Governance in the era of global pandemic

Assessing a government or any official of government in a time like this may really be an herculean task, but at that risk, I hereby offer myself, as a community leader to assess the present administration in the State of Osun, especially at this trying time in the history of the world.

Although It may be premature to evaluate and assess the performance of the leadership of the State of Osun under Governor Gboyega Oyetola in the handling of Corona virus scourge, with available information and my deep knowledge of events in the state over the last four years, I can provide interim assessment of the performance of Governor Oyetola in the on-going war against the pandemic.

One would not ordinarily relate health issues with war but anyone who has been following events during the lockdown will know that we are indeed at war. Albeit, it is a war against invisible enemy and without the usual sound of guns and mortar and without the sight of men in military uniform.

At the beginning of the last year of the second decade of 21st century and shortly after the first year anniversary at the helms of Affairs at the State of Osun, Governor Oyetola was just settling down and stabilizing the state’s economy. Governance was moving in the right direction. Citizens of the State of Osun were wondering about his magic wand and the source of funding for the continuing infrastructural development and fulfillment of all financial obligations of government without compromising social services. It was unexpected, the critics and opposition have not been able to say much.

There is general calmness and quietness in the state while many socio-political commentators were publicly expressing surprise on how the governor is successfully managing the state’s economy. The background to their surprise is known to many of you. The State of Osun’s investment in necessary infrastructural development and social services (education, healthcare, recreation etc) in the last 10 years with global economic meltdown and recession put a significant financial burden on the government.

The state’s monthly allocation is one of the lowest after all deductions and the state’s IGR is abysmally low, despite government’s efforts. But fortunately for citizens of Osun, Governor Oyetola as the then Chief of Staff to the governor was very conversant with Osun’s economy and her challenges.

When he became the governor, he hit the ground running from his first day in office and Osun citizens are obviously benefitting from that continuity in governance.

While Governor Oyetola’s experience in business and government might have prepared him for what has been described, he wouldn’t have envisaged waging war against an highly communicable and infectious virus. There was no notice and things happened in rapid succession.

Typically, normal government projects take months if not years of planning, and execution are often sequential. Sometimes, conventional wars take years of preparation with time to stock ammunitions and anyway, most military organizations are always ready, yet most advanced countries still have challenges managing those wars.

In the case of coronavirus war, yes, I call it war because it is actually a war against unseen forces, we only woke up and found ourselves at war. Fighting war against the virus wasn’t on the budget presented by Governor Oyetola for 2020. I doubt if his contingency funds was even remotely earmarked for fighting a virus that most of us never heard of untll February 2020.

To complicate matters, all the efforts to combat the spread of the virus and treat the infected must be simultaneous. None of the efforts could wait for the other. Such efforts are quite challenging for most managers. The isolation centres must be ready while strategy for containment must be implemented concurrently. The treatment for those infected must be continous. The state must be locked down and people must be cared and catered for.

While government expenses skyrocketed due to the above situation, revenue became zero. The allocation from the federation account continued to go downward due to slump in oil price at the international market. The usual selective need-based bailout by federal government could not be activated because most states are affected. Yet, the government has no excuse not to deliver on all activities to win the war against coronavirus.

Many Osun citizens could not even understand what is going on. They perceived stay at home order as punishment from government. They considered isolation as a favor to the government and moreover, they believed they were immune from the virus by the name of Jesus and Allah. They queried government order to stay at home when their ancestral oracle already predicted that we could not be infected.

While the governor is busy with technical issues, he was being criticized by the suffering masses. How could anyone think properly in the face of such pandemonium?

Yet, the government of state of Osun under Governor Oyetola managed the situation very well and carefully. For anyone that knows him, it won’t be much of a surprise. He is calm and always cool, so that could explain why he is composed in the midst of genuine confusion and national emergency. Without such traits and long term crisis management experience, it would have been difficult to manage the situation as he is doing. We have heard about the frustration of leaders in the most advanced countries with better resources and even preparedness at this COVID-19 era. Thus, it may not be too early to appreciate our Governor for his efforts so far and for him not to relent until lasting solutions arrive.

It is very easy to criticize, but anyone in position of power and responsibility in our society will appreciate the efforts of our leaders. I have great challenge in sharing a bag of rice per unit in my community and I sincerely don’t want the nightmare of sharing 6020 bags amidst many other highly important activities of a governor. When masses are crying of hunger, where is the time for quality control of items supplied by indigenous suppliers. We, as citizens should demonstrate reasonable level of responsibility and honesty as we demand from our leaders. How do we identify the poor and those genuinely in need among us? How well are we making the work of our leaders easy? We know ourselves and our type of society. Waging war against coronavirus is not ordinary, we need to encourage our leaders whenever they perform extraordinarily.

The governor and his team have performed very well in handling the scourge of coronavirus and we should all abide by the state, federal and international rules and regulations to assist us in finding lasting solutions to this virus and end the war.

Oba (Prof.) Okunoye is the Eburu of Iba. He writes from Iyaniwura Palace on Akute River Levee, Iba, Osun state.

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