Business Management, Entrepreneurship

Third Epistle to Donald Chen, the Ambitious and Forward Looking Entrepreneur during the COVID-19 Pandemic

This third “epistle” from Wole Oluyemi to Donald (Don) Chen is one in the series of writings from the author on strategy, financial analysis and reporting, markets and competitionbusiness intelligence, social capital and networks, corporate political behaviour and harnessing disruptive influences for competitive advantage. This series is to complement the SABI podcast series that was recently launched to share knowledge and challenges on entrepreneurship and business leadership.  

  1. The previous epistles focused on the challenges that business leaders and C-Suite executives are currently faced with, as the entire world seeks protection from the ravaging corona virus disease (COVID19). 
  2. Don, I appreciate your feedback on the recent epistles and I must thank you for your deep concerns for my home country, Nigeria. In fact, as we celebrate the Easter holidays in the US, my mind is constantly with Nigeria. Since you are keen on knowing what is happening in Nigeria as regards COVID19, let me use this opportunity to share the news from Nigeria with you and our other associates, especially knowing how close you are to the African community in Texas. 
  3. As you are probably aware, there has been a rise in the number of confirmed cases in Nigeria. As of 11 April 2020, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed a total number of 318 cases in Nigeria. Lagos, the economic capital of the country has 174 cases while Abuja, the political capital of the country has 56 cases. 
  4. The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwoolu, has been providing great leadership in the response to COVID19. He has been able to attract financial support from large corporate organizations such as GTB, First Bank and the Heirs Holdings. In fact, under his leadership, Lagos has also discharged 85 patients who are now free from this dreaded COVID19. It is on record that, as of today, nobody who was admitted in Lagos after testing positive has died.  
  5. The medical doctors, nurses and other health workers in Lagos and across the nation has been extremely committed to the fight against COVID19 despite the poor healthcare system and infrastructure, coupled with the poor remuneration of health professionals in Nigeria. The medical doctors at the frontlines earn less than $50 (about NGN20,000) as monthly hazard allowance. They truly deserve some accolades for still being able to show that level of commitment and dedication. 
  6. The NCDC has been very proactive in communicating with the citizens. They send daily SMS to citizens across the country to enhance citizen education and to minimize the impact of fake reporting of the pandemic. The call center for reporting of new cases suffered some initial glitches but has significantly improved. As you are aware, Nigeria is also managing the outbreak of Lassa fever in addition to the COVID19. In fact, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) recently singled out Nigeria for recommendation in a recent media chat. The Nigerian President, Muhammed Buhari, has also recognized the great work being done by Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, the NCDC head, in his only national broadcast since the COVID19 got into Nigeria. 
  7. In the above-mentioned national broadcast, the Nigerian President announced a lockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States. Some other States in the country announced similar measures. These measures were targeted at “flattening the curve” of the COVID19 spread in Nigeria. At the initial stages, some organizations like the Winners Chapel (the church with the largest church auditorium in Nigeria) in Ogun State, Methodist Church of Lagos, Christ Embassy churches in Abuja (the church owned by the anti-5G pastor, Chris Oyakhilome) and a number of mosques flouted the government order. However, the monitoring agencies are working to ensure compliance. 
  8. The compliance with the lockdown order in Lagos is still being faced with pockets of non-compliance. In fact, Funke Akindele, an actress that was part of the jingle produced by Dettol in support of the NCDC was one of the culprits. She decided to host a party of more than twenty people in her house last weekend. We later realised that Babatunde Gbadamosi, a gubernatorial contestant during the last election in Lagos, was also present at the party. The popular street musician, who was confused whether he is a YahooBoy, Naira Marley, was also at the party. By their friends and action, we shall know them! 
  9. During the week, some governors took an infamous decision to temporarily suspend the lockdown in their States for the Easter celebrations. Due to the ineffectiveness of the lockdown across the country coupled with other challenges, it appears like we are not yet close to flattening the curve of COVID19 spread in Nigeria. Based on my projection (shown below), the number of cases in Nigeria might exceed 1,000 cases before the end of the first week in May 2020. 
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  • Don, I know you hated charts and statistics, as you were always dozing in class when we had a statistics course together last year. Since I know you might want to share this information with your various groups, let me take the liberty to provide a detailed interpretation of the above chart. 
  • The above chart shows the growth in actual cases up to 11 April 2020. The white graph is the polynomial forecast of the growth trend if the current growth rate is not curtailed. This forecast COVID19 growth pattern shows a relatively steep peak in the trend curve from 11 April 2020 to 5 May 2020, thus indicating a situation where more COVID19 cases are being reported per day – which means that the virus continues to spread, and faster.  
  • The desired position is anywhere below that trend graph, referably anywhere within the lower shaded area –reflecting a situation where the virus is growing at a lower pace, thus enabling us to avoid overwhelming the weak healthcare system – a capacity constraint represented by the bold orange dotted line. I have used the quantity of available ventilators as a theoretical proxy for the capacity of our healthcare system although I recognise that only a few COVID19 patients do require ventilators. In a recent report from the Daily Trust, it was suggested that Nigeria has just about 169 ventilators in the surveyed 16 States in Nigeria. With an average of 10 ventilators per State, this suggests that we have just about 360 ventilators in the entire country.  
  • We cannot afford to allow the spread rate to go significantly above the capacity levels to avoid our dilapidated healthcare system from being overwhelmed, in order to avoid escalating #COVID19 related deaths. This is why it is very imperative that Nigeria must focus on #FlatteningTheCurve, even if it requires extending the lockdown orders across the country despite the accompanying economic impact of such a decision on the country and its citizens. 
  • In order to flatten the curve, there has been a conscious campaign for minimizing face touching, imbibing regular hand washing, and social distancing. Personally, I never imagined that I touched my face as much as I have recently discovered. I only realized this as I tried to restrain myself from touching my face. It is a very tough thing to do! However, I am a strong evangelist for regular hand washing – I wash my hands almost every hour with hand sanitizers and whenever I touch any surface or package that might be contaminated. We all need to adjust our lifestyle in this period and I encourage everyone to practice physical distancing and avoid staying around crowds in this period. The positive side to this is that we are able to de-clutter the mind and soul when we let go of the physical clutter. 

As I mentioned in one of my recent tweets, we need to be physically distant, but socially connected. Let us make conscious efforts to reach out to our family members, friends, employees, boss, colleagues and business associates via messages and calls, including video calls if permissible.  

  • Above all, let us be humane and kind to one another. 
  • Until next week, when I’ll have the opportunity to share my thoughts with you on the various e-learning platforms that you and your various leadership teams could explore for your organizations, kindly extend my greetings to your wife, Jennifer, and your children.   
  • I remain your advisor and business coach.  

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