May you live in interesting times, so goes a Chinese saying. The Chinese regard this more as a curse than anything else. This is because, “interesting” in this parlance is certainly not a good thing. It signifies turbulence, confusion, anarchy and a lack of stability. COVID-19 has ensured that everybody alive today is living in interesting times.
Long after this troublesome virus is defeated (as it certainly will be) and memories of its existence rests in the annals of history as one of infamy along with the likes of the Great Depression, the pandemics, plagues and pestilences of the biblical era, the World Wars and other modern day calamities such as the Ethiopian and Somalian famines of the 80s and 90s, history will sit in judgement as to the role played by each and all in the great fight against COVID-19.
All the great wars have their heroes and villains, leaders and pretenders, traitors and saboteurs, and above all, those who ultimately paid the supreme price for the good of all.
The COVID-19 war worldwide is already throwing up its heroes and villains and revealing in stark colours, true leaders and indeed pretenders to the throne. We have seen leaders take charge of the situation in their countries and saved the lives of their people. We have also seen others blinded by hubris and a distinct lack of organizational skills send thousands of their citizens to untimely graves.
What COVID-19 has shown is that steady leadership, devoid of unnecessary politicking and a single minded pursuit of problem solving is the only way to come out with minimal fatalities.
When the Coronavirus landed on the shores of our country, the Federal Capital Territory, was immediately an area of focus as indeed, the most high profile individual to succumb to it was a case from the FCT. With this, many expected the Nation’s Capital to have very large numbers of confirmed cases. However, this has not happened.
When the history of the great COVID-19 pandemic will be written, what cannot be disputed is the calm, composed, purposeful and rancor-free leadership provided by the FCT leadership under the Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello and the Minister of State, Dr Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu.
The FCT team very early in the day recognized this virus for what it really was and its ability to wreak havoc on every facet of life. They also understood the limitations of the government to tackle this matter by itself.
Before it was even the norm to get the organized private sector involved, a Ministerial Expert Advisory Committee under the Chairmanship of a former FCT Minister, Dr Aliyu Modibbo Umar, was quietly set up to mobilize private sector resources and expertise for the long and difficult fight ahead.
Less than two months later, a 500-bed isolation and treatment center was set up with 100% private sector funding. Beds and other medical equipment and facilities were donated from groups and individuals as varied as the Wife of the President Hajia Aisha Buhari to Fola Adeola’s Fate Foundation.
This facility alone makes up about half of the total number bed spaces currently available in the FCT. Others are the Treatment Center at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital which the FCTA enhanced and upgraded significantly, the Asokoro Hospital which is a fully fitted COVID-19 hospital and the Karu General Hospital which is also a fully fitted Isolation and Treatment center. A very close collaboration with the NNPC will also see a 70 bed hospital coming on board very soon.
The by-ins of religious, traditional, and community leaders were sought and gotten and these groups were dispatched to every nook and cranny in the FCT to spread the message of the reality of COVID-19. This has to a large extent kept the people at the grass-root level informed enough about the virus and the need to comply with government directives.
To further sensitize members of the public the FCT Call Center, already a formidable feedback machinery for the FCT Administration was converted to the COVID-19 Situation Room. Hundreds of calls are received and processed on a daily basis ranging from complaints about suspected victims of the disease to individuals and groups violating the various guidelines.
Veteran and experienced journalists in the FCT were mobilized and sent into the field especially the radio and television stations where on a daily basis through live interactive programs and in various local languages kept the people abreast on government’s activities in the war against the virus.
The highly effective actions of Ikharo Attah, the Chairman of the FCT Enforcement Team has become social media fodder. His no holds barred, no punches pulled approach has kept many potential violators to do a rethink.
The FCT pioneered the use of the mobile courts to try errant citizens on the spot for COVID-19 guidelines violations and it has now become standard practice nationwide.
So far, over N1 billion has been expended for the purchase of PPEs and other medical equipment and its medical personnel involved in the COVID-19 assignment are well remunerated and very highly motivated.
The FCT model in the distribution of palliatives has been emulated by many states across the country and this involves the by-in and involvement of all members of the society including religious, political, traditional and community leaders and civil society groups. Over 600 households despite some acknowledged hiccups experienced, received the palliatives.
What is even more insightful and which speaks volumes about the trust established and sustained between the people and the FCT Administration is the fact that a sizeable proportion of the distributed palliatives came from donations from public spirited organisations both public and private and individual members of the public. This is simply because there is a great assurance that their contributions will indeed be used for what they are intended.
So far, the FCT Administration has maintained a fairly stable lid on the COVID-19 pandemic in the territory and has kept it within manageable proportions. There has been no dramatic spikes and the spread had been confined very largely to two out of the six area councils.
There have been questions as to what is going on in the FCT. How come there are no dramatic increases or even high mortality rates. The simple answer is that a lot of those in this fight are committed focused, calm and composed and none of them are disposed to carrying out their duties in the glare of the public. That, in my humble opinion is the secret.
Hopefully, in the weeks to come, the Department of Public Health will intensify massive community testing. This might lead to some increases but I doubt if they will be on a level as to lead to serious concern.
There is high level optimism that the FCT is succeeding gradually in putting a lid on this pandemic. However, the onus is on fellow citizens to work hand-in-hand with the government to ensure that the lid slides firmly in place. We must all do the needful and obey the guidelines and take personal responsibility for our wellbeing.
Ogunsakin writes from Gwagwalada, FCT