By Bala Ibrahim
Sometimes back, in response to an article I wrote about my fears for Kano should the dreaded Covid-19 visit the state, a friend made a comment to the effect that, there is leadership vacancy in Kano, and the sooner that issue is addressed, the better for the state. It was not until now that my brain begins to see his foresight with hindsight.
The unfolding events in the state, particularly the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, are giving credence to my friend’s prescience, and justifying the fears of those who had the foreknowledge to forewarn. The primary purpose of leadership is to promote new directions, through vision, foresight and focus, amongst other skills.
In life, particularly in politics, people look up to leaders to guide them in their actions. Good leaders are seen as role models for the people they lead, because they motivate them through support and result oriented programs that give encouragement.
Depending on the type of motivation he gives, a leader builds trust and confidence in his followers, who in turn take a positive approach to their assigned jobs, to the maximum benefit of the larger society. And precisely that is why my thumbs would continue to remain up for Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai, the indefatigable governor of Kaduna State. When it comes to public interest, El-Rufai would act, even if he would be damned.
Kano is the most populous state in Nigeria. Kano is Nigeria’s oldest commercial centre. Kano is amongst the highly cosmopolitan cities and states in Nigeria. The settlement in Kano city, is as chaotic or even more chaotic than what obtains in Lagos. Yet, the leadership in Kano was short-sighted, when Lagos was scheming to convince the federal government, to see the seriousness of the pandemic through the prism of a special financial grant to them.
Through calculated cleverness, Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, succeeded in convincing President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the immediate release of N10 billion to his state, citing some factors, including population and congestion, as combining to turn the state into the epicenter of the Coronavirus. They also used the successes recorded against Ebola as additional evidence of skills in the control of infectious diseases.
Of course the index case of the disease arrived through the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos. Of course Lagos is densely populated. Of course Lagos is highly congested. Of course Lagos had the experience of containing Ebola. But which of those factors is strange to Kano?
Kano has more population than Lagos. Kano has more unintelligent crowding and congestion compared to Lagos. Like Lagos, Kano has had a bitter experience in infectious disease control, when it successfully fought and won the war against Lassa fever. With the volume of traffic through the Mallam Aminu Kano Airport in Kano, Kano has every reason to make similar or even greater claim than Lagos.
While the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, NCDC, was also canvassing, and eventually succeeded in getting a presidential approval of N5b, as special intervention fund, to equip, expand and provide personal for its laboratories across the country, Kano state was not only napping, but busy behaving in denial, about the potential danger, or the possibility of being attacked by the disease.
It took a near battle, with experts on epidemiology, who were fighting tooth and nail with advice, to convince the government on the inherent danger ahead. Even at that, reports have it that, the leadership kept jettisoning the professional advise given in the boardroom, for the paltry suggestions from the other room, resulting in constant compromise.
The result is now threatening to bring the state down to its knees in healthcare. As of yesterday, according to the figures released by the NCDC, Kano is leading on infection with 59 confirmed reported cases. Only God can confirm the number that is unreported. This is aside the fear of death that has now become a regular and familiar visitor to every ward in the city. The leadership of the state is now being cursed left and right by the public, because of the upsurge in death.
Had the leadership heeded the advice of the experts, in anticipating the tragedy ahead and acting proactively, by way of assembling competent hands to do the needful, the state may not be where it is today. Reports have it that many members of the Covid-19 committee in the state are in isolation because the management is in disarray.
Because of the alleged influence from the other room, the committee is not getting the appropriate materials to carry out the job. And even where they are provided, the same force ensures some are pilfered, or diverted to destinations of its business interest. Poor planning and selfish planning go hand in hand with the planning for failure.
This is exactly the scenario James Hardley Chase was visualizing in his book, ‘The Way The Cookie Crumbles’. It took Ticky Edris years to set up a bank robbery in the millionaire’s playground of Paradise City, using two accomplices: a conman and a smart beautiful lady. Just when Ticky Edris’s plan was about going into action, with luck on his side, as people were dying and disappearing, detective Tom Lepski spoilt the show, by going on their trail. Ticky and his plan became endangered, because he didn’t anticipate the hands of God, or count on the support of the very people that are most vital to him. The cookie crumbled, because of poor planning and the failure of anticipation.
I pray Kano does not fall victim of such misadventure of poor planning, particularly because of the allegation that the real poor planner is in the other room.
Mr. Ibrahim writes from Abuja