OREDO LG STRATEGY AGAINST CORONAVIRUS; PROTOTYPE OF DEMOCRATIC GRASSROOTS GOVERNANCE
By DELE AILEMEN
It is incontrovertible that local governments represent the ultimate laboratory of peoples’ governance in Nigeria’s tripod-structure federalism. Despite the turbulence and crisis of definition that local governments structures have faced since the introduction of the Native Authority Ordinance in 1916, the tier of administration cannot honestly be described as a mere decorative contraption in our extant 1999 constitution . Indeed, as labor leaders and press freedom advocate in the campaign against military rule in the 1980s, we adopted the position that ‘khaki’ dictatorship was peculiarly ruinous and poisonous to the future of local government administration in Nigeria.
Although the third tier of the tripod paradigm cannot be described as having come close to the zenith of its potentials even under the current democratic dispensation, it is however empowering to watch the commendable efforts of some local governments in various parts of the country and Africa, who are distinguishing themselves in the frontline war against the coronavirus, Covid-19. Following an emergency resolution consequent on the outbreak of the pandemic, the Los Angeles (California)-based Global Africa Congress of Journalists (GACJ) , selected ,Oredo, amongst 20 from Nigeria’s 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) to be monitored as a grassroots’ prototype in the efforts against Covid-19. GACJ is launching a cooperative of journalists world-wide to closely assess the performance of governmental structures closest to the people as a way of building a post mortem profile of how local administrations fared in the period of the ominously virulent pandemic.
The focused clarity of Oredo local government on its responsibility to the people, especially in the period of the health crisis, was unambiguously established in the first session of interactive telephone conference that was held with the chairman of the council, Hon. Evbareke Jenkins Osunde . According to the declaration of the Oredo chairman during the meeting ’’ Governor Obaseki has laid out the overall vision for the state to vigorously combat the pandemic, just as the governor is determinedly leading, Oredo is equally ready ‘’. It was a point for deep reflection during the teleconference to watch the enthusiasm of Hon. Osunde in emphasizing that the local government will dedicatedly pursue the initiative of containment in battling the plague of the novel coronavirus. The council chairman is infallible in the view that it was far better to mobilize Oredo residents into a peoples’ movement endowed with the awareness and self –discipline of social distancing and the stay-at- home collective policy.
‘’ The strategy of containment ‘’ in the perception of Hon. Osunde ‘’ is the most effective way to ensure that the plague does not sneak into and spread its life-suffocating tentacles in Oredo community’’. The reasoning behind the containment approach to the virus is now irreproachably justified by recent dreadful global projections that the death rate of Covid-19 patients, who enter into intensive hospitalization status, is in the dangerous approximation of 50 percent. With all its accomplishments at the zenith of medical research and healthcare services, the United States has been recording about 1000 Coronavirus deaths daily for weeks with an aggregate of 23-thousand fatalities by Easter Monday; then within a space of about 3 days, by the early hours of Thursday, America’s death count had mournfully galloped to nearly 30-thousand.
This is the kind of traumatic statistical tragedy from which Hon. Osunde says ’’ Oredo community must be protected’’
Advanced European nations in the league of the United States with celebrated healthcare delivery, are now converting their coveted shopping malls and other cherished public arenas to mortuaries as extra-sized refrigerated trucks loaded with corpses, not groceries, ghoulishly crawl around previously beautiful historic cities. Covid -19 has proved to be a deadly invisible enemy worldwide. The chairman told the forum of the global congress of journalists’ that ‘’ Governor Obaseki is the overall commander of this war in Edo State …. We, at the local government levels are the infantry divisions obligated to map the trenches to consequently ambush and unfailingly crush the pandemic’’, Hon. Osunde vowed.
Being acutely conscious of the deadly pathogen and the sinister psychology of Covid-19, Oredo local government in, mid-march, urgently initiated policies in synchronism with the directive of the state government, for vigorous actualization of the containment strategy against coronavirus. Along with the Task Force on the pandemic which he established, Hon. Osunde, acted with exigency directly leading Oredo teams on street campaigns; the task force focused especially on the heavily populated commercial hubs, markets and residential areas of the LGA with educative propagation of the need for social distancing, stay-at-home order and the necessity for temporary closure of non-essential trading locations.
What Oredo residents are now seeing regularly around the local government area are, sensitization groups of socially-distanced and hygienically face-masked Oredo Chairman, council secretary and councilors, urging the residents to engage in the patriotic duty of defeating the virulent enemy. As Hon. Osunde said at a recent sensitization stop by the Ring Road in the state capital,’’ coronavirus has no legs of its own, we give the pandemic its infectious capacity when we move, touch each other and congregate closely’’. Simultaneously, the effort of the local government has been accompanied by multi-media campaigns appealing to the people of Oredo to join the community movement for containment of the pandemic.
Nigeria’s Covid-19 cases and fatalities may seem comfortably low as the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed just 407 infections and 12 deaths. But the dangerous trend around the world is that any population could witness a sudden rapidity and alarming upsurge in both cases of infection and deaths. May such a scenario not be the story of our nation consequent on ignorance and laxity in adherence to the cautionary initiatives being propagated.
These are definitely precarious times for humanity as all the supposed structures of societal normalcy that were treasured yesterday are falling apart. Perhaps, third tier administrations across the country acting in tandem with the state and federal governments will stand out as in ,Oredo, to give memorable definition to grassroots’ governance as the quintessential laboratory for peoples’ democracy.
Dele Ailemen, is the executive adviser to the Global Africa Congress of Journalists