Engr. Ifeoluwa Oyedele is an electrical engineer and political associate of President Muhammadu Buhari.In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, Oyedele who designed the logo of the ruling All ProgressivesCongress (APC) spoke on latest developments in the polity with focus on the COVID-19 Pandemic. Excerpts:
So far, are you impressed with the measures taken so far by the federal government in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic in the country?
I’m more than impressed with the efforts of the federal government so far. The United Nations Secretary- General and the World Health Organisation has commended the efforts of the federal and some of the state governments in Nigeria in the way they have handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Nigeria is perhaps the first country to convert a stadium into an isolation centre, fully equipped with hospital beds and other facilities. Nigeria is perhaps the first country to convert a functional hotel into an isolation centre.
We all can see what Onikan Stadium in Lagos has become, we also can see what Agura hotel in Abuja has become; we also can see what the Sani Abacha stadium in Kano has become, with about 200-300 beds.
This is unique. It shows that Nigeria is far ahead of other nations. It shows that what we lacked in amenities is nothing compared to what we have in human capital resource. I just want to commend President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders for efforts put in so far.
I have heard silly talks from some people who said ‘Oh, it is because they don’t know the number of people who have the virus’. Amongst us, in Nigeria daily, we know the number of people who died. So, if there are increases in the number of people who are sick and died, we will know. Rather than being cynical, we should commend the efforts of the federal government and some of the state governments in what they have done. They deserve the applause of not just Nigerians but the entire world.
With daily reports of new cases of COVID-19, do you think President Buhari should extend the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and FCT?
I think we should have one extra week of lockdown so that we can be absolutely certain that we have cleared all of the doubts about those who have been infected or not. I’m not impressed certain sets of people who are criticising the lockdown.
We know it hurts businesses but the reality is that it is not peculiar to Nigeria. All over the world, people are being hurt. The bulk of the world citizens earn their daily bread on the hour. But is it not better for us to stay alive to be able to earn that daily bread again than for all of us to be dead? I received a video of what is happening in New York and it is really pathetic.
In the last 24 hours, over 2,000 people have died in New York. Today, mosques and churches are being turned into morgues in a city as advanced as New York.
The truth of the matter is, unless we stop this, the life of every one of us is in danger. These daily incomes can only be generated by those who are alive. If the lives of everybody are destroyed, what will be our gain? I’m appealing to Nigerians to persevere the more. We know many people are going through hard times and that is why some of us have extended widows mite to some of our neighbours and the less privileged. In Ondo state where I come from,
I am targeting 18,000 families. As an individual, I have distributed food items and cash to people, especially the women. These are what we as Africans are known for; we are our brothers’ keepers. I want to encourage other public-spirited Nigerians to do the same.
I think the enormous money that has been donated by the private sector, a substantial part of it should be used to alleviate the suffering of the average Nigerians in support of what the federal and some of the state governments are doing.
The leadership of the National Assembly has faulted the implementation of Social Investment Programme (SIP) by the federal government. Some Nigerians have also faulted the modalities involved in distributing stimulus packages to poor Nigerians. Do you think the process has been transparent enough?
I am not sure it is about faulting the programme; it is about improving what is being done. I want us to see criticism and such interventions as aiming to improve a system. Even in my home, sometimes I take some decisions and my wife disagrees with me and feels we should have done it a better way. For me, I think it’s a normal human process of improving lives.
I’m sure those who are in charge have noted this and they will employ better methods of reaching the downtrodden. Somebody suggested that government should have used it as a way of ensuring that those without bank accounts are banked. However, we must also understand the times that we are in.
The banks are currently not functioning and if you ask the underbanked who are in the majority to go and open accounts in the banks, they will need things like confirmation of their identity; passport photographs, exchange documents in the banks and so on.
The crowd will be so unprecedented and one may get infections through some of these documents. So, people have to understand that we are in a very difficult period and that things that normally work, may not work at this particular time. As somebody said, this COVID-19 is the most democratic virus that we have ever had. It knows no age, gender; it respects no religion, tribe, economic level or financial status and so on.
We are fighting an invisible enemy. It is not even restricted to any tribe or any demographic definition one can ever think of. So, I think we need to give people who are in charge of these things the opportunity to see what people are saying and to improve on what they are doing.
President Idriss Deby of Chad last week led his army against Boko Haram insurgents. Some Nigerians are calling on President Buhari to do same having promised to lead the war from the front before he was elected in 2015. What is your take on that?
With all due respect, I think a lot of people talk from the position of ignorance. It was President Muhammadu Buhari, immediately he assumed office in 2015 brought all the Heads ofState of the region, including Chad, Togo, Benin Republic, Niger, Cameroun to come together to form the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in order to deal with Boko Haram. Now, you will also have read that a couple of raids have been carried out by the military through air and land raids.
These must have driven the Boko Haram insurgents to neighbouring countries. I am sure that those neighbouring countries like Chad must have been alerted before this action was carried out. So, it was in reaction to that that President Deby of Chad led his own forces to act so that Boko Haram will not have a way of escape, knowing that they are being bombed on the Nigerian end.
That is what has resulted in what is happening. I also read a press release this morning by the Chadian government talking about some of the false news that has been going around. This fight against the insurgents has been carried out in the most professional way by the federal government led by ‘General’ Muhammadu Buhari. Nobody else could have done what he has done and we really need to commend him.
There are some people who make jokes about Boko Haram being technically defeated. That is the truth. They have been technically defeated even though they have made some attacks against soft targets but that is different from what we have in the past when they were overrunning Nigerians; when people cannot live in Abuja, Kano, Kaduna or even in Kogi State. I remember that a church was bombed in Suleja, Niger state during Christmas then.
That is why I said those saying the President has not done enough in the war against insurgency are talking from the position of ignorance and this government shouldn’t be distracted by those talks.