Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu

Practicing Hope: The Small Miracles in Unprecedented Times

Dear Lagosians,

Much adversity has led us to become the people we are today. Adversity has taught us resilience, helped us find opportunities in the most challenging of situations. From twilight to sundown, we find small victories in our rich, diverse, complex city. As we navigate through life’s uncertainties, I take courage from our refusal to be cowed by anything.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it now appears we are facing our most daunting challenge yet. This virus has the power to reach anyone no matter how old they are, or what tribe, status or political affiliation they cling to. There is no tangible logic to how it has spread, no logical way to predict the havoc it continues to wreak within our communities.  So, we all must unite and show ruthless resolve as we fight it. 

I am optimistic we can slow the spread of the virus. So far, we have a total of 623 recovered patients, proving that we are a people who refuse to accept defeat on any terms. Not even a pandemic can change that. We might have to make serious sacrifices to get the win we want, but isn’t that what we have always done? We have always evolved to meet whatever challenge set in front of us. That adaptability is what defines us as a city, it is the core driver of the industrious market women of Lagos Island, the market associations, the Iyalojas, the innovators of Yabacon valley and Computer Village, the BRT and Danfo Drivers that keep our city on the move. It drives our students, drivers, bankers, clerks, the civil servants who run our state agencies. It, especially, defines the groundbreaking work from our brave public health professionals on the front lines of this war who put themselves at risk to protect, serve and provide for Lagosians. I am tremendously inspired and proud of all us thus far. But my belief in us does not ignore the dire reality of what we face. There is a lot ahead of us. 

At 11pm on Monday, 30th March, 2020, we implemented the directive by the President of the Federal republic of Nigeria to restrict movement in Lagos for 14 days, and on Monday, 13th April, 2020, we extended this curfew as directed for another 14 days. In a Presidential address on Monday, 27 April, 2020, the lock down was lifted partially, and the state government went on to establish guidelines for the implementation of this directive, taking effect from Monday, 4th May, 2020. We don't know how long before life as we knew it is restored. What we do know is we must prepare adequately and arm ourselves with the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations aimed at limiting the spread of the virus. We can prepare if Nigerians who return to the country from foreign visits adhere to the WHO directive to self-isolate for 14 days. We can prepare by keeping our homes sanitized. We can prepare by starting now, finding a rhythm that works for us within the directives of the NCDC. Like a fire drill, we must become acquainted with the necessary steps required to control this pandemic. Practice with hope, accurate information sharing and active listening; practice with humility; practice by demonstrating resilience, effectiveness, and leadership. 

As we grapple with this extraordinary crisis, I encourage everyone to remain positive. It can be difficult, as the media bombards us with words and images that paint a picture of a world in collapse. It can be difficult financially, which is why we have secured commitments from the Central Bank of Nigeria and the National Economic Council to cushion as much as is practicable the economic implications of the disease through special welfare packages. It can be difficult psychologically because many people benefit from having a clear structure and routine; it allows them create clear separations between work and life. Many businesses thrive on people leaving their own homes every day. It can be difficult, but we must use this time to reacquaint ourselves with introspection and work towards being more self-aware. We all have areas of our lives that we can improve. Let us use this time to spark joy for the future.

I take every opportunity I get as a governor to listen to your opinions on how we can improve our society. Whenever I am briefed on a developing story, I focus my energies on ways for everyone involved to emerge stronger, more formidable and more compassionate.  It is why the Lagos State Government (LASG) has been able to achieve the following thus far:

  • Restricted travel to and from Lagos across air, road and sea
  • Signed the Lagos State Infectious Disease Regulation 2020 into Law to give legal backing to the ongoing enforcements developed to curtail the spread of the virus
  • Taken delivery of and deployed several branded vehicles within the metropolis as an advocacy tool 
  • Disinfected and sterilized all public spaces and surfaces
  • Collaborated with GTBank and constructed a 110-bed isolation facility in the main bowl of the Mobolaji Olufunsho Johnson Stadium, Onikan
  • Mobilized 20 food banks across the state that targets over 200,000 vulnerable households– at an estimation of 6 people per household
  • Opened 50 neighborhood food markets with support from FMCG companies, set up in public schools across the state for residents to purchase food items
  • Continued operations for markets every two days in line with the guidelines of reputable health authorities 
  • Ordered law enforcement agents to ensure that residents comply with the directive to stay indoors
  • Revised our security strategy to identify and curtail violence with focus on sensitive areas
  • Continued to cover the full cost of all emergency/casualty including surgeries, and all forms of maternity admissions at all General Hospitals in Lagos for the month of April. 600 child deliveries have already been carried out free of charge for maternity patients, and 18,000 and counting individuals have accessed free medical services in our primary and secondary health centers
  • Intensified active search among communities to effectively track community transmitted cases
  • Launched a daily food kitchen program through local food vendors expected to feed 100,000 youths daily
  • Cash transfers to a minimum of 250,000 vulnerable and economically challenged residents
  • Three-month moratorium on credit facilities for all MSMES and SMEs who were granted loans by the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund 
  • Commenced the distribution of dry food relief items to some critical community stakeholders such as religious and ethnic groups and association, tertiary institutions (both state and federal), market men and women; all political parties in the state, as well as riverine areas for tactic sharing amongst members of their communities
  • A strategic medical visit by the Ministry of Health to some residents for medical investigation purposes
  • Unveiled an 80-bed isolation centre at Landmark, Oniru
  • Established 27 Sample Collection Centres across the 20 Local Government Areas of the state
  • Kicked-off the #MaskUpLagos campaign by enforcing the compulsory wearing of face maks in Lagos when in public
  • Commissioned a 118-bed Isolation Center at the Gbagada General Hospital  

This pandemic is an urgent reminder that our fates in the world are linked. What comes to my mind though, is you: the women in Balogun and Tejuosho markets, the hardworking people who uphold the digital heartbeat of Lagos that is computer village, small business owners thriving and upscaling the private sector, the jovial communities in Ikorodu; the little children who are deprived of outdoor play with neighbors as a result of our precautionary measures. The economic stimulus package will support residents and families and also cushion the effects of staying at home as a critical tool in flattening the curve. 

This outbreak is a reminder of how connected we are, how intricately the several sectors that uphold our day-to-day lives intersect and depend on one another. In this moment, we recognize the Organized Private Sector (OPS) that has collaborated with the Lagos State Government in building isolation centers, and their donation of money and essential medical supplies.

Compassion is such an intimate part of my life as a husband, a father, a public servant; as a leader.  Compassion is what connects me to the realities of the average citizen, reminds me that my position is one of stewardship. I understand the inconveniences that occur as a result of this state lockdown. But it is a necessary part of a multi-pronged response that includes the closure of all land, sea and air borders that will ease the process of tracking and halting the spread of the virus within our communities. We are scaling our contact tracing capacities to reach people who are affected sooner, and your cooperation by staying at home is critical and lifesaving. 

While we obey federal directives, we can all embrace the modern marvel that is digital communication technology. The internet has proven a wonderful tool for connection, knowledge sharing and citizen activism. We have seen millions crowdsource donations and equitably share resources, seen lives saved by internet-based community action. I watch, study and bear witness to all the different ways that human beings can rally and truly save the world. But I am also learning that a text message sent cross country to a loved one or a call to share a laugh can be just as powerful a symbol of interconnectedness. The Lagos COVID-19 Call Centre Number: 08000267662 is also available round-the-clock for assistance through this extraordinary time. 

If there is one thing I will ask of you all as we face this as a family, it is that we never lose our compassion for each other and that we treat every Lagosian as we would family. Only collective action driven by love for our city will give us the results we so desperately desire.