Nigeria: Why Edo State Govt Must Disclose Obaseki's COVID-19 Status

3 April 2020

Christopher Osa-Uwagie demands that Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State concludes his personal COVID-19 procedure transparently

As an interested party and concerned indigene of Edo State, I am working with a Non-Governmental group, Association for Monitoring and Implementation of COVID-19 Policies in Edo state. While, we abhor politicisation of issues concerning human life, we can't close our eyes to a deliberate campaign of dishonesty in Edo State government's handling of COVID-19 issues.

The head of the government, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has now exceeded the recommended 14 days in self-isolation, making his health status and fitness a subject of speculation and point of concern.

Therefore, as Protem Coordinator, I am constrained to say that, "across the globe today, in the face of the unprecedented public health crisis and social upheavals caused by the coronavirus disease, governments, irrespective of level, have put aside political concerns and united to offer leadership and direction to their people in a transparent, accountable and organized fashion.

"We are afraid that the Edo State Government, by its recent actions, is sadly not following this example.

"Over two weeks now, Governor Godwin Obaseki has withdrawn self from public view, only to surface days ago in a contrived broadcast where he appeared disheveled and made questionable claims on the preparedness of the state as the number of confirmed cases climbs higher.

"When he rightly embarked on this self-isolation after exposure to the virus in meeting with other government officials who tested positive and disclosed his forwarding of sample to a competent laboratory for test, this responsible decision and transparent disclosures were praised by all, including this campaign organization, in addition to expressed support.

"However, rather than continue on this path of responsible action and transparency, Mr. Godwin Obaseki and his administration have deviated, turning his testing and result into the subject of official secrecy, while sanctioning the execution of deliberate acts of misinformation and general dishonesty.

"In an instance, on the 26th of March, Crusoe Osagie, the governor's media aide, announced to the public that a 'rapid test' had shown his principal, Godwin Obaseki, to be negative. However, two days ago, possibly in reaction to this politically-driven statement, the NCDC, through its verified social media channel, specifically Twitter, issued a rebuttal, declaring to the public without equivocation that "there is no validated rapid diagnostic test kit for COVID19."

"Quoting its statement directly, the NCDC said, "These rapid test kits can provide false results: Do Not Use [the emphasis that of the agency, and a demonstration of its strong discouragement of the rapid tests].

"This leaves us with two conclusions on Obaseki's choice of a rapid test that has been dismissed by the health agency responsible for the management of the viral disease and Crusoe's hurried declaration of the same.

"The first one being that the governor, despite the responsibility of his office as Edo state's frontline soldier against a crisis that offers the greatest threat to humanity since the world war, is ignorant of the disease and the basic processes involved in testing and communication of result. If this is the case, then it means that for the umpteenth time, Mr. Godwin Obaseki's incompetence, unpreparedness for office, and petulant insistence of triviality instead of self-education are once again putting the state in great risk.

"The other conclusion is that the governor, despite knowing better, has chosen to willfully mislead the public on his status in order to abdicate duty and hide away at the time the state is in greatest need for leadership, or politicize the situation for his personal benefit, or to, once again, lie to the people of Edo state and in a vain and unnecessary display of strength.

"Following on the path of dishonesty, in the state broadcast offered in a secluded garden this week, Mr. Godwin Obaseki declared the existence of certain facilities and the installation of 28 ventilators ready for use in Edo state. We find this claim to be problematic for several reasons. At the last count, according to information available to us, the number of confirmed ventilators present in the state is five - and there has been no evidence of recent purchases or donations. Similarly, the national register of Lifebank, an independent, private health startup, tracking ventilators and respirators in the country, places the total number available in the country to be under 100, with Lagos and Abuja claiming the overwhelming lion share. These basic facts directly contradict the claim of the governor.

"We are aware, also, of the Deputy Governor's hasty dismissal of all officials at the government house on Wednesday 1st of April, and emptying of the premises, even of essential workers, out of palpable fear that the coronavirus disease is actively spreading therein. The Governor who is not known to be on annual leave, his Executive Assistant, Mr. Tijani Nwadei, Crusoe Osagie and now workers of the state house, have all disappeared, increasing worry that the machinery of government in Edo is grounded.

"This is worrisome and represents a bad show of leadership. To forestall the danger this unacceptable situation will birth, and as citizens of Edo, we are demanding that the state government offers a full and immediate explanation to the public on the health status of Governor Godwin Obaseki, his Executive Assistant, Tijani Nwadei, Crusoe Osagie and other close aides. We also demand that the government house, which now appears to be a huge vector of the viral disease, is immediately fumigated, wiped clean and deployed as isolation center if the occupants are unwilling to resume work after the Chief Executive is himself hiding away."

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