Babajide Sanwo-Olu is the Governor of Lagos State. Andrew Cuomo is the Governor of New York. What New York is to the United States of America, Lagos State is to Nigeria. The two states may not be the capital of their respective countries, but they are both the economic nerve centres and commercial capitals of their nations. As the most populous states and hub of business, when these two states sneeze, their nations catch cold. Even their continents shudder with pneumonia.
However, these two nations now face very different socio-economic reality in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic. While one State is standing and fighting, another is trembling and mourning. Lagos has produced 126 deaths from 9,323 cases, but in New York, 24,800 residents have died from 390,000 confirmed cases as at June 25, 2020.
Without gainsaying, it is a given that places like New York and Lagos are very vulnerable to epidemics and pandemic owing to high influx of people coming into those places from various ports in the state. Just like New York, Lagos is a melting pot where practically all tribes on earth are represented.
The thing is this: Lagos was the first to produce the index case of Coronavirus between the two states. New York produced its first case from a woman who came back from Iran on March 1. But four days earlier, February 27, Lagos had recorded the first case of Coronavirus in the state and country at large.
However, nearly a month later, the metropolitan area of New York was the worst-affected in the United States of America, with its medical infrastructure overtaxed. By April, the city had more confirmed coronavirus cases than China, UK or Iran. By May, it had recorded more cases than any country other than the United States.
The marked difference that proved critical in the war against COVID-19 in the two states was the government response, especially in the early days of Coronavirus in their states. While one state left nothing to chance and like we say in Nigeria, leaving no stone unturned, to protect its people even if it meant making hard choices like shutting down the economy, another government was in a tango with her Federal Government over the shortage in supply of essential materials to battle the virus.
Again, there was a major twist to the battle against the Coronavirus pandemic in the case of New York and Lagos. On March 2, de Blasio, the Mayor of New York, tweeted that people should ignore the virus and “go on with your lives + get out on the town despite Coronavirus”.
At a press conference on March 3, New York City Commissioner of Health, Oxiris Barbot, said: “We are encouraging New Yorkers to go about their everyday lives.” On March 4, Barbot again said: “There’s no indication that being in a car, being in the subways with someone who’s potentially sick is a risk factor.” New York City Councilmen Robert Holden and Eric Ulrich wrote to Mayor de Blasio asking him to relieve Barbot of her position. History will not forgive her.
But on March 7, Cuomo declared a state of emergency in New York State after 89 cases had been confirmed in the state, 70 of them in Westchester County, 12 in New York City, and seven elsewhere. By this time, the girl child had entered into the market naked. It was an effort that was too little, too late.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu however chose to err on the side of caution. The government shut down the economy when push came to shove, guided by the maxim that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Let’s look at the figures again: Lagos State 126 deaths, New York 24,800 deaths.
Some have argued that Lagos State should not have shut down the economy as the COVID-19 cases have still risen and are over 9,000 at the moment. But if we had not gone on lockdown, maybe we would be in the region of 390,000 confirmed cases like New York.
If it is possible to go back in time to February 2020, the New York Government would have taken proactive steps like Lagos and not underestimated the threat. If it were possible to switch places, the New York Governor will not mind having to manage just 9,000 COVID 19 patients compared to 390,000.
While it is not yet Uhuru and the danger has not passed, but by rising to the occasion, Governor Sanwo-Olu has not only saved Lagosians but even the rest of the country. History will not forget him. That is the hallmark of leadership
And on this note, we say a very Happy Birthday to the Incident Commander of Coronavirus in Lagos State, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. May the rest of your life be the best of your life sir.
. Jedidiah is of the Office of the Secretary to the Lagos State Government.