By Hassan Zaggi
There is no doubt, traditional rulers have a great role to play if Nigeria is to quickly win the war against Covid-19.
One; royal fathers are very close to the people more than all groups of leaders put together. Two; they understand the feelings, the pains and general issues and challenges confronting the people. Three; they also have access to the people and exert more influence on them.
It is therefore pertinent that if the war against the community transmission of Covid-19 will be successfully prosecuted and won, traditional leaders must be at the forefront.
It will also be recalled that traditional leaders were behind the successes recorded in the fight against polio leading to Nigeria becoming polio free which will be announced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the next few weeks.
On the other hand, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), is the level of healthcare that is also based in the grassroot. Every electoral ward in Nigeria has a functional Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC), hence, it is a good avenue for nipping in the bud cases of Covid-19 at the community level.
It was therefore, heartwarming when few days ago, the NPHCDA organised an emergency online meeting of the Northern Traditional Leaders Committee (NTLC) on Primary Health Care (PHC) delivery.
The meeting was convened to discuss issues around COVID-19 and how the royal fathers can give the kind of support they gave during the peak of the polio war in Nigeria.
The major areas of interest include efforts to halt the community transmission of the disease in the country and the troubling aspect of stigmatization and discrimination of Covid-19 victims patients.
In his address, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, appealed to traditional rulers to partner with the federal government in the fight against Covid-19.
He described the high level of discrimination and stigmatization of Covid-19 patients as “an unfortunate development,” expressing optimism that the leadership of the traditional rulers will also come to bear in reversing this ugly trend.
While commending the efforts of the traditional rulers in creating awareness to their subjects on issues relating to the Covid-19, the Minister said: “Your Highnesses, it has therefore become imperative that as our respected traditional leaders, safeguard your communities by mobilizing, sensitizing reporting and monitoring activities within your domains to ensure preventive measures are being adhered. Protection of the people is a divine responsibility bestowed on our royal fathers.”
Ehanire reiterated that: “We are faced with a pandemic that is ravaging through our communities, killing our people, hence, the need for us to work together to save our communities and our dear country from the grasp of this deadly virus.”
The Minister commended His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, for his support and expressed optimism that with the involvement of the traditional institution “we will soon stop community transmission of coronavirus.”
Speaking, the Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, applauded the northern traditional leaders for their support for the health programmes of the government.
He, therefore, commended them for taking proactive steps to limit the spread of COVID ‐ 19 in their communities, but however, pleaded for greater efforts to stop the community transmission of the virus.
“We can use our comparative advantage working in our communities with the community ‐ based health workers to make sure that the correct messages around Covid-19 actually reach our community members.
“We want to appreciate the NTLC members for all of the works that they have been doing to support government since the outbreak of this disease,” the NPHCDA Executive Director, said.