At the forefront of far-reaching advocacy efforts to create awareness about the deadly novel strain of coronavirus, COVID-19 in Lagos, Nigeria was Nigeria’s leading experiential marketing agency, Abelinis Limited.
The now-dreaded coronavirus took the world by surprise bringing health facilities, business and social activities to their knees and Nigeria could not have been spared. When the pandemic hit the shores of Lagos, Nigeria on February 28th, 2020, not many could envisage how it would spread like wildfire and the chaos that would follow.
The Lagos state government had on March 30, 2020 commenced a total lockdown of the state in line with the directives of the Federal government, enforcing several rules and regulations –many of which were alien to the masses- including the closure of schools, churches, and certain businesses; the compulsory use of face masks and social distancing.
Led by the energetic Abiodun Richard Oshinibosi, the Abelinis team in its usual fashion took the mantle of leadership to support the Lagos state and federal government in the fight against COVID-19 by spearheading a leading advocacy outreach, HypeKing to all corners of the state.
The Hypeking Advocacy on COVID-19 kicked off June 17, 2020 with a strategic focus on the grassroots via rural clusters direct engagement approach to educate residents of rural and semi urban areas about the importance of staying at home, using hand sanitisers and wearing face masks alongside facts about COVID-19. The team moved in pairs, daily going into clusters to share timely reports and messages about the pandemic as it affects Nigeria.
This advocacy and enlightenment drive to curb the spread of COVID-19 captured all the 20 Local Government Areas and 37 Local Council Development Areas in Lagos state.
From Ifako-Ijaiye local government area to Alimosho, Agege, Oshodi-Isolo, Mushin, Surulere and Lagos Island amongst others, the goal was simple- to amplify and aid government’s effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 through direct engagement by advocating for the government and through a partnership with the local government and state government.
Abelinis Limited deployed initiatives like structured visits to communities and one-to-one meetings with the heads of the communities to encourage community-led public statements to pledge support for government’s efforts targeted at combating the pandemic.
The team engaged leaders at the grassroots in a bid to ensure that the message reached its target audience. The brilliance of this strategy was reflected in the improved adherence to COVID-19 rules and regulation after engagement with individuals like Hon. Babatunde Adekanmbi, Health Supervisor, Ifako-Ijaiye Secretariat; Balogun Omotayo, Ganiyat Omolola and Alhaji Abdul Ganiyu, Abattoir meat market leaders; Sulaimon Ogunsheye, Secretary to Baale Ikola-Ogunsheye community; Mrs. Adeyinka Titilayo Secretary to His Royal Majesty Oba Waabi Ayinde Balogun of Isheri-Olofin; Alhaji Auwal Mammud, Head of Hausa community Shiaba street; Alhaja Monsurat Ajayi Adeyemi, Iyaloja, Agege main market; Alhaji Musa Abudullahi, Deputy of Nupe community, Agege; High Chief Tajudeen Akanbi Adebari, Baale of Iloro; Alhaji Mustafa Sanni, Head of Hausa community; Moricas Afolabi Abiodun & Kayode Adesiyan, Secretary Darosha market; Hon. Gbenga Adedeji, Councillor Wasimi Maryland; Aliu Rasak Akerele, Baba-Oja Onigbongbo Market; Hon. Gbenga Sogunle, Councillor Abule-Onigbagbo; His Highness Alhaji Chief Nojimudeen Lamidi Aro, Abore 1 Baale of Ojodu Land; Alhaji High Chief AbdulRafiu Babalola Ajisegiri, Baale of Sogunle; Mr. Olufemi Ojo Secretary, Idera market(mafoluku); Hon. Usman Hamed, Supervisor for Health Iba LCDA Secretariat; Hon. Mrs Edna Uche-Ubochi, Supervisor for Health, Ojo LG Secretariat; Hon. Oyewole Kolawole, Supervisor for Health, Surulere Secretariat; Alhaja Iyabode Amisu, Iyaloja Tejuosho Market and Hon. Kunle Williams, Deputy Leader, Lagos Island to mention a few alongside health workers.
By working with community leaders, Abelinis in its routine detailed approach, was able to ensure that the message was properly conveyed in a language and context understood by residents of each local government area and local communities visited. This no doubt, further helped to stem the tide of misinformation that had greeted the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
The Abelinis Limited dedicated team to HypeKing Advocacy on COVID-19 understood the dynamics of the challenges that come with public health concerns like COVID-19, and hence adopted a three pronged approach in executing its corporate social responsibility as expected of reputable organisations.
The advantage of working with rural clusters was that it made it far easier to educate the most vulnerable group- rural and semi urban areas about the importance of staying at home, the use of hand sanitiser, face mask and facts about COVID-19. By daily going into clusters to share up-to-date messages about the virus in Nigeria and working with stakeholders, notably the Nigeria Centre for Diseases Control (NCDC) state and local government, the team was also able to guarantee the authenticity of information shared and the integrity of the project as a whole.
This was a quest to support the masses in adapting to the new way of life and aid adherence towards all necessary precautions and guidelines against the coronavirus by providing knowledge of causes and prevention of the virus. Although regular washing of hands is a key safety precaution to keep the corona-virus at bay, most people forget to wash their hands as often as necessary, perhaps because of a hectic lifestyle. The team focused on the emphasis of hand washing as basic hygiene practice critical to well-being. This improved by a wide margin the number of Lagosians who correctly washed their hands consistently and as expected, the numbers of confirmed cases in Lagos state are fast declining. The message was simple, hand washing is a habit that has come to remain in people’s lives.
Working with health workers and supervisors for Health of all Local Government Areas helped to minimise conspiracy theories and address misinformation which would have undermined responses to the outbreak. Due to culturally ingrained habits, getting people to understand the importance of social distancing and avoiding handshakes during the pandemic seemed impossible but by working with the Baales Iyaloja, Babalojas and other market leaders, helped both sellers and buyers in the markets and communities across the state to follow all regulations set by the federal and state government in curbing the spread of COVID-19 spread.
The HypeKing Advocacy on COVID-19 which was carried out in two phases spanned April-July. The second phase ran through June 17th 2020 – July 13th 2020. The project ultimately set the gold standard for health related grassroots advocacy targeted at ensuring the public throws its full weight behind government in combating a public health concern like COVID-19. This is no surprise as Abelinis Limited has a rich history of combining expertise, precision and discipline to achieve desired results.
The reach and impact of this project would be even more pronounced and can be multiplied if private individuals, organisation, and federal and state governments pitch in and adopt the Rural Cluster HypeKing initiative as a national project.
Nigeria has so far recorded one of the lowest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths, going by available global data and this was in large measures due to the increased awareness about COVID-19 and adherence to preventive rules regulations put in place by the government at the grassroots.
This would not have been possible without an advocacy programme like HypeKing Advocacy on COVID-19 awareness. Its focus on reaching out to the grassroots to educate the populace about the pandemic was critical to winning the war against COVID-19.