THE responses of state governors to the Coronavirus pandemic seem to have fallen into two broad categories: those ready to take charge and those waiting, as usual, to be spoon-fed by the Federal Government before they do the needful in their states.
It was in this pandemic that those who had doubted the leadership capacities of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu started seeing the stuff of which the man they elected last year is made. Sanwo-Olu was up and running, primarily carrying the nation’s burden in the nation’s epicentre of the epidemic, Lagos State, long before the Federal Government eventually woke up to the danger.
Also, Governor Nyesom Wike took up the battle to protect lives in Rivers State to the extent of openly confronting the Federal Government when his orders closing Rivers State borders were breached. We saw action in Delta, Anambra, Ebonyi, Oyo, Benue, Edo, Kaduna (whose Governor, Nasir el Rufai, is undergoing treatment from the virus) and other states.
The Northern Governors Forum held a teleconference and one of their resolutions was a call on the Federal Government to share money from the Federation Account to enable them cope with efforts to fight the pandemic in their states. It is less than one month after President Muhammadu Buhari declared COVID-19 a dangerous infectious disease, and these governors are already crying for Federal financial assistance!
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Do these governors realise at all that Nigeria is a Federation and the states are “sub-national” governments with a measure of constitutional autonomy? Each time adversity sets in the governors run to Abuja to beg for money. Since 2015, the Federal Government has dished out Bailout Funds and Paris Club Debt overpayment refunds to the states to ease the impact of the recent economic recession.
The “feeding bottle” governors should emulate the leadership initiatives of peers both in Nigeria and the USA where governors are not waiting to be federally spoon-fed before mobilising adequately to halt the pandemic.
The Federal Government’s role in this kind of situation is to take the lead and define a national action plan implemented mainly through the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, which is the main force of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. The states should, in addition to keying into the national agenda, adopt strategies that will serve the peculiar needs of each locality. The states are the main “workshops” of the nation, not mere “restaurants”.
Federal financial grants and logistical support should come at the right time, but the states should not wait. This is a time to re-prioritise and move resources massively to the health sector and provide food for the people forced to say home.
No Kobo of the donations by wealthy Nigerians should be given to any governor. Let them raise their own funds.
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