Unusual Politics in America Will Continue

Unusual Politics in America Will Continue

By Bunmi Makinwa

Twenty presidents have been elected into office in the United States of America (USA) during the twentieth century and to date, and only six of them served for one term of the constitutionally provided two terms. President Donald Trump is one of them. He will leave office evidently as a furious, bitter and unhappy president.

On August 9. 1974, disgraced President Richard Nixon flew out of the White House in an official helicopter and returned to his home in California, the first and only US president to have resigned from office. Republican Party’s President Nixon lived most of the rest of his life struggling to redeem some dignity within American politics until he died on April 22, 1994.

Nixon was a central figure in the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at Washington D.C.  Watergate Office Building. The offences included spying and bugging enemies and opponents during the presidential campaign between Nixon and his Democratic nominee rival Mr. George McGovern. Nixon covered up the scandalous incident, more well-known simply as Watergate. His resignation was to escape a certain impeachment as his own party’s House of Representatives and Senators had turned against him.

President Trump will leave office on January 20, 2021 under a cloud of allegations of misconduct at personal and official levels. He is being investigated on his business, political campaign financing and personal activities before he became president. His management of family and personal matters as president will also come under more scrutiny. His critics would like him to be tried and perhaps punished.

Unlike Nixon, Trump is not repentant and apologetic about his actions. Trump has many leaders of the Republican Party, including a good number from the House of Representatives and Senate, in his camp. He also has millions of supporters who are solidly behind him.

Judging by his past and current attitudes, Trump will not fade into the shadows. Nor will he step away from the unusual politics that he has championed in a new USA.

Preceding his election in 2016, President Trump said that he could shoot a person dead on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York, and it would not affect the adulation that his admirers and supporters had for him. Not many people took seriously such an obviously ludicrous statement especially by a presidential candidate.

But he was right. During the campaigns, despite several potentially self-destructive statements by Trump, and in spite of unusually damaging issues that could diminish his support, Trump became even more attractive as leader of his conservative base. Trump was a magnet for Americans who were against political norms, racist, angry, anti-immigrant, far-right, discontented, religious extremists that would not look beyond his rhetoric to examine his business and personal life which were at odds with what he professed.

His defiant refusal to disclose his tax returns which could have dealt the hardest knock on his election was shrugged away by his adherents. He became the face of a new Republican Party that did all his biddings. Very few party leaders spoke against his populist, in-your-face, caustic, relentless appeal to some sordid sides that were latent within his base. He was elected president, much to his own surprise. Although he lost the popular vote to his opponent, Ms. Hillary Clinton, he won the electoral vote handily.

For four years in office, Trump fought the mass media especially the so-called liberal media which he constantly labelled fake news. He disagreed with the long-held USA policies on engagement with traditional allies such as the European Union.

He refused to continue the financial commitments of the USA with NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that started as the Western military hegemony against then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Trump cared little about Western interests or unity as he faced-down China and Iraq, and diverged on policies with Canada, France, Germany and Japan. He cultivated a personal, chummy relationship with leaders like Russia’s President Putin and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, who Americans love to hate.

Most probably, Trump’s good record of economic performance, until Covid-19 appeared, gave him a comfortable level of confidence to win re-election in 2020. Blinded by the sole aim of being returned for a second term, he minimized the seriousness of the new Corona virus. He underestimated the terrible impact of the disease on Americans, directly and indirectly leading to the deaths of more than 350,000 people and still counting.

President Trump does not avoid a fight, he relishes it. He never surrenders but maintains his position no matter the facts or evidence. He is a champion of relentless verbal war and ceaseless Tweets. They have all served him well until they did not – he lost the election for a second term.

Trump out of office will not change his ways. Trump’s niece, Mary L. Trump, in her book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man”, characterized President Trump as a driven egoist compelled by upbringing and lifestyle that makes everyone and everything expendable to fulfil his delusional feeling of self-importance. “The atmosphere of division my grandfather (Donald Trump’s father) created in the Trump family is the water in which Donald has always swum, and division continues to benefit him at the expense of everybody else,” she wrote.

The portrayal of Donald Trump is similar in many other books, such as: A Very Stable Genius: Donald J Trump’s Testing of America by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig; Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff; How Trump Thinks: His Tweets and the Birth of a New Political Language by Peter Oborne and Tom Roberts; RAGE by Bob Woodward; The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton; Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House by Omarosa Manigault.

Trump wanted by all means to be elected president for a second term. He needs the cover, immunity and authority that the office conveys to suppress his opponents, get protection from his pursuers and build his financial strength. He has lost the possibilities. He refuses though to accept it – mentally, emotionally and truly.

He would not accept to cooperate with President-elect Joe Biden. He would not organize a smooth transition of power. He called for protests, urged the House and Senate to change the election results, went through numerous court cases, and asked directly the Georgia State’s Secretary of State to get him votes in any way to upturn the results. All the efforts have failed.

Trump has damaged the democratic process in the USA. He will leave office as a desperate, disappointed person.

He is said to have accumulated over 200 million US dollars recently in post-election fund-raising and will continue to look for more money. He will count on over 70 million votes that were cast for him in the 2020 election and on members of the House of Representatives and Senate who support his bellicose stance.

The impressive resources at his disposal will serve him well as he doggedly fights for personal survival and seeks political relevance. He will deploy his means to disrupt the in-coming Biden-Harris administration. He will continue the unusual politics that he has introduced and championed at least for the immediate future. Politics in the USA will not be the same as it was before the sad entry of Trump.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership

Trump Takes Away America’s Clothes

By Bunmi Makinwa

Donald Trump news live: Latest election results
via the Independent

US President Donald Trump is acting true to type in his statements and position on the US elections. He has made accusations of fraud and vote-rigging. No supporting evidence. He has asked for votes not to be counted in some states. He has no such powers. He has said that he would fight legal battles until he wins and stays on as president. The chances of having long-drawn legal battles are limited because a president will be proclaimed and sworn in on January 20, 2021, anyways.

His opponent and most-likely next president, Mr Joe Biden, has urged for calm. He wanted the ongoing process of election to be completed and all legally cast votes to be counted. He would not engage in strong language against anyone. There is no doubt that his party and himself are preparing seriously for the legal battles and will make sure that no hurdles can stand in the way of having a president known and officially declared.

The US elections have never been this contentious or just “noisy”. I do remember several past elections for president when people would go about their usual business in the country, knowing that a president would emerge.

Before the election, Trump had refused to state that he would accept the results of the 2020 contest. During the 2016 contest against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Trump had also waxed strong on winning whilst, as we gathered later from books and information from his then close associates, he had no clue that victory was within reach until much later as results started to come in. He was as surprised as most people, including pollsters and the media, that he became president.

It is no surprise. In his business deals, Trump would go for the highest stakes even when he had no path in mind on getting anything at all. He would radiate confidence even when he knew that failure was around the corner. He would talk tough when he suspected that brashness could get him through.

As a president, he has told thousands of lies and made thousands of misleading statements. He mastered the art of repeating statements that are false until people who initially doubted him turned round to accept the claims. Remember that Trump said President Barack Obama was not born in America. Trump said that there was no Russian interference in the 2016 elections whilst all the security and intelligence institutions of USA insisted that they had the facts that Russia did intervene.

Trump also said that he never sent his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to make payments on his behalf to prostitutes that Trump had “business” with. The lawyer went to jail for doing Trump’s dirty business and wrote a tell-all book, “Disloyal – A Memoir”, that gave much more information on Trump’s life. More famously still, Trump said that Covid-19 pandemic would soon “just go away”. The terrible consequences of his statement and actions on the pandemic continue in America and beyond.

If Joe Biden wins the US election, would he really serve only one term?  Here's what that would mean for him and Kamala Harris - ABC News

Trump’s life of lies will stay with him as he fights for his future trying to prove that he did not lose the election even when the world witnesses the facts.

He will leave the White House and will continue to carry along a significant lot among the more than 70 million Americans who voted for him – they fail to see that the once-revered “Emperor America” has no clothes. The idea that the USA represented for some centuries has crumbled and it may never become whole again, no thanks to Trump’s four-year presidency.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership

#ENDSARS and Lekki: What It Means

By Bunmi Makinwa

Nigeria: #EndSARS movement avoids pitfalls of 'leadership'
People hold banners as they demonstrate on the street to protest against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Thursday Oct. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

For several days, I have been part of the millions of people across the world who watched, exchanged and commented on or initiated videos, photos, and read texts, articles on #ENDSARS protests in Nigeria and many places.

Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos stood out. It was one of the earliest sites of the protests. Lekki area in Lagos is known for its large youthful population. It attracts the young upward mobile, new rich, struggling, celebrities and entrepreneurs. There are also those people who want to be identified with novelty, and parents who want their children to be close to where the actions are. It has residential, businesses and leisure places, all mixed into often indistinct communities.

Lekki, often a short label used to name many disjointed places around Lagos Island, has provided a territorial expansion for the rather small Island that got choked with economic and social growth over many years.

As was observed in the past few days, Lekki has become a haven of social and political activism, not only a place for so-called youth who want to enjoy life. The young people from Lekki and the rich and poor areas around it became the signposts of #ENDSARS campaign that has put Nigeria under immense pressure. These young people became arrow heads of unprecedented campaign to end police brutality and poor governance.

The group of #ENDSARS protesters at Lekki Toll Gate created an atmosphere. They ate, danced, gave political speeches all day long and even late at nights. They prayed, preached, worshipped. They organized services for food and refreshments, physical exercise and relaxation, medical and counseling services and security. They raised funds, disbursed and accounted for them. They made revolutionary statements, screamed obscenities, issued threats – all things that young, vibrant people do.

It was all peaceful. The campaigners showed that it was possible to be angry, noisy, emotional and yet stay calm and non-violent. Online social media and services were their major rallying structure.

In several parts of Nigeria, #ENDSARS protesters also carried out activities. Many of the protesters were controlled and peaceful. In some other places, protesters were confused with interlopers, hustlers, hoodlums and hungry people who for their various reasons exploited the protests. There were allegations of cases of sponsored hooligans who attacked and robbed people, committed arson to the chagrin of many Nigerians and the genuine protesters. The violence sometimes generated other violent reactions, and chains of violence grew across the country.

EndSARS protest: Lagos loses N234 million to tollgates closure |
#EndSARS protestors at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos

In contrast to the places that witnessed violence, throughout the days of protest, the Lekki Toll Gate site remained peaceful, steadfast, focused, determined to achieve its objectives. Lekki became a new symbol of young people’s organizational and agenda-led capability for initiating change. It would try the patience of Lagos State Governor Jide Sanwo-Olu who worked relentlessly to seek compromises and solutions, though with limited success.

The protest at Lekki prevented vehicular and human traffic flow; it disturbed normal life considerably, but it did not become a fighting site, nor did it become a place for heinous acts.

It all fell apart on Tuesday, October 20, 2020. Firstly, a poorly planned 24-hour curfew imposed by Lagos State government gave little time for people to get home. Then as night fell, the usual lights and CCTV in the area were turned off. In the abnormal situation, military forces moved in and shot at protesters with what appeared and sounded like heavy military guns. It is not yet known how many people died or were injured. The civil and peaceful disobedience should not have earned protesters a long-term imprisonment, not even a life sentence. But they got fired on, condemned to death.

Is it the way to handle peaceful protests?

Nigeria | Lagos under 24-hour curfew to quell protests against Nigeria's  police - Africa
Chaos ensues after a last minute curfew is announced in Lagos

The incident at Lekki Toll Gate introduced a discomforting dimension to peaceful protests in Nigeria. It questions the integrity of its democratic practice built on 60 years of post-independence experience. No government should turn its armory against its own people, least of all its young people engaged in peaceful demands for change.

At this time, there are several investigative panels and committees looking into various aspects of the protests and actions taken by governments and security forces. It is critical that their work be done speedily, blame and punishment be apportioned, and remedies be applied. The main and initial focus on #ENDSARS an demands made by protesters should not be buried in the melee of issues – the protesters should reorganize and develop new tactics to attain their goals.

On 16 June 1976, South African policemen of the apartheid regime shot at students who took part in the Soweto Uprising and killed 13-year old student Hector Pieterson. The photo of wounded Hector carried by another student with his sister running alongside became a symbol of resistance. The incident radicalized South Africans who were against their oppressive regime. It increased the insurgency by militant students and young activists who sabotaged the government within. Many of the students left  the country to join African National Congress’ uMkhonto We Sizwe (the armed wing).

Here and now, Lekki Toll Gate and the various images and photos online stand out as embodiment of the new generation of young Nigerians desiring peaceful change, facing an ill-prepared security apparatus of an odious, inefficient government.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership

#ENDSARS As Hope In The Future

By Bunmi Makinwa

Nigeria: #EndSARS movement avoids pitfalls of 'leadership'
People hold banners as they demonstrate on the street to protest against police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria, Thursday Oct. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Days of protests have shaken Nigeria in a way that is different from any other protest since “Alli Must Go” in 1978, a nationwide student protest against military government over increased costs of feeding on college campuses that rocked the country to its roots.

The apparent lack of organizational structure for #ENDSARS is unique. It has no visible arrowheads, no visible locations of its births and no prior building blocks. “Ali Must Go” had university student union leaders in charge, it had tertiary institutions for convergence of ideas and tactics, and it had many years of fervent student unionism and activism against the then dictatorial military governments.

What #ENDSARS owns is the Internet and its limitless uses. Even more important to the burgeoning protest is the sudden awareness that real power belongs to the people. Our young people should have known this fact. They waited, watched, lost direction as the leadership in all sectors failed the nation. But it is better late than never.

In a country where 70 per cent of its 200 million people are below the age of 35, young people must seize the moment and turn the tide in their favour. They can shape the country to make their future a place not just to survive, but also prosper. The young people are the future, and it starts today.

Although #ENDSARS started as a robust reaction to wicked, abusive and oppressive policing by a special arm of the force, it has become a staging platform to review the excesses of governments, poor leadership, loss of values, economic hardships and corrupt systems.

Due to the trend in number of deaths and births, Nigeria has more young people than old. About one-third of Nigeria’s population are between the very active age of 15 to 35. This is a potent force for good, but if it is abandoned to its fate, it can turn deadly and become a rampaging troop of destruction.

In a well-managed economy, the country’s large working age population with a low dependent non-working population should translate into a development boom. But Nigeria has lost the time and the essence of the demographic dividend as a large part of its young vibrant population of working age is left out of its economy. Young Nigerians between age 25 and 34, the most vibrant working class, have 30 per cent unemployment. One in every three employed Nigerian is under-employed. This means that only about half of the productive workforce is actually fully making contributions to the economy.

EndSARS now | The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World NewsOpinion —  The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News
Demonstrators carry banners during a protest over alleged police brutality, in Lagos, Nigeria October 14, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja/File Photo

Nigeria has some of the lowest indicators of social, economic development. #ENDSARS should be a beginning for meaningful turn-around. Leadership is about making life have meaning for people, and making tomorrow a pleasure, or, at the minimum, tolerable.

Young people in Nigeria do not have any future to look forward to. Not unless you have access to the few plum jobs, not unless you have parents or mentors who open the doors, not unless you are “lucky” and somehow get access to something that gives you a break. The number of young people keeps diminishing who can have a normal life, even as the population of young people increases.

A people who do not have today and cannot dream of a future that is worthy of existence is a danger to itself and to others. The Nigerian young people are getting desperate and are boxed into hopeless, cynical corners. Young people are on their knees. They beg for grades in schools and colleges, they beg for jobs no matter that they are qualified, they beg for living wages even when they are employed, they beg to deploy their acquired skills after being  well trained.

EndSARS: Street demonstrations banned in Abuja - FCTA | Nairametrics

Young people, especially women, even pay to emigrate to become prostitutes who sell their bodies in expectation of jobs, income and support. Many choose to engage in any dastardly act as a means of survival or for a better life. They do not pray for God “not to lead us into temptation”. The temptation to sin has been legitimized by a society that makes normal routes impassable. They do not see hope in the future.

When young people know what power they have, Nigeria will change. As I have written elsewhere – “Young people overwhelmingly constitute the largest majority of the population. They have no meaningful future ahead of them. They have no means of running out of the country. They may have to force renewal and give the country a new breath”.

The power to choose who leads us has been taken away by the systemic corruption that makes access to political office available only to higher bidders. Scholarships and funding support to study at tertiary institutions is often used as political patronage and not granted to the needy. The way to get a decent job is made impossible no matter how well a young person performs in his/her studies. The opportunity to own a business is closed because the banking system and financing is laden with insurmountable obstacles.

In systems that open doors to its young people, it is possible to plan to have a job, have a home, have a vehicle, or afford organized public transport, and look after one’s children within one’s means. In such situations, and in most cases, entry to jobs is merit-based, mortgage facilities are available for use throughout one’s working life.

#ENDSARS should become the beginning of making Nigeria a great country, not one that is crippled by wanton looting, poor leadership, and deep-seated corruption.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership

Communication Takeaways from Edo Elections

By Bunmi Makinwa

Daily Trust - Edo 2020: 1.7m voters to determine Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu,12 oth
Edo Elections

The recent gubernatorial election in Edo State which Governor Godwin Obaseki won convincingly over his rival, despite running on a new party platform that he joined only a few months earlier, gives a glimpse on how interactions around politics create deep favours or intense dislike for key political personalities in Nigeria.

Human activities of significance provide insights to confirm existing norms, indicate new ones as they appear, and above all yield pointers to managing future similar or related activities. The recent gubernatorial election shows communicative characteristics. This article explores some of the communicative expressions and offers comments. It is a glimpse into how the interactions of the gubernatorial candidates and their political parties with the electorate and public in general might have shaped the final outcomes.

An important point about the turbulent campaigns and rallies in Edo State is that voters’ interest did not increase despite the strong characters of the candidates and the high stakes. Obaseki scored 307,955 votes, which are slightly lower than 319,483 votes that he garnered in 2016 when he ran for his first term. His opponent, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, received 223,619 votes this time, also lower compared to his 253,173 votes of 2016 when he was also the chief opponent to Obaseki.

Edo 2020: Coast clear for Obaseki in PDP as court strikes out case after  settlement - Businessday NG
Governor Godwin Obaseki

It is indeed surprising that what appeared as serious mobilization around the elections did not create high enthusiasm for voters’ turn out. Why?

The results of the state elections, won handily by Obaseki despite running within a new party, pointed to the strong likelihood that voters’ decision was based on personalities and not allegiance to political parties. Obaseki on one side versus Ize Iyamu, tightly supported by former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole on the other side, were the key characters. The last two formed a union that failed to convince voters. Obaseki was adjudged the better choice. The decision confounded those who had relied on Oshiomhole’s apparent popularity, based largely on his major victory for his second term as Edo governor in 2012.

Election campaigns present an opportunity to throw missiles of all types at opponents. The two major political parties and others were responsible for the brickbats of accusations, allegations, and blames that featured in audio and video messages of all types. One of the videos showed a candidate as homosexual and therefore undeserving of being Governor of Edo State. The video did not explain how it knew the sexual orientation of the candidate, nor how being homosexual would affect his performance. It was a just-use-anything attempt to bring an opponent down.

The time is past when established media organizations exclusively report on election campaigns, votes and results. No matter the rules that guide news and media organizations, they do not apply to most of the popular and citizen media. Everyone who has a telephone or any communication device uses them to record and disseminate information. There were any number of reports, purported news and information on the elections. The public and audience had to struggle to sift wrong from right information, often an impossible task.

Nigerians react as APC suspends Adams Oshiomhole - Daily Post Nigeria
Governor Adams Oshiomhole

Popularity of video and audio recordings by individuals and groups has greatly increased the availability of raw information materials on the present and the past. Gone are the days when valuable footage of important events and actions are kept in institutions or organized locations. When a leading public figure makes a claim, just about anyone could do a Google search, for example, and dig into several archival materials available through social network services online to provide verification.

It is still possible that politicians can manipulate or influence the media by force, using money, position or their power of coercion. In this manner, adversarial information or news may be prevented from spreading or being known to the public. Wrong. It is no longer easy to stop unfavorable information or news. Information of all types can be generated and spread by anybody using social media and online network services.

The major traditional media do occupy some pride of place and can be very influential in formation of public opinion. But they no longer stand alone and can sometimes be less powerful in shaping public agenda than the small media or social network services. Increasingly, the separation of media platforms is becoming less distinct. Most of the large established media organizations use social media as much as they use information that may originate from social network services.

A politician facing an election in the future, or one who does want to maintain great influence in his or her community should keep in mind that staying on the correct path in public and private is sound advice. If something should not be known, then it is much better that it does not happen. Once it happens, be prepared to explain, or face the consequences and accept the blame.

Politicians often use attendance at their campaign rallies as a gauge of support that the public accord them. In the new sophisticated environment, opinion polling is another measure of what people do and how they will vote. Opinion polls also inform politicians on how to orient their audiences and steer people to support an agenda. However, heavy turn-out at political rallies have become a very uncertain gauge of support as many people turn up at events for many reasons including to collect gifts, monies, or in expectation of material assets. At times the turn-out is just another social outing in communities where nothing much happens.

edodecides2020

Opinion polls are useful though not necessarily effective sources of information. Hilary Clinton led in most results of opinion polls in 2016 and she lost the election, although she won the majority votes. That was not sufficient to get her access to the White House. A serious search for reliable means of measuring political support and voters’ interest is still wide open.

The total number of voters in Edo State during 2020 gubernatorial elections is 537,407 out of about 2.2 million registered voters. In 2016, a higher number of voters – 613,244, was recorded out of about 1.9 million registered voters. The 2012 gubernatorial election of Oshiomhole versus Mr. Solomon Airhiarvbere recorded still higher number of 630,099 voters out of about 1.5 million registered voters.  The significant reduction in voting in Edo State over the past 12 years deserves more scrutiny. It may be due to several barriers such as apathy, social or economic reasons, and perceived insecurity.

In the apparently religious society that is Nigeria, political campaigns use faith terminologies, labels and ingredients to colour their “preachings” for political support or conversion to their own side. It is not unusual to begin bitter and divisive political rallies with prayers. Speeches are filled with allusions to the almighty and his powers to deliver victories to the candidates. Spiritual songs are used to lift up enthusiasm, just as thugs dress up for violent confrontations to mail or even kill. Yet aspirants to political offices try hard to convince the public that they belong in the spiritual kingdom.

Whether overtly or subtly, political campaigns and processes around elections remain vital in forming public opinions and making decisions on voting.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

MAGU AND SO WHAT?

By Bunmi Makinwa

EFCC acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu reportedly detained after he ...
Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu (via The Interview NG)

Once in a while the unexpected happens in life and there is drama. If it is very unexpected, it can be called high drama. It is too early to say whether the issues surrounding Mr. Ibrahim Magu, until recently acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is just drama or if it qualifies as high drama.

An important point – drama may reflect life but it is not reality, nor does it change reality. Drama is (usually) fiction. The Nigerian political establishment is a world of unending drama.

Within weeks, historical drama shows debuted. Magu was on centre stage, facing a probe panel on allegations of corruption. The opponents of Magu, who until then has been leading anti-corruption efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, were overjoyed. They would like to see him in more trouble, perhaps in jail. Magu’s supporting audience hailed him for his good deeds and accused Attorney General Abubakar Malami of being the chief architect of Magu’s predicament. The pro-Magu people hauled loads of accusations of corruption on Malami.

Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) opened its can of worms to the public. An allegation of 40 billion Naira corruption within NDDC was being probed. Former acting MD for NDDC, Dr. Joy Nunieh, exchanged strong accusations with Minister of Niger Delta, Mr. Godswill Akpabio, on mismanagement of the agency. The public struggled to comprehend how billions of Naira were doled out for strange and non-existent projects. The drama took a new turn when NDDC’s acting managing director, Prof. Daniel Pondei, fainted during his session with the House Committee questioning him. Since it was established in 2000, NDDC is reported to have created many corrupt billionaires whilst development of poverty-ridden Delta region has stood still.

Buhari restructures NDDC after Joy Nunieh's sack | Nairametrics
Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)

More drama still as preparation for elections shifted into top gear in Edo and Ondo States. The governor of Edo State could not win the nomination of his All Progressives Congress (APC) political party to run for second term as governor. He left the APC and joined the arch rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that immediately made him its gubernatorial candidate. As if in exchange, APC brought in PDP’s former governorship candidate to take APC’s seat. Overnight, the candidates started to denounce their previous political parties.

In Ondo State, deputy governor of APC ruling party abandoned his principal and joined arch rival PDP with his eye on being the governorship candidate. He did not get PDP’s nomination. Immediately, he left PDP and joined yet another party, Zenith Labour Party. He has belonged to three parties in less than a month. How dramatic!

The political campaigns in Edo and Ondo States consume as usual all the time, funds and resources of the two states. The campaigns, as usual also, suck in resources from other states and the centre. Many political jobbers, contractors and anyone who is well positioned push hard to get contracts for electoral activities. Many ordinary people push hard to get hand-outs and “palliatives” from politicians during campaigns because it will be dry days once elections are over.

In all of the drama of Magu Versus Malami, NDDC’s revelations and political shifting sands in the two states, what is in it for Nigeria? Zero is the answer.

Many years ago, whilst he was former head of state, General Olusegun Obasanjo accused for the first time then ruling military President Ibrahim Babangida of running a corrupt government. A friend, on hearing the news, screamed that Nigeria was in somersaults. Nigeria would undergo a turn-around, he chanted. Real, indeed, I screamed back sarcastically.

The optimist friend believed the drama and I did not. I could not see what benefits the dramatic spat between the two political friends would bring to Nigeria. Since the time, Obasanjo’s letters to sitting Presidents in Nigeria, including the current one, have become regular shows and predictable comedies. The reality has dawned that the letters only draw a lot of attention to the writer and provide him a stepping board into the next political stage.

The list of high and low drama is unending: top politician Mr. Abubakar Atiku left one political party and joined another, and left again, and returned to the original party; former governor Ibori was jailed, Ibori is welcomed home by crowds of supporters and political stalwarts; probe of fuel subsidies in billions of Naira paid for non-existent fuel, and no outcomes; Mr. “Integrity” Farouk Muhammed Lawan of House of Representatives was shown on video as he packed wads of allegedly bribe US dollar notes into his pockets and cap, life goes on; PDP wins, APC loses, and vice versa, yet same names are in charge; Babangida wrote President Goodluck Jonathan on wrongdoings, Babangida denied writing; former minister of defence General Theophilus Danjuma’s crusade against cattle herders, then he visits Aso Rock and his businesses remain intact; Governor Umar Ganduje of Kano stuffed US dollars allegedly bribe money into his flowing robes, and then wins for second term; then Central Bank Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi alleged that $20 billion was missing, and later on he himself will be remembered as emir of opulence; former governor Orji Uzor Kalu was jailed for corruption, Kalu is released….

Presidency, APC React To Orji Uzor Kalu's Conviction – The ...
President Muhammadu Buhari shakes hands with former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu

The dramatis personae no longer change much. When their political parties or the names of parties change, the political drama remains constant. All for self and nothing for the country and its people. Or at best, very little service, here and there. The known names appear on stage to feast, pose, stay on, or disappear to the wings until another day.

The drama scenes are characterized by poor governance, use of masses as canon fodders, corruption, continuing insecurity, huge unemployment, low wages, dilapidating infrastructure, weak economy, poor well-being of humans. The sad situation has become etched in the meaning of what is called Nigeria.

It is almost wishful thinking, but can there be some “incident” where drama awakens its own actors to a new reality and metamorphosises to nation building? Either by accident or purposefully, can a change of heart or mindset happen within the political kingdom and result in a sense of duty, leading to transformation of the nation?

Whilst waiting for water to come out of a rock, a feeling or sense of nation-building should keep right-thinking people awake. Such people should repeat at every opportunity goal and aspirations that can improve and meaningfully turn Nigeria around, especially to the hearing of youth and young people in general.

As the known names bring their dirty linens into the open, Nigerians should accept the fact that the key characters in the political drama are stained badly and cannot make this land a better place. It is important to think seriously and work strenuously towards a new leadership cadre for the country.

In the ongoing drama of neglect and abandonment of young people to a sordid future, perhaps desperation will lead some people to demand a new compact for the society.

From the consequences of unhappy drama that manifest ceaselessly, perhaps some inspired leadership will emerge and truly redirect the country. It is possible that current social and economic disillusionment will inspire a new direction.

Perhaps also the inordinate acquisition of wealth that leaves most citizens in penury and wanton neglect may force a sympathetic view. Such a new direction may awaken the conscience of people, stir unexpected strong followership that breaks the cohesion of dominating political parties. Perhaps it will beckon to a new generation that will take advantage of it.

Young people overwhelmingly constitute the largest majority of the population. They have no meaningful future ahead of them. They have no means of running out of the country. They may have to force renewal and give the country a new breath, beyond the drama of Magu’s probe panel, and the rest.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Coronavirus in Nigeria Will Get Worse

By Bunmi Makinwa

 

The COVID-19 situation in Nigeria will continue to get worse and the virus will remain a serious problem for a fairly long time in the country. The reasons are numerous and the logic is obvious, as dictated by common sense, science of what is known about the pandemic, and the context of the country.

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It appears that there is a high level of awareness amongst Nigerians on COVID-19. While such awareness is very useful, it is more important how many Nigerians know what to do to avoid the virus, and are capable of doing it day after day and time and again. Despite lessening of lockdown and some reopening of business life in most of the country, the rising novel Coronavirus presence means that people must take actions to avoid getting infected and infecting others. People must also be capable to manage suspected cases and infected people.

In very simple language, humans change behavior when awareness becomes knowledge, and translates into action. There must be the means and support to carry out the new or modified behaviour consistently over the required period of time. It is not easy to change people and society, but it is achievable. The preventive and coping measures for COVID -19, including personal hygiene, wearing face masks and social distancing are new behaviours that must be internalized and done repeatedly.

How many people in Nigeria will be infected with COVID-19? How many people will die of the disease?

The answers to the questions on the future trajectory of the disease are done through modeling and calculations or by building scenarios. The resulting projections and conclusions, though, are only as good as the information and data that are fed into the models.

Here are a few data and facts on Nigeria. First case was on February 27, 2020. Two months later on May 3, 2020, there were 2,388 people infected and 85 people have died, and 351 people have recovered.

The progression of the disease in Nigeria can be glimpsed as follows:

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, responsible for testing among other functions, will be the first to admit that the extent of testing coverage is too little to allow for any reliable projections to be made. Besides, there are several other factors at play, some of them are peculiar to Nigeria and others are on the novel virus about which much is still being learned.

Despite the limitations, it is clear that there has been a rapid increase in the number of infected people as testing increases, and within a very short period. The increase has happened mostly during lockdown period, and given that the disease thrives best in the course of human social and daily interaction, more infections will be seen as lockdown is reduced or is lifted.

The point made is not an argument to continue lockdown, rather it is about how to manage life with COVID-19 as a permanent, constant, invisible enemy. Are people ready for the new life?

There are no good records of deaths in the country. People die on roads, at their homes and in churches, mosques, and at places of traditional healing. There is no reason in tradition, beliefs and customs to report the deaths. The costs and processes of filing reports and getting certification of deaths can be cumbersome, and they do not encourage people. No autopsy is needed for burial of dead people. The fact is that we do not have now reliable numbers of deaths, nor shall we know how many people will die of COVID-19. Period.

If more organized countries with better record keeping could not accurately account for COVID-19 deaths as distinct from deaths caused by other diseases, it will be too much to expect Nigeria to do better.

Many parts of Nigeria are already in the community transmission stage of the virus and it will become nationwide. The number of COVID-19 positive people will increase and the very likely different expanding interplay of cause-and-effect can be seen as a bulging concentric circle which is described below.

The more people test positive the more their contacts that have to be identified through contact tracing. The more contact tracing is done and the more it is effective, the more people will be available for testing and the more people will be found to be positive for COVID-19. The more people test positive, the more the numbers of people who will go into Isolation Centres. Self-quarantine requires special knowledge and competence by individuals and families.

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Snapshot of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria (Source: NCDC)

At the same time, many people will be asymptomatic – they are infected by the virus and they do not show symptoms but they can, and do infect others. The ratio of asymptomatic people, according to studies across countries (no study of Nigerian situation is available), has been found to be as high as 40 to 50 per cent of all infections. Such people unknowingly constitute a silent growing source of infection. It is dangerous but real.

Contact tracing is very difficult in the Nigerian context given the difficulties of identification of people, poor access to several areas and reluctance to self-report. Cultural norms that encourage protection of family members and political interference are additional problems. For these and other reasons, many infected people will not be found.

In the same context, more people will show up at hospitals with “regular” illnesses and some of them will turn out to be COVID-19 cases. They will cause infections within hospitals and amongst health providers. The increased infections within hospitals and of care providers, coupled with the diversion of care, materials/equipment and attention to COVID-19 will put a strain on medical facilities in general. It will also weaken provision of medical and health care for many chronic and serious ailments. More patients with other diseases will die or have prolonged illnesses.

In the order of things, number of deaths will increase overall, which in turn will heighten the panic on COVID-19. Hospitals and clinics will become un-inviting for people who are slightly unwell as they will want to avoid perceived possible infection of COVID-19. Their health will further deteriorate and their immunity will become fragile.

Meanwhile the Isolation Centres, following major increased number of COVID-19 patients, will become overwhelmed; staff, equipment and materials will become inadequate.

In the natural cycle of COVID-19, as infections grow many infected people will in turn infect others.

The possible heavy infections of health care providers will affect overall health care provision for all kinds of diseases and bring down the quality of care that has been poor in general.

The concentric circle of infections, poor level of care, deaths and more infections will continue to expand, as it has been demonstrated in Italy, Spain and USA. It is bad news.

The good news is that many people that are infected by COVID-19 will survive, as experience across the world has shown. Another good news is that concerted efforts are being devoted to responding to COVID-19 by the federal and state governments of Nigeria. Some states have shown high level competence and significant capabilities in handling stages of the pandemic.

Perhaps the most important saving factor is that the rich and powerful are forced to rely almost exclusively on the available local facilities for health and medical care at this period. Invariably, some much needed improvement being accorded the health sector to cater for the privileged class will trickle down to benefit the generality of citizens.

Societal and individual behavior change and modifications must accompany any serious, determined attempt to limit the impact of COVID-19. Mere awareness of the disease does not result in sustained changes by society or individuals. Studies and practice of behavior and social changes over decades demonstrate that carefully construed approaches tailored to categories of people are needed.

The really good news is that the behavioral approach, alongside medical and clinical care, can limit the impact of the virus on Nigeria.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Buhari needs another “Abba Kyari”

By Bunmi Makinwa

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Abba Kyari

Those who admired late Abba Kyari, former Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, praised him loud and clear. And those who hated him have resoundingly castigated him and his actions. The tributes reflect public perception and feelings about a person who stood out as the key figure of the administration.

Perhaps more than anyone in government, late Kyari defined the Buhari government and carried out its mission seriously and correctly. The tributes reflected this much.

As an un-elected official, he was uncharacteristically well known without making public appearances; unusually famously labelled and categorized by the public without saying much; and generally attributed superior authority and great influence by all including the spouse of his principal.

As Nigerians wait for the choice of a possible next chief of staff, several names are circulating. No matter the guesses and suggestions, one issue that looms largest is that Kyari served Buhari as the president wanted to be served. Kyari consistently spoke for and interpreted the president to all who he came across. Kyari’s appointees served during his principal’s first and ongoing second mandate, unless he chose not to keep them.

Still relying on the tributes, the conclusions are, without prejudice, that Kyari ran the government and the country very well for Buhari. The president confirmed his confidence in Kyari by reappointing him during the second mandate. The president needed Kyari, perhaps more than Kyari needed him.

Given the conclusions above, the next chief of staff will have to be another “Kyari” – meaning a Kyari-like personality. He does not have to be a look-alike in physical and material ways. But he must be similar to the former chief of staff in mind, spirit and temperament.

Some key characteristics of Kyari that Buhari will seek and prioritize in his choice of the next chief of staff are as follows and you should consider them as you weigh your interest in the job:

The health problems of Buhari impose certain physical limitations on his activities. The presidency is not a part-time job, and it places great physical burden on the occupier of the highest office. It is not publicly known whether the health conditions impair other faculties of the president. No matter the facts, the president must be shielded and cushioned from formal and informal demands of the office that may jeopardize his health. The new chief of staff must manage, deploy, arrange the presidency in name and style of his unseen and absent principal.

Very good educational background is important. Whilst what was studied may count for little, attendance of notable educational institutions is critical. The candidate’s former colleagues and mates will form a band of supporters that testify to his strengths, character and personality when he was in school, no matter how irrelevant such testimony may sound relative to today’s realities.

In all choices of key positions in government, families and friends are prime choices. Occasionally well-known people make the grade. Others when appointed to important positions must keep perpetual social distance from the president. And such people will act only within the wisdom of the known but unwritten rules of loyalty. Critics and advisers who do not share prevailing visions must never be allowed any merits.

All defence, security, and intelligence posts are made with hundred per cent “cultural sensitivity”. The appointments are important in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency. They are useful to reduce corruption, but only as defined internally.

The work of running the presidency is hard and demanding. The candidate should be on top of all issues no matter how it appears in public as if he is not. Hence appearances must be a cool exterior whilst interior is boiling with tactics and definite agendas.

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President Buhari and Abba Kyari in happier times (image courtesy State House)

The candidate must seek no publicity and obvious attention. The more the silence the better the options that can be applied as the situation demands. Do not show your hand quickly. Even when there is a lot of noise, maintain a poker face and stay impassive. Distance is important from the public. The political campaign has stopped the day the results of elections were announced.

Have a lot of room to wiggle. The space to take a stand or make a u-turn on issues and decisions grows bigger the longer the silence by the presidency. At times, the issues will simply disappear, no matter how loud the noise is. Know how to buy and use time.

The fewer the people with whom there is any social or political interaction the better. The candidate will not mount the soap box readily, or accept to have the klieg lights turned on him. It violates the silence and detached demeanour. In fact, stay within the friends-family-and-well-known others’ circle unless it is absolutely essential. When public interaction or statements are required, be brief. Curt the soap box and lights only when it can lure the unwary and divert attention. Or do it when there is too much pressure that the costs of not appearing in public may cause irreparable damage.

Be wary of politicians, all politicians. Even those within your own party. Let them stay divided if it happens. The longer they fight amongst themselves the easier it is to use them to attain set purposes. Keep in mind that they have served their important objectives already by getting the votes or doing whatever was necessary to win elections. They also have prices and interests. Know them well.

Nigerians will always revolve around ethnic groups and regional alliances. Know the country and its peoples, and make very good use of these fleeting conclaves. They are valuable resources to exploit for the vision and agenda of the presidency.

There is no national interest wherever you look, but it is important to pretend that it is the only reality to which the government is committed, and unwavering.

There are the media and their sponsors. Know them. Almost every story and article is either from our own people or from their own people. Their own people relentlessly sponsor attacks against us. Be aware. Read and study their ways. Enemies are enemies and they will pay dearly when we strike, in our own time.

Be persuasive and eloquent with your friends, not the masses. Your friends will talk with conviction on your honesty, integrity and incorruptibility. The masses will deride you anyways.

Using the criteria above, President Buhari is seeking the right candidate for the most powerful office.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership

Bill Withers, Musical Genius Of Nobody

Bill Withers Dead At 81 - Essence

Bill Wither by Andrew Zukerman

The name Bill Withers (1938 – 2020) hardly comes to mind among the top musical personalities of the era. But his music does. Hits like “Use Me”, “Lean on Me”, “Aint No Sunshine”, and “Just The Two of Us” are highly popular and often associated with other musicians who actually only produced versions of these songs. The originator, singer and producer of the award-winning numbers was Bill Withers whose full name is William Harrison Withers.

As the coronavirus pandemic rages, “Lean on Me”, with vocals of “We need someone to lean onAll we need is somebody to lean on”, stirs deeper meanings in people than Bill would ever have imagined in 1972 when he released the chart-topper number.

His death on March 30 was not due to COVID-19, which a few days earlier had claimed Manu Dibango, a great saxophonist, famous for his “Soul Makossa” which dance steps took off also in 1972 from Cameroon but spread its African-ness far and wide.

Bill Withers will long be remembered for his music. He should be known and remembered for far more than that, although left to him alone,I just want to feel good”, he would say typically.

There are many sides to this son of a miner father who grew up in the small mining town called Slab Fork in West Virgina, USA. He was raised mostly in Berkeley, California, by his mother and grandmother. His father died when Bill was only 13 years old.

 

 

Bill grew up shrugging away anything that came his way – racism, creativity, fame, wealth, death and celebrity status, indeed anything that would normally preoccupy the life of an average human being. To him, nothing mattered much, and he lived in total opaqueness to seemingly important material things. In an interview with BBC in 2009, he reasoned: “The most important thing is to be okay…I just like to be able to accept everything before I die. You know how unhappy you would be when you feel that the way you are is not okay? I started out my life like that. I don’t want to end up like that.”

His family was one of two black families that lived in the white part of town. But Bill would describe his time there as one of acceptance by all. He was calledLittle Brother and played with the neighbours’ older white kids with no sense of his racial difference. The attitude to look beyond challenges and mould his own realities somehow brought him popularity, fame and wealth without overly courting them.

At age 17, Bill wanted to move on with life beyond small towns and limited economic possibilities. The military provided an obvious entry place and he joined the navy where he trained and served for nine years as an aircraft mechanic. It opened up opportunities for other future jobs which he did until he was 32 years old.

Muhammad Ali and Company

June Pointer, Muhammad Ali, Bill Withers & Don King in Zaire, 1974 (Lynn Goldsmith)

In the 70s when Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross were among rising black stars who were opportuned and nurtured in the legendary Motown studio, Bill started a new career in music as a fully grown man with no experience in the music world. Until that time, his songs were

personal tunes that he sang to himself as he worked to earn his keep. Despite the limitations, he signed on with Sussex Records and became the label’s best-selling artist.

His first album, “Just As I am” was released in 1971 and he won a Grammy Award for “Aint No Sunshine, a single which sold millions of copies.

Fame and money continued to follow Bill. His second and third albums, “Still Bill” and “Use Me” also sold millions of singles and confirmed that Bill was wanted by the world. Listen to Bill’s songs – Grandma’s Hands, Lovely Day, Who’s He and What’s He to You, Everybody’s Talking, Harlem, Let Me in Your Life… and the words and ballads lure you into reminiscences, sleep, dreams and inspirations.

As he would say much later, if you think that you have something to offer, put it down and let the world take you up on it. Bill was taken sky high.

Early in his musical career, Bill showed his individuality and personal inclination. Music was an art, and if wealth and adulation accompanied it, art should take precedence.

When asked who he had in mind when he sang his famous love songs his answer was unusual: Nobody. He explained that he wasn’t even thinking then. Keep on using me, until you use me up – the widely loved phrase just came to him, and it sounded original, and he used it. The meaning was up to whoever heard it.

Bill Withers revealed later on that he had a rough start in life as far as women were concerned. For close to thirty years of his life, he had a strong stutter which placed a heavy social burden on his interaction with females. Besides, he earned so little money that dating was almost out of his life. His songs were rather a reflection of how he saw life and society. His inner thoughts, he confessed, were more turbulent, closer to an outlier existence that bordered on “manic depression”.

Why we need to lean on Bill Withers and his great music more than ever

Fortune smiled on Bill not only in music but in his personal life too. Although his first marriage was short-lived (1973 1974) and ended in a divorce, he married again in 1976 to Marcia, a very well educated lady, with whom he had two children. They lived together in comfort until his death.

At the height of his popularity, Bill stunned the world by retiring from music in 1985. He contested the word “retirement”. “I did not retire, I merely did something else”, he responded often to questions on the subject. He took a position – he would not accept to be told or advised by producers and marketers to play in certain ways or use some instruments or equipment. “Don’t confuse music with music business…Let your reward be in the doing of it. If you can turn it into business, go for it, but don’t bet your life on it.”

He explained further: Don’t value your gift according to where you fall on the scale of commercial professionalism. Enjoy it. If you can lock up yourself in your closet and just groove, don’t cheat yourself out of that.” He spent his “freedom” years writing music, playing at his own home studio, receiving awards, speaking to groups and doing just whatever he wanted to do.

Famously, Bill refused to play with Elvis Presley because he disagreed with the title of the number, “In the Ghetto”. “That just pissed me off. I don’t know no nothing about no ghetto…If you see me in the ghetto, brother, I am passing through.” Yet another confirmation of Bill’s originality, belief in his personal values and total contentment in who he was.

Rarely is a person so clear about his place in life and happy to stay there no matter what temptations and ambitions lurked around as Bill personified through every stage of his life.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership

 

Can Africa Keep Coronavirus Under Control?

By Bunmi Makinwa

The map that is emerging of the global situation of coronavirus disease, better named as COVID-19, is strange and surprising.

Coronavirus Map: Distribution of COVID-19 Cases Worldwide, as of March 17, 2020. Credit: WHO

Take a map of the world with an all-white background and put black spots to mark the places where COVID-19 cases are high or significant. Africa stands out as the only continent that remains mostly white. The other continents have a large number of people who have COVID-19. Many of the countries with a high number of cases also have a correspondingly substantial number of deaths from the disease whilst African countries have recorded very few deaths.

What is strange about Africa? Why is COVID-19 unusually bypassing Africa?

Epidemiology is the study of incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health. It uses a lot of data and statistical information to reflect its conclusions or findings. It gives an account of fundamental factors that influence course of diseases.

As in similar studies of humans, nature and society, when no coherent explanation is possible to explain a phenomenon, epidemiology infers, extrapolates and uses conjectures.

In understanding why Africa is spared to date of many cases of COVID-19, there are a lot of inferences and suggestions, but very little coherent or solid explanation. It is understandable. COVID-19 is a new and rapidly evolving disease. The scientific knowledge is growing but It is too early to draw conclusions.

Compared to the rest of the world, cases of COVID-19 are low in Africa. As at this time of writing, Egypt leads with 196 and also has the highest number of deaths at 6. South Africa is a distant second with 85 cases, followed by Algeria with 61 cases, Morocco has 38 cases and Senegal has 27 cases, in that order. Morocco has recorded 6 deaths and Sudan has one. All other African countries with COVID-19 cases are in single units.

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South African Development Community unites to tackle COVID-19. Credit: WHO

The current situation on COVID-19 does not say a lot about where things maybe tomorrow or in the near future. Whilst China was dealing with the first major epidemic and a high number of cases, most countries that became almost overwhelmed with the disease did not foresee the trend. Within weeks, Italy has a raging epidemic with 31,000 plus cases and over 2,000 deaths, and Iran has more than 16,000 cases with almost one thousand deaths. Spain, Germany, France and the USA are battling with rising numbers.

There is, therefore, no valid reason to celebrate or be lackadaisical about the current situation in Africa. Rather, it is as good a time as any to adopt an active and serious preparedness stance. African countries should anticipate any eventuality. There are already lessons to learn from other parts of the world.

African countries cannot be over-prepared, because its best preparedness situation in medical and health services will be not anywhere as strong as the services in China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, France or the United Kingdom – which health care and management capabilities were overwhelmed fast by the epidemic. According to WHO, healthcare and services in Africa, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, are the weakest in the world.

“Keep it out and be prepared”. This is my shorthand of a combined strategic imperative that should drive Africa’s readiness on Coronavirus or COVID-19 given the facts and data available regarding the disease.

From reports and personal observation, African countries have set up testing facilities at airports to monitor travelers and identify possible infected persons. This is excellent. It is doubtful that the same kinds of facilities are available at land borders which are often too numerous to count, and very porous.

COVID-19 is said to have an incubation period of between 14 and 21 days based on current knowledge. It means that an infected person with no symptoms yet may pass through the temperature recording tests at airports and manifest the disease later on. It has probably been the case with several international travelers who have been identified with the disease days after their arrival in countries.

It is also assumed that COVID-19 or a variant of it is not indigenous to African countries. If it exists already, it is most likely to be passive or not as virulent as the type that is ravaging other parts of the world. The assumptions are reasonable until facts prove otherwise. If the assumption proves wrong with time, there will arise a need to respond to emergencies.

For the above reasons and others, the efforts to “keep it out”, may not be as successful as it is touted to be. Therefore, the second part of the strategy, “be prepared,” becomes even more important.

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Senegal partners with UK lab to develop a hand-held coronavirus test kit. Credit: CNN.

Most African countries have Centre for Disease Control (CDC), or National Institutes of Public Health and similar bodies that are a repository of knowledge and skills in control and preparedness for communicable and non-communicable diseases. They have capabilities to test, confirm COVID-19, treat and manage cases locally, including the capability for contact tracing, isolation and follow-through medical services.

However, medical and care services are most beneficial and effective when disease burden is limited. The fact that most people in the continent do not have reasonable access to health care facilities is a grave complication when epidemics strike.

The maxim, prevention is the cheapest cure, cannot be more appropriate at this time. In order to “be prepared”, African countries should adopt a preventive approach premised on behaviour change, a well-developed public health and change management field.

COVID-19 is a communicable, infectious disease. Unfortunately, merely reviewing measures taken by African countries to date reveal that less than 10 countries out of 54 have taken the preliminary steps of behavior modification and change that can enable people to “be prepared” to overcome the disease. Measures such as limiting the gathering of groups, enforcing reduced movement for social activities, and continuous enlightenment and education with rehearsals for practical understanding are very important.

It is difficult to ask people not to socialize, greet, congregate to celebrate, meet up with family and friends, as they normally do. It is challenging to ask people to wash hands with soap for at least 20 seconds every so often; not to touch mouth, nose and eyes; and to avoid handling public facilities. People just like to do what they normally do. It is human. The social and cultural practices of African peoples have proved tough and resistant to behavior changes that place individuals above groups and community. We have seen it in HIV and AIDS programmes, and in combatting Ebola.

Now with COVID-19, people must be ready and comfortable over time with the disruption of normal life and daily routines. It is difficult to stay home for days, weeks and maybe months, but people must be geared to practice and adopt the new behavior.

Official announcements setting stringent requirements to reorganize life in new ways, cancel public gatherings and events relating to education, work, leisure, and social life, are in order. People must be prodded towards changing their lifestyle.

Behavior modification and change are what it means to “be prepared” for COVID-19 in Africa. It is known that behavior change takes several steps from awareness to understanding, through acceptance, adoption, and ultimately the sustainability of new behavior. It also takes several supporting factors, including policy, politics, faith, social and economic contexts to effect a change of behavior in institutions, societies and amongst people.

The time to begin implementing a behavior change movement to contain COVID-19 in Africa was yesterday. There is no justifiable reason for any country to be taken by surprise having seen how the disease has evolved dramatically in several countries.

If, as time goes on, Africa remains unaffected by the ravages of COVID-19, nothing would have been lost by being prepared for the worst-case scenario. Indeed, it would be a much better situation than saying “had we known” after the unexpected havoc that the epidemic can wreak on a fragile continent.

Bunmi Makinwa was the first head of behavior change communication of UNAIDS at the global level from Geneva. He is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.