Decision on whether or not to lockdown Oyo state will only be taken after experts’ advice, according to Governor Seyi Makinde during phone interview on Fresh FM 105.9 Ibadan, Tuesday, monitored by Bayo Agbaoola. Excerpts.
How are you feeling?
Well, I am okay… feeling okay. Like I posted on my wall yesterday, you all know that I took the test for COVID-19, as I promised and everybody knows what the result was.
Can you confirm to us again. There are those who probably were unable to even access your page yesterday?
Well, the result came out positive. So, I have the virus. I delayed it because I promised that we have to get the diagnostic centre in Ibadan going and once we get it going, I’ll be the first to get tested through that facility. So, the medical team came to my house, where I have been self-isolating, at about 9 o’ clock [PM] on Saturday, March 28, they took my samples. I waited for the result and during this time, of course, I was anxious but I kept busy with some of the work at hand, especially COVID-19.
But we also have other issues that we had to deal with: security and other issues of state, palliatives. What do we do if things get more difficult and challenging? So when the result came out eventually, just yesterday, it was positive. So, we have to deal with it.
On Saturday, you did say that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum asked all governors that attended the last FEC meeting as a precaution to self-isolate since one of the attendees tested positive. Is it fair to say that that could be your likely source of exposure?
Well, the truth is that yes, all governors who attended the National Economic Council meeting, were advised to self-isolate once one of the attendees tested positive. So, based on that advice, I started self-isolating a week ago. In fact, I had to cancel the face-to-face EXCO meeting for Tuesday last week because of that.
Having tested positive, can you describe how you are feeling right now?
Well, I still don’t have any symptoms. As I am talking to you, I can take my body temperature, I have a thermometer and it will read it out to you [temperature is read out by the thermometer as 36.5 degrees Celsius].
But the fact that I have no symptoms is why I have been insisting that people maintain social distancing, follow hygienic practices and stay at home, because we don’t know who you are interacting with. It may be someone with COVID-19 without even knowing it. So, even a gathering of 10, the maximum that I allowed in Oyo state, may still expose you to COVID-19.
The bottom line is; first, this thing is real, second, we have to halt the way we interact with ourselves, at least, until we have a handle on the virus itself.
What do you say to Oyo residents, who still have doubts about the existence and reality of COVID-19?
First, you know we had a rally, I believe two weeks ago and then I have seen the video that has been circulating on social media which is being misinterpreted to mean that I, doubted at any time, the existence of COVID-19. The reality is no, I actually never did. I had used COVID-19 in the same metaphorical way that their APC leader did when they were fighting about their chairmanship and he said, well, the virus has gotten into the party. So, I made a joke out of it [his statement] and the video has been circulating that I said there is no Coronavirus, that it only exists in the APC. Well, it was a metaphor.
But to the good people of Oyo state, I want to say again: COVID-19 is real. So, they must follow all the measures government has put in place to prevent, contain and control this virus. When we say stay at home and maintain social distancing, wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizers, regularly, those are things that we have to do to defeat this virus.
I know how resilient we are as a people, we will defeat it but I do not want any casualty, I don’t want anybody to lose his or her live while we are at this and I don’t also want people to doubt the sincerity of this government. They gave us the opportunity to serve them and that is exactly what we are going to do.
You have mandated Prof Temitope Alonge to replace you as head of Oyo COVID-19 task force as you concentrate on your recovery efforts and personal medication, will this not in any way diminish your determination and efforts at defeating and combating the pandemic in the state?
Well, even though I was head of the COVID-19 Task Force in the state, it’s really not like I was making unilateral decisions or I tried to project myself as the expert. It was a collective effort. I mean, you look at all the members of the Task Force, they were carefully selected due to the positions they are currently occupying or the expertise that they possess. We’ve also been bringing people in to still join it.
Yes, Prof Alonge will be the head of the taskforce, will give daily briefings while I recuperate. However, I will continue to work with the COVID-19 Task Force as head of the Oyo state government. I’m still going to be a part of that meeting, contribute and moderate, where possible and still hold the vision of what we want to do in Oyo state.
So, you are still very much in charge, sir?
Pretty much! I just don’t want them to turn this into a Nollywood centre because I am going to be recording some videos and also some audio materials, to keep the people of Oyo state abreast of what we are doing.
The prevention of the spread of COVID-19 in Oyo state is a joint effort by both stakeholders and everyone in the state. I am saying it clearly to the people of Oyo state, that we will continue to take all necessary actions to ensure that Coronavirus is contained in Oyo state.
And just like they know me as a long-distance runner, I hope the people are listening. If I can outrun and outlast the virus, which I am sure, by God’s grace, I will do, so also will many of our people in Oyo state.
With Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti on total lockdown, as we speak, the calls for total lockdown of Oyo appears to be on the rise. Is the possibility of total lockdown of Oyo imminent?
Everything that can be done to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Oyo state is on the table. We will continue to assess the situation and take additional measures where necessary.
But remember also that my own background is engineering and I kept saying to people that as an engineer, you take decisions that are based on logic and fact. It’s an uncharted territory. We kept on interacting with the experts to find out what are the facts emerging.
Yes, Lagos can be on lockdown, Ogun can be on lockdown, Oyo state, yes, people have been saying have a total lockdown and then I have been asking them questions. What will be the benefits here? Are there alternative courses of action for us to take? If you ask people not to come out, you lock down the market places, there are people who what they sell today – the profit from today’s activities is what they will eat tomorrow. There are plenty people like that within our environment. So, are there alternatives available to us? Can we do selective lockdowns? That’s why I imposed the curfew, to say look irin ti o ba ye ka rin.
I think, everything is on the table but it has to follow a logical pattern and it will need the input of experts. We are not just going to lockdown because everyone is locking down.
I have been watching CNN and the most successful place right now in containing this is the Czech Republic. And one of the things they brought out is that they made a law that if you must leave your house, you must wear a mask. It may be that route for us to go.
I have asked them to start evaluating that. If we must make that law and say everybody that must go out must wear a mask, then, how about those who cannot afford it. Can we make masks locally? Can we get our artisans and our tailors to commit to that with the government supporting? So, those are the type of solutions we are looking for.
I am aware that WHO came out yesterday with a directive that the use of face masks should be limited to those with COVID-19 and should not be a matter of every individual. That is also an issue. I am just trying to bring this up in what you just said.
We are all in an uncharted territory and that is why I pity those people who, rather than reflect deeply on where we are and what we are faced with, they are choosing to play politics with it. It’s people that are alive that will play politics in 2023.
Somebody called me yesterday and said ‘oh, I heard that… I heard about your result blah blah blah’ and then ‘me,’ referring to himself that he is negative. So, I said okay, you are negative now, se corona ti pari ni? This is a long thing. Se corona ti pa ri ni. Eni ti o ba test positive ni sin yi, eni ti o wa negative gan should be careful. We all have to help one another and help our society to chase this and defeat it. That is what I am talking about here.
And to buttress what you said, all ideas, bring the ideas on and we will look at it. But we must follow a pattern, it must be logical. The experts will weigh it. But those are important because that is the only way you can validate decisions that were taken.
Will you confirm whether contact tracing has commenced of individuals, aides, cabinet members, friends that may have been in contact with you since the FEC meeting took place and whether those individuals have also gone into self-isolation?
Yes, I can confirm to you that I took the test the same time as the Secretary to the State Government and when the result came out, they said one tested positive and the other, negative and it turned out to be that I came out positive and she came out negative.
So, everyone that has had contact with me, we are asking them to go into self-isolation and as soon as any of them shows any symptoms, then they get tested.
Finally, what’s your advice and assurance to the people of Oyo state on strict adherence to all government measures; market closures, social distancing, curfew in case there are further measures that you may want to reel out?
Let me assure our people that Oyo state government will continue working with data from the Emergency Operations Centre, and we will do everything in our power to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state. The diagnostic centre, the virology lab of College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, is operational now. It has been accredited by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
We can now test a lot more people. Also, the Infectious Disease Centre at Olodo, with a capacity to take 100 cases, will be fully operational by the end of this week.
I had actually thought after my result yesterday, that it would be the first place I would visit this morning but unfortunately, that won’t happen
So, I want to again, urge everyone in Oyo state to continue to follow the directives of the COVID-19 Task Force and together, by the grace of God, we will defeat this virus and get our economy and our lives back on track.