COVID-19; THE GOVERNMENT IS DOING WELL IN ITS FIGHT – EZE GBAKAGBAKA, KING LESLIE EKE (ORANGE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW)


The COVID – 19 pandemic has affected all countries around the world. It hit Asia, Europe and Americas before gradually taking root in Africa and no area has been spared, whether socially, culturally or economically.

The place of royalty and traditional leadership in this context has a special meaning. Hence the need and urgency of a debate involving the privileged actors of this institutional framework. Religious and traditional actors are frequently well positioned to respond and communicate teachings to their communities in times of crisis.


Orange magazine met with the paramount ruler of Evo Kingdom/Woji Town, His Majesty (HM) King Leslie Nyebuchi Eke, EZE GBAKAGBAKA, Nyesiri Eli Woji, Eze Oha Evo III, in his Palace in Woji in Obio Akpor LGA in Rivers State.


 He shared his thoughts through the following questions:

Question:

What have been the implications of the Covid-19 in your Kingdom?

Answer:

Before I start saying anything, I want to say thank you to our God that we are all alive today to talk about this and also appreciate the Governor of Rivers State for his proactive intervention to this pandemic. People are in fear. It’s been quite costly in terms of the do’s and don’ts. Markets are still not open and there are so many restrictions that we have to bear, so those are the things people are trying to grab hold with, in the circumstance and people no longer congregate as they use to, so those kinds of restrictions are over bearing sometimes but we must do it, the cost of losing a life is quite high than this small inconveniences, if I may call it that.

Question:

What has your kingdom done to limit the spread of the Covid-19?

Answer:
Well we are working hand in hand with the government of Rivers State and there is a directive from the Governor that we should raise task forces to go out and sensitize the people and that we are working with the traditional rulers in every community. In EVO Kingdom, there are 33 communities, each has a task force that helps to educate the people of the existence and dangers of Covid-19 and we do that. For me personally I went round during the lockdown periods about three times around my kingdom and talked to people, seeing them observe the protocols of Covid-19 pandemic. So for me personally we had to make pamphlets to add to what the government is doing to reach out to the people for them to know what to do about this pandemic, also to eradicate and stop the spread of this dreaded Covid-19 disease, we were on the radio and television to make announcements and physically being on ground, and these task forces work both day and night to make sure beer parlors, restaurants and so on are obeying government regulations.

Question:
What do you think of the government approach/response to the spread of the Covid-19?

I said earlier that the government of Rivers State in particular was quite proactive in the attack of this pandemic. I tell you for a fact that Rivers State Governor became a model to follow on what the he was doing; the lockdown was quite hard but it helped and I want to say here that outside the lockdown you can see how the spread is going up. So the government in their own actions,  the regulations they brought out all they have to do, the burials, weddings, markets, slaughters, people were not adhering to the regulations, youths were seen playing football. It was like a holiday to them and we had to tell the “NO” there is suppose for the social distancing, so they had to understand that they cannot disobey regulations, the government was on it, at some point people were against the Governor for what he was rightly doing and then you can see where we are now. We pray that God is going to help us. The government is doing well and they are still on it making sure that the protocols are being observed and they have not gone back on it to the best of my knowledge.

Question;
What message do you have for your fellow traditional leaders?  Especially those who don’t understand the implications of the pandemic?

Answers:
Traditional rulers understand that there is Covid -19 but we have people that do not believe especially when the disease comes with symptoms that looks like malaria, so they do not believe this things is actually real so we battle with that for instance the mandatory instruction of wearing of face mask and when you go round you see some people wearing the face masks and some not wearing the face mask that is a challenge that we have. It is very difficult to dealt with human beings and this is not the time we will say “seeing is believing” because it is quite costly if we want to do that, we pray that people will understand that this disease is real and we must take the necessary precautions to identify and make sure they don’t catch the virus.

Question:

Given the opportunity, what approaches would you have taken differently from the government in the fight against the spread of Covid-19?

Answer:

We are part of the government, the traditional rulers are working with the government, we sit down and discuss the seriousness of the situation and what we must do, and have the task forces in place, local government chairmen must work with the traditional rulers to make sure everyone is on the same page to know what we should do and what we should know and understand concerning this pandemic. We cannot talk about something else and do a different thigh like I said the Governor was proactive. The same thing that the NCDC is talking about and the PTF are what we in Rivers State started quite early to pursue it. So when we began to relax this protocols you saw what was going on but we are still lucky down in Rivers State. God is with us because we are not the epicenter of this virus but a life lost is a very serious matter and so we need to continue to observe washing of hands and given the social distancing and wearing of face masks are very important, but at the height of this pandemic task force went through to check all churches and others that are not maintaining social distancing, hotels must be closed because these are public places this virus exist more than 48 hours so who knows who will come in contact with it, some hotels were hiding people.

Question:

There been a lot of misinformation regarding the covid-19, a lot of people especially those in backwater communities have no regard for what’s happening some are well informed but have no trust for the government, why do you think these keeps happening?

Answer:

My kingdom is an ancient/modern kingdom, we reach out to people, we have task forces, the idea of using town criers is for smaller villages, but we do not have smaller villages, in EVO kingdom we reach out to people, I made jackets that you can wear at night and it will reflect. Every traditional ruler of every community in EVO kingdom has a task force.

In APARA kingdom if you remember it was their task force that caught the trailer full of animals and people inside, it was not the police it was the community task force that made this discovery. So I do agree and propose the use of town criers where you cannot reach people. That is proper and I am sure it happened in some other communities in Rivers State. In EVO kingdom we use foot soldiers out there to reach people. So the problem is do you believe that this virus is real? That’s what we think people are battling with because if you believe that this virus is real you would take the necessary steps, nobody wants to die. A small number of persons are being tested, I think Nigeria is not doing enough of testing, while this lockdown was on, we had failure of security agencies that manned the boards and some other areas, they failed. In Rivers State the Governor put an additional man-power in place to remove these cracks that were there letting people in and out of the state which was very bad.

Question:

The people of EVO kingdom are a peculiar people, what continues to set you all apart from other kingdoms especially in Ikwerre ethnic group?

Answer:

EVO kingdom is a kingdom of very large hearted people, very friendly, enlightened people, very culturally minded people and very supportive of the Government of the day, so we hear what the government says and we do carry it out, we are not backward in any way, we are part of Rivers State we do listen and understand, most of our traditional rulers are quite enlightened so it helps to understand and receive information and know what to do. We have majority of government recognized Traditional rulers in OBIO/AKPOR LGA and in EVO kingdom we are always at hand to lend a hand in what is happening in terms of instructions coming from the government. Most of the international businesses are in EVO kingdom, shell is in EVO kingdom and some other big businesses. We are enlightened people and is easy to pass on information to us and have the majority ride on it.

Question: What sincere message would you like pass to those going through hard times now, especially those in your kingdom?

Answer:

I want to say to my people and others that this covid-19 is real and it is still around and so we must, abide by the protocols, like if you are going out wash your hands, if you are coming in wash your hands and where necessary make use of alcohol based sanitizers rubbed on your hands. Burials, weddings, churches should maintain social distancing. So we do not have lockdowns anymore because is also affecting businesses, don’t go out when it’s not necessary to go out, if you feel you have contacted the disease, self-isolate. If we go according to those protocols this virus will be in check where the thing came from their business has been open and growing, we must take the necessary steps to make sure we stop the spread of covid-19. Personal responsibility is very important to stay safe.


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