By Rotimi Fasan
When the last two weeks extension of the COVID-19 restriction of movement in Kaduna State came into effect on Monday, June 1, the people of the State had spent nothing less than 60 days under lockdown.
Outside Lagos State, Ogun State and the Federal Capital Territory, these three places being the first where lockdown was imposed, no other state or part of Nigeria has the corona virus-induced lockdown lasted longer. But unlike Lagos, Ogun and the FCT, the lockdown in Kaduna appears to have been more strictly enforced.
All thanks to the diligent monitoring and enforcement of the restriction by the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El Rufai, himself. The governor was one of the first people to be infected with the virus and he struggled for his life for almost two months.
When he emerged from isolation, it was with an unaccustomed goatee that was a memorial to his experience in the killer jaws of COVID-19. Nasir El Rufai is one of few human beings who visited the home of death in the season of a deadly pandemic but returned to recount tales of their experience.
Experience, we hear, is the best teacher. Perhaps it was this near-death experience that taught the governor not to take lightly the fight against the pandemic in his state. In addition to his experience, Nasir El Rufai has for long recognised the importance of being earnest. It does not matter whether he is right or wrong, he is a man of his own conviction and he takes life seriously, perhaps too seriously some would say.
Which may be responsible for the frequent rashness of him rushing into places where angels fear to tread, sometimes for good. That attitude appears to have been at play in the way he has gone about containing COVID-19 in his state. A law is only as effective as its enforcers and Kaduna State led by the governor has been very firm in enforcing the demands of its Quarantine Order.
The governor himself has been in the vanguard of the move to ensure observance of the lockdown. He has mobilised the security agencies and gone on the frontline to ensure movement of people into his state is not allowed. It is the belief of the state government that the transmission of the virus in Kaduna has been largely caused by interstate travellers.
It speaks to the insincerity of government and the security agencies that in spite of the ban on interstate travels, commercial motorists openly hail commuters at well-known interstate bus stations as they set about their journeys out of their state.
El Rufai and his enforcement team would not allow that and have placed boundary points to and from Kaduna under close watch. During the last Eid celebrations, they were out in search of violators of the ban on movement even as all praying grounds in the state were put under lock and key and security agents were on guard duties at these places. To make this effective, the governor got the buy-in of religious leaders in the State.
Whatever else that could have happened at these places behind his back, Nasir El Rufai had said and done enough to show his commitment to ensuring such things did not happen under his jurisdiction.
Knowing the limited resources available for the containment of the coronavirus, he has adopted a preventive approach that focuses on reducing human contact to a minimum, ban on large gatherings and insistence on the use of face mask. People are only allowed to restock their homes with food and other essentials just twice, then once and now three times in a week. He has taken on the pandemic head-on and with his shoulders carrying more lethal force than his apparently puny size would suggest.
He is punching way above his weight. Far more than can be said about his battle with the bandits that have turned southern Kaduna into the killing fields it has become. Either for want of political will, as some have alleged, or the overwhelming nature of the attacks, Kaduna State under Nasir El Rufai is increasingly ceding control of southern Kaduna to outlaw elements.
Whatever are his best efforts, they have not been rewarded with good results in southern Kaduna and both the ethnic and religious politics of the state are poised to make the realisation of any such rewards impossible. How El Rufai could succeed in his fight against COVID-19 while the southern parts of his state remain under the control of terrorists is a mystery that is still unfolding.
While he is not giving up in his resolute mission of keeping the pandemic outside his state, one cannot escape the feeling that his exertions may well turn out to be of no effect. That is if the people of the state do not rise up as one person to reject any further restriction of their lives, especially as the rest of the country gradually eases into some form of normalcy starting from next week.
That the people of Kaduna could stay under lockdown for the period they have tells me the rest of the country could have done the same had the will been there. This was not to be with many governors taking their cues from the laidback attitude of Abuja and refusing to match their words with action. From that, it was just a step to the spoiler attitude of states like Kano that have simply chosen to be anything but responsible in their fight against coronavirus.
Kano has observed in the breach virtually every protocol that Kaduna has taken painstaking effort to enforce. While Kaduna was keeping its people indoors during lockdown, people in Kano were busy organising football matches even as the government could not decide whether to restrict movement or not when the number of suspected COVId-19 deaths suddenly spiked.
Kano would not stop at that. It was quick to lift the ban on religious gathering, against the advice of religious leaders. The most effective way the indolent government could think of to contain COVID-19 was to transport infected children in the persons of the almajirai to other states in the north and possibly the rest of the country.
Once the ban on interstate movement is lifted, there can hardly be anything that Kaduna State can do to protect itself from COVID-infected states like Kano and others like Kogi that equates its denial of the existence of COVID-19 with a lack of infected persons.
It is, therefore, the spoiler role of such states that would ultimately make nonsense of the gains made in the last 65 days or thereabout in Kaduna and other states that have been diligent in fighting the pandemic.