Let Ooni lead the war against COVID-19, by Hassan Gimba

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Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi.

Many individuals, especially the affluent, have done their best by contributing cash to the federal government’s efforts and some going further to as far as build and transfer isolation centres to their state governments. Some have also intervened, in their states, in the areas of improving testing capacities, too. While they made their money through investments all over the country, this pandemic has made them to think of home first.

All the moneyed men that matter are now taking care of their states. These are men who have perhaps benefited from the nation more than the nation has benefited from them. They grew through government patronage and waivers, their products are patronised by people in all the states, yet they have restricted their magnanimity to their places of birth. A lot of them have turned provincial, needless to say Nigerians have not benefited for a day from any reduced price of any of their products.

Well, not all of them. The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, for instance, has stepped out to be counted as one Nigerian who cares for Nigeria and the well being of Nigerians.

No one would think anything if the Ooni concerns himself only with the well being of his kingdom, after all he is a traditional leader who everybody accepts should behave like any other traditional ruler.

Traditional rulers, especially the modern, in my side of the country generally owe nobody nothing. All are their subjects and you are the one that owe him. Even if your father dies, you go and meet your paramount head in his palace and console him. You and your father and your father’s father and your children are all his, after all.

Therefore, it is not in their culture to give, but to receive. And it is accepted as the norm. Some people even see them as parasites. But that’s rather harsh and disrespectful. In truth, some of them escape this stereotype and reach out to the needy. Yes, some.

It is in this light that the Ooni is expected, and society understands and accepts, to stay back, sit on his ancestral throne and collect what ought to be his from the government and his class of privileged subjects. He is entitled, being a man of predefined and preordained entitlement.

But not this Ooni. He has been a one-man riot squad fighting this virus since its advent. With his palace as the workshop, he has commissioned the fabrication of fumigators, locally made with 100 percent locally sourced materials. These fumigators have the capacity to convert liquid sanitisers into fog that stays longer and travels faster in a beneficial way to disinfect large communities. These modular fumigators are motorised but he has also overseen the fabrication of drones that can as well spray the fumigants from the air.

Not to be at the mercy of Shylock businessmen, he has also come up with disinfectants from local resources. He also claims to have found a cure for the virus. It is derived wholly from herbs available in his kingdom.

But what is impressive about this Ooni is his pan-Nigeria approach to the fight against COVID-19. He has embarked on the fumigation of the South West, beginning from his cradle, Ile Ife. Good, because charity begins at home. But he has not only donated the motorised modular fumigation vans and drones to almost all the states there, he is in the process of donating two motorised fumigators to all states of the federation, including Abuja, which will set him back by about N150 million. He is also placing, at the service of the states, drones for aerial spraying of fumigants.

Had the Ooni been in charge of Nigeria’s fight against the virus, one can swear by what one holds dear that Abuja will not remain without fumigation in five weeks of the unenforceable lock-down. The lock-down will not just be relaxed and people told to go back just like that, which is akin to people being rushed into a field full of landmines. People will not go back into Abuja without precautionary and preventive measures put in place had the Ooni been in charge.

There is a forecast that the pandemic will shrink Nigeria’s economy by 3.4 percent. However, with a sincere effort – nothing extra – by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, such forecast may fall flat on its face. Rather, Nigeria may come out of the pandemic with an economic growth that may be a model to other nations.

Now the federal government is flexing its muscles that it is going to employ 774,000 Nigerians. That is, 1,000 people per local government, for a three-month duration to clear gutters and such stuff. Instead, let the federal government, in the interim, through the Presidential Task Force, employ just 100 persons per local government for one year and pay them N10,000 per week. That should be 77,400 persons. Their work? Just fumigate towns and villages in their local governments.

In a month, their salary will amount to about N3billion and in 12 months about N36billion. And that is just half of what they spent in 24 hours as “palliatives” to us.

With our type of economy and rate of poverty, we do not need to go wholly for the sophisticated machines we see fumigating towns in the advanced world. Let the same task force commission universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, vocational training centres and local fabricators all over the country to produce fumigators. With encouragement, some can even produce drones.

Again our universities and other science-based institutions can be encouraged to produce sanitisers and our tailors can sew personal protection equipment, including face masks and gloves.

All these may take another N36billion or a little more and what it can do to our economy and its ripple effect can better be imagined. Just visualise the soap industry: those who fumigate, those who fabricate, those who sew, and those involved in associated jobs (indirect employment) must all bathe after a hard day’s work – meaning they will buy soap. Soap consumption will increase and soap makers must produce more and that means they may employ more. Now, this is just soap. Look at other sectors, then. Imagine how the consumption graph will hit the roof, demanding more supplies, therefore encouraging more production, more employment, which will translate to more money in more people’s hands.

Visualising post-COVID-19 Nigeria, none here is a one-time panacea (OTP) because not only would we have brought forth the ingenuity and potential of our local artisans, strengthened the capabilities of our science and technology-based institutions, reduced unemployment, reduced poverty appreciably and such materials fabricated can be used in spraying farms with various needed chemicals as well as fighting malaria by fumigating communities against mosquitoes.

This is the principle behind the Ooni’s efforts and the resultant effect will be the ushering in of a better and stronger economy. This will be further complemented if the task force will encourage our indigenous medicine men who claim to have come up with a cure. If we succeed in this regard, we will have the new black gold the world desperately craves for and would give anything to have.

As chairman, this Ooni would have since engaged the Federal Ministry of Health’s Traditional Complementary Medicine Department and the Nigerian Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) to evaluate the various claims, and accept the acceptable, even if it is only one. At least by now, we may know where we are.

Give Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the task of steering our fight against coronavirus and Nigeria will never regret. He has the energy, patriotism, drive and passion to champion this war, because, in effect, it is what he is doing in his own not-so-small way.

Sometimes, one questions the thinking of those in government. Must it be a government man to head such projects? Government appointees are there based on many factors but surely not solely based on being the most competent or the most patriotic. So, why deny the country the services of more visionary people just because they are not part of government?

If only those in government can be trusted to deliver, then we are in trouble as a nation. Patriots abound everywhere. If our care is really for Nigeria and its development, for the people and their well being, then it is a disservice to both to insist on thrusting and trusting serious national assignments to government agents just for being that, rather than to the best and most capable as seen through actions and verifiable evidence.

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