When words went round last Tuesday that Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun state would be addressing the people, on the next line of action after the expiration of the two-week lockdown, most residents were high on hope that lives was about returning to normalcy. Even when it came an hour after schedule, residents waited eagerly for the state broadcast by the governor. But when it did, it was no suprise that most residents of Osun were utterly disappointed that they would have to cope with another round of lockdown for two weeks more. Disappointed because the people had eagerly anticipated a return to their normal lives to be able to fend for themselves and their families but that was not to be. However, mindful of the complaints of hardships and abandonment by the people, especially from those who live on the subsistence level, Governor Oyetola disclosed he had ordered the immediate disbursement of stipends due to 25,907 citizens. This according to him, covers “payment of N20,000 each to 15,289 elderly citizens and people living with disabilities under our Special Grant Transfer (SGT) scheme and N7,500 stipend to 10,618 youths under the Public Welfare Fare (PWF) programme, he revealed. Oyetola admitted that his administration was quite aware of the negative impact the lockdown has on the economy of the state, but stated that life matters most at this difficult period.
“We are aware of the negative effects of the lockdown on our fragile economy. But as a responsible government, we will not sacrifice the lives and security of our people on the altar of the economy,” he declared. While promising that the distribution of the second tranche of palliative will soon commence across the state to cushion the effects of the lockdown on the people, Oyetola opened a 2-day suspension window to afford residents the chance to restock foodstuffs and essentials to last for the duration of the extension which commences on 17th April. Aside from those who survive on daily earnings who find the suspension window amusing, residents with cash locked in the banks too had a raw deal in getting money to buy foodstuffs and other essential materials as they did so under pain and apprehension. It turned out a battle royale at the banks, nobody was allowed into the banking halls by banks to transact any business whatsoever. All withdrawals were restricted to the ATM machines of the banks. At most of the ATM centres in operation in the state, the queue was not just long, the huge crowd did not have the luxury of time to respect the social distancing protocol to prevent the spread of COVID 19 as canvassed by government. Major roads in Osogbo, the state capital, were at a standstill during the suspension period given the indiscriminate parking on the roads by people who were eager to make purchases at the various markets. It was an eyesore at Igbona, Alekunwodo, Owode and Ifon markets as the whole place was filled to capacity with hardly a space to manoeuvre by buyers and sellers thereby negating the persistent call on the people to avoid crowding spaces. Kunle Oladele, an Okada rider, told TELL that those in government care less about the welfare of the people. “It is clear that those in government care less about us. For example, I am not the owner of this bike that I ride and there is no way I can work for two days of the suspension and make enough money to buy foodstuffs to feed my family after buying fuel and payment of daily delivery to the owner. Since they have nothing for us, they should have allowed us to work till Sunday.” He observed. At the Faridah Adeleke market in Osogbo, Mrs Falilat Adekunle, a fish retailer, lamented the inability of those selling food items to open for business as directed by government due to harassment and extortion by security officials.”We are really suffering due to the lockdown. I cannot open my shop to make money for the feeding of my family because security people are harassing us for money. When palliative promised by government did not come, I expected them to ensure we can open for business in line with their directive so that the fish don’t go bad and resulted in loss. If that happens, how will I pay the loan I got from the bank back.” She queried. Now that residents of Osun have started counting days under another round of lockdown that will last another two weeks, it remain to be seen how Governor Gboyega Oyetola manages the complex balance between his determination to contain the widespread of the Coronavirus and easing the pains and anguish an agitated citizenry.