Sanwo-Olu: A governor as crisis manager



In the midst of challenges, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu continues to show that he is made of sterner stuff.  In February, an Italian who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan, Italy to Lagos, Nigeria, was the first to be diagnosed with the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, in the country.

More new cases of the novel disease were confirmed in Lagos yesterday, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the state to 19. As things stand, the Lagos State government, according to a report, “now has more than 1,300 contacts to trace and the numbers of contacts to trace are increasing by the day.”

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announced yesterday morning: “Till date, twenty-five (25) cases have been confirmed, two cases have been discharged and there has been no death from COVID-19 in Nigeria.”

As at yesterday, there were 26 confirmed coronavirus cases in Nigeria, which was the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to record the coronavirus since its outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019.  The coronavirus has spread to more than 20 countries of the world.  Sadly, the situation has worsened in Nigeria.

Lagos is the most hit, but the Sanwo-Olu administration has demonstrated that it is on top of the situation. Indeed, other states are following the example of Lagos to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

Last week,   Sanwo-Olu “directed immediately the suspension of gatherings of not more than 50 people.”  Promoting “social distancing,” the state government later announced that it had “banned all religious or social gathering of over 20 people within the state.”

Sanwo-Olu also announced “the closure of all our public and private schools in Lagos State with effect from Monday, March 23, 2020. All our tertiary institutions are hereby also directed to shut down immediately.”

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The governor added that “gatherings around our event centres and clubs, both day clubs and night clubs, bars etc. are also affected by this directive. We must learn from other examples in South Korea and Singapore. Disease spread largely through gatherings both at religious and other spheres.”

It is noteworthy that the Federal Government has placed travel restrictions on entries into the country from 15 countries with high numbers of coronavirus cases: China, Iran, South Korea, Germany, Italy, the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, France, Japan, Sweden and Austria.  In addition, the country announced suspension of its visa-on-arrival policy.

The Federal Government’s decision to shut down the country’s international airports to curb the spread of the coronavirus is logical, considering the fact that most of the confirmed coronavirus cases had entered the country from overseas locations.

After announcing that three international airports, Mallam Aminu Kano Airport, Kano State, Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu State and the Port Harcourt Airport, Rivers State would be closed till further notice, the government had added the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, which it had initially said would be open to flights not from the 15 coronavirus high-risk countries.

The coronavirus pandemic has shown the vulnerability of every country in the global village, which means that COVID-19 could still have entered Lagos and Abuja from other countries not considered coronavirus high-risk countries.


Significantly, the World Health Organisation (WHO) underlined the nature of the coronavirus crisis by declaring it a pandemic. Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) António Guterres reinforced the characterisation in a statement.  “We are facing a health threat unlike any other in our lifetimes,” he said, adding, “countries have a responsibility to gear up, step up and scale up.”

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According to the statistics, the coronavirus has infected more than 275,000 people worldwide, there have been more than 11, 000 deaths, and 88,000 victims have recovered. Symptoms of the disease are runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, and breathlessness in severe cases.

This is the situation Sanwo-Olu has to deal with, and his response has been commendable. The proactive social measures introduced by his administration show that he is conscious of the gravity of the coronavirus crisis as well as the urgent need to take action to combat the disease. Importantly, he continues to demonstrate that his administration has a duty to check the coronavirus just as individuals also have a responsibility to ensure that the disease does not continue to spread.

While he grappled with the COVID-19 challenge, Governor Sanwo-Olu’s capacity for crisis management was again highlighted by his response to another crisis situation last week when a devastating explosion happened at Abule Ado in Amuwo Odofin local government area of Lagos State, killing more than 20 people and destroying about 50 buildings. The March 15 blast was said to have occurred “after a truck hit some gas cylinders stacked in a gas processing plant.”

At the explosion site the following day, Sanwo-Olu announced that his administration had set up a N2 billion Abule Ado/Soba Emergency Relief Fund for the victims. He also said the state government had donated N250 million to the fund and appealed for support.

It is worth mentioning that when the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr Ebenezer Onyeagwu, visited the governor and donated N100 million to the fund, he described the response of the Lagos State government  to the incident as “quick, rapid and immediate.”

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Lagos State, which is Nigeria’s commercial capital, was in 2015 listed 12th among the world’s largest 35 cities. With more than 23 million people, the city has to grapple with mega challenges.  On account of its mega status, Lagos State is exposed to “chronic stresses” and “acute shocks.”

“Chronic stresses,” which are said to “weaken the fabric of a city on a day-to-day or cyclical basis,” include “high unemployment, inefficient public transportation systems, endemic violence, and chronic food and water shortages.”

“Acute shocks,” which are described as “sudden, sharp events that threaten a city,” include “earthquakes, floods, disease outbreaks, and terrorist attacks.”

Lagos is faced with resilience challenges, including chronic energy shortages, coastal flooding, disease outbreak, infrastructure failure, overpopulation, overtaxation, underdevelopment, poor and unreliable transportation system, rainfall flooding, rising sea level and coastal erosion.

However, as the Sanwo-Olu administration approaches its first anniversary in May, there is no doubt that it is on course. The point is that, under Governor Sanwo-Olu, Lagos is surviving and thriving, regardless of the challenge. It reflects the governor’s dynamism, and his elasticity to manage change and challenges.




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