By Muyiwa Adetiba
The first tranche of the much awaited COVID 19 vaccines arrived our shores last week. The first set of people to be vaccinated were the President, his Vice, the SGF, the CoS and some prominent Ministers. This is to be expected because that is who we are.
Other countries started with their front line workers especially the most exposed ones like doctors and nurses. The reason we were given for their decision is that we needed the high profile vaccinations to help overcome deep seated fear and scepticism among many of our people.
That may be true but other countries had their sceptics too; other nations employed high profile personalities to deal with these sceptics but this didn’t stop them giving the first nod to their healthcare workers – neither Biden nor Trump was vaccinated in the first week.
If there is any profession that has suffered most in this pandemic era, it is the medical profession. If there is any to be protected, it is the medical profession because protecting them is protecting the health of the nation. If there is any that is in short supply, it is the medical profession. I don’t want to be disrespectful but politicians are two for kobo in Nigeria. Doctors are not.
In any case, other countries had set up a template which is logical and transparent for vaccinating their populace. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Unfortunately, any wheel- meaning any arrangement – which doesn’t suit our peculiar class structure will have to be re-invented by us.
This is why it would not surprise me if some justification was found for vaccinating members of the Aso Rock household ahead of mainstream doctors; or National Assembly members and their families getting the priviledge ahead of healthcare workers.
I will also not be surprised if a generous percentage of the 4 million vaccines presently in the country went to top politicians and their families. It is who we are. We have a class structure that looks after its interests before national interests. We also have a political system that manipulates advantages to suit itself.
So nobody should be surprised if in the next batch of the vaccine which hopefully would be substantial, an allocation system evolved which could be outside the template others have used successfully to vaccinate their people. For example, Lagos and Abuja have been the epicentres since the virus found its way into the country. But our leadership might decide to use population to decide the basis of allocation. It might thus supply local governments that have not even heard of COVID 19 at the expense of those actively dying from it. It might go to the ridiculous extent of doing some ethnic or even religious balancing.
Whatever, it is certain that a substantial amount will be distributed through the ubiquitous ‘man know man’. This is who we are. It will also be interesting to find out what percentage of the precious vaccines would go to waste through unnecessary hoarding, inefficiency and outright corruption. That, sadly is who we are after all. Our inability to put a round peg in a round hole in order to get the best out of any situation is legendary.
COVID 19 vaccine is another testimony that the world has learnt no lesson when it comes to equity and fairness. The way the rich and powerful countries have cornered and hoarded available vaccines is not any different from the way they have cornered and hoarded world’s resources. If God was angry with them for inequitable and unjust distribution of wealth, He is not likely to be pleased with them for this inequitable distribution of a likely remedy. Many of them have committed to almost twice their national vaccine needs at a time some countries don’t even have a dose. But that’s who they have always been and we should have known better than to rely on them.
Nigeria has some of the best brains in the world yet no leadership challenged them to come up with something on COVID bearing in mind that nature’s cures abound in tropical forests; bearing in mind that the science of vaccine itself allegedly came from us. We keep limiting ourselves.
Meanwhile, other countries are using the brains of our sons and daughters. Other countries are actively wooing our young ones especially those of them who studied abroad. Who is going to take Nigeria through the next Industrial Revolution when our young and best brains are leaving the country everyday without a thought to coming back? The recent CBN policy on remittances shows we still don’t get it and those who are applauding it are as myopic as those who enunciated it.
We would rather it seems, have our better and more productive brains emigrate so they can remit peanuts than encourage them to stay home and produce for the world. Till tomorrow, we produce raw materials, send them abroad only for them to come back to us as finished products. It is the same mentality that encourages our professionals to emigrate so they can remit funds. About half a century ago, Nigerians designed the Eko Bridge.
Since then, many Nigerians had attended and excelled in the best engineering schools in the world yet we have outsourced almost everything that has to do with the design and building of the 4th Mainland Bridge. That cannot be progress. If Lagos State, the most endowed State in the country can do this, what would Osun or Bornu State do? When will we have the political leadership that will challenge and harness the abundant human capital in the country and the diaspora?
Before we leave the matters of health and politicians, there was a recent clash between two political juggernauts from a State in the South-East. A massive estate allegedly owned by the past governor was locked up. In any sane country, this man and his ilk would be in jail for building such an estate in the first case while in office. But the shameless man decided to take laws into his hands by trying to unlock the place. In the ensuing melee, his son-in-law was reportedly shot.
The man then went on air to say his in- law would have to be flown abroad because the three operations on him were unsuccessful. If in eight years as governor, he could not build a hospital that could treat simple gunshot wounds, then shame on him.
If while in office, he neglected to set up a structure to attract or keep good medical personnel, then he deserves whatever happened to his In-law. He typifies the Nigerian leadership which presides over the looting of the country only to go abroad for medical treatment at the slightest ailment. It is their stock in trade. This is who they are.