The year 2020 has been one filled with so many surprises. It is one year with major events that could signpost an un-abating memory of a colourful century. This year, and all the occurrences in it, has cast existential challenge to leaders across the globe, with politicians now being appraised on the scale of how adroit they are in managing real time problems and challenges.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has been the yardstick for measuring leadership performance in other parts of the globe, the EndSARS protests across major cities in Nigeria, which came right immediately after the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were lifted, has become a double whammy of complications for a country which has suffered a life-long affliction of bad leadership. Having two major national emergencies in a cascade can presumably overwhelm the Nigerian political leadership which is bankrupt of creativity in crisis management situations.
It goes without saying that the catastrophe that trailed the EndSARS protests across Nigeria are as a result of poor judgment by the political leadership.
While the Federal Government and many state governments were thrown into a quandary about how to manage the COVID-19 and EndSARS protest emergencies, the reaction of the government in Oyo State is far more pragmatic and responsible, different from the general sense of anomie that pervaded everywhere else. In managing both incidents, the governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, provided sufficient leadership by creating a pathway for the federal and other state governments to follow.
In the case of COVID-19, the government in Oyo State was careful enough not to enforce a complete lockdown of the state. The genius in the Makinde approach to the lockdown was that whereas people were not told not to leave their houses, the government placed a total clampdown on all locations where people could gather in large numbers. Places of religious worship, schools, markets and pubs remained close such that even though people could move around, there was practically nowhere to go other than stay at home with the family. The only exceptions were markets like the Bodija market in Ibadan where essential foodstuff are sold.
On account of the ingenuity of not imposing a total lockdown, families and individuals who survive by daily means still had a little outlet for them to do their subsistent trading and are able to keep supporting their families. That is in addition to Oyo State being the first state government in the whole of the country to have a sole investment in the putting together of a COVID-19 diagnostic laboratory.
Again, when there was a slew of confusion about the way to go when the national lockdown protocols reached the level at which schools could be open for regular activities, Oyo State led the way. It was the first state to open schools with safeguards procedures that other states soon began to adopt. This is not surprising because Oyo State has a massive social investment in education and the long period while schools were under lock and keys, posed huge risks to the state’s investments.
It is very convenient to discount the gains the people of Oyo State earned by the manner in which Governor Makinde managed the period of the lockdown. However, what should not be forgotten is that had the lockdown come during the time of the immediate past administration, the approach would have been remarkably different, and it would have been one that would inflict so much pains on the people of the state.
And, even now, in the face of the tumult that greeted the EndSARS protests across the country, Ibadan would have turned out to become a major flashpoint of the protest if not for the credibility that the personality of Makinde enjoys amongst the people of the city and other places in Oyo State. Just like the saying goes that character is everything, Governor Makinde has made a case study about how character could be a huge influence on good governance.
While other neighbouring states were boiling and their governors being pelted with stones by angry mob, Seyi Makinde in Oyo State was a different story entirely. His presence at trouble spots was not only greeted with applause, he has earned the confidence to walk into the mob to make an appeasement. Not many a state governor enjoys such a humongous amount of goodwill from their people.
There is substantial merit in the argument that the government which is nearer to the people is the one to be held accountable the most for infrastructure development and protection of lives and property. However, the sentiment against that argument in Nigeria is that most of our state governors are not credit worthy in character and, therefore, emphasis should remain on the government at the centre. We must begin to demand higher standard from our governors and be more circumspect about the characters that we vote into public offices.
We cannot make a honest case against bad governance when our electoral behaviour is transactional by the way of vote-buying. The consequences of bad governance far out-weigh the often silly emotions that we allow to influence our judgment while casting the ballot.
If all state governors in Nigeria have a character of Makinde, the Oyo State governor, or Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State and Bello Matawalle of Zamfara, our anguish about bad governance would be lot less. As a public, we need to be much more responsible about the electoral judgments that we make. And, just as we all stood up against police brutality, we must indeed stand for ourselves against vote-buying and other vices that mar our electoral process