Dear Governor Makinde. May I first and foremost commend Your Excellency for the great effort you have put up in sensitising your people in Oyo State about the deadly coronavirus. But, excellency, your best is apparently not good enough if statistics emanating from the NCDC is anything to go by.
According to a NAN report published on Saturday July 25,
Oyo State has overtaken Lagos in COVID-19 infections with 191 new cases in one day! This according to the agency, was Oyo State’s highest toll of COVID-19 cases in a single day.
The NAN data was based on that released on Friday night by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control in which it was revealed that Oyo had toppled Lagos State from the number one spot in daily new infections.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria report, “Lagos State, which recorded 168 new cases, had repeatedly held the first position in daily new COVID-19 infections since the index case was first reported in the country.” It however said that the 191 new coronavirus infections in Oyo State “eclipsed its previous daily high of 141 new infections.” The NAN report further asserted that, according to the NCDC tally, the new figures raised the number of confirmed cases in Oyo State to 2,497 from 2,309.
NAN however reports that the state continues to hold the third spot for total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, with Lagos and FCT leading in the first and second positions respectively.
Your Excellency, judging by my personal experience during a recent trip to Ibadan, the reason for this spike in infections and the grim catapulting of Oyo to the top of daily infection statistics is not far fetched. Oyo people are still living in blatant denial. From what I saw last Saturday in Ibadan, it was as if the people have decided to dare the deadly virus, saying, “We don’t give a damn, virus, come, come and infect us!”
I went round the city fully decked in mask and, the way many looked at me, I was made to feel like a stranger from the moon. Reason: most people I encountered had no mask at all around their faces or even necks like many self-deluding wearers are won’t to do around the country. A tiny few that I saw wearing masks as they traversed the city wore it simply to pry law enforcement agents away. They did not wear the mask for protection as they only slid the poor miserable pretensions at masking under their recalcitrant chins, leaving the nose and mouth and even eyes unprotected.
Excellency, I must confess you did your best in sensitising the people. The public was filled with evidence of your desire to get the people to understand. I saw huge billboards and at Ọjọ terminus, radio jingoes were heard, blaring the warnings and exhortation that people should not handle the disease with kid gloves. You have also committed so much to fighting the disease. Having been a victim yourself, Sir, you surely know that this shit is real!
But your excellency, this is apparently not enough. I will give you reasons why I think more drastic measures must be taken to handle the stubborn people of Oyo State
From what I narrated above, There is blatant covid indiscipline on the streets of Ibadan. The most basic of all healthy observations like provision of hand-wash basins or buckets in public places especially “motor parks” is virtually non existent.
It is even more appalling that Social Distancing is zero. Commercial transporters don’t give a damn. Commercial vehicles were packed full without any fear of recompense by the operators. One Micra taxi driver from Toll Gate to Ojoo told this reporter that no one was enforcing the social distancing protocol because “Our Governor wants us to make money.” In essence, he believed nobody was enforcing the law because the governor preferred their money making interest above their health and lives. I told the man this was wrong because everyone knew the governor had always shown his aversion to flouting the anti COVID-19 protocol.
The bottom line, Excellency, is that you can’t handle these people with kid gloves. They have proved to be recalcitrant about this pandemic and this criminal carefree attitude requires a stronger iron hand. It’s as bad as that, Sir. Oyo State needs iron hands in the handling of this metastasizing public menace.
Or how else do you handle a people who continue to consider that wearing of mask a curse. At Iwo Road, I witnessed a macabre drama where one compliant agbero was turned to a butt of jokes. One driver said the poor soul looked like the abidielege masquerade! They saw this poor dutiful citizen as an aberration! His compliance to them was a huge nuisance! In Lagos, bus termini popularly called “motor parks” at least make attempts to provide handwashing basins. No such luxuries in most of Ibadan termini.
I asked one of these delusional gentlefolks at the Iwo-Road terminus if he knew that the ex-governor of the state died of the virus and he replied, “Na lie! The man died because the people of Oyo State cursed him. See what he did to Ayefele. You think the curse of a cripple will not kill such a man! They just used Corona to deceive people. His family knew he was killed by his behaviour!” I reminded him that the man and Ayefele reconciled and that Ayefele’s demolished studios were rebuilt by the same Ajimobi. The man flared up. Nothing I said would convince him that this virus is real. Indeed he was getting hostile as I was turning out to a pest from the infernal look on his face. Before he turned his fists on me, I simply had a rapid dialogue with my legs, apologies to Prof. Soyinka and Fagunwa.
And what about public eating places, Excellency? Restaurants were packed full with people devouring bowls of the triumvirate of amala, gbegiri and ewedu without any care in the world. One Mama Put in Agodi-Gate area was like a wedding feast setting. The place was packed full of people sweating away as the wolfed down bowls of the ubiquitous amala-led trio garnished with orisirisi. My rather quiet aside was, these people are having the day of their lives, relishing this popular staple but do they know that something deadly still lurks in the atmosphere, requiring strict safety measures and wise self preservation?
Another place requiring close monitoring are the worship centres. I passed by a church and I discovered that social distancing conventions were simply non existent. One hall was packed full of people worshipping without any modicum of care about this virus. A worshipper I spoke with about this simply retorted: “We are protected by the blood of Jesus.” I was forced to quote a portion of the Biblical Book of Hosea that says, “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” It happens in some mosques too but the biggest violators for now are some churches.
My conclusion from the experience around the capital city of Ibadan the cornucopia of the state’s other cities is that these people, your excellency, would not be moved by mere radio and television announcements or public billboards.
Sir, our people would not comply easily and it’s telling on the statistics. You need a new tactic today to stem the tide of this grim prognosis.
Your people need a bit of iron hand in the enforcement of the Civid-19 hygiene protocol, Sir. Just ona Sunray, Punch reported Italian authorities imposing fines of 3000 Euros each on certain individuals for failure to wear masks!
People must be made to know that there is indeed serious consequences for non-compliance for their own good and for the good of the entire state. The grim statistics from NCDC is not far fetched. It is largely self inflicted by a people still living in appalling self delusion and denial.
Sola Ojewusi is the Publisher of The Lagosian Magazine.