Barr Gloria Ballason –

Dear Mr Boss,

On March 9, 2020, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria announced your appointment and 11 others to the Presidential Task Force to control the spread of Covid-19. It was the view of Mr. President that the task force was necessary to help our country combat the global outbreak of the Corona Virus and its potential of causing significant disruption to public health and the Nigerian economy.

Your immediate task was to prepare for the ‘unlikely but probable’ outbreak of the disease in the country and to engage a multi-sectoral intergovernmental approach as advised by the World Health Organization. You were appointed as Chairman of the Task force for a 6-month period.

Members of your committee include : Dr. Sani Aliyu as National Coordinator of the Committee (is his role description different from yours?), Minister of Health -Prof. Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Interior Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and Minister of Aviation- Mr. Hadi Sirika.

Also in your committee are Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk- Minister of Humanitarian Affairs ,Disaster Management and Social Services, Mr. Adamu Adamu- Minister of Education, Mr. Mohammed Mahmoud – Minister of Environment and Mr. Yusuf Bichi,the Director General of the Department of State Services.

Other members are the D.G. Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu and the World Health Organization Country Representatives. The sum of N920 million was approved for health agencies to plan and guard against the importation and spread of the virus into Nigeria.

Why do we need to remind ourselves of the composition of your committee? It is for at least two reasons: Whether your committee consists of the right assets to deal with an unprecedented pandemic of gargantuan effect like Covid-19? and whether it is a committee committed to valuing outcome over primordial considerations and so could bring to the table everything required in a marathon assignment to secure over 205 million Nigerian lives? Covid-19 is not a political party committee where allocations and settlements come into play. It is an issue where experts such as virologists, public health professionals, humanitarian workers, disaster managers, economists and statisticians are required to engage and galvanize government, the private sector and citizens to move out as a united front against a vicious bio-threat that seeks to wipe us out.

What this means is that the major requirements of those who should serve on your committee are those who are intrinsically human at heart and soul and who do not only have the expertise to deal with the related issues but can see and understand the stakes better than others. They need also to be men and women of character, courage and determination whose standard of practise, consistency in values and leadership by example serve as moral authority to give directives on what needs to be done. The question is, how many members of your committee meet this threshold? Do you have the right team to play the field?

TRANSPARENCY & SINCERITY IN THE TIME OF CRISIS.

No other question preoccupies our people, no other thought absorbs the mind of every Nigerian than what can be done to make the virus go away and what they can do to make it happen. There is hence a ready and willing army of Nigerians in the pool. The virus is moving at a speed that requires quick intervention. Do you believe you have what it takes to assemble the required assets and provide the right leadership? The question is asked because at the moment, the biggest challenge we have between victory and defeat is leadership.

Our people will take any hill,walk any mile and go through the most challenging situations if they have faith in your leadership and understand what your objectives and strategies are. We need you to make us understand how we can make a difference. We want to reinforce our belief in the value of frequent and transparent communication. We want you to build our morale by building strategic alliances that give the promise of realization of great results.

Do you think, Mr.Mustapha, that you have what it takes to keep the pedal on the metal? Would you be honest enough to ramp up assets or acknowledge your limitations by stepping aside for a more capable hand? You know, there are opportunities even in crisis and one of such is the ability to put your name in gold by being right on the side of history rather than doing what you find politically expedient. Are we going to come out of Covid-19 stronger than we went in or is your name going to be associated with the deaths and infirmary of those who did not have to die?

You can stop the clock, cut the chase and ensure the axe does not make the biggest dent. The time to do so is now Boss. Every life depends on your decision and no, you cannot equivocate on conscience by justifying failure or wins in global context for although this disease is sweeping across the globe, the response to it must be situated in local realities. Across countries, we are seeing clear templates and evidence of leadership and we want to demonstrate our capacity to the world by showing the premium we place on human lives. We have a prior record of stellar performance. We are a country with unlimited human assets and resilience. We went to war against Ebola and returned triumphant.

Our citizen soldiers wrestled the virus to its knees at the air borders. Because that government did not care who took the credit, it allowed those who knew better to act in our best interest. Yes, we know that there are no ascertained drugs for the monstrous Covid-19 but how is it that your committee is not telling our citizens a basic and vital information as investing in good nutrition for the building of antibodies?

How is it that the intervention is not data driven? Is it a tall call to ask for a comprehensive diagnosis of what’s going on and for a segmentation into parts of measures that can lead to exponential and effective intervention? Can a clear rubric that is fair and equal be available for our citizens? What do we need to win and have you adequately framed up the big picture of how to get to that victory?

THE MACEDONIAN CALL.

The number of Covid-19 infections is now over 2,000. Only about 400 have recovered while about a hundred people have died between 28 February, 2020 when the first case was reported till the evening of 3rd May,2020. These figures do not take into account the mind boggling reports from Kano neither does it leave citizens confident that the numbers are a true reflection of our country’s reality.

To make matters worse, you have informed Nigerians that the lockdown will be removed starting 4 May,2020 this is despite the fact that our health workers and systems are already overwhelmed and against the National Centre for Disease Control advisory that the end of lockdown will increase spread of the virus. The isolation centres are filled up. Patients have been informed that they will now be treated at home even as many have found the NCDC call centre ineffective. Doctors and health workers are refusing to treat patients because they lack protective equipment. Nigerian Almajiris are now being deported to other ‘state republics’ in their own country and without any prior tests.

Unlike other countries which have predictions on when the infection will peak, plateau and begin to decline, Nigeria is on a blind walk towards the massive destruction of this merciless virus. Surely, government decisions is now the biggest act that will undermine the gains made during the closure as citizens are released without any provision of what can offer them protection.

Take a hard look at what the future will hold Boss. How would you feel when we begin to count our deaths in thousands when we now have the opportunity to put strategy in centre stage and stay ahead of the curve? Will your pronouncement that the fight is in the hands of Nigerians exonerate you of guilt and incompetence?

There is, as was the case in the Holy Creed, a Macedonian call. Nigerians and all people of good faith are pleading that you help. This is a Save our Soul call because lives depend on it. Its not a time to put your fears or ego first but a moment to focus on the mission of saving every Nigerian from the virus. This call needs more than a leadership that picks and learns along while people drop dead. It requires competence and preparation. It demands a willingness to risk everything and to demonstrate that the goal is more important than all of us because each one is as vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the virus as the next. Do you feel capable of leading us to navigate through the challenges of the days ahead or will you, bound by honour, step aside for the experts and those who are most capable?

The lives of Nigerians are in your hands. Demonstrate that you are capable of acting in good faith so our country gets to the end line with as minimal casualty as possible.

Gloria is a human right lawyer based in Kaduna

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