By Sodiq Ayandiji
Last Tuesday’s explosion in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, jolted the historic city out of its peaceful reverie and sent shock waves across the Pacesetter State, which had been adjudge to be one of the safest in the country for quite some time.
The blast, said to have occurred around 7.30 p.m. tested the serenity of the metropolis and left in its wake destruction, sorrow, tears and blood.
With five people reportedly dead and about 77 people hospitalised, though the state governor, ‘Seyi Makinde, revealed that about 60 of those had been discharged as of Wednesday evening, the tragedy no doubt shocked the rest of the country.
But the explosion also did something quite noticeable; it reopened discourse on Nigeria’s preparation and management of situations, while also clearly confirming the excellent leadership qualities of the Oyo State governor.
Not a few people have commended the remarkable way the Oyo State government has handled things in the aftermath of the explosion, with hundreds in the social and conventional media giving thumbs up to the state governor, Seyi Makinde.
These accolades have been trailing Governor Makinde’s actions following the rapid response of the state government less than an hour after the explosion on Dejo Oyelese Street, Adeyi Avenue, Ibadan. Eye witnesses in Ibadan have alluded to the fact that the arrival of security agencies in the axis was unprecedented. Many of them, including those who spoke on national television, have also commended the search and rescue efforts and the promptness of medical attention for victims of the explosion.
A former Chief Medical Director of the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Prof. Temitope Alonge, had also confirmed the state’s well-detailed medical response in a press conference held by the governor. But I had only taken this with a pinch of salt until I heard and watched supposed victims and residents of the affected area confirming and commending the government over how it has handled the issue of care for the victims through free and prompt medical attention in private and state hospitals and the security of their property from hoodlums.
For those who know a little about emergencies, it is often said that the first few hours are the most important. Emergency experts have also explained that there are three Cs in an emergency, which are checking, calling and caring and all the three components have to do with rescue, care and security. In these three areas, Governor Makinde appeared to have ticked all the right boxes.
The governor had started off with his prompt arrival at the scene of the tragedy and the immediate declaration of free medical treatment for all victims. Victims were moved to private and government hospitals as well as the University College Hospital, Ibadan, where the state had reportedly lined up over 100 medical personnel.
Governor Makinde had also followed this up with the declaration of free accommodation and feeding for victims who were displaced, with all victims around the vicinity of the blast accommodated in different hotels in the city, which were visited by the governor on Wednesday, when he reassured them that the government would cater to their wellbeing.
In a bid to coordinate all interventions and responses to the crisis, the governor had immediately set up an Emergency Operation Centre, which has as Lead a former Chief Medical Director of the University College Hospital, Ibadan, while a former Commissioner of Police in Lagos and Benue states and Special Adviser on Security to the governor, Mr. Fatai Owoseni as well as other critical security stakeholders are members.
Those close to the affected area noted that the rapid presence of security operatives was unprecedented and that their permanent location in the axis has forestalled a breakdown of order and prevented miscreants who might have ravaged the remains of the estate to loot valuables.
It is also worthy of note that in line with the governor’s proactive leadership, different sophisticated earth-moving equipment never thought to exist in the state surfaced within hours of the explosion. 48 hours after the tragedy, search and rescue operations continued at the site, with the governor noting that the efforts would not be stopped until all lives within the affected area were accounted for.
For a long time, I have watched, read and heard of the proactive and people-centred leadership being provided by Governor Makinde in Oyo State. But I had always been quick to dispel the accolades as political sycophancy and some sort of pandering by hungry individuals seeking crumbs from the state governor. However, the immediate steps taken by the governor in the aftermath of the explosion and the words on the street about his proactive reaction to the crisis may have changed my view. I must, like most Twitter users and other Nigerians have noted, give it to the governor for approaching the tragedy with courage and rising above its rubble to give hope to Nigerians.
Governor Makinde, through his decisive and deliberate actions in the areas of search and rescue, medical attention and security, reminds one of the days of COVID-19 when Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos State governor, rose above fears and limitations to lead a massive charge against the pandemic. Though during the same period, Gov Makinde had shown Nigerians the place of courage in leadership by taking bold decisions, sometimes even against the run of play, many people including myself, gave the laurels to the Lagos State governor.
With the series of actions following Tuesday’s explosion, however, Makinde has proven that he is not an accidental leader and that the courage displayed in the days of COVID-19 was not a happenstance.
In what seemed to be a justification of Homer’s assertion in the epic poem, Odyssey, that a bold man is better at all things, Governor Makinde has demonstrated that courageous leadership can shine through in any situation.
At some point, it was Makinde taking bold initiatives in governance and bringing about positive results across different sectors. At another point, it was the governor standing firm on what he believed regarding constitution reform and succeeding with others to bring about Amotekun. Today, it is about the Pacesetter State governor setting pace in the area of emergency management, showing others how to handle emergency situations and mitigate losses of life and property.
Only God knows in which area Makinde will shine tomorrow, but wherever he goes and whatever he does, he has shown beyond a reasonable doubt that leadership can work in Nigeria if leaders can display uncommon boldness.
Ayandiji writes from Igboho, Oyo State.