Osun State Election – The Real Winners

By Bunmi Makinwa

In a situation where standards continue to spiral downwards there is cause to celebrate small gains. Conducting a state gubernatorial election in Osun State recently with few major hiccups is therefore worthy of laurels. In the Osun State gubernatorial election, it does appear that good preparation prior to the election and effective actions on July 16, 2022, the election day, coalesced positively for successful conduct.

Who deserves recognition for the success and why? What can be gleaned from the election for improvement of future elections in Nigeria?

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Ademola Adeleke defeated incumbent Governor Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party in declared results of the election. Although the last word on the results may not have been heard yet, it is timely to take a deeper look at several aspects of the election. The real winners, often left unnoticed, are those who enable democracy to gain some traction, taking a step forward.

In a previous write-up a few weeks back, in anticipation I had stated: “Also in Osun State, gubernatorial election will take place on July 16 this year, almost one month after that of Ekiti State. Both states will set the tone for how future elections will play out in South-West of Nigeria and many parts of the country.”

A lot of tension preceded the Osun election. There were many reasons for APC and PDP to be desperate, as they were during the election in Ekiti. Among the reasons are that having won in Ekiti, APC would like to win also in Osun and for the time being confirm its dominance in South-West, the fief of its presidential flagbearer, Bola Tinubu.

For PDP, coming third after APC and Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Ekiti election was humiliating and Osun election presented yet an opportunity for redemption in a state where it once reigned. Besides, PDP could reassert its claim that the party’s candidate Adeleke actually had won in Osun State in the last gubernatorial election of 2018, and that the election was rigged in favour of Oyetola. Never mind the court judgment that affirmed APC’s victory.

Reports from election monitoring groups indicate that vote buying by political parties occurred in many places in Osun State. The reports show though the cases were less frequent compared to what happened during the election in Ekiti State.

Some violence was also reported as were cases of tampering with votes and disruption of voting in some places. Yet, the reports showed that in comparison to what happened during the Anambra State gubernatorial election in November 2021and in Ekiti State in June 2022, the situation in Osun was much improved. Such progress is worthy of recognition.

In Osun, people were organized, persistent in making sure that they voted, and determined to make sure that their votes were recorded correctly. Overall, people took voting seriously and would not entertain any diversionary tactics or be derailed from their objective to vote for their candidate. It is reported that some voters collected vote inducement monies when offered by political parties but the voters still voted their choice as much as possible. It is proper that Osun people should be commended for their resolve to make their votes count.

It would appear that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had learned many useful lessons from past elections. Osun State, from various reports and news coverage, saw a better prepared electoral agency. Voting materials and personnel were deployed correctly and arrived on time at voting venues. It was widely seen that the new electoral equipment and facilities worked. The use of bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) which started with the Anambra election has proved to be a game changer. The machine reads voters’ cards, authenticate them, and cannot be manipulated.

Election returns were captured at locations and reported on INEC portal quickly. One could watch live reporting of electoral process and decisions on various news media outlets. At the collation and reporting centres, INEC officials were appropriately measured in their delivery of results. Voting documents were duly signed by party agents. Election officials provided answers to questions and solved problems as they arose. 

In the few voting centres where significant disruptions occurred – voters were attacked or hindered from voting, or ballots were destroyed willfully, or ballot boxes were seized by thugs – the returns were cancelled.

On its part, INEC performed very well, restored faith in the organization, and merits commendation.

Largely, the security personnel showed heavy presence and cooperated to assist smooth voting. They prevented people who wanted to disrupt proceedings, cause confusion or be violent. The security forces reduced opportunities for vote buying, maintained law and order, and ensured that voting went on smoothly. The security and intelligence services did the right thing and earn themselves a laurel.

The stakes were high at Osun. In continuation of the propensity for the ruling party at federal level to use its overarching authority and manipulate security services for nefarious activities, APC could have combined its control of state and federal governments to impose its will. Indeed, the election could have been deadlocked or indecisive, and could have got enmeshed in violent confrontation due to flagrant disregard of people’s choice. Refreshingly, none of these unwelcomed scenarios happened. Osun State and federal government deserve big cheers.

There is no hiding place for misdeeds and wrongdoing, thanks to online and Internet technology. In the same breath, positive happenings and situations are easily made known. Whilst the news media carried out their reporting and analysis in Osun during the election, citizen “journalists” and the general public sent out information constantly and relentlessly too. With mobile phones, tablets and similar devices, constant and relentless information emerged as photos, videos, texts and voice notes in the public space.

All actors – INEC, party officials, security personnel – were alert and kept in check. Kudos to the media, activist journalists and people who use their smart gadgets to capture information and monitor activities during the election. They all get a well-deserved recognition. 

It is early to draw conclusions on how well future elections will be organized in Nigeria. The factors that make for a fairly well-organised election at state level are not all similar to what characterize nation-wide elections, especially for presidential election.

In fact, when many states have elections at the same time for various offices, the resources – INEC, security personnel, media and monitoring groups – are over-stretched. The resources are not adequately available to cover every area of need. The close coverage and attention given to a one-state and one-office election cannot be replicated country-wide.

However, to institutionalize democracy, elections and voting where people’s choice prevails is absolutely crucial. It is necessary that people themselves demand to have their choice respected by making their votes count.

Perhaps well-conducted and free elections will mark the beginning of the realization that elected officers are to serve the electorate.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for leadership. For more reading, visit http://www.bunmimakinwa.com

Ekweremadu and Nobody

By Bunmi Makinwa

Two photos were to be identified on the screen of the phone. There were four Nigerians at the location in Maryland, USA. Without hesitation, three of the Nigerians identified the photo of the gentleman in suit and red tie – Ike Ekweremadu. A question followed – Is that the boy in question?

The name of the boy in question is Ukpo Nwamini David.

The media space has been dominated recently by news of former Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu, his wife Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu versus Ukpo David, an unknown and Nobody. In the scene somewhere is also Sonia Ekweremadu, a daughter of the Ekweremadus whose need for kidney to save her life led to the big news.

Ike Ekweremadu, 60, in his social media spaces describes himself as politician, lawyer, philanthropist, among others. Having been in the senate for almost 20 years, he occupies one of the highest heights of political power and influence. And being wealthy comes with it.

The factual barebones of the available information are that the United Kingdom (UK) government arrested the Ekweremadu couple allegedly for luring Ukpo David to the country to harvest his kidney under false pretext. The Ekweremadus have denied the allegation.

The arrest of the prominent Nigerians and allegation has generated controversy – support for Ekweremadu and claims that the process of bringing Ukpo David to the UK for the kidney transplant operation was done appropriately against those who say that Ukpo David was naïve, poor and tricked and misled to a life-threatening surgery.

There are many issues that arise and this article will look into some of them, especially to draw lessons for the political leadership of Nigeria. The UK courts will decide the case.

Quite as expected, the media, including social media, has been dominated by positive stories in support of Ekweremadus. The narratives use facts drawn from just about anywhere to show that nothing untoward was done, especially by the parents who wanted only to preserve the life of their daughter, Sonia.

The stories are highly biased and reflect one-sided use of the media in favour of the strong, powerful and wealthy. It may create public sympathy for the Ekweremadus in Nigeria. But it will have little or no influence on the legal issues and the court case in UK.

The list of politicians who have expressed support for the Ekweremadus keeps growing. You may count Senator Smart Adeyemi, Labour Party presidential candidate Peter Obi, Femi Fani-Kayode, Joe Igbokwe… Such support is predictable. By attempting to drown out David Ukpo, a voiceless Nobody, the Ekweremadus’ group lends stronger credence to the song, “Poor Man No get Brother”. But it does not add new facts or legal strength to the real issues.

The best lawyers available in Nigeria and the UK will represent the Ekweremadus. If the couple is found guilty, the jail time will be long. Of course, no amount of funds or effort will be spared to save the Ekweremadus from possible imprisonment.

However, Ukpo David, who won’t have money or wealthy friends, will be represented by UK’s prosecuting attorneys whose main aim is to carry out their jobs properly. Where there are systems, and processes are clear and well established, the ability to influence outcomes is very little. Nigeria’s political leadership does not understand such a situation and will throw out more and more money only to find out at the end that there is no hiding place. It has happened in the past to Nigerian politicians or rich people who faced justice in UK.

There are a number of pro-Ekweremadu arguments that should be examined. One of them is that Ukpo David is not under-age as claimed and that he voluntarily accepted to donate his kidney to Sonia through the planned surgery. He has used the Ekweremadu family to get into UK and wants to stay there hence the change of mind, some people argue.

The stated consent is explained from the side of the Ekweremadus. We are yet to see such clear evidence of consent whether written, video or audio. The voiceless Nobody is yet to speak directly on the issues.

The crushing poverty, deprivation and hopelessness of the youth population in Nigeria is palpable. I do not see how any young person in a similar situation to Ukpo David  would not take advantage of being in Europe to attempt to have temporary, and ultimately permanent resident status in any European country. The political leadership that has misruled Nigeria and whose children do not get educated in Nigeria nor want to stay there, cannot force the young generation to stay either.

If Ukpo David has indeed defrauded the Ekweremadus as alleged by spokespersons and friends of theirs, then Ukpo David has learned from the best how to exploit others. Those who defraud Nigeria every hour are the political leaders of Nigeria. The younger generation may end up taking back their resources from their leaders through any means possible – good, bad and ugly.

While the noise and arguments and legal wrangle go on, Sonia Ekweremadu, whose kidney is failing, has been pushed to the background. Nigeria’s political leadership continues to go abroad for medical care. The ordinary citizens and workers are condemned to poor services, un-serviceable machines and under-paid medical staff in public health facilities.

Private medical care is very expensive due to a host of reasons including lack of electric power, high costs of purchasing equipment, expensive security protection and continuous exodus of trained medical personnel out of the country.

The price of failed leadership affects us all, sooner or later, and our privileges cannot save us.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Previously, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Next Governor of Ekiti State

By Bunmi Makinwa

Map of Ekiti State in Nigeria.

The campaign season in Nigeria is widely visible, just as are frequent kidnappings, abductions, terrorist attacks, and killings for all kinds of reasons. As in many countries due to a combination of international and local factors, economic problems keep mounting, inflation is high and prices of almost everything are rising.

In March 2023, the presidential elections will take place alongside elections of many governors, representatives to federal and state houses. For politicians, their hangers-on, political jobbers, and beneficiaries of political hand-outs, it is the once in four-year cycle to rake in financial rewards. For the country, it is a repeat of a journey that has been characterized with worsening conditions in all sectors of the economy and human well-being. It is a journey to nowhere as the fundamental rules of engagement for political leadership are thoroughly enmeshed in corruption, cronyism and prebendalism –  a system of sharing government revenues to benefit self, supporters, and members of their network no matter how much it impoverishes the larger society.

Ahead of the presidential election, on June 18 this year, a hard jolt to politics will present itself when Ekiti State votes to determine its governor. Known in decades past for their natural determination to stay their ground, the election will determine whether the Ekitis’ democratic tradition which received severe setbacks and was overcome by money, official violence and manipulation during recent gubernatorial elections, has returned.

In 1983 in then Ondo State from which Ekiti State was carved out in 1996, the gubernatorial election highly contested for by NPN and UPN, two major parties, tested the fury of Ekiti people. The voters’ choice was upturned by the federal government’s ruling party, as was usually the case in many parts of the country. The people of Ekiti decided that the popular, obviously elected candidate, Mr. Michael Ajasin, must be declared winner of the gubernatorial election. Rigging was not new and some resistance was not unusual. However, the unpopular declaration of Mr. Akin Omoboriowo as winner saw an unprecedented show of people’s will in the state.

The massive resistance, burning, killing and mayhem that followed the announcement of Omoboriowo as winner was uncontrollable by security forces. In defiance but hidden away, he broadcast an acceptance speech. Yet, he was not able to assume office. Fortunately, a court judgment reversed the decision and Ajasin was legally, and appropriately, declared winner of the election

In Ekiti State, the political landscape has been dominated since Nigeria’s independence by left-leaning parties such as Action Group, UPN, ACN, and AD. The All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have dominated politics in the state more recently. Until just about two months ago, the candidates of APC and PDP were billed for a straight competition and one of the two would decide the next governor.

The situation changed after the parties carried out their primaries and chose their flagbearers. Many of the interested candidates were either out-manoeuvred or blatantly pushed aside in the process of party nominations. In anger, several of them decided to depart from their erstwhile parties and move elsewhere.

A major aspirant to gubernatorial position who contested the PDP primaries, former governor Segun Oni, felt deeply aggrieved and left his party to emerge as Social Democratic Party’s (SDP) gubernatorial candidate for Ekiti State. Until Oni’s position became public, SDP was a nominal party and considered as a relatively small player in the state. It has been transformed by the candidature of Oni and without doubt both PDP and APC are re-calculating how to overcome the challenge posed by SDP and its new candidate.

According to the electoral rules for the June 18 election in Ekiti State, the winner must receive the majority of the votes and at least 25% of the votes in at least two-thirds of the state. It means that the winning candidate must have widespread support of Ekitis.

There are three candidates for the coming June18 gubernatorial election in Ekiti State. Or more correctly, there are two candidates and one.

Those who are familiar with voters’ inclination in Ekiti argue that the contest is a performance assessment of former governors – Segun Oni and Ayodele Fayose, and current governor, Kayode Fayemi.

Fayose and Fayemi are seen as strong leaders of respectively, PDP and APC in Ekiti State, and expressly targeting national political relevance and leadership. Their candidates, APC’s Abiodun Oyebanji, a former Secretary to the government, and PDP’s Bisi Kolawole, a former Commissioner, emerged from their parties’ primaries. The two candidates are important pillars for the future steps of Fayose and Fayemi in national politics. Hence the coming state election is a vital stepping stone for the future goals.

From right: Segun Oni         Kayode Fayemi                   Ayo Fayose

As governor of Ekiti State between 2007 and 2010, the admirers and supporters of Oni affirm that the period has been the most prosperous and stable era for the state. They maintain that Oni’s administration developed and implemented policies that encouraged investment, included all groups in governance, discouraged corruption, and attracted the best minds from Ekiti State and elsewhere for growth of the state.

Compared to Fayose and Fayemi, it is maintained that Oni’s commitment and passion for the ordinary people of the state was never in doubt and that he deployed the limited resources of the state competently to achieve astounding results.

However, Oni’s style of governance has been criticized for being less strategic in understanding political games in the Nigerian ways. For example, he is known as not having any material means or wealth to cater for his wide base of supporters. Despite being at the highest level of both PDP and APC at different periods, he has not overtly restructured and manoeuvered the parties to align with his ambitions or personal whims, a path many of his political colleagues take all the time.

Yet, his supporters within and outside Ekiti respect his style of leadership. They see a new, proven model of governance that points to true public service and ethical political leadership to renew the society.

Elections in Nigeria are won and lost often based on massive use of money to buy people and support, control of security machineries of state, use of violence, ability to corrupt electoral systems and institutions. It was not always this way. Voters’ choice in Ekiti used to matter greatly. The renewed interest in politics for the coming gubernatorial election seem to show that on June 18, Ekiti State will choose anew the resolve of their people to decide.

Photo of Election in Ekiti State.

Also in Osun State, gubernatorial election will take place on July 16 this year, almost one month after that of Ekiti State. Both states will set the tone for how future elections will play out in South West of Nigeria and many parts of the country.

Will the coming election rewrite the political direction of Ekiti State to reflect the wish of the people through a free and fair electoral adjudication process? Will June 18 in Ekiti confirm that votes matter and people’s choice does determine who wins? The questions and many similar others occupy minds of millions of people who watch and monitor the coming gubernatorial election in the state and political actions in Africa’s most populous country.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Previously, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Nigeria’s Next President

By Bunmi Makinwa

It is heightened political season in Nigeria. At national level the main question is – who will win the elections in February 2023 to become Nigeria’s fifth elected civilian president since 1999 when the military government stepped aside for civilian rule.

It would have been easier to answer the question if the candidates of the political parties are known and if their weights with the electorate can be estimated. It is too early to have the information. No party candidates are known yet. There are many self-declared candidates and early starters.

Rather than spend our time on persons and personalities, the article wants to examine certain criteria that qualified or favoured the past elected presidents. It will look into the traits that endure and will determine the next president through the electioneering process. The political experience since 1999 is most relevant. A military government of President Abdulsalami Abubakar organized elections and handed over to elected civilian President Olusegun Obasanjo. The civilian rule has continued to date under Presidents Umaru Musa Yar A’Dua, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari. Each and all of the four presidents won elections based on, in the considered opinion of this writer, their fulfilment of conditions stated below.

A pre-eminent condition to have a successful run for election as president is to have access to huge funds. By an average Nigeria’s dream, it is inestimable funds. The funds come from all sources. Whilst some personal wealth gives weight to the candidate, institutional funds are very important and the primary ones are federal and state governments. Several states combine as opportuned and provide deep pockets for their national candidate.

From left: Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan, Buhari

Funds also flow in from the private sector and the large ones are linked to government. Such sources of funds can be classified under government, though indirectly.

At every stage of the electoral campaign money counts. Party nomination forms are sold at a premium. In 2019, APC (All Progressives Congress) sold each form for 45 million Naira (at the time, about $125,000) and for PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) it was 12 million Naira ($33,000). The payments are non-reimbursable.

Party nomination elections is an ‘auction” arrangement and the highest paying candidate wins. Sometimes hundreds of millions of Naira have to be disbursed and it does not matter whether direct or indirect primaries are used.

There are no reliable figures available on electioneering costs attributable to each presidential candidature but estimates range from 10 billion Naira to 22 billion Naira from past elections, about half of the annual budgets of many states of Nigeria.

Of course there are many legitimate expenses involved in electioneering and Nigeria’s population of some 200 million covering 36 states, the Federal Capital Territory and 774 local governments is not cheap, to say the least.

The unorthodox expenses are as numerous as the illegitimate ones, and political parties and candidates who will win must take them on. When poor voters do not have transportation, the candidates must provide it. When voters have needs or they request privileges, they must be made available to secure their votes.

When security officials are to deploy to polling units, hot spots, and carry out nasty operations against opponents, the campaigners provide whatever is needed to facilitate such deployment – directly and indirectly. When generators or equipment and materials or additional security are needed at voting venues, counting offices and other places, the campaign offices and officials do oblige, willingly.

It is well known that constituents and party members see electioneering time as their own time to “chop’, and they do it plentifully. The large parties are well endowed and use money to edge out competitors.

The second criterion is that the candidate that wins is one who is nominated by a leading national party –APC or PDP, or by a new alliance of political parties of leading politicians with enormous pockets similar to how APC was birthed.

For reasons of huge expenses involved, logistics and spread across the country, and active “mobilisation” of media of communications, only major political parties have the financial muscle to carry out a meaningful campaign. Their candidates have always won and will continue.

It is important, as a third criterion, to have obvious or contrived support across at least two large ethnic groups. The constitutional criteria that a winner must have “not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory”, has to be met. The candidate who wins must have offices and/or representations across that many states and more. The visible presence of the political parties is a strong factor during future legal challenges that arise following INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) declaration of results.

A fourth criterion is the support from federal government and or state governments, and their institutions, especially the police and security forces.

The APC’s then candidate Buhari in 2015 defeated incumbent President Jonathan. Did it show the limitation and irrelevance of the specific criterion? No, it does not. For various reasons, Jonathan’s government did not apply the might of federal security forces in the usual overwhelming manner during elections and declaration of the results.

Did the presidency lose control of the leadership of the security institutions? Did the great number of state authorities supporting the opposition APC and Buhari weaken the presidency’s potential to use institutional security forces? Or was it Jonathan’s self-declared peace-maker role famously captured in his declaration that “my political ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian” that set a different path for Nigeria? If he had not accepted the decision, would federal might have prevailed and kept him in office for a second term? There are many unanswered questions and they further affirm the strong role of federal security authorities, especially the police.

On the positive side, security forces play a vital role. There is no election without violence and maintenance and order by the police and other security forces is important. Whilst some candidates may aspire to provide private security services, it does not go near enough and cannot cover any reasonable size of geographical space. The already established forces with local intelligence and weapons are the ultimate decision makers.

The fifth criterion for this analysis is modern communication and media technology uses and manipulation, including fake news. The combined professional use of old and new media can affect how people perceive issues and candidates. The candidate who wins is often seen to have won even before election day, thanks to the packaging and positive momentum created and sustained through communication.

There may be surprises in this analysis. Why is it not important that the next president has a top notch agenda for development of the country? Should the candidate offer credible solutions for problems facing the country especially the obvious ones – poor security, weak and declining economy, huge unemployment, massive corruption? Should the candidate proffer ideas and directions for using the huge potentials of the citizenry, including rebuilding education and health sectors?

But, no. These issues can be mouthed and spoken about, they will not help to win presidential elections.

The system and process are laid out for access to big money, large political parties with extensive national presence, resources to deploy for applying technology in good and bad ways, ability to use federal might maximally in all ways, and selective use of security forces to take decisive actions in favour of desirable persons. These are fundamental and systemic issues that bring about the same end in Nigeria’s presidential elections. 

During the presidential electoral cycle which is repeated every four years, an avalanche of political parties emerges. There are many persons who claim that they want to be president. Only a few of the claims may be taken seriously.

Among the serious ones, there may appear some groundbreaking ideas for policies and plans to make the country better. Unfortunately, there is very little or zero attention to the ideas and persons who champion them. Most of the parties and persons do not meet the criteria explained above, hence they cannot go far or win.

Bunmi Makinwa is CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Read more at bunmimakinwa.com

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:

Screenshot 2020-05-04 at 18.30.43

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.

Screenshot 2020-05-04 at 23.41.25

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.