said the governor on his Twitter page.
Also as lucky as Lagos with its choice of chief executive is Borno State. Since Prof. Babagana Zulum assumed office as governor, all his exertions have been in furtherance of his people’s interests. He first caught my attention when he challenged soldiers collecting bribe on the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway. “I’m going to report all of you in this unit… Nobody can tolerate this. Boko Haram is attacking people and you are here collecting N1000 per car!” said the angry governor to the embarrassment of the military.
On another occasion, the governor made a surprise facility tour to Shehu Sanda Kyarimi Primary school under Jere local government at 6.30am. Only one teacher, had reported for duty that early. The impressed governor gave her a cash reward of N100,000 and later approved an executive order promoting her from class teacher to assistant headmistress. Her tribe, religion, or gender didn’t count against her in an era where those three could be albatrosses against a person’s advancement.
Last August, while his colleagues were enjoying the Eid el Kabir festivities, Zulum cancelled the planned celebration and instead headed for Gubio where Boko Haram terrorists had attempted to overrun the town but were repelled by soldiers of the Operation Lafiya Dole. He spent the day with the gallant troops and the long-suffering people, assuring them that his government would continue to do all within its power to support the anti-terror war.
Like Sanwo-Olu, Zulum is also sans drama — no grandstanding, no gra-gra; just plain honest-to-God commitment and clarity of vision.
With leaders like these two gentlemen, there is hope yet in the horizon that Nigeria won’t end up as just another basket case.