…..Lauds Govt Efforts On COVID-19 Pandemic
By Richard Thomas, Ibadan
Dr Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu was Minister of Communications of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari. The legal luminary who hails from Saki in Oke-Ogun axis of Oyo State, in this interview with our correspondent, RICHARD THOMAS, speaks on the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Seyi Makinde’s government and other sundry issues.
I want to engage you on the issue of COVID-19 pandemic. Would you say you are satisfied with the way government at all levels in Nigeria are addressing the issue of the coronavirus pandemic?
I want to start from the point of view of the COVID-19 which is an entirely different new phenomenon not only in Nigeria but in the whole world.
Before now, we have never had any thing of such and before now there has never been any methodology of treating it.
Also, before now there has never been vaccines or drugs for the virus, people are just learning about how to handle it .
And to a large extent I want to commend the Nigeria Governments on their efforts, so far so good. Because if you look at Nigeria’s population it is well over 200 million and when you look at the fatalities we have had so far and compare that with some other countries with much more lesser population against the fatalities of those other countries, you know that tells you that the Nigerian governments have been living up to expectations.
“I’m not saying that government has been perfect in the management but it is a learning process, and am happy that on a daily basis we keep getting reports about how government is managing this new challenge. And I want to say that the challenge is not for government alone even Nigerians must appreciate that it is in their own best interest to comply with government regulations. It is one thing for government to give guidance as to how we will manage it, you would agree with me that many Nigerians still do not believe that COVID-19 is a real thing that needs all the attention and that is why you find a lot of people asking government to lift the lockdown.
If you look at the experience of Ghana that lifted their lockdown due to the pressures from their people, within 10 days there was a great spread in the numbers of the infected cases and I believe that it should be a great lessons for Nigerians to learn from. It is either for Nigerians to tolerate the lockdown in our interest so that the spread of COVID-19 could be stemmed or we continue with our licentious living and denial of the rampaging manner of the spread of COVID-19.
Oyo State never went on total lockdown like some other states did and they still have high cases of infected persons, what do you think is the fate of the state?
Well, I want to also say that so far so good it is not only Oyo State that did not go on a total lockdown. As a matter of fact, the Federal Government only imposed lockdown on three state which are Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states. Many other states have had one measure of lockdown or the other which have not not been total lockdown. More particularly, these states have only had partial lockdown and curfew.
And I think if you again compare the statistics in Oyo State with those of many other states, am not saying we are not doing the best yet like I said, it is a learning process but I think governments have been doing their best and what I have to say is if we want to assist government and ourselves we must obey the rules and regulations by the NCDC. Also, we must take every preventive measure to make sure we stay safe.
In the case of Kano State some are saying the death cases over there has nothing to do with COVID-19 pandemic. What is your take on that?
My take is to believe what the experts say. We have not heard a final conclusion on the investigation from the experts on the course of the recent deaths. It will be irresponsible of me to agree or disagree outright without any accurate fact to support one side or the other.
China just invented 5G Mask which some are saying is hazardous to health. As a communication expert what is your view on this?
Well, I am not a technical expert on communication but I can say that I am an administrator of the communication industry. There is no scientific fact to back up the claim that 5G will necessarily constitute health hazard. 5G is just an advancement from G1. We have had G2 and G means generation 1,2,3,4 and G5. I hope one day we are going to have G6 and G10, may be in our life time or not in our life time. But the campaign against China Progress about 5G is really more of jealousy by the Americans. America has been the leader of technology over the years, but they have not been able to do as china is doing it successfully. Because they know that this will have a lot of economic impact on Americans.
President Trump irresponsibly tried to create politics out of it, so I believe that the world must continue to advance. So, technology will continue to progress and it is for the benefit of all, only If you know the potential that G5 would have in our lives.
You once said you were on isolation. Did you get infected or come in contact with somebody with COVID-19?
I never had it, it was an initiative that I felt, because the awareness we heard about Coronavirus today is not what we used to have in the past. When it started I felt I need to stay at home for two weeks to see whether I got infected, particularly because I was coming in from Abuja where we do have a lot of social engagements. Thank God I never had the virus and wouldn’t pray for my enemies to have it.
How would assess the government of Engr. Seyi Makinde?
So far so good I don’t belong to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), I belong to the All Progressive Congress (APC) but I am very objective when I see any good thing in the opposition. I will not deny those things I can see happening in Oyo State. Thank God I know that we used to have civil servants not getting paid in the last government but that has become a thing of the past.
There were times when school children were not able to attend classes when parent had to pay fees in public schools. I know a lot of people who still couldn’t afford it. In fact, if I were the governor, certainly education will be completely free in consonant with the real progressive tendency as we inherited it from our late hero, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Today ironically, you have a PDP governor abolishing school fees at the primary and secondary levels. I am happy about that because the ultimate beneficiary are the people who can’t afford to pay school fees. Those who can afford school fees send their children to private school where they pay heavily.
There are so many private primary and secondary schools whose fees are more than the university fees in public institution but the average people can afford to go to those schools. So, if we have someone coming to promote education I will be happy and I will not say because we belong to different political parties I should deny that. Again another thing which got me fascinated is the fact that all Oyo State citizens who are in the Law School this year were given bursary awards of 500 thousand per student at least.
In the past at least I have sponsored about fifteen people to law school and I know what it means. So, if you have a governor coming in to do that of course the burden on me will be reduced. These are some of the things I think are commendable, and it is my prayer that Engr. Seyi Makinde will join APC so that he would be one in the midst of the real progress.
What is your intention in politics, are you still aspiring for governorship position?
Governorship is not the only position in politics and it is too early in the day for me to have any political ambition in 2023. 2013 is still three years from now. If God has plan A for me and I am pursuing plan B, would I not be wasting my time?
So, as far as am concerned and as I am talking to you honestly, I don’t have any ambition politically for 2023. I want God to guide me and I know he will guide me before then. Today ‘am facing my legal practice and my general politics of the commentator on public issues that Is why you are here.
Do you still remain a card-carrying member of APC?
Of course, YES, I never announced my withdrawal from the party since I came into APC with my leader and mentor President Muhammdu Buhari. Of course, some people wish to get me exited from APC but I will continue to disappoint them
What is the relationship between you and the President?
He is my leader and mentor. At least, the person that made me minister of Federal Republic of Nigerians. Otherwise I would have not become minister in life . So if I have somebody who brought me into government as a minister, it is the best of relationship and I am very appreciative of what he has done .
Like I told him in the last executive meeting we had during our valedictory service I said” Mr president before you appointed me as a minister I was a local champion in Oyo State. Today by the grace of God and by the virtue of your appointment to me I became an international figure I appreciate you and I will continue to appreciate you.