COVID-19, Tests, Tobe OkechukwuBy Apostle Hamilton Enobakhare

In response to the pandemic crises ravaging countries and territories, which has also infected Nigeria, State Governments are making concerted efforts to contain or thwart the onslaught of the virus.

This measure has seen states, in a method quicker than usual, establish practices, centers, units, outfits, and equipment relevant to the control and prevention of this deadly virus.

Beyond governments, private companies, tech startups, and philanthropic individuals, who altogether feel concerned, has donated funds and materials like surgical face masks, bottles of hand sanitizers, and educational materials, hence aiding the existing governmental measures to contain the spread the virus, preventing it from reaching areas yet affected.

As the number of confirmed Corona Virus cases increase in Nigeria, this sundry acts of concern and preventive cum cautionary activities brings hope to a population justifiably terrified, due to the panic caused by the pandemic and some severe measures.

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For example, the total lockdown in Abuja, Lagos, and Ogun—employed to contain the malaise. However, in the time of existential crisis like this, fear and hope may be very destructive if not properly handled. Fear removes the agency of thought, hence leading individuals who now incapable of reason and self-control, into doing mortally costly things. And as for faux hope, it through creating an impression of preparedness and efficiency that is inexistent, leads the people into greater problems when raised expectation fails to meet the egregious reality.

Corroborating with this, concerned Nigerian citizens have taken to their social media accounts to call for accountability in the wave of donations and efforts made by government, companies, and individuals, hence assuring the citizens of the true nature of things on the ground, and as to what direction these resources are being channeled. In view of this, as there is already the existence of conflicting reports on the details of the effort made so far, it is imperative to join the voices calling for transparency and honesty in the pandemic response. This exercise, understandably, is to the benefit of everyone.

For example, in its major broadcast dedicated to the Corona Virus pandemic, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, announced the state government’s readiness to combat the virus. Stating that the government’s method centers around creating awareness, training the state’s healthcare workforce, screening, testing and providing prompt treatment, the Governor announced the existence of 280-bed isolation capacity, 10 intensive care units, 100 screening points across the state, 28 ventilators, and the plan to train 6000 health workers.

However, independent bodies who are equally working towards the same goal of aiding the government’s efforts have provided accounts that conflict the figures provided by the Edo State Government, particularly in the number of ventilators existing in the state.

Lifebank, a health startup, created a national register to track hospitals with working ventilators and respirators across the country and found fewer than 100 units, with Lagos and Abuja predictably claiming the most numbers. In another report by one of the national dailies on the subject, similar figures were reported.

These numbers, compiled and reported by private independent bodies, directly contradict the claims of Governor Godwin Obaseki and raises concerns that the governor, perhaps exposed and desperate to save face, may have built castles in the air, provided assurances based on imaginations, and elected to be economical with the truth on the true state of things as it concerns the readiness of Edo state in dealing with the coronavirus disease.

It also doesn’t help matters that no one, beyond the governor and his conflicted team, has seen these ventilators, especially the ‘newly added’ ones.

From the get-go, the state government has been reactionary in its approach to the coronavirus disease even though loud warnings came from foreign countries with strong ties to Edo state and neighboring Lagos, and shrouded its deeds in secrecy and a complete lack of accountability.

The governor, who was declared ‘negative’ after the conduct of a ‘rapid test’ that has since been discredited by the NCDC for its unreliability, remains hidden from public eyes without any further explanation on his true status and the result of the additional test. If he is indeed negative as his Deputy Governor, why is he abdicating duty and loitering in gardens from where he delivers rare addresses looking disheveled? If he is positive, why has this not been communicated to the public alongside a proper transfer of power as seen in other cases including Bauchi and Kaduna states?

While Obaseki continues to play hide and seek with the public, and feeds them with conflicting reports and figures on the state’s readiness in the face of an unprecedented public health challenge, his Deputy, Philip Shaibu, in his capacity as the head of the COVID19 task force, is busy accepting donation of medical items from magnanimous corporate organizations such as Seplat Petroleum Develoment Company PLC, NPDC and Esehi Pharmaceutical Limited but with the usual problem of no transparency as no one can say for sure what Shaibu received and if he has deployed them sensibly.

The opacity and refusal to make full disclosure on this broad range of issues have already created a rift between the government and the people. Days ago, spooked by a popular accusation in the state that the government is systematically collating names and bank account information of its political supporters across the 18 LGAs for a biased distribution of relief materials, Obaseki’s media aide issued a statement in a weak attempt to quell the fire.

But who is to believe the words of an aide who declared his master negative but has refused to explain why he remains hidden; or the one who circulated information of the existence of 28 ventilators that no one has seen and is in conflict with figures reported by reputable private bodies?

The Obaseki administration, confronted by a public health issue, has refused to set aside political concerns and embrace, even for the first time, honesty and accountability. It has sacrificed truth or chosen a half version of it to appear competent even if reality suggests otherwise.

Yet, all hope is not lost. To restore confidence in suspicious citizens and resume the arduous task of governance, Obaseki and his team must come clean. It is not enough for the governor to perch in a rosy garden and announce figures that no one, beside himself, can attest to. He has to show evidence of the existence of these facilities and equipment, and release full information on the utilization/distribution of all items obtained from donors in the state and beyond to independent journalists through a televised press conference and inspection.

Drawing from the level of diffusion of the corona virus vis-à-vis its casualty delivery globally, it is expected that government should be uneconomical with facts. This level of discipline and sincerity is the expectation of the Nigerians, particularly Edo State

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