KEYNOTE SPEECH BY THE SECRETARY TO GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATION, BOSS MUSTAPHA AT THE 5TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE GUILD OF CORPORATE ONLINE PUBLISHERS (GOCOP) AT SHERATON HOTELS, IKEJA, LAGOS STATE THURSDAY, 7th OCTOBER, 2021
It is a privilege for me to be here once again for the Annual Conference of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP). This year’s theme, “COVID-19 Pandemic: Recovery and Reconstruction in Nigeria” could not have come at a better time than now, especially as the world is accepting the new normal life that the Coronavirus has bestowed on us.
While we commiserate with the families and friends of those who have paid the supreme price in the fight against this virus, we also thank God for the lives of survivors. We plead with us all, not to let our guards down because the pandemic is yet to be halted. We must continue to observe the non-pharmaceutical intervention measures and be our brother’s keepers. I also urge every eligible person 18 years and above to come out and get vaccinated as this is the only sure way we can achieve herd immunity and recover fully.
Let me use this opportunity to thank the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP) for inviting me to speak at this year’s conference. I want to also commend you publicly for choosing the topic: “COVID-19 Pandemic: Recovery and Reconstruction in Nigeria”. This clearly portrays that this association of professional journalists are not only conversant with the trend of times, but are also mindful of what Government has done, is doing, and will do in the coming months and years. This Conference, I believe, will try to provide ideas in which we can help restore Nigeria back to normalcy amidst the pandemic.
You would all recall that early last year, the world woke up to a rude shock –the arrival of the Coronavirus, the causative virus of COVID-19 that shook the health systems of the entire world. While I will not want to dwell on the issue of origin of the virus, one thing is certain and sure, that is, the virus is here with us.
By January 30, 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. That was a red flag to the world that something untoward was brewing in the air. But the world gave no heed to the warning.
We continued to live our lives irrespective of the danger signs. In a matter of weeks, the virus had surreptitiously spread to every corner of the earth, and it is now a pandemic of global proportion.
Let me emphasize here that the world being a global village means that whatever happens in one part of this ‘global village’ can easily spill over to other parts. This is exactly what happened with COVID-19. It took only a matter of weeks after it was first reported in one part of the ‘global village’ for it to spread insidiously to the rest of the world. Today, we are talking about it as a global pandemic.
As for Nigeria and the rest of Africa, it was only a matter of time. That time came for our dear nation on 27th of February 2020, when the first index case was reported in Nigeria. That was the day the Federal Ministry of Health confirmed the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) case in Lagos State. The case happened to be a 44-year-old Italian citizen, male, who returned to Lagos on the 25th of February 2020 and proceeded to his place of work in Ogun State.
Let me use this opportunity to recognise and appreciate Dr. Amarachukwu Allison, who first detected the symptoms in Nigeria. She was the one that examined the Italian patient who walked into her consulting room in Ogun state, Southwest
Nigeria, complaining of fever, headache, and fatigue. She suspected instantly what his ailment was and then referred him for COVID-19 test. That particular incident, the first in sub-Sahara Africa, and the very fact that he was discharged after he was treated by Nigerian doctors in a Nigerian health facility attests to the professional competence of our medical personnel, the readiness of both the Federal and Lagos State government, and indeed other State Governments to handle the emergency that had assumed pandemic proportion.
Here, I must commend the Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and his team in the Ministry, as well as the Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for setting the tone in the management of a totally strange disease.
Mr. President in his proactiveness, constituted the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, which was chaired by my humble self on March 9, 2020. The PTF with membership drawn from relevant MDAs was saddled with the onerous task of coordinating a multi-sectoral National response to the pandemic. It also provided technical and material support to States to ease the management of the pandemic.
The PTF took to advocacy, public enlightenment, and social mobilisation. Through our daily media briefing, we were able to widen the frontier of awareness, bust conspiracy theories, disabuse the mind of the public on the avalanche of fake news in the public space fueled and orchestrated by a few but very vocal conspiracy theorists. Furthermore, the PTF provided a rallying hub for the provision