States across Nigeria continued for the second month running, intense battles against the coronavirus pandemic within their domain. We saw many of the governors introduce different measures to fight the scourge and inspire confidence in their capacity to provide leadership at this time, but the month didn’t go down without the usual drama in “our states” and disturbing trends of authoritarianism.
These amongst other indexes formed our effectiveness assessment for 10 Nigerian state chief executives across the 6 geo-political zones of the country in the last one month:
10. Dave Umahi (Ebonyi)
The news from Ebonyi in April has been nothing short of heartbreaking for true lovers of democracy as the governor in a bid to enforce COVID-19 regulations and other infections ravaging the state, issued orders to security operatives to shoot-at-sight any of the 37 returnees who tries to escape from the quarantine and isolation centres. The returnees had tried entering the state through the bush after the closure of its borders.
Section 33 and 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, guarantees life and human dignity for all citizens but Governor Umahi speaking at a stakeholder meeting on April 22nd, also ordered local government officials to flog residents of the state found moving around in public without wearing face masks.
The Governor further crossed the line when in a public broadcast, he banned two journalists working with Vanguard and the Sun newspapers respectively from the state government house and ‘any government facility’ for life over allegations of “heating up the polity” through their reports. He said he could no longer guarantee their safety in the state while one of them was arrested in a Gestapo manner by men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) at a hotel in Abakaliki on April 21, over a report he wrote on Lassa fever outbreak in the state.
BREAKING: We've given Governor David Umahi, Ebonyi State 48 hours to reverse illegal life ban on The Sun, Vanguard reporters
We condemn the blatant intimidation and attacks on journalists and media houses.
We'll take legal action if this illegality is not immediately reversed.
— SERAP (@SERAPNigeria) April 22, 2020
9. Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom, South South)
There have been too much ‘drama’ in the state within the last one month under the guise of tackling the Coronavirus pandemic. The first was the controversy that ensued between the state government and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) after the latter confirmed that the state had recorded its first five cases of the infection on April 1.
The state government initially disagreed with the results citing that it only heard about the test results in the news and that “all five reported cases have been contacted and showed no symptoms of COVID-19’’ but later acknowledged when Governor Udom Emmanuel in a state-wide broadcast announced a 14-day lockdown the next day. It was also surprising that the Government relaxed its restriction order to enable Christians celebrate Easter, though it stated that all worshipers (not more than 20) must observe social distancing, use hand sanitisers, wear face masks, amongst other measures.
— The ICIR (@TheICIR) May 1, 2020
This happened in the same week an Akwa Ibom-based entrepreneur, Editi Effiong, threatened to file a suit against an aide to the governor for publishing defamatory statements and smearing his image on social media, after he drew the attention of the NCDC to a possible outbreak of COVID-19 in the state following the potential exposure of 15 local health workers, who had come in contact with some United States doctors on a medical outreach to Akwa Ibom between March 14 to 18.
Most recently, the government fired the state’s epidemiologist, Dr. Aniekeme Uwam, for allegedly pushing in more samples for COVID-19 testing against the number ‘approved’ by the state Health Commissioner. Uwam is one of the most knowledgable epidemiologists in the country, with continental honours from the African Union for his contributions towards the largely successful fight against the Ebola virus in West Africa.
8. Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano, North West)
Already known to ‘handle political issues with expediency,’ Governor Ganduje on April 18 relieved the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mu’azu Magaji of his appointment, for allegedly making unguarded utterances against the person of the late Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari. For a densely populated state where its neighbours already had cases of the coronavirus disease at the time, this action was a total distraction and at best unnecessary, especially when the option of fair hearing was ‘thrown to the bush.’
The state government lost focus in its preparedness to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic as it didn’t channel energy towards fighting ignorance, misinformation, as well as the cultural and traditional misconceptions on the reality of the virus that was prevalent in the state. Hundreds of its youth violated the social distance rules by organising a “Corona Tournament” in their communities without any punitive measure by the government.
BREAKING: Kano state government finally acknowledges 'strange deaths', says they were caused by complications from hypertension, diabetes, meningitis and acute malaria
— TheCable (@thecableng) April 26, 2020
The state government under Ganduje’s watch also irked Nigerians as it not only denied an unusual surge in the number of deaths within days but also used “verbal autopsies” to attribute the deaths to diabetes, hypertension, acute malaria and others. At present, in spite of Kano’s potentials of becoming the new epicentre of the coronavirus in the country, 6 members of its COVID-19 task force have already tested positive while 70 per cent of the medical doctors have allegedly abandoned their duty posts due to the non-availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
7. Nyesom Wike (Rivers, South South)
April opened in Rivers with allegations by the governor that the federal government was politicising the novel coronavirus especially with the release of a N10billion grant to the Lagos government, given to that state government to increase capacity towards controlling and containing the outbreak. A lot of Nigerians felt disappointed that the Governor would choose to make such utterances without recourse to facts on the ground that Lagos had 115 confirmed cases compared to just 1 case in Rivers at the time.
— Gov N E Wike Information. (@GovWike) April 8, 2020
Most troubling is the series of actions that he took afterwards; suggesting that he was out to pick a fight with the central government. From accusing the Federal Government of planning to infect ‘his people’ through smuggling in of patients with COVID-19 to declaring Caverton Helicopters persona non-grata after the debacle with the Aviation Minister, the arrest of ExxonMobil workers despite his earlier announcement in a state broadcast exempting oil workers from the lockdown as well as the recent conversation around replacing the federal security agencies manning the state boundaries with a task force due to “the likelihood of sabotage.”
Well within his powers to ensure the safety of his people, it is difficult to not blame the governor for overreacting instead of saving the nation the unnecessary drama and bickering, where he should have collaborated for the sake of national interest. He has also done a number of broadcasts making statements that sounded combative and vengeful at a time he should inspire hope, which may mean that Governor Wike is either politicising a grave issue or doesn’t know what is expected of such office.
6. Yahaya Bello (Kogi, North Central)
Contrary to patterns in state governments across the country where governors shield their aides from prosecution where wrongs have been alleged or done, Governor Bello did impressively by ordering the suspension of Abdulmumuni Danga, his Water Resources Commissioner who allegedly kidnapped, assaulted and raped one Elizabeth Oyeniyi who pleaded with him in a Facebook post to assist his sister and family financially.
According to reports, the governor also ordered an accelerated investigation into the case. It is however troubling that the state chief executive believes that its self-assessment app hosted at kogicovid19.gov.ng is more effective in determining the status of the pandemic in his domain instead of proper testing, as shown in his tackling of the NCDC Director-General, who claimed that states which are yet to record cases of COVID-19 are either negligent in testing and tracing or actively hiding the disease within their territories.
FLASH: Kogi State Governor’s Commissioner, Abdulmumuni Danga, Brutalises, Rapes Lady For Calling Him Out On Facebook, Forced Her To Make Video Recanting Initial Post
— Sahara Reporters (@SaharaReporters) April 1, 2020
5. Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna, North West)
In spite of the Governor’s physical absence to steer the affairs of the state in the dire times of the pandemic, no lag was recorded in the state’s response and management of the situation.
Before proceeding on isolation having tested positive to COVID-19, El-Rufai saddled ‘war-time’ leadership in his deputy, Dr. Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe who did great at leading the state’s response against the disease. The release of 72 convicts from the Kaduna and Kafanchan Correctional Centres as part of the government’s efforts to check the spread of COVID-19 warrants an A.
Text of State Broadcast by Dr. Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe, Deputy Governor of Kaduna State on the update of the activities of of Kaduna State COVID 19 TASK-FORCE, Friday, 3rd April 2020 pic.twitter.com/GowT5vYIrA
— Governor Kaduna (@GovKaduna) April 3, 2020
Quite importantly, the Governor took a bold step in slashing the salaries of political appointees (including Commissioners and Special Advisers) to 50%, in what he described as a contribution to the cost of buying palliatives for vulnerable citizens of Kaduna State who cannot eke out a living, due to the second phase of a 60-day lockdown (as it seems). With the dwindling economic fortunes world over as well as in the country, such cut costing measures in governance is highly commendable.
Most worrisome however is the decision by the state government to include doctors and other health workers under its employment in the pay cut, at a time the state is grappling with the pandemic. As much as the governor has explained that COVID-19 has not affected his administration’s commitment to pay salaries and that the action is aimed at ensuring public servants make some sacrifice for the welfare of other citizens who go out daily to look for what will sustain them, such action is difficult to accept where the union was neither consulted nor gave their consent to such deduction. It is equally demotivating for a critical segment of the workforce who needs nothing short of incentives as increased allowances to do the all-important duty at this time.
4. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti, South West)
Governor Kayode Fayemi made bold decisions in April to salvage the state from bankruptcy following what he described as decreasing receipts from the Federation Account and dwindling internally-generated revenue (IGR).
In waking up the fiscal position of the state at the moment, he directed that the salaries of all political appointees in the state, beginning from the Governor, be slashed by 50 per cent, adding that savings from this “pay cut would be channelled into the execution and completion of developmental projects in the state, as hitherto planned.”
— Kayode Fayemi (@kfayemi) April 6, 2020
In the fight against COVID-19, the governor has made laudable efforts in containing the cases in the state with the setting up of a 47-member COVID-19 Response Resource Mobilisation Committee to help mobilise resources to combat the pandemic and provide palliative measures to cushion the effects of the lockdown. This is in addition to the closure of boundaries, creating an isolation centre and enforcement of compulsory wearing of masks in public places.
Most recently, he ordered the indefinite suspension of one of his aides, Sola Durodola, for trivialising the issue of COVID-19 in a viral video of a man who denied his son who had just returned from Lagos, access to his house unless the young man was isolated for 14 days.
3. Ben Ayade (Cross River, South South)
Although there have been controversies surrounding Cross Rivers’ zero cases of the coronavirus disease, it is commendable that the state government maintained the closure of the its borders with neighbouring states and the international boundary with Cameroun, while it has through its garment factory, commenced the mass production and distribution of nose masks free of charge to residents this April.
The initiative which is line with Ayade’s Executive Order that “nobody be allowed in public places without wearing a nose mask” as part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into state and also as a way of reducing the burden on the people, has proven to be largely successful but not without concerns among medical experts in the state who have said that the masks from the garment factory ought to be ionised “because those are just cloth materials gotten from a stock.”
Ayade’s success in this area of facemask is enviable that the factory has received purchasing orders from the governments of Lagos and Kano to supply nose masks while the Cross River Governor also made a pledge donation of 50,000 masks to all neighbouring states comprising of Akwa Ibom, Benue, Ebonyi with a charge on the Federal Government to support the state in order to export masks to other African countries as a measure to check COVID-19 spread.
2. Duoye Diri (Bayelsa, South South)
Newbie Governor, Duoye Diri has made some impressive mark since his assumption of office on February 14. One key reform he has embarked upon this month is reducing the number of ministries he inherited from the previous administration from 32 to 21 to address the challenge of cumbersome reports emanating from the ministries and duplicity of functions.
In the fight against the pandemic, he commenced the month with the signing of an Executive Order on COVID-19 measures to contain the spread of the virus in the state, which included the closure of event centres, bars, places of worship, public and private educational institutions, other public gatherings and all markets except for the sales of essential commodities such as food and medicals. He also went on to institute a ‘No permit, no entry into Bayelsa’ policy. This is in spite of the fact that the state was yet to record any case of coronavirus until it had an index case on April 27.
I and other top Government functionaries joined the Governor of Bayelsa state, His Excellency, Senator Douye Diri, as his led Government of Consolidation for Prosperity commenced the second phase distribution of foodstuff to Bayelsans. (1/3) pic.twitter.com/P1ua7qbx6C
— Office of the Deputy Governor, Bayelsa state. (@new_bayelsa) April 21, 2020
Following the global scarcity of face masks caused by the outbreak of COVID, the state’s garment factory commenced production to meet local demands and boost internal revenues, as prices of facemasks had skyrocketed from N1,500 to N15,000 per pack. He has also received commendation for consistently paying monthly pension, 33% pension harmonisation approval and implementation in order to have released funds for the payment of gratuity and death benefits to pensioners in the state which has not been paid for over 12 years.
1. Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos, South West)
Governor Sanwo-Olu maintained the top position as the ‘leader that cares for his people’ when it matters most, inspiring hope in residents of the state with an excellent communication strategy that daily allays fears, debunk rumours and admonish them on the need for strict personal hygiene. Not to forget his bold efforts to encourage the frontline health workers in the state.
Lagos under his watch in April continued impressively in managing the situation and one of the key areas the state made appreciable progress was in mobilising funds for its isolation centres through a private-public partnership collaboration. It now has isolation centres in Yaba, Onikan LUTH and at the Landmark Event Centre. Distributing over a million masks, it has gone on to enforce the compulsory wearing of face masks among residents in addition to creating 20 centres for collection of samples from people suspected to have contracted COVID-19.
Today, the state security council met to address the increase in armed robberies and unrest in boundary communities. We have received increased help from the IG of Police with a special force already addressing the elements breaching the peace in the affected communities. pic.twitter.com/gmE6H1LUxH
— Babajide Sanwo-Olu (@jidesanwoolu) April 14, 2020
The state however recorded major lapses in implementing the lockdown as well as in the area of security, leading thousands of residents to take up vigilante duties with cutlasses in their hands while burning tires 0n their streets as a way to protect their neighbourhood from dreadful robbery gangs who usually send advance letters about their coming. Millions of Lagosians lived the most of April in panic and anxiety for the fear of being robbed by ‘1 million boys or awawa boys.’ The situation was however brought under control and calmness returned to the state ahead of a gradual phasing out of the lockdown on May 4.
Editor’s Note: The YNaija Effectiveness Ranking is a perception index by our special editorial programme as determined by correspondent assessment, news reports, and opinion surveys. It is graded on the following parameters: campaign promise, social impact, and infrastructural development.
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Journalist, Political Analyst and Satirist with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.