schools in Lagos

By Dele Sobowale

“Governing Italians is not impossible; it is merely useless” – Benito Mussolini, 1883-1945, Italian Fascist leader.

Lagos State residents are noted for one thing.

They demand for government to provide some welfare amenities; and when provided, they destroy them. After demolishing what was provided; they turn around and blame government for the consequences of their actions. One example would serve to illustrate the point.

All former governors before him left Massey Street, Lagos Island in a poor condition – despite the presence of Massey Children’s Hospital on the road. Ambulances rushing infants to General Hospital, GH, in an emergency, often got stuck on the road. Only God knows how many children were dead on arrival at GH. I wrote to Sanwo-Olu, as a community leader very early in his tenure; and, in less than one year, the road had been given a decent rehabilitation – good sidewalks and drainage systems were provided. In less than a year, street traders took over the pedestrian walkways and refuse had blocked the drainage system. Today, each downpour floods the road; and with it complaints from the people who caused it: “What is government doing to control this flooding?”

Governments in Lagos achieve more than we realize; but, making the effort is merely useless. The intended beneficiaries destroy most of what they build. I will stop there for now; so I can proceed to why I think Sanwo-Olu deserves a second term. Summarized, it comes to this: he saved thousands of our lives at a critical point in the history of Nigeria. Chief Obafemi Awolowo is held in the highest esteem today because of free education introduced in the old Western Region. Posterity with a clearer vision will hold Sanwo-Olu in high regard for his exemplary response to the ravages of COVID-19. Few people alive today remember that free education was not popular when Awolowo introduced it. Most of us alive in 2020 were unaware of how Sanwo-Olu saved our lives. I was on admission, fighting for my life in 2020. What follows was written then.

“WHY SANWO-OLU AND COMO

“It is the part of a king [President or governor] to do good for his subjects and be maligned for it” – Alexander the Great, 356-323 BC, King of Macedonia.

VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 113.

Let me place my cards on the table face-up. This article is designed to provide the little bit of support I can for the governor of Lagos State as well as all the other governors and President Buhari who have been handed this very hot potato – called COVID-19 – to handle at this point in our history. Even the worst performer among them deserves sympathy. So do the members of the various Task Forces established –including the Presidential Task Force and the National Centre for Disease Control, NCDC. In my view, even my good friend, Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, had risen to the occasion and had handled the communication and publicity aspect with distinction.

Sanwo-Olu, in his first year as Lagos State Governor, could not, in his wildest nightmare, have expected something like COVID-19 to stop him dead on his tracks… He was confronted with a monster problem for which there was no previous template for solution. As a learner/manager, he and his team have performed wonderfully. Ask anybody who ever had to tackle uncharted territory without road map. It is frustratingly difficult.

I hope the President and governors will not be discouraged by the vicious attacks against them. Instead they should all take solace in the words of one of the world’s greatest rulers…The lamentations of Alexander were so totally different from my youthful idea of how kings/leaders are treated by their people that I immediately wrote four copies of it and hid them in different books before it ended in the VBQ. Today, there is nothing more appropriate as a take-off point in the defence of our leaders who are now being maligned for their great works.

The selection of Governor Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, Nigeria and Como of New York State, US, was also dictated by Plutarch — a great historian of the Age of Alexander. Plutarch had pioneered the art of historical comparative analysis. In one of his books, titled PARALLEL LIVES, he had paired rulers from different nations and periods who had faced similar problems of governance and how each went about solving them. From these historical details, Plutarch was able to provide some basis for assessing the performance of various leaders. Comparative analysis allows us to reduce sentiments and emotions to the minimum when judging our leaders as they battle with COVID-19.

New York is the financial capital of the US. Lagos is also the financial capital of Nigeria. The populations of the two states are almost the same. So Sanwo-Olu and Como are responsible for the almost the same number of millions of lives. The COVID-19 pandemic first made landfall in New York State… It also made its entry into Nigeria from Lagos. The New York State government and the Trump administration were ill-prepared to deal with COVID. That is why today, NY and America have recorded the highest number of deaths in the world. Granted, Lagos State and the Federal Government of Nigeria, FGN, were also not prepared for COVID and were slow to act. Yet, when they finally acted and imposed lockdowns, the results had been astonishing. On this day, May 12, 2020, the US…has recorded over 80,000 deaths with NY accounting for about 44,000. Nigeria, by contrast, has recorded only 150 deaths in total and Lagos less than 50. How have Americans and New Yorkers received the lockdown and other draconian measures introduced by Como and Trump at first? How did our Fellow Nigerians react to similar measures introduced to Lagos, Ogun and FCT?

“In the clashes between ignorance and intelligence, ignorance is generally the aggressor” – Paul Harris, Founder, ROTARY INTERNATIONAL, VBQ P 99,

I was on admission in a private hospital in early March when Como locked down New York with a television set turned to CNN 24/7 as my constant companion. Being in serious pain most of the time meant staying awake most of the time. While generally well-educated New Yorkers were alarmed at the economic repercussions of the lockdown, even those most radically opposed to it complied with the new regulations and none was actively defiant. The police and security forces were not called upon to enforce the rules. The New York and American lockdowns lasted two and a half months and recorded very few violations.

By contrast, the FGN and Lagos State responded more slowly; and mostly after there was a great deal of apprehension by Nigerians. Lockdown for two weeks was announced for Lagos, FCT and Ogun State and aggressive testing and isolation were introduced as measures. Later, wearing of face masks and social distancing were included to help check the spread of a killer pandemic which could later claim the lives of thousands of Nigerians. My admission also made it possible to watch the Presidential Task Force, PTF, and the Lagos State group. . They had studied all the countries where COVID-19 had entered and the measures taken to combat it – with the best results which also take into consideration the resources available and what could be obtained in a short time.

To the best of my knowledge, neither the PTF nor the Lagos State Task Force claimed to have established a perfect structure. Contrary to the views expressed by critics, the two bodies were keenly aware of the economic implications. At the very least, they have watched CNN, BBC and other foreign networks. They knew that jobless claims in America had risen as result of their lockdown. Nigerian government officials authorizing lockdowns and other measures are not stupid. In fact, they have demonstrated admirable intelligence in dealing with this novel pandemic. What had been the response by Nigerians and Lagosians?

Unlike, educated, disciplined and self-disciplined (one might even add civilised) Americans and New Yorkers, Nigerians and people in Lagos and Ogun received the measures with pervasive hostility and defiance. In this respect, the absolute illiterates, the badly educated and most of our well-educated were united in opposition to the directives. Most of my co-columnists writing for virtually every paper led the attack. In every article, they pointed only to the negative repercussions of the lockdown and other measures. Seldom did they mention the benefits. It was intellectual fraud on a massive scale as I intend to demonstrate.

Before closing today, permit me to end by restating my position. Sanwo-Olu and his team deserve our commendation and total support on this issue…”

It was not only Awolowo who achieved greatness by doing one thing right. Sir Winston Churchill is still regarded as the greatest British leader just for leading them to victory in World War II. Sanwo-Olu has added other achievements to COVID-19; but I strongly believe saving lives is the first duty of governors.

LAST LINE: President Buhari said he would leave Nigeria better than he met it. All the victims of banditry, herdsmen, kidnappers and gunmen dispute it. Wait for the evidence next week.

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