Without test, I wouldn’t have known I had COVID-19 –Seyi Makinded

The Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, who just survived coronavirus, speaks on his experience, efforts of his government to curtail the spread of the disease and other issues on Flash 105.9 FM, monitored by WALE OYEWALE in Ibadan on Monday

How are you feeling now, sir?

I am feeling okay. Just like I posted on my social media handle yesterday (Sunday) night, I can confirm that I have taken two COVID-19 tests on Thursday, April 2, they took a sample which was taken to the first laboratory at Ede where the first sample that tested positive was taken to. That one came negative. And from our own diagnostic centre here at the virology laboratory, University of Ibadan, they took another one yesterday (Sunday) morning, April 5, and by late yesterday night, it turned out negative. I am eager to jump out now and start getting around again in order to get the work that the Oyo State people gave to me done. I am completely free of the virus.

Almost a week ago, you described yourself as a long distance runner and that you were very confident you would outlast the virus. What advice do you have for those who are down with COVID-19?

Quite frankly, I don’t think I am in a position to advise COVID-19 patients as such. That is for the medical practitioners to do. And, like you know, every case is different. COVID-19 affects each person in a different way. I watched a lot of things about it while in isolation. The same virus would get into somebody and the individual may not even know that they have the virus. The same virus would get into someone else and that fellow would become really duck sick to the extent that the individual would need a ventilator and everything in-between. The way it affects people is different.

My prayer for those who have the virus is that they get over this virus with minimal damage to their health. I was asymptomatic throughout. Without the test, I would not even have known that I had COVID-19. This is the more reason why we are advising that people should embrace the social distancing initiative because there are many people with the virus who are also not showing symptoms. It is also the reason why we pushed for a testing centre in Ibadan so we can test more people who may have come in contact with COVID-19 cases. My aspiration which I already discussed with the task force team and the EOC is that we must set a target to test close to 10,000 people in Oyo State. It is the only way that we can stay ahead of the curve and get a handle of what is really going on in Oyo State.

Now that you have been confirmed negative. Are you planning to rest a little bit or ready to hit the ground running?

I have been self-isolating since we were advised by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to self-isolate after one of us that attended the National Executive Council meeting with us came out positive. That is about two weeks ago; I have been working from my house since then and understandably also, I am eager to see some of the things we put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Oyo State.

I will be going to the Emergency Operation Centre this afternoon (yesterday) and also go to the Infectious Disease Centre at Olodo. However, my advice would remain that people should stay at home. Only very important trips should be made. We would continue to do as much as we can by meeting through electronic means. I worked throughout this period even though I took the back seat by designating Prof. Temitope Alonge as the head of the Oyo State COVID-19 Task Force. So, I would be resuming as the head of that task force from today (Monday).

But I was reading today’s PUNCH, and on page 14 and I saw a story in there that ‘group faults Makinde’s choice on task force coordinator.’ They called themselves the Ibadan Mesiogo group and their president is one Dr Jide Oriolowo. Yes, I know a lot of people are jobless right now. People are staying at home and they have free time, but this is a period that calls for concerted efforts for everybody. That group said I should have chosen a virology professor. We do have a virology professor as part of the task force team. I am not a virology professor, so people should spend their time on something that is productive.

Are you satisfied with the current measures put in place to contain the spread of coronovirus or you think the measures may be up for review?

Our measures are all work in progress. As I said before, we are in an uncharted territory with this pandemic. When we see any need for improvement we would work on improvement. But my appeal to the people of Oyo State is that they must support us. We are not perfect; even the developed world leaders are struggling, so they shouldn’t expect 100 per cent perfection with us. But we have promised them we would listen to any constructive criticism. We would engage them and discuss plan. If there is a need for us to change anything, we are not proud to change those things.

People are hurting and looking for assistance because of  restriction and closure of markets except those selling food and other essentials. What do you have for the people of Oyo State in form of palliative?

We are still working on it. We are very deliberate in not directing a total lockdown and palliatives are in place. The major challenge for us is the fact that we need to cut out the middlemen and also ensure that those who actually need the palliative are those who get it. Two days ago during the task force meeting, the Head of Service told me that the conditional cash transfer from the Federal Government would be N20,000 to people in 10 local government areas of Oyo State and I said, it is good but this programme predates this administration and I have never been impressed about the way they identified the poorest and  the impact. I see this as an opportunity for us to ensure that we get to the real people that need those palliatives.

Secondly, once we are able to get this right, that would be the pillar upon which we can build for future efforts. Once we have been able to get it right once, we would not have to go back to the foundation again. The data is already being collated by our people in the field. They started yesterday (Sunday). I can promise the people of Oyo State that it is not going to be business as usual where we show a pile of foodstuffs in some warehouses and the food would not get to the people who need it. That will not happen in Oyo State.

Are you saying you are going to police the cash transfer of the Federal Government to know where it gets to?

I am not policing it; all I am saying is that I am not satisfied. I have done a little bit of intelligence on it in terms of finding out if this money is actually getting to the people who require it. Sadly, my findings are that close to 80 per cent of that money is wasted. It is only 20 per cent that is getting to some individuals; that is too little and meagre to have the desired impact.

Now that we have a diagnostic centre here, how will you assess the level of improvement in health delivery in terms of combating the scourge in the state?

You are asking us to rate ourselves, which as I said is actually not ideal. You are the ones to rate us. What I can say is that we have been working round the clock to ensure that we have the capability to test and to isolate and quarantine confirmed cases and also ensure that health workers are adequately protected. They have been making noise in the newspapers that now they have some items for us. So, I sent the people at the liaison office – first day at the NGFs’ meeting, I was told that those items were taken to liaison offices so I called the liaison office in Abuja and asked, did you receive anything but they said no. They told them to come to somewhere in Jabi to collect those items. They brought them yesterday (Sunday).

Well, I thank them; it is nothing compared to what we require. Some gloves, personnel protective equipment like 25 overall. There seems to be a lot of cheap talks at the top level, so as a state, we really need to take our fate in our hands. Take for instance, the 100-bed capacity infectious disease centre at Olodo is open from today (Monday). If we have critical cases that need ventilators we are able to attend to them there. So, I am waiting for feedback.

While you were in isolation, you said you were eating a lot of carrots and having regular temperature check. Will you abandon all these as you go back to work?

I still have my thermometer. My body temperature as we speak is 36.4 degrees. I still have my thermometer. Dr Muyideen Olatunji, who is in charge of the Oyo State Primary Health Care, came to me and sent me something and I mixed it with honey and I take one teaspoon in the morning and one in the evening. There are local solutions to boost immunity, people should not fret.

I have been able to get the virus out of my system so would it be for majority of our people. I will use this opportunity to say thank you to all the good people of Oyo State, even the media and other stakeholders for their support throughout this trying time. It is important to follow the advice of the Oyo State COVID-19 Task Force on the need for social distancing and hygienic practices such as washing our hands regularly and using an alcohol-based sanitiser.
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