By John Udumebraye
In a recent newspaper advertisement, the All Progressives Congress (APC), through its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, copiously commended the Governors of Lagos and Rivers States for their successful achievements in containing the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). But when, recently, at the Palace of the Oba of Benin and the Ecumenical Centre in Abuja, President Goodluck Jonathan mentioned the Ebola case as an instance of how, with unity and cooperation, Nigeria can effectively tackle her various challenges, Alhaji Mohammed vilified the president for appropriating the EVD credit to himself.
APC’s grouse is that President Jonathan did not mention “the real heroes of the successful battle: Dr. Stella Adadevoh and her colleagues at the First Consultant Hospital, officials of the Ministries of Health in Lagos and Rivers States… and, especially, the ever-dogged and determined Governors Babatunde Fashola and Rotimi Amaechi”, who are APC Governors. While conceding that the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, exhibited the necessary professionalism and purposefulness in tackling the Ebola outbreak, the APC claims that the Minister’s performance was uncharacteristic of the Jonathan administration and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). APC’s view on this matter is not surprising, as the party has always maintained the position that nothing good ever comes from the Jonathan administration. But Lai Mohammed knows very well that what he has done on the Ebola issue is to call a dog a bad name to hang it. The truth is that President Jonathan has never, at anytime, politicised the Ebola crisis in Nigeria, from its outbreak to containment. Did he not call a special meeting of all state governors to work out strategies on how to tackle the scourge? The president has, at various meetings of the Federal Executive Council, emphasised the urgent need for appropriate measures aimed at preventing the disease, including checks at the nation’s ports of entry, land, sea and air. Indeed, the Federal Government policy on Ebola has resulted in a new nationwide consciousness of hygiene, the washing of hands, precautions on the movement of corpses and general domestic cleanliness.
If President Jonathan wanted to politicise the EVD situation in Nigeria, he certainly, would not have given N200 million each to Lagos and Rivers States which are under the APC, nor would he have given similar forms of support to the other states of the federation, for the purpose of combating the disease. Nigerians know the critical roles performed by the Federal Ministry of Health and the Centre for Disease Control, under the able Minister of Health, Professor Chukwu. These roles were critical in resolving the Ebola crisis. It was the joint and concerted efforts of the Ministry, other arms of the Federal Government, including Aviation and Education as well as various state and local government institutions that led to the success recorded in the fight against the Ebola scourge.
It was this unity and cooperation, in efforts, that President Jonathan referred to when he spoke in Benin and at the Ecumenical centre. His point was that the Ebola case has demonstrated that we need unity and cooperation to be able to tackle the nation’s myriad challenges. He never claimed credit nor attributed the success in containing the scourge solely to the Federal Government nor to the PDP.
While President Jonathan has openly commended the two frontlines states of Lagos and Rivers for their roles in containing the Ebola scourge, that commendation was not, by any means, intended to undervalue the pivotal roles of the federal government. After all, the Federal Ministries of Health, Aviation, Transport, Education and other relevant agencies involved in the Ebola fight, belong to the federal government.
The point, therefore, which must be stated without fear or favour, is that the federal government deserves the bulk of the credit for containing the Ebola scourge, even when President Jonathan, in his usual characteristic modesty, has not said so. Is it not the federal government’s policy on Ebola, its effective advocacy, mobilisation and campaigns that have prevented the disease from surfacing in other parts of the country? So, why should the outcome of these efforts be credited to one or two frontline states?
While the APC may feel that President Jonathan does not deserve credit for the Ebola success, the question to ask is: what if the efforts had failed? Surely, just as the APC has been criticising the president for what the party claims to be failure in resolving the security crisis in the North East, it would have surely crucified him, if the Ebola efforts had failed to yield positive results. That much is the illogicality of the APC position. It holds the federal government culpable when there is failure but withholds the credit from the same government when there is success.