Crisis Management: Lessons From The COVID-19 Pandemic

Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are my men of the decade by Far. Just a few months ago while both men campaigned for office, they repeatedly warned their countries and indirectly the world of the imminent dangers ahead if the issues around access to healthcare and the dilapidated health infrastructure were not addressed. After all, it was not so difficult to predict. Few things are sure to happen to humans and one of them is that we fall sick. Sometimes, because we live in communities, History has taught us that we can transmit sicknesses to each other. The larger the community, the higher the impact of transmission. Like was the case with the biblical prophets, the fall of Jerusalem, as preached by Sanders and Corbyn, was not well accepted. Efforts to get the Private Sector involved did not go down well and understandably so. The cost of providing healthcare for the larger community would cost the profit-driven corporate world a whole lot either by direct payments to members of staff or by having to pay increased taxes. These guys were labelled as wild communists who wanted to take away freedoms from people and corporates whereas all they did was prompt the world about a possible pandemic and the fact that the only way to win was to invest ahead of the occurrence in the necessary infrastructure, funding structure and policy.

Beyond the issue of healthcare, as made glaring by Covid-19, is the larger issue of disruptions in general as well as how ready this vastly connected world is to tackle them. Whether we like it or not, disruptions of this kind of magnitude can happen again. How robust are the Crisis Management policies put together by institutions if they exist at all? How seriously are businesses taking Business Continuity Planning? For instance, what is the world doing about a possible malware that can disrupt operations across industries at once? The world has increasingly become so sophisticated, chasing innovations and defining new frontiers yet so unknowledgeable and less enthusiastic about the things needed to sustain the advancements being recorded. How do you explain a world in the 21st century with answers to almost anything yet so exposed to the vicissitudes of a pandemic? I am always stricken with disbelief every time I see some of the most respected companies in the world already thinking of shutting down just within a few weeks of the pandemic or when a country had heads-up on the method of the virus and still did not prepare for the pandemic. Is contingency planning not institutional to them? My thinking is that a lot of countries and corporates get carried away by successes and business as usual that they term every effort to draw attention to possible dangers as alarmist. There is also the fear that these plans and policies could be resource-intensive in terms of financial commitments as well as other resources such as time and manpower. Justifications for expenditure on Risk Management and Crisis Management could be difficult to make to corporate boards or government authorities but we must begin to see Crisis Management as a survival and National Security issue. After all, every reasonable country does not wait for war before training and equipping the military. If nothing, the pandemic has taught us that it is cheaper to invest in planning than attend to actual disasters. The sums I hear governments and corporate bodies spend to correct the impact of Covid-19 is unbelievable.

Organizations like the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) must begin to justify their existence even if it means a redefinition of the Agency’s scope of operations. One would have expected that having experienced the Ebola scare and having seen what havoc it wrecked on neighbouring countries, we would have been better prepared for the Covid-19 Pandemic and the emergencies associated with it. Nigerians returning from abroad should not be finding it difficult to find a place to be quarantined. The logistics of getting our citizens back home should not be as difficult as we have been seeing. What are our embassies up to? NEMA and other relevant government agencies such as the law enforcement agencies and the military must regularly assess and reassess threats to the nation from time to time and prepare for the possible emergencies resulting from the actualization of those threats. Different scenarios need to be pictured and planned for in such a way that we are not caught up in the middle of unnecessary embarrassments like we have seen during this Covid-19 Pandemic.

The issue around the decongestion of prisons as well as the effectiveness of correction policies around the world and Nigeria in particular has been highlighted by concerned individuals and bodies over time. However, authorities hardly took action until the Pandemic came and the scrambling for what to do with prisoners became a glaring emergency. If properly trained policy makers had been allowed to come up with solutions in the time of peace, the issue would have been solved then and we would not have a situation where prisoners that might not yet be ready for reintegration are forcefully released in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19. We must immediately begin to explore ways of helping the released prisoners settle back into society. We owe it to them. In Lagos, the threats posed by the ‘1 Million Boys’ gang and the likes of them such as the ‘Awawa Boys’ have been with us in Lagos for a long time. Governors have come and gone, Police Commissioners have come and gone, security council meetings have been held severally, yet, no solution was found, and neither was the issue of gang-related violence given the urgency it required. Community Policing still got no established position despite the acknowledgement by experts that it is the way to go. Now, in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic, people have something additional to be fearful of, something that could have been seen way ahead and addressed even before a pandemic came only if the security agencies did the right thing at the right time. If the government of Nigeria and agencies such as the National Orientation Agency realized that communication could be a vital National Security tool, they would have started building a rapport with the people long before there was war or pandemic. The investments you make before the time of emergency in terms of policy is what you reap when emergencies come. The NOA for instance has not been engaging with Nigerians on our everyday issues and would find it difficult to now be trusted in the time of Covid-19 because there have been no established communication channels. Our governments have not built credibility in the time of peace and can not now expect trust in the time of emergency.

To reiterate, the only way to win in the time of emergency is to prepare when there is calm. Engaging in Crisis Management with a clear understanding of possible threats and proper analysis of risks helps solve, in time, some of the issues that might become emergencies or complicate emergencies. Issues around shortage of equipment and manpower can be easily noticed prior to a crisis if a proper emergency planning process were in place. The reason why countries, no matter how advanced, are having to question their healthcare system at this time is that those systems did not have working plans for emergencies. No matter the effort you put in during an emergency, it would never be enough. It is what you put in before the emergency comes that makes the difference.


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