DESPITE broad hints by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 that President Muhammadu Buhari would make his fourth pandemic national broadcast on Sunday, May 17, 2020, nothing of the sort happened.
It was Boss Mustapha, the Chairman of the Task Force, who informed Nigerians of what might have been the President’s address during PTF’s routine briefing the following day.
This is lethargic and a continuation of our late response to the outbreak and our shambles of a health system had initially put Nigeria at a great disadvantage alongside African countries such as South Africa, Ghana, Egypt and others in terms of testing capacity, number of recovered patients and fatality figures.
Lack of concise coordination at the federal level made the state governors to adopt their respective strategies which sometimes proved catastrophic as in the case of Kano where Governor Abdullahi Ganduje kicked off the ill-advised repatriation of the almajirai to their states of origin.
Worse still are cases of Cross River and Kogi states which continue to post “zero” infections because the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, has not been able to scope the true picture of the pandemic there.
Not a few Nigerians believe that the situation would have been much different had President Buhari taken direct control of the reins of this war on COVID-19 as the Commander-in-Chief, or delegated properly to his Vice President.
The governors may not feel persuaded to relate with Boss Mustapha the way they would if the President was on the COVID-19 saddle. The same factor could have affected the effectiveness of the security agencies manning the various state boundaries.
They failed to implement the President’s directive to curtail non-essential travels. Instead, unpatriotic powerful individuals seized the opportunity to truck thousands of young men and almajirai southward in clear violation of the rules endorsed by the President and the governors.
This also helped in dramatically spiking infection rates in states like Abia, Imo, Anambra and Benue which had consistently recorded low infections.
Some of the security agents have been villains in this war. As of April 13, 2020 when President Buhari made his second broadcast, there were only eleven deaths traced to the virus, but the law enforcement agents had killed at least 18 persons while implementing the lockdown.
These state agents were also victims in that they were just drafted to the checkpoints without any welfare package. They were not given proper protective equipment, and they lacked the requisite training to handle the situation as required.
The upshot was that many of them decided to help themselves. This resulted in the near-total failure of the lockdown, abuse of social distancing and uninterrupted interstate travels; all of which boosted the spread of infections.