By Abdulateef Usman Abiodun
“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” — John F. Kennedy, 35th U.S. president.
All over history, the negativity of wars, pandemics, natural disasters and so on have not stopped some special men and women from coming out of the rubble as a heroes. They would display sterling leadership skills and qualities that will ultimately win the laurel in the heart of the people.
In Nigeria, the management of the Coronavirus disease, COVID-19; a global health crisis, will make or break many political leaders at the time of political reckoning. Many people do erroneously see leadership as a comfort of sort, which can be enjoyed in normal times while in the actual sense, it is the trying times that defines leaders of repute. One of such leaders that has displayed sterling leadership skill in the effective management of the Coronavirus disease outbreak is Governor Isiaka Gboyega Oyetola of the State of Osun.
The novel coronavirus pandemic may be the largest test of political leadership the world has ever witnessed. Globally, every leader is batting the same potential threat, but their responses to this threat differs which the results will be the yardstick upon which they would be judged.
Leaders who have succeeded in navigating any crisis recognized that effective management blends static, core values of crisis management with dynamic adjustments to meet their own personal needs and those of the workforce during critical incidents. Successful leadership, however, relies on a manager’s adaptive capacity, described as “an almost magical ability to transcend adversity, with all its attendant stresses, and to emerge stronger than before.”
Because of the proximity of Osun State to Lagos and Oyo states, Osun was one of the earliest states where coronavirus was recorded in Nigeria. Nonetheless, today, Osun is one of the states with the least active cases. From 42 confirmed cases to 6 active cases as at the update released by the state government on 16th of May.
The question that might run through an average mind is: how did Osun contain and effectively manage the virus? The answer is simple. It was due to the foresight and proactiveness of the Governor Oyetola-led administration. For instance, out of 127 Ivory Coast returnees, who came to the state in April, 17 tested positive to COVID-19. On arrival into the state, the returnees were immediately isolated at the State Isolation Centre in Ejigbo, where their samples were collected and sent for testing at the NCDC accredited Testing Centre in Ede, where 17 results returned positive. The patients were, however, treated and discharged by the state government after testing negative twice to the virus.
Governor Oyetola took a decisive step that helped contain COVID-19 from spreading to the communities in the state. If the returnees were allowed to mingle freely, the story today would have been different. Despite the attempt to play crude politics with the situation by some mischievous elements, the governor remained undeterred. Even when a certain man went overboard to say COVID-19 patients are being imported into the state, upon his arrest and arraignment, Governor Oyetola pardoned him and ordered his release out of his magnanimity and compassion.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, governance wasn’t suspended. One of such examples was the returning to site by major road constructors handling projects across the state, immediately the lockdown was relaxed few weeks ago. Same goes for other critical projects.
As at today, there are five state-of-the-art isolation centre in the State of Osun. One may ask, what is the need for more isolation centres when there are few active cases in the state. To me, this is part of the ingenuity of Oyetola.
Also, the state and the 21-man Food and Relief Committee of Eminent Nigerians constituted by Governor Oyetola distributed palliatives to the vulnerable groups across the state to cushion the effects of the total lockdown imposed by the state government; a measure to contain the spread of coronavirus in the state. All these are a product of the dynamic governance of Governor Oyetola.
It is often said that there are two occasions when most organizations assess their bosses: times of success and times of crisis. But these are exactly the wrong moments to do so. Nobody is solely responsible for these extreme peaks and valleys – there’s nearly always an element of randomness. What’s really important is what the leader does during the quiet moments in between. Leaders reveal themselves through a series of small, calculated and precautionary moves. If you’re not looking for those tells, you’re most certain to miss them.
One lesson from the coronavirus is that we need leaders who averted crises more than we need managers who scramble to handle them. On some glorious day in the future, when the COVID-19 pandemic has been controlled and contained, it will be time to hand out trophies. The recipients may include scores of medical professionals, business executives, political leaders and so on. So, in essence, COVID-19 is a Leadership Test. The results will be different for many leaders. It will come back as negative for some and positive for many.
Unlike the virus, when the results of the “leadership test” comes for people like Governor Oyetola, it will surely be positive.
*Comrade Abiodun; a journalist, is Osun State coordinator of The Patriotic Writers and writes from Osogbo via firstname.lastname@example.org.