INTERVIEW: COVID-19 Crisis Requires Humanitarian Contributions From Every Well-to-do Individual – Basiru.

by Adabanija Kamorudeen

INTERVIEW: COVID-19 Crisis Requires Humanitarian Contributions From Every Well-to-do Individual – Basiru

Dr Ajibola Basiru is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Diasporas, Non Governmental Organisations and Civil Societies. He speaks with OSUN DEFENDER on why some people needed to insinuate that he contracted COVID-19 and what is expected of politicians and other well-meaning Nigerians in the face of the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic.

Excerpts: Why did you isolate…”

Dr Ajibola Basiru is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Diasporas, Non Governmental Organisations and Civil Societies. He speaks with OSUN DEFENDER on why some people needed to insinuate that he contracted COVID-19 and what is expected of politicians and other well-meaning Nigerians in the face of the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic.

Excerpts: Why did you isolate yourself
​after returning from the
​United Kingdom?

It’s not about me; it is in compliance with the requirements of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). We are in a pandemic; every traveller from any of the high-risk countries was advised to self isolate for at least 14 days, compulsorily. I only did what every right-thinking individual should do and what was expected of me.

How did you feel when some people insinuated that you had contracted COVID-19, and as a result you were quarantined in Abuja?

It made me understand that Nigerians are not used to responsible and honest citizens not to talk of leaders, the NCDC made it compulsory for every traveller to observe self-isolation and there was no need for me to put others at risk of getting the virus if I had been infected, so hearing all of that made me realize that we have a long way to go as a people first, and we must change that sad trend. Also, it is stock-in-trade of some ill-motivated people to spin false and negative stories against others, particularly some of us they consider high-flying politicians. The lies were so spinned that all of our supporters and sympathisers were distressed and were calling and sending messages. The positive side of this is that it showed we have genuine admirers across the state. I express gratitude to all those that called or sent messages of goodwill. I am hale and hearty.

It was insinuated that your period of absence from the State of Osun is unusually long, thereby arousing suspicion of infection. How would you react to this?

I was never infected. It is mere falsehood. I travelled in March from Abuja to the U.K. I went for a seminar; just before the COVID-19 cases skyrocketed. I returned when everywhere was almost deserted and unsettled. I had to be in self-isolation for 14 days in Abuja. There was no reason for me to have travelled down to Osogbo immediately. Imagine if I had been truly infected and then travelled to Osogbo, that means I would have infected my family and associates which is not only unfair to those affected but to the State Government that would be saddled with the responsibility of treatment of those infected. After my self-isolation, there had been lockdown in Abuja and Osun. There is no way I could travel down.

As Chairman of Senate Committee on Diasporas, NGO and Civil Societies, what is the update on the evacuation of stranded Nigerians abroad in the face of the COVID-19 crisis?

The issue is still being looked into. There is need to balance the need for evacuation and stemming the tide of the pandemic in Nigeria.

There are allegations that political office holders in the state are not responsive enough to the plight of the people during the lockdown. What do you have to say on this?

I cannot speak for everyone as I do not know what palliative plans they have or they have implemented. I can only speak about myself. This situation is not a political crisis, so there is little or no need for political interventions. What is expected is humanitarian contributions from every well-to-do individual in the society. As a Muslim, it is not permissible to publicize what you do in certain circumstances and this is one of them, because this is catering for the poorest of the poor and the indigents and in my capacity, I am doing what I can, without noise and I will continue to do my best.

What is your intervention on the effort to curtail the spread of Coronavirus and what have you done to cushion the effects of the lockdown on your constituents in Osun?

The characterisation of intervention required at this time by the Constituency Office is that of humanity and not political grandstanding. My constituency office is aware of the biting economic reality that the lockdown will foist on our people. The office is also conscious of the fact that its charitable intervention should focus on the vulnerable as the office has no resources to reach the over one million people in the constituency.

Before this unfortunate development, the Ajibola BasiruConstituency Office had in its database vulnerable people and aged people who usually benefit from the charitable gestures of the office. Therefore, before the lockdown commenced, the office got across to most of these people unsolicited in their hundreds with food palliatives that can really feed a family of four for some days. In addition, before the lockdown order was announced, the office set up the SRJ Situation Report Centre with helpline phone numbers where our people have been calling to make requests to cushion the effects of the biting sit-at-home order and we have been intervening in our capacity. The lines are still ringing till now. As is characteristic of us, we will actively continue to support our constituents and in particular as this humanitarian issue is coinciding with commencement of Ramadan.

How would you describe the state of Nigeria’s health system and what should be done to improve it?

I always insist that Nigeria is not a rich country and that is why our health system is not one of the best in Africa which should not be. I must commend our health workers for doing their absolute best to contain this virus. There is a need to have a total overhaul of the system. That is a step in the right direction, if going forward is desirable.

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