A member of the Ogun State House of Assembly, Honourable Atinuke Bello, who doubles as the Chief Whip and Vice Chairman, House Committee on Health, in this interview sheds light on the efforts being made by the Ogun State Government to combat the COVID-19 disease and curb its alarming spread.
* Being the Vice Chairman, Committee on Health in the State House Assembly, can you tell us the activities of the legislative arm of government most especially the Health Committee since the outbreak of the pandemic COVID-19?
We have been relating with the Ministry of Health and that is the Commissioner for Health and every other personnel that has to do with health issues in the state to actually know what is going on in terms of putting up isolation centres, number of suspected cases of coronavirus, knowing the numbers to call for emergency when we have people showing symptoms of the disease and knowing what they are doing on daily basis to actually make sure that the spread of Covid-19 is reduced to the barest minimum in the state and totally eradicated.
We have been speaking to them to know their challenges and the drastic measures they have been putting in place to curtail the virus. The House Committee on Health on its own part has been liasing with the Ministry of Health, the Commissioner for Health and every other concerned agencies to make sure that we stop the spread of the virus
* With all these, can you say there has been tremendous improvement in the battle against the pandemic?
Yes, there has been substantial improvement because looking at the rate at which the virus is expected to have spread, we can see that the rate is gradually slowing down in Ogun State because the Ministry of Health has taken it upon itself to intensify efforts to sensitise people and let the people know the various ways the disases can be contracted and transmitted to others as well as ways to reduce it by getting them more enlightened and informed. They say information is key in every society. The people were made to know what the disease is all about and its devastating implications on every facet of our lives both individually and collectively. We are more like partners in progress and this is yeilding great results as people now know that they have to take all the precautionary measures like the use of face masks, regular hand washing, covering their noses when sneezing and mouths when coughing and other preventive measures to check the spread of the virus.
* Can you shed more light on the activities of the State Government under the leadership of Governor Dapo Abiodun in alleviating the challenges faced by the people during this lockdown period ?
The state government has done a lot and I give kudos to His Excellency, Prince Dapo Abiodun. He swung into action like a dynamic leader that he is putting in place measures to actually combat this virus and nip it in the bud. When the disease broke, what he first did was to go on TV stations to sensitize the people and let them know that the virus is actually in town and to let them know the primary things to do to forestall it. After that, his wife, Her Excellency, Mrs. Bamidele Abiodun, took the gauntlet and so was the Commissioner for Women Affairs. We also did a jingle and organised sensitisation programmes for people to listen on various radio stations. The Governor also ordered fumigation of markets in the State and other public places. He provided fumigation materials for all the twenty local government areas of the State.
Being the Gateway State, the governor also closed the borders which I think is the best thing; I believe we really need to do so in order to prevent transborder transmission of the virus because we noticed that most of the people from other states and other countries can actually come into the state being a border area and before you know it, the spread of the virus will not be easily contained. The Governor also set up isolation centers with ventilators which the World Health Organisation, WHO, attested to to be among the best isolation centres we have in Nigeria and presently the governor is working on getting a laboratory set up to detect those who are positive to the COVID-19 virus in good time.
You need to identify those who are harbouring the disease at a very early stage. When somebody has these symptoms you have to quickly isolate the person so that he or she would not transfer it to other people. The process of waiting for the result for upward to about five days is a long period and before you know it, this person might go ahead spreading it to other people; so the governor is working on a laboratory where tests can be done and result can be produced in time to do the needful. Even anybody can just walk into the test centre, do the test and leave. The governor has also seen to the provision and distribution of relief materials – stimilus packages – to the people of the State especially the vulnerableb as palliative. Each relief package, mostly targeted at the vulnerable people contains 5kg of rice, 5kg of beans, 5kg of garri, seasonings, vegetable oil, tin tomatoes. Mention must also be made of the unquantifiable efforts of the State Deputy Governor, Her Excellency, Alhaja Noimot Salako-Oyedele who worked round the clock with zeal, energy and compassion. Her Excellency, Mrs Bamidele Abiodun, the Ogun State First Lady was not left out of the gesture as she reached out to the kids during the period. The Hon. Commisioner for Special Duties, Barr. Femi Ogunbanwo too augmented the concerted effort of the aforementioned by giving money to the elderly and vulnerable ones in his federal constituency.
* How do you react to the report that government did not include the youths in the distribution of relief material.
Well, I heard the report but I want to tell you that Governor Dapo Abiodun has done the best by ensuring he targeted households and you all know that a household comprises the father, mother and the children so he believes if he is reaching out to an household, the youths will also benefit but I want to let our people know that government cannot do it all. The Governor is really trying to ensure the stimulus package is shared across the state without any political colouration party. I want to urge the angry youths to please be patient with the government. Gov. Abiodun is a passionate governor; he is a listening leader and I know that he has listened to the plea of the youths and in Ogun State. I would like to use this opportunity to appeal to the youths to shun any criminal intent. Crime is not an option, it is no excuse at all. If you are a criminal, you are a criminal whether there is hunger or no hunger. Governor Abiodun has said it times without number that crime is never an option to wealth or good things of life. I know he is not resting on his oars; as we speak, he is on top of the situation of looking into how to get food across the youths. Presently he launched the scheme to aid the production of a million face masks all in a bid to put the virus at bay.
Governor Abiodun is not happy about the lockdown, he is not deriving any joy locking the citizens indoors, he is not deriving any joy if everybody is hungry and when we say an household, there is youth in every household. Let us be patient with him. I equally want to tell the people of Ogun State that this trying period will come to pass. The Governor never planned for COVID-19. He never budgeted for it. Let us be patient with our Governor as we all know it is not easy to stay at home.
* We have heard about your charitable gestures to the good people of your constituency in Odogbolu Local Govt. What other things do you wish to let the people know about your concern for their welfare and general well-being as their representative at the State House of Assembly?
Yes, immediately I heard about this COVID-19 outbreak, the first thing I did was a sensitisation programme. I decided to do a video telling my constituents what to do. After that, I sponsored awareness billboards in strategic zones to sensitize my constituents. I provided for 4,000 pieces of sanitizers and you know we have 15 wards; it is a very big constituency talking about Odogbolu Local Government.
However, I am working on getting food stuffs for about 2,000 people in garri, beans, rice, tin tomatoes to give out to my constituents and I want to appreciate NYCN. They are actually went out to sensitise our people. I also did some little stipends for elderly people within the community ranging from N30, 000 down to N10, 000 – to the people that I could actually do for. We all know how it feels. I want to call on well-meaning Nigerians especially those from Odogbolu extraction and those that have the ability in their own little way to help the people especially my constituents. We can’t do it alone, they should help us. I want to remind my people in my constituentcy to stay safe, they should obey the preventive measures put in place that is when we can say: ‘together, we have defeated Coronavirus’.
* What prompted your charitable gesture?
It is the love that I have for my people because I know they gave me the mandate. I couldn’t sleep since the outbreak of the virus, I have been receiving several calls, people saying that they are cash strapped. If it is possible that I can have all my constituents living with me I wouldn’t mind but it is not easy and we can not do it alone.
* Can you educate the people of Ogun State and residents the more on the importance of staying at home during the 14-day total lockdown period and observing other stipulated rules in order to forestall the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease?
I want to call on the well meaning Nigerians to stay at home and stay safe, we all know is not easy to stay at home without going out to get means for survival. We know this is a trying period for all and it will pass. Let us be patient with the government and hope for divine intervention to put a final end to this soonest.
* What is your message to all Nigerians during this trying periods of our national life?
Nigerians should remain calm. We are all in this matter, the government is placing necessary measures in place to cure the COVID-19 pandemic in the land. This country shall be great, our political leaders, Chief Bola Tinubu and other respected elders have been clamouring for various reliefs to us as a nation. Let’s join hands with the Federal Government with our prayers and collective effort to combat this Covid-19 disease that is threatening the human race.