Nigerian governors, as custodians of the people’s mandate at the state level, have so much expectations placed on their shoulders. These range from policy formulations to execution of sustainable projects targeted at improving the lives of citizens.
The month of March held out a particular challenge as Nigerian governors were confronted with the coronavirus pandemic.
Questions have been raised, even as concerns mount over a not-so-impressive handling of the health crisis by the Nigerian state.
Governance remains a daunting task. However, even in the face of these huddles, some helmsmen have shown exceptional capacity to better their societies while others have appeared as laggards.
The series on governors performance started in August, 2019, and will continue to run through the lifetime of this platform.
As had been the standard practice, the March, 2020, report presents a ranking of Nigerian governors, highlighting Top 5 and Bottom 5, in no particular order.
1. Babajide Sanwo-Olu —Lagos State
Governor Sanwo-Olu gets a top five mention for practically throwing himself on the frontline, as a committed leader would do in or out of a crisis.
Tagged the Incident Commander, Sanwo-Olu has led from the front since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
Exemplary is his daily briefings, through which residents are giving updates on developments in the state concerning the disease and his ramping up of resources to combat it.
We acknowledge several knocks received by his administration in the distribution of relief items, but note that the decision to provide food banks for some 200,000 families in the period of lockdown is a commendable initiative.
We reckon that the pragmatic leadership offered by Sanwo-Olu largely facilitated and quickened the stakeholder response that saw to the building of a temporal 119-bed isolation and treatment centre in Lagos.
The Lagos helmsman can be said to have walked the talk as far as a response to COVID-19 is concerned.
2. Babagana Zulum —Borno State
Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State has again shown that government should not sit back and wait for calamity to happen before concrete actions are taken.
Though Borno State remains one of the states in the country yet to record any case of the COVID-19 disease, it has made ready an isolation and treatment centre in Maiduguri with standard facilities ahead of any emergencies.
Zulum gets a top five look in for being forward-thinking, especially with the fact that the nation, despite fore knowledge of COVID-19 disease, remained largely unprepared, as facilities on ground till date show that it will only take a miracle to withstand a full blown outbreak.
Zulum’s proactive steps must be regarded as a challenge to other states where the disease is yet to breakout.
3. Nasir el-Rufai —Kaduna State
Like Zulum, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State also took proactive steps after the first case of the COVID-19 disease surfaced in the country.
The Kaduna Governor, immediately the outbreak of the disease was reported in Lagos on the 27th of February, set up the state’s Emergency Operation Centre under the leadership of the Commissioner of Health. He was quick out of the block by directing the conversion of the Ahmadu Stadium into an isolation and treatment centre for the disease.
Though el-Rufai eventually tested positive for coronavirus, we reckon that the early steps taken by his administration has so far helped to limit the spread of the disease in the state. This included the restriction of public transportation and the imposition of curfew in the state, even when states and cities with greater tendency for the disease were still foot dragging.
4. Ben Ayade —Cross River State
The COVID-19 health crisis has shown Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State a firm character, cutting the picture of a leader who knows what he wants done and stands stubbornly with it, no matter how unpopular they may appear.
In an effort to curb the spread of the virus to his state, Ayade made what was an unpopular decision at the time, to close all the state’s borders, air, sea and land!
With this, the governor effectively shut out who ever was not in Cross River State at the time of the order.
We welcome arguments over the propriety or otherwise of the governor’s action but note, however, that Ayade acted like a man on a mission and appears to be getting the required result of staving the dreaded disease from the state.
The decision to shut out 35 oil workers, brought into the country to work with the NNPC, unless they submitted themselves to tests speaks eloquently to this claim.
For Ayade, the protection of citizens deserves both popular and unpopular action, and a stubborn resolve not to bend the rules, no matter who or what institution is involved.
5. Abdulahi Ganduje —Kano State
Governor Abdulahi Ganduje of Kano State makes the list of governors whose proactive measures have helped to a large extent in the war against the spread of Coronavirus in Nigeria.
He did not only order the closure of the state’s land borders but physically followed up with personal monitoring to ensure compliance with the order. The governor showed that in times of emergency, such as the Coronavirus pandemic, it is not enough to just make pronouncements but ensure effective execution of plans.
Though Kano is yet to record any case, the state government’s fully funded isolation centres, and a 600-bed isolation facility, built with support from corporate Nigeria, lends support to Ganduje’s ability to harness stakeholders for overall development.
1. Okezie Ikpeazu —Abia State
The Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, shocked Nigerians with his utterances on the COVID-19 disease. His take left many wondering about his capacity to lead in a time of crisis.
Ikpeazu was quoted to have said that the disease cannot affect the people of Abia State because it was the only state that had its name mentioned in the Bible!
Most discerning Nigerians have since ruled that statement, made in a video that went viral, as uninformed, coming from a leader who should have been in the forefront of efforts at protecting citizens and residents of Abia from a deadly disease.
Even more appalling is the fact that the governor made the statement in far away United States of America, where responsive leaders were busy taking charge of efforts at checking the spread of the disease in their country and states.
Ikpeazu ought to realize with benefit of hindsight that his statement was capable of making the people of Abia complacent and indifferent to the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic and open them up to avoidable dangers posed by the disease.
While we acknowledge that the governor has a right to his personal opinions, such must not expressed at the expense of public good and safety.
2. Seyi Makinde —Oyo
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State has been seen severally as a fresh breath in governance in the country. However, his initial handling of the COVID-19 disease pandemic fell short on expectations.
First, was his miscalculation in hosting a so called unification rally in Ibadan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at a time the world was expressing serious concerns over mass gatherings and the potential spread of COVID-19 from such.
We are perturbed that Makinde tried to reduce the global pandemic to the level of mundane politics when he claimed that PDP did not have COVID-19 and that they, in obvious reference to the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), were the ones living with the disease.
Though Makinde has since apologised for the blunder and taken proactive steps to curb the spread of the disease in the state, he left a bad example and a dent on the famed poster boy image many Nigerians have associated him with.
3. Hope Uzodinma —Imo State
Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, gets a thumb down for towing the Governor Seyi Makinde line and acting in a manner capable of aiding the spread of the COVID-19 disease in his state.
We consider insensitive the governor’s decision to, in the heat of the pandemic, encourage a gathering of several hundreds at the inauguration of 23 Commissioners and 89 Special Advisers and Special Assistants. This was at a time preachments in favour of social-distancing had gained momentum.
Uzodinma failed the leadership test by flouting his own order, setting a bad example and dangerous precedence for citizens and residents of the state.
May we remind him that laws are meant to be no respecter of persons, and that government and its functionaries must be seen be observing and obeying the rules if they expect the populace to do same.
4. Samuel Ortom —Benue State
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State joins the league of governors whose handling of the Coronavirus pandemic is believed to be less than satisfactory.
His response to the first and only confirmed case of the deadly virus in the state was, to say least, against universally acceptable best practices. The governor reportedly sanctioned the release of the name and identity of the case.
Though the state government cited the uncooperative attitude of the patient as reason for her transfer from Makurdi to Abuja, the belief in several informed quarters is that the transfer of the case might have been because of the lack of preparation for the pandemic by the state government.
Benue, just like some other states in the country, were literally caught off guard and instead of putting facilities in place to care for patients who may get infected, the government was busy making tough statements, banning gatherings and closing boundaries. These were, no doubt, needed but the real things expected of them were left undone.
5. Yahaya Bello —Kogi State
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State gets a bottom five mention on account of some reckless pronouncements regarding measures the state government was taking to control the spread of the coronavirus.
The most visible of these was a video shot while he was getting fit in his private gym. In a matter reminiscent of what Governor Ikpeazu did, Bello, tried to downplay the ravaging disease, calling it political gimmick and describing it as corruption-induced.
We are left wondering what may have prompted the Kogi helmsman to falter on his reasoning but to risk concluding that he showed absolute lack of knowledge of the emerging global health challenge.
Bello, obviously, did not at the onset accord the disease the seriousness it deserved. We also wonder if he thought through the hurried decision to shut all doors to Kogi, forgetting that the state was bordered by 9 others and the FCT, making it a major gateway between the Southern and Northern part of the country.