Connect with us

Opinion

COVID-19: CAN AFRICA AFFORD LOCKDOWNS? by CHUKWUMA CHARLES SOLUDO, CFR

Published

on

COVID-19: CAN AFRICA AFFORD LOCKDOWNS?*

*CHUKWUMA CHARLES SOLUDO, CFR*

This piece summarizes my contribution to an African debate. From Johannesburg to Lagos, Cairo to Dakar, Kinshasa to Kigali, Nairobi to Accra, etc the debate on how Africa should respond to the global coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is raging. At an African regional policy platform, I had expressed some of these (personal) views some weeks ago but have been encouraged by most members to circulate them in Africa beyond the platform.

This year 2020 begins a new decade that promises to be one of dreadful disruptions, with Africa holding the weakest end of the stick. In 2008/09, the global “great recession” was triggered by financial crisis in the US (world’s largest economy). Then, much of Africa was said to be decoupled from the crisis and muddled through without severe devastation of its economies. This year, a global health pandemic that has paused the global economy and certain to rail-road it into synchronized recession (if not depression) was triggered by the second largest economy, China. Unlike before, multilateralism and global coordination framework are at their weakest. National (local) self-defence is the rule. As before, the rich world with its generous welfare system and huge financial war chest, is taking care of itself (the US alone has US$2.2 trillion stimulus package). Africa is left to its fate.

Covid-19 caught the world totally unprepared, and with no proven and available medical response. Ad-hoc cocktails and learning-by-doing constitute the strategic package. In most western countries, the cocktail of response has included a coterie of defensive measures including: border closure; prepare isolation centres and mobilize medical personnel/facilities; implement “stay at home” orders or lockdowns except for food, medicine and essential services; campaign for basic hygiene and social distancing; arrange welfare packages for the vulnerable; and also economic stimulus packages to mitigate the effects on the macro economy.

Many African countries have largely copied the above template, to varying degrees. Piece-meal extensions of “stay at home” or lockdown orders as in many western countries have also been copied in Africa. But the question is: can Africa really afford lockdowns, and can they be effective? Put differently, given the social and economic circumstances of Africa and the impending ‘economic pandemic’, can Africa successfully and sustainably defeat Covid-19 by copying the conventional trial-and-error template of the western nations? In confusion and desperation, the world seemed to be throwing any and everything at the pandemic. Recall President Trump’s assertion that hydroxychloroquine “might help”? The evidence so far (from limited sample) is that it probably actually worsens the disease. The trial and error have left huge human toll and economic ruins, and there is still no solution.

Let us be clear: no one can blame African policymakers for the initial panicky copy and paste response some weeks ago. No public officer wanted to be blamed for doing nothing or not doing what others were doing. After these initial pilot schemes, it is now time to ask the deep question: Is this the right approach for Africa?

All lives matter and African governments must do everything to protect or save every life from the pandemic. The challenge is how. Africa faces two unsavoury options: the conventional template, including lockdowns versus heterodox (creative local) approaches without lockdowns. Both have risks and potential benefits. Sadly, people will still get the disease and die under both approaches. People will differ on the choice, depending on what is on their decision matrix: data, resources, subjective preferences, and interests, etc. I focus on which option (on a net basis) is achievable in the short to medium term, consistent with our social and economic realities.

Our thesis is that lockdowns in Africa suffer time-inconsistency problem without a credible exit strategy; is unaffordable and could potentially worsen the twin pandemic—health and economic—in Africa. We call for Africa to press the reset button now, mainstream its collective, simple, smart learning-by-doing solutions that could, in the end, be the African solutions for export to the world. Covid-19 won’t be the end of techno-economic disruptions or health pandemics even in this decade: this is an opportunity to think without the box—to engender greater self-confidence in our capacity to think through our problems, with authentic sustainable solutions.

Let me illustrate why I believe that a strategy that includes lockdowns/border closure is the worse of the two options given our social and economic realities. (Recall that China isolated Wuhan, and kept Shanghai, Beijing, and other major economic engines open, and today, China supplies the world with medical equipment, face masks, etc and raking-in hundreds of billions of dollars). The idea of a lockdown (and border closure) implies that you will continue to do so (with extensions) until such a time that you are satisfied that the spread of Covid-19 has been arrested or on the decline (with the possibility of imposing another round of lockdown if new infections surge). That is the catch: lockdown for as long as required to stem the spread. The length of time required for such lockdowns to ensure “effectiveness” in arresting the spread would make it near impossible in much of Africa. If the strategy is to lockdown until infections stop/significantly decline or so, then we would have a suicidal indefinite waiting game.

First, monitoring the spread requires effective testing, and Africa cannot afford effective testing of its 1.3 billion people. New York State, with a population of 20 million and a budget of $175 billion, is pleading with the US Federal Government to assist with testing kits and facilities. Check out the number of testing centres and facilities in each African country relative to their populations. A joke in the social media narrated that the health minister of Burundi was asked to explain the miracle in his country whereby the number of infections was reported as zero. His response was: “it is simple: we don’t have any testing kits”. Besides, there is stigma associated with the infection, and on the average Africans only go to the hospital as the last resort. There are also asymptomatic cases, and only the critically ill ones will report. So, there will always be massive under-testing, and gross under reporting.

Furthermore, social distancing in most parts of Africa will remain impractical. From the shanties in South Africa’s townships to the crowded Ajengule or Mararaba in Abuja/Nasarawa, or Cairo or Kinshasa to the villages and poor neighbourhoods in much of Africa, social clustering, not distancing, is the affordable, survivalist culture. Communal living is not just about culture, it is a matter of economic survival. Hence, the statistics on infections will be coming in fits and stats: shall we be locking down and unlocking with each episode of surge as there may probably be several such episodes (unless and until a cure is found)? Even with over four weeks of “stay at home” or lockdowns in some African countries, the reported daily infections continue to rise. Some may argue the counterfactual that without the initial lockdowns, the number of infections could have been multiples. It is a reasonable conjecture or anecdote, albeit without any proof. The question is the end game for a poor society such as Africa? New infections have re-emerged in Wuhan, and both Singapore and South Korea are going back to the drawing board. Since we cannot sustain lockdowns indefinitely or even until the spread stops/declines, it means that we would sooner or later remove the restrictions. What happens then? There would still be infections, which can still spread anyway. Why not then adopt sustainable solutions early enough without weeks of avoidable waste and hardship? Let us think this through!

Next, African states cannot pay for lockdowns. Many countries depend on budget support from bilateral and multilateral donors, and with acute balance of payments problems. They do not even have leg rooms to simply print money. Most are now begging for debt relief and applying for urgent loans from the IMF and the World Bank. In Africa, both the governments and the people are begging for “palliatives”. The most that African states and their private charities can do is “photo charity”—with much fanfare, drop a few currency notes or grains here and there for some thousands when millions are in desperate need, just to be seen to have “done something”. At a fundamental level, most African states do not have credible demographic data to identify and target the most vulnerable. In the western societies from where we copied the lockdown/border closure, their citizens are literally paid to stay at home (by silently dropping monies into their accounts plus other incentives). Check out the trillions of dollars, Euros, and pounds in support to the vulnerable and stimulus packages. Despite these, check out the restiveness/protests in several of these countries and the unrelenting pressure to eliminate the restrictions (even in countries where thousands are dying each day due to Covid-19). Given that no government in Africa can seriously pay for lockdowns, over one billion Africans are left to survive if they can or perish if they must.

Without government support, no more than 5% of Africa’s 1.3 billion people can possibly survive any prolonged lockdown on their own finances. Most of the others have no assets or savings to live on for any prolonged period, and there is no social insurance (welfare system). Without the pandemic, the African economic space is already in dire straits, with unacceptable unemployment rate (especially youth unemployment) as well as endemic poverty. In 2007, I evaluated the structure of deposits in Nigerian banks and found that only 8% of the bank accounts had balances of N300,000 (over $2,500 then) and above, and these accounted for 95% of the total deposits. The remaining 92% of bank accounts had 5% of total deposits. I understand that a recent study showed that only 2% of bank accounts had N500,000 (about $1,300) and above. Also imagine the dependency burden on this 2%. The dearth of infrastructure (basic electricity is deficient) makes compulsion to stay at home hellish for most people. We have lockdowns in Africa but without pausing several pressures for private expenditures on the people: monthly house rents; banks’ interest payments for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), electricity charges, etc.

With some 80% of Africa’s population living from hand to mouth on daily toil and hassle, complete lockdown would never be total, almost impossible in our social settings. In most cases, the orders simply create opportunities for extortion for the security agencies: those who pay, move about! Attempts to force everyone into a lockdown for extended period may indeed be enforcing a hunger/stress-induced mass genocide. More people could, consequently, be dying out of hunger and other diseases than the actual Covid-19. In normal times, thousands die every day in Africa due to other illnesses and communicable diseases—cholera, malaria, lassa fever, lower respiratory infections, diarrhoeal diseases, tuberculosis, heart diseases, stroke, HIV/AIDS, yellow fever, zika virus, measles, hepatitis, typhoid, small pox, Ebola, Rift valley fever, monkey pox, chikungunya virus, pregnancy and child-birth related deaths, renal failure; pneumonia, etc.

Lockdowns worsen these as many of the victims of these now have little or no cash to attend to themselves. Soon the pharmacy shops will run out of imported drugs. Even local pharmaceutical manufacturing firms need imported inputs but cannot efficiently source them under lockdowns/border closure (even more so with restrictions in China and India). Soon local, adulterated ones may fill the gap. A summary point is that the millions of persons in the street, who are struggling between life and death each day with numerous other challenges do not, and will never, understand why so much additional hardship is being foisted upon them because of the novel coronavirus. For most of them (wrongly though), it is an elite problem since for them, the “hunger/other disease virus is more dangerous than corona virus”. The hungry and desperate millions may be forced to take desperate actions to survive, and little surprise that crime has spiked in several African countries with lockdowns.

What many do not seem to appreciate is that African economies are facing their worst economic condition in decades. Commodity prices have fallen dramatically, and for oil producers, the situation is precarious. IMF predicts that aggregate Africa will fall into a recession this year (the first in over two decades) but possibly rebound next year. For oil producers, it all depends on what happens to oil prices in the coming months and how they creatively craft a plan to transition to the world with little or no oil. If appropriate measures are not taken quickly, some oil producers may slide into depression. But border closures/lockdowns that dramatically affect the labour market and supply side (as well as demand side) of the economy will only worsen the situation, especially with little or no room for effective fiscal/monetary stimulus. Government revenues will be severely affected.

Thousands of MSMEs will die under the weight of formal and informal loans, bills (rents, electricity, wages, interest, etc) that continue to accumulate under lockdowns as well as low demand for their goods and services. Some countries are busy “announcing” fantastic figures of helpline for the MSMEs (and much of it will end at the announcements) but without a clear path to address the legacy burden on the firms— the persisting bills! Most of the owners of the MSMEs will probably consume their business capital during the lockdowns, with no clear helpline afterwards. The US Senate just passed a bill for $484 billion “More Small-Business Stimulus”, including a $320 billion “Paycheck Protection Program” to enable small businesses pay their staff salaries for two months. This follows the exhaustion of earlier $350 billion for small businesses under the $2.2 trillion stimulus package. The above is just an example of what western countries from whom we copied the lockdown strategy are doing for their MSMEs—which Africa cannot afford.

Millions of poor farmers will be hard hit. Their perishable products that need the informal public transport to reach the cities will be wasted; while millions that need transport to their farms cannot do so. Agriculture in Africa is rain-fed and seasonal. Lockdowns during the planting season could threaten food security in months ahead. Inflation will shoot up in many African countries, and with critical food shortages later. Manufacturing firms need imported inputs, machinery, and spare parts. Countries under lockdowns are consuming their old stocks. Even after lifting the lockdowns/border closure, it may take months for normalcy to return in some countries.

Each day that any of the major African economies stays under lockdown costs Africa billions of dollars in lost income but with debatable benefits. Given its financial and structural weaknesses, Africa does not have the luxury of using the same “conventional tools” of the western countries in the face of the twin pandemic. At the minimum, Africa needs its full population (its most important asset) working at full throttle to have any chance of defeating the impending economic catastrophe.

What should Africa do?

We should think African but act locally and opportunistically to survive and prosper, and exploit the global opportunities offered by the crises. Every shock or pandemic presents opportunities. Solutions need to be multidimensional, far beyond economics and western medicine. Ad-hoc response will be a wasted opportunity. Africa needs a package for creating sustainable prosperity in a world of continuous techno-economic-health disruptions. Such disruptions will become the new normal in the decades ahead, and we should better get used to that. Only societies that anticipate and plan for such disruptions will opportunistically exploit them, while others mourn and blame the shocks. The way we work, socialize, meet etc will not be the same after these crises. Welcome to the decade of rapid creative destructions!

As a first step, African countries should urgently dismantle the border closures as well as the stay at home/lockdown orders. Hopefully, some useful data were gathered, and lessons learnt that will help in crafting simple, smart, and sustainable heterodox responses. Africa cannot afford lockdowns that will prove ineffective anyway.

Opening Africa does not mean abdication of responsibility by the governments. Governments should lead in the mobilization, education, and possibly equipment of the people to take personal responsibility for their safety; mainstream the African spirit of community/collective action by mobilizing the churches, mosques and civil society organizations to lead in the public education and mobilization; and finally for the government to do its utmost best in providing public healthcare. An enduring lesson of this pandemic is that African countries must take public healthcare seriously. There will be future health pandemics and we should better get ready today. Professionals, religious leaders, CSOs and community leaders should be mobilized to agree on simple, smart solutions consistent with our financial and social realities. Our western and local (herbal) medical experts and research institutions should all be mobilized to come up with solutions. Those with pre-existing conditions might receive special treatment. The president of Madagascar is reported to have announced that his country has found its own cure for Covid-19 and has ordered schools also to reopen. The west is still on a trial-and-error mode, and why shouldn’t we experiment as well? Africa fought and survived Ebola without lockdowns and we can do even better this time.

Our model should be learning-by-doing while mainstreaming basic common-sense tips such as: mandatory wearing of masks in public, basic hygiene, disinfection of all open markets every early morning and all places of public gatherings, practical social distancing tips, provision of hand washing facilities in public places, production and use of hand sanitizers, gloves, etc. For example, all public transport vehicles—taxi, buses, trains, airplanes might require disinfection of the vehicle before use, and for all passengers to wear masks and with hand sanitizers. Can you imagine the thousands of jobs to be created in producing face masks, hand sanitizers, gloves, etc for 1.3 billion people? But this cannot happen under a lockdown. New opportunities! Everyone wants to live, and Africans will learn and adapt quickly. Staying at home will become a choice, not a compulsion. The slogan could be: “stay at home if you can, or smartly go to work if you must”. We can only defeat the challenge by confronting it, and not by playing the Ostrich only to still confront it the day after.

Every African society has some local herbs that, to use President Trump’s phrase, “might help”. While the UK and others are experimenting with vaccines, you never know if an Africa herb might be the cure. Necessity is the mother of invention, and only those who dare, succeed! With enough education and mobilization, the infection rate will be drastically reduced without pausing the lives of 1.3 billion people.

The real challenge is the potential economic catastrophe that many African economies face. How policymakers respond depends on how they interpret the shocks: as temporary or permanent structural shifts. But howsoever they choose to see it, one thing is certain: several more similar shocks (not necessarily in exact form) are on the way.

What is evident so far is that most African policymakers (typically) think of the shocks as temporary, and consequently seem to believe that they can just stimulate their way out of it and wait for the next one. African multilateral financial institutions (e.g. AfDB and Afreximbank) have announced packages to assist Africa ride over the shocks. The World Bank and the IMF have provided quick disbursing windows for us to borrow. African finance ministers have called for moratorium on debt servicing, and most have applied for the cheap loans from Washington. Several African countries have “announced” intervention funds that, at best, constitute a drop in the ocean relative to need. The buffers and institutions for dynamic adjustments are weak or absent. In most countries, subnational governments are pleading for bailouts from their cash-strapped central governments. Many of these subnational governments will soon realize that they are basically on their own, and many could become fiscally insolvent.

After most African countries empty all their piggy banks now, and borrow their full tranches at the Fund and the World Bank, secured moratorium on existing debt etc, what happens with the next disruption in a few years’ time? Or like the African musician, Oliver de Coque sang: “let us enjoy life today, and after that we can worry about tomorrow”? But that tomorrow is a few hours away. Because of these crises, many African currencies (especially the oil producers) might likely depreciate significantly. Servicing these external debts tomorrow with the exchange rate then, would require heavy lifting. But it is difficult to see how a competitive real effective exchange rate regime will not be a critical component of their comprehensive strategy for diversification and global competitiveness.

Politicians with short-term electoral cycles typically have short time horizons or suffer policy myopia. This is not just an African problem. It is a typical problem of multiparty democracies with short term electoral cycles and term limits. However, extreme cases abound in some African states especially because the civil service (that ought to ensure longer term continuity) is very weak. With eyes on the next election, opportunistic populism wins. Rather than confront the underlying structural dysfunction, the easiest escape is to pile up debts and contingent liabilities. This is the circularity that has brought Africa to the present embarrassment whereby barely some years after massive debt cancellations/reliefs from our creditors, we are again pleading for “debt relief”. But several future shocks are on the way. When and how can African countries escape this circular trap? This is a short question but with a long answer. Each country’s economic/development team should get to serious work.

For the countries that see the shocks as signalling structural shifts (which it largely is), the focus should be on exploiting the opportunities offered by the crises to press the re-set button. It requires a realistic diagnosis and admission that the existing business model has been rendered obsolete. Crafting a new business model that encompasses the whole range of institutional, technological, structural, macroeconomic, and even politico-governance arrangements takes time and demands for disruptive thinking. It would require mainstreaming creative non-debt-creating financing options and new forms of economic partnerships. But these require longer-term perspectives and a form of inter-generational planning. There lies the conflict versus the opportunity and points to what separates politicians from statesmen. Politicians think of the next election, while statesmen think of the next generation. We pray for Africa’s political statesmen (a seeming contradictory combination—be a politician and statesman at the same time). That is why I strongly support the re-opening of all of Africa urgently, and let all hands get to work to help them succeed.A MUST READ.

COVID-19: CAN AFRICA AFFORD LOCKDOWNS?*

*CHUKWUMA CHARLES SOLUDO, CFR*

This piece summarizes my contribution to an African debate. From Johannesburg to Lagos, Cairo to Dakar, Kinshasa to Kigali, Nairobi to Accra, etc the debate on how Africa should respond to the global coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is raging. At an African regional policy platform, I had expressed some of these (personal) views some weeks ago but have been encouraged by most members to circulate them in Africa beyond the platform.

This year 2020 begins a new decade that promises to be one of dreadful disruptions, with Africa holding the weakest end of the stick. In 2008/09, the global “great recession” was triggered by financial crisis in the US (world’s largest economy). Then, much of Africa was said to be decoupled from the crisis and muddled through without severe devastation of its economies. This year, a global health pandemic that has paused the global economy and certain to rail-road it into synchronized recession (if not depression) was triggered by the second largest economy, China. Unlike before, multilateralism and global coordination framework are at their weakest. National (local) self-defence is the rule. As before, the rich world with its generous welfare system and huge financial war chest, is taking care of itself (the US alone has US$2.2 trillion stimulus package). Africa is left to its fate.

Covid-19 caught the world totally unprepared, and with no proven and available medical response. Ad-hoc cocktails and learning-by-doing constitute the strategic package. In most western countries, the cocktail of response has included a coterie of defensive measures including: border closure; prepare isolation centres and mobilize medical personnel/facilities; implement “stay at home” orders or lockdowns except for food, medicine and essential services; campaign for basic hygiene and social distancing; arrange welfare packages for the vulnerable; and also economic stimulus packages to mitigate the effects on the macro economy.

Many African countries have largely copied the above template, to varying degrees. Piece-meal extensions of “stay at home” or lockdown orders as in many western countries have also been copied in Africa. But the question is: can Africa really afford lockdowns, and can they be effective? Put differently, given the social and economic circumstances of Africa and the impending ‘economic pandemic’, can Africa successfully and sustainably defeat Covid-19 by copying the conventional trial-and-error template of the western nations? In confusion and desperation, the world seemed to be throwing any and everything at the pandemic. Recall President Trump’s assertion that hydroxychloroquine “might help”? The evidence so far (from limited sample) is that it probably actually worsens the disease. The trial and error have left huge human toll and economic ruins, and there is still no solution.

Let us be clear: no one can blame African policymakers for the initial panicky copy and paste response some weeks ago. No public officer wanted to be blamed for doing nothing or not doing what others were doing. After these initial pilot schemes, it is now time to ask the deep question: Is this the right approach for Africa?

All lives matter and African governments must do everything to protect or save every life from the pandemic. The challenge is how. Africa faces two unsavoury options: the conventional template, including lockdowns versus heterodox (creative local) approaches without lockdowns. Both have risks and potential benefits. Sadly, people will still get the disease and die under both approaches. People will differ on the choice, depending on what is on their decision matrix: data, resources, subjective preferences, and interests, etc. I focus on which option (on a net basis) is achievable in the short to medium term, consistent with our social and economic realities.

Our thesis is that lockdowns in Africa suffer time-inconsistency problem without a credible exit strategy; is unaffordable and could potentially worsen the twin pandemic—health and economic—in Africa. We call for Africa to press the reset button now, mainstream its collective, simple, smart learning-by-doing solutions that could, in the end, be the African solutions for export to the world. Covid-19 won’t be the end of techno-economic disruptions or health pandemics even in this decade: this is an opportunity to think without the box—to engender greater self-confidence in our capacity to think through our problems, with authentic sustainable solutions.

Let me illustrate why I believe that a strategy that includes lockdowns/border closure is the worse of the two options given our social and economic realities. (Recall that China isolated Wuhan, and kept Shanghai, Beijing, and other major economic engines open, and today, China supplies the world with medical equipment, face masks, etc and raking-in hundreds of billions of dollars). The idea of a lockdown (and border closure) implies that you will continue to do so (with extensions) until such a time that you are satisfied that the spread of Covid-19 has been arrested or on the decline (with the possibility of imposing another round of lockdown if new infections surge). That is the catch: lockdown for as long as required to stem the spread. The length of time required for such lockdowns to ensure “effectiveness” in arresting the spread would make it near impossible in much of Africa. If the strategy is to lockdown until infections stop/significantly decline or so, then we would have a suicidal indefinite waiting game.

First, monitoring the spread requires effective testing, and Africa cannot afford effective testing of its 1.3 billion people. New York State, with a population of 20 million and a budget of $175 billion, is pleading with the US Federal Government to assist with testing kits and facilities. Check out the number of testing centres and facilities in each African country relative to their populations. A joke in the social media narrated that the health minister of Burundi was asked to explain the miracle in his country whereby the number of infections was reported as zero. His response was: “it is simple: we don’t have any testing kits”. Besides, there is stigma associated with the infection, and on the average Africans only go to the hospital as the last resort. There are also asymptomatic cases, and only the critically ill ones will report. So, there will always be massive under-testing, and gross under reporting.

Furthermore, social distancing in most parts of Africa will remain impractical. From the shanties in South Africa’s townships to the crowded Ajengule or Mararaba in Abuja/Nasarawa, or Cairo or Kinshasa to the villages and poor neighbourhoods in much of Africa, social clustering, not distancing, is the affordable, survivalist culture. Communal living is not just about culture, it is a matter of economic survival. Hence, the statistics on infections will be coming in fits and stats: shall we be locking down and unlocking with each episode of surge as there may probably be several such episodes (unless and until a cure is found)? Even with over four weeks of “stay at home” or lockdowns in some African countries, the reported daily infections continue to rise. Some may argue the counterfactual that without the initial lockdowns, the number of infections could have been multiples. It is a reasonable conjecture or anecdote, albeit without any proof. The question is the end game for a poor society such as Africa? New infections have re-emerged in Wuhan, and both Singapore and South Korea are going back to the drawing board. Since we cannot sustain lockdowns indefinitely or even until the spread stops/declines, it means that we would sooner or later remove the restrictions. What happens then? There would still be infections, which can still spread anyway. Why not then adopt sustainable solutions early enough without weeks of avoidable waste and hardship? Let us think this through!

Next, African states cannot pay for lockdowns. Many countries depend on budget support from bilateral and multilateral donors, and with acute balance of payments problems. They do not even have leg rooms to simply print money. Most are now begging for debt relief and applying for urgent loans from the IMF and the World Bank. In Africa, both the governments and the people are begging for “palliatives”. The most that African states and their private charities can do is “photo charity”—with much fanfare, drop a few currency notes or grains here and there for some thousands when millions are in desperate need, just to be seen to have “done something”. At a fundamental level, most African states do not have credible demographic data to identify and target the most vulnerable. In the western societies from where we copied the lockdown/border closure, their citizens are literally paid to stay at home (by silently dropping monies into their accounts plus other incentives). Check out the trillions of dollars, Euros, and pounds in support to the vulnerable and stimulus packages. Despite these, check out the restiveness/protests in several of these countries and the unrelenting pressure to eliminate the restrictions (even in countries where thousands are dying each day due to Covid-19). Given that no government in Africa can seriously pay for lockdowns, over one billion Africans are left to survive if they can or perish if they must.

Without government support, no more than 5% of Africa’s 1.3 billion people can possibly survive any prolonged lockdown on their own finances. Most of the others have no assets or savings to live on for any prolonged period, and there is no social insurance (welfare system). Without the pandemic, the African economic space is already in dire straits, with unacceptable unemployment rate (especially youth unemployment) as well as endemic poverty. In 2007, I evaluated the structure of deposits in Nigerian banks and found that only 8% of the bank accounts had balances of N300,000 (over $2,500 then) and above, and these accounted for 95% of the total deposits. The remaining 92% of bank accounts had 5% of total deposits. I understand that a recent study showed that only 2% of bank accounts had N500,000 (about $1,300) and above. Also imagine the dependency burden on this 2%. The dearth of infrastructure (basic electricity is deficient) makes compulsion to stay at home hellish for most people. We have lockdowns in Africa but without pausing several pressures for private expenditures on the people: monthly house rents; banks’ interest payments for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), electricity charges, etc.

With some 80% of Africa’s population living from hand to mouth on daily toil and hassle, complete lockdown would never be total, almost impossible in our social settings. In most cases, the orders simply create opportunities for extortion for the security agencies: those who pay, move about! Attempts to force everyone into a lockdown for extended period may indeed be enforcing a hunger/stress-induced mass genocide. More people could, consequently, be dying out of hunger and other diseases than the actual Covid-19. In normal times, thousands die every day in Africa due to other illnesses and communicable diseases—cholera, malaria, lassa fever, lower respiratory infections, diarrhoeal diseases, tuberculosis, heart diseases, stroke, HIV/AIDS, yellow fever, zika virus, measles, hepatitis, typhoid, small pox, Ebola, Rift valley fever, monkey pox, chikungunya virus, pregnancy and child-birth related deaths, renal failure; pneumonia, etc.

Lockdowns worsen these as many of the victims of these now have little or no cash to attend to themselves. Soon the pharmacy shops will run out of imported drugs. Even local pharmaceutical manufacturing firms need imported inputs but cannot efficiently source them under lockdowns/border closure (even more so with restrictions in China and India). Soon local, adulterated ones may fill the gap. A summary point is that the millions of persons in the street, who are struggling between life and death each day with numerous other challenges do not, and will never, understand why so much additional hardship is being foisted upon them because of the novel coronavirus. For most of them (wrongly though), it is an elite problem since for them, the “hunger/other disease virus is more dangerous than corona virus”. The hungry and desperate millions may be forced to take desperate actions to survive, and little surprise that crime has spiked in several African countries with lockdowns.

What many do not seem to appreciate is that African economies are facing their worst economic condition in decades. Commodity prices have fallen dramatically, and for oil producers, the situation is precarious. IMF predicts that aggregate Africa will fall into a recession this year (the first in over two decades) but possibly rebound next year. For oil producers, it all depends on what happens to oil prices in the coming months and how they creatively craft a plan to transition to the world with little or no oil. If appropriate measures are not taken quickly, some oil producers may slide into depression. But border closures/lockdowns that dramatically affect the labour market and supply side (as well as demand side) of the economy will only worsen the situation, especially with little or no room for effective fiscal/monetary stimulus. Government revenues will be severely affected.

Thousands of MSMEs will die under the weight of formal and informal loans, bills (rents, electricity, wages, interest, etc) that continue to accumulate under lockdowns as well as low demand for their goods and services. Some countries are busy “announcing” fantastic figures of helpline for the MSMEs (and much of it will end at the announcements) but without a clear path to address the legacy burden on the firms— the persisting bills! Most of the owners of the MSMEs will probably consume their business capital during the lockdowns, with no clear helpline afterwards. The US Senate just passed a bill for $484 billion “More Small-Business Stimulus”, including a $320 billion “Paycheck Protection Program” to enable small businesses pay their staff salaries for two months. This follows the exhaustion of earlier $350 billion for small businesses under the $2.2 trillion stimulus package. The above is just an example of what western countries from whom we copied the lockdown strategy are doing for their MSMEs—which Africa cannot afford.

Millions of poor farmers will be hard hit. Their perishable products that need the informal public transport to reach the cities will be wasted; while millions that need transport to their farms cannot do so. Agriculture in Africa is rain-fed and seasonal. Lockdowns during the planting season could threaten food security in months ahead. Inflation will shoot up in many African countries, and with critical food shortages later. Manufacturing firms need imported inputs, machinery, and spare parts. Countries under lockdowns are consuming their old stocks. Even after lifting the lockdowns/border closure, it may take months for normalcy to return in some countries.

Each day that any of the major African economies stays under lockdown costs Africa billions of dollars in lost income but with debatable benefits. Given its financial and structural weaknesses, Africa does not have the luxury of using the same “conventional tools” of the western countries in the face of the twin pandemic. At the minimum, Africa needs its full population (its most important asset) working at full throttle to have any chance of defeating the impending economic catastrophe.

What should Africa do?

We should think African but act locally and opportunistically to survive and prosper, and exploit the global opportunities offered by the crises. Every shock or pandemic presents opportunities. Solutions need to be multidimensional, far beyond economics and western medicine. Ad-hoc response will be a wasted opportunity. Africa needs a package for creating sustainable prosperity in a world of continuous techno-economic-health disruptions. Such disruptions will become the new normal in the decades ahead, and we should better get used to that. Only societies that anticipate and plan for such disruptions will opportunistically exploit them, while others mourn and blame the shocks. The way we work, socialize, meet etc will not be the same after these crises. Welcome to the decade of rapid creative destructions!

As a first step, African countries should urgently dismantle the border closures as well as the stay at home/lockdown orders. Hopefully, some useful data were gathered, and lessons learnt that will help in crafting simple, smart, and sustainable heterodox responses. Africa cannot afford lockdowns that will prove ineffective anyway.

Opening Africa does not mean abdication of responsibility by the governments. Governments should lead in the mobilization, education, and possibly equipment of the people to take personal responsibility for their safety; mainstream the African spirit of community/collective action by mobilizing the churches, mosques and civil society organizations to lead in the public education and mobilization; and finally for the government to do its utmost best in providing public healthcare. An enduring lesson of this pandemic is that African countries must take public healthcare seriously. There will be future health pandemics and we should better get ready today. Professionals, religious leaders, CSOs and community leaders should be mobilized to agree on simple, smart solutions consistent with our financial and social realities. Our western and local (herbal) medical experts and research institutions should all be mobilized to come up with solutions. Those with pre-existing conditions might receive special treatment. The president of Madagascar is reported to have announced that his country has found its own cure for Covid-19 and has ordered schools also to reopen. The west is still on a trial-and-error mode, and why shouldn’t we experiment as well? Africa fought and survived Ebola without lockdowns and we can do even better this time.

Our model should be learning-by-doing while mainstreaming basic common-sense tips such as: mandatory wearing of masks in public, basic hygiene, disinfection of all open markets every early morning and all places of public gatherings, practical social distancing tips, provision of hand washing facilities in public places, production and use of hand sanitizers, gloves, etc. For example, all public transport vehicles—taxi, buses, trains, airplanes might require disinfection of the vehicle before use, and for all passengers to wear masks and with hand sanitizers. Can you imagine the thousands of jobs to be created in producing face masks, hand sanitizers, gloves, etc for 1.3 billion people? But this cannot happen under a lockdown. New opportunities! Everyone wants to live, and Africans will learn and adapt quickly. Staying at home will become a choice, not a compulsion. The slogan could be: “stay at home if you can, or smartly go to work if you must”. We can only defeat the challenge by confronting it, and not by playing the Ostrich only to still confront it the day after.

Every African society has some local herbs that, to use President Trump’s phrase, “might help”. While the UK and others are experimenting with vaccines, you never know if an Africa herb might be the cure. Necessity is the mother of invention, and only those who dare, succeed! With enough education and mobilization, the infection rate will be drastically reduced without pausing the lives of 1.3 billion people.

The real challenge is the potential economic catastrophe that many African economies face. How policymakers respond depends on how they interpret the shocks: as temporary or permanent structural shifts. But howsoever they choose to see it, one thing is certain: several more similar shocks (not necessarily in exact form) are on the way.

What is evident so far is that most African policymakers (typically) think of the shocks as temporary, and consequently seem to believe that they can just stimulate their way out of it and wait for the next one. African multilateral financial institutions (e.g. AfDB and Afreximbank) have announced packages to assist Africa ride over the shocks. The World Bank and the IMF have provided quick disbursing windows for us to borrow. African finance ministers have called for moratorium on debt servicing, and most have applied for the cheap loans from Washington. Several African countries have “announced” intervention funds that, at best, constitute a drop in the ocean relative to need. The buffers and institutions for dynamic adjustments are weak or absent. In most countries, subnational governments are pleading for bailouts from their cash-strapped central governments. Many of these subnational governments will soon realize that they are basically on their own, and many could become fiscally insolvent.

After most African countries empty all their piggy banks now, and borrow their full tranches at the Fund and the World Bank, secured moratorium on existing debt etc, what happens with the next disruption in a few years’ time? Or like the African musician, Oliver de Coque sang: “let us enjoy life today, and after that we can worry about tomorrow”? But that tomorrow is a few hours away. Because of these crises, many African currencies (especially the oil producers) might likely depreciate significantly. Servicing these external debts tomorrow with the exchange rate then, would require heavy lifting. But it is difficult to see how a competitive real effective exchange rate regime will not be a critical component of their comprehensive strategy for diversification and global competitiveness.

Politicians with short-term electoral cycles typically have short time horizons or suffer policy myopia. This is not just an African problem. It is a typical problem of multiparty democracies with short term electoral cycles and term limits. However, extreme cases abound in some African states especially because the civil service (that ought to ensure longer term continuity) is very weak. With eyes on the next election, opportunistic populism wins. Rather than confront the underlying structural dysfunction, the easiest escape is to pile up debts and contingent liabilities. This is the circularity that has brought Africa to the present embarrassment whereby barely some years after massive debt cancellations/reliefs from our creditors, we are again pleading for “debt relief”. But several future shocks are on the way. When and how can African countries escape this circular trap? This is a short question but with a long answer. Each country’s economic/development team should get to serious work.

For the countries that see the shocks as signalling structural shifts (which it largely is), the focus should be on exploiting the opportunities offered by the crises to press the re-set button. It requires a realistic diagnosis and admission that the existing business model has been rendered obsolete. Crafting a new business model that encompasses the whole range of institutional, technological, structural, macroeconomic, and even politico-governance arrangements takes time and demands for disruptive thinking. It would require mainstreaming creative non-debt-creating financing options and new forms of economic partnerships. But these require longer-term perspectives and a form of inter-generational planning. There lies the conflict versus the opportunity and points to what separates politicians from statesmen. Politicians think of the next election, while statesmen think of the next generation. We pray for Africa’s political statesmen (a seeming contradictory combination—be a politician and statesman at the same time). That is why I strongly support the re-opening of all of Africa urgently, and let all hands get to work to help them succeed.

Continue Reading

Health

Painful How Dr. Mailafia Was Allowed to Die By Doctors 

Published

on

By Dr. Isuwa Dogo

The death of the former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital Gwagwalada, Abuja,  this morning came to us as a great shock. As someone who relentlessly participated in the activities of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), his untimely death has dealt  a deadly blow on ethnic nationalities of not only the Middle Belt but the country at large.

Arising from various enquiries from Nigerians over the circumstances of his death, the Forum wishes to state as follows: That Dr Mailafia arrived Abuja last Sunday September 12, 2021 from Akure and was received at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport by his wife.

On arrival at home, the wife noticed he was not in the best of health conditions and seemed to be suffering from malaria. After three days of treatment without signs of improvement, he went to the CBN Hospital on Friday September 17, 2021 where he was shabily treated. It took the intervention of a senior medic who immediately placed him on oxygen and admitted him.

Dr Mailafia’s was later given the option of choosing three hospitals: Gwagwalada Hospital, National Hospital and EHA Clinics. The wife opted for the third choice. On arrival at the EHA Clinics, the wife was subjected to yet another moment of anxiety as it took a direct order from the top management of the hospital to accept him.

After few hours of treatment, the EHA Clinics told the wife that it was expedient to transfer the former CBN Deputy Governor to Gwagwalada as the clinic was not fully equipped to handle the case.

The wife opposed the decision and insisted that she was opposed to the idea of taking her husband to Gwagwalada. Mailafia’s wife only succumbed when the consultant assured her that nothing bad will happen to her husband.

Yesterday, Saturday September 18, 2021, Dr Obadiah was transfered to Gwagwalada. on arrival, the name of the doctor that was billed to attend to Dr Mailafia was not on duty. Even when an attempt was made by foreign health consultants to save the situation, the doctor on duty got angry and said he was not obligated to listen to any foreign consultants that had been brought into the matter with the sole purpose of ensuring nothing  goes wrong.

Wife of the former CBN Deputy Governor was asked to pay the sum of N600’000 as deposit even when it was a referral case, with accruing medical bill to be settled by the CBN. At a point, Dr Mailafia complained over his breathing problems and pleaded with the doctors to place him on a ventilator. The doctors flatly refused.
Even after the doctors declared Dr. Mailafia dead, foreign consultants who were brought into the matter through Dr Mailafia’s son that is  living abroad, had directed a family member who is a medical professional, with the wife of the CBN Deputy Governor, to mount pressure on the chest of Dr.  Mailafia for  resuscitation and thereafter place him on a life support.

The doctors in Gwagwalada refused all entreaties by the family members of Dr Mailafia to follow the advice of the foreign consultants, insisting that they have already pronounced him dead. Even when the wife could feel the pulse of her husband, the doctor flatly declared there was nothing they could do since they had already pronounced him dead.

While the above narration sums up the circumstances under which Dr Mailafia died,  we still  await the result of the actual cause of his death. As a nationalist and patriot that he was, Dr. Mailafia  was completely dedicated to the emancipation of ethnic nationalities from the clutches of oppression. The economist was never afraid to speak truth to power just as he remained committed to the enthronement of justice and equity to all citizens across ethnic and religious  divides.

In the twilight of his life, this consummate technocrat and global scholar of repute beamed his searchlight on the raging insecurity ravaging our country. He expressed regrets over government’s incapacity to rein in the activities of insurgents and criminal groups terrorising the nation.

As a former presidential candidate in the 2019 poll, Dr Mailafia sought to deploy politics to bring about the dream he had for his country. Even after he lost the election, he never let down the bar in demanding for a fair treatment for all Nigerians.

The Forum recalls his patriotic zeal in standing up for truth and justice. He was never a letdown in being at the forefront of  showing the way for national greatness as he was willing to lay down his life for Nigeria.

The Forum is inspired by his altruistic disposition and contributions to national development. We remain proud of his footprints on the political, economic and social sands of our nation.

In this period of grief, we extend our sympathy to his immediate family members and pray to the Almighty God to grant each and everyone of them the fortitude to bear the pain of this irreparable loss.

The death of Dr Mailafia today represents a dark day for not only only the Middle Belt but also for all citizens  who yearn for a new dawn for justice in Nigeria.

▪︎ Dogo is the National Publicity Secretary, MBF

Source: Everyday.ng

Continue Reading

Opinion

My Wife and Best Friend: One Year Just Like Yesterday

Published

on

by Kola Balogun

Beatrice (Beauty) Okiomoado Kola-Balogun, my wife of twenty-eight years left this sinful world to be with her creator, who loves her better around 9.00 pm on the 18th of August 2020. It was the darkest day of my life; a day I never wished to see! I left the National hospital that day around 1.00 pm since I was not allowed to go into the ward where she was with a view to returning the following morning to continue to hang around as I had done in the past one week since she was admitted into the facility.

On getting home, I called my children to give them update about their mom’s condition – that I spoke with her that Tuesday morning when she told me she wasn’t feeling better.
As it is usual with the family, it was a conference call; I told them how my day was spent at the hospital. We talked about other issues and the next approach towards her medical issues when she is discharged. We talked at length – everyone saying how much we were missing her, especially me, who could hardly do anything on my own without her input.

Meanwhile, there were several calls by the hospital and my General overseer, Rev. W. Okoye requesting me to come to the hospital while I was discussing with the children. Immediately we ended the call and I saw the missed calls, my heart skipped a bit! ‘’What could have happened?’’ I retuned the hospital’s call and was asked to come to the hospital that night. My thoughts ran riot! ‘’How could the hospital who had not allowed me access to her this past four days be calling me to come this night?’’ I reasoned. I refused to believe that the worst had happened! I suppressed every negative thought concerning her. ‘’How would I survive without her?’’ ‘’Where would I start from?’’ These were the questions that were ringing in my head seeking for answers as I drove to the hospital that night.
On getting to the hospital, the Doctor started with telling stories of the frailty and transience of life – ‘’nothing is new under the sun, ….’’ I didn’t know when tears started flowing from my eyes. The long and short of all his sermonizing was: ‘’your wife died about an hour ago at exactly 9.00pm’’! I was dumb founded for minutes – not talking, yet tears were running down my cheeks. ‘’How do I live without my soul-mate?’’ ‘’Where do I start from?’’ These and many more question ran riot in my head all that night.

It’s been one year now and God in His infinite mercies has kept me and my kids. We have become sources of encouragement to each other and we are determined to ensure that we carry on her legacy and keep her memory alive for the rest of our lives. Writing this tribute in her memory after this one year is a little way of expressing my undying love for her.
This one year without her has sent new memories flooding forward. Her life was a blessing and her memory a treasure. I loved her beyond words and miss her beyond measures!

Among the many qualities that endeared her to me was her kind-heartedness and going out of her way to do anything for you once she is fond of you. Since we got married on 28 December 1991 till her demise, she maintained that quality and never for once gave it up at any moment that I know. There was this extra ordinary fondness she had for her eldest brother, chief Charles Adogah SAN. She would rather give up her personal comfort than to disappoint her brother or any of her siblings for that matter. When I noticed that quality in her, I made up my mind never to obstruct her any time she had the obligation to assist or be with anybody, and for this she was always grateful.

So, when she had to travel to the village that weekend, I did not discourage her due to her ill-health. I would not have succeeded even if I tried. It was in fulfilment of a promise she had made to help organize the cooking/feeding aspect of a function in the village. “Madam’’, as I called her, you are not feeling fine and you are still going to embark on this journey?” I asked her. “You know that I had already given my word and he is depending on me to make everything work out successfully, how can I disappoint him at this last minute?” she made the journey and came back still looking frail and weak. She did some tests and it was confirmed that she had malaria and some level of typhoid fever. After taking two different sets of drugs treatment and she did not get better, the Doctor advised we go for injection option. The Doctor said they had discovered that some malaria were drug-resistant in recent times. I believed the doctor because I had the same experience while she was away to the village. She was placed on a three-day injection treatment. To our utter amazement, she did not get better after the injections. It was during one of the nights when she wasn’t feeling better that we had to go to another hospital aside the one where she had been receiving treatment.

The details of our experience at this other hospital is a story for another day. Exactly six days later, my loving wife, my confidante, my ‘mother’ gave in to the cold hands of death! It is exactly a year ago since she left me and the memory of the good times we had are the only consolation I have right now.

I have come to realize that the biggest fear anyone could have is not the fear of death, but the fear of never truly living – being there for others! Touching people’s lives positively and giving them hope in their hopeless situations.

‘Beauty’, my loving wife, lived! She was a quintessence of awe-inspiring impact to everyone who had the privilege of knowing her. She was an organizer, a bridge builder, a mother indeed! Most times, she would be on the phone mediating between siblings, friends and acquaintances till late into the night after I might have slept off. I remember an occasion when I told her that the inventors of GSM must have had her in mind when they embarked on the mission. She would call almost everybody on har contact register some days, including myself while in the office, just to ask after their welfare. A testimony to this fact occurred in December 2020, four months after she had passed when some of her friends in Benin city started calling her line. I had switched off her line that August immediately after her passing and when I switched it on again in December because I needed to retrieve some information from the phone, those calls started coming in. “It is very unlike her to stay for a whole month long without calling to check on us, even when we don’t call her that regularly, we’re really going to miss her soothing words of encouragement” said those her friends when they learnt of her passing.

One quality my wife possessed which I have been missing since her departure is composure! My wife was never in hurry to do anything. In one of our usual discussions one day, – we usually teased each other with our weaknesses and laughed at each other at the end. I told her that night that she always amazed me the way she composed herself calmly in whatever she did. She replied that it was the reason she liked planning ahead. True to her words, just a few days ago, our house help told me that most of the things she bought and stored in the refrigerator that we had been using were exhausted – one year after her passing we were still using ingredients she had stored! She was indeed a rare breed!
Her generosity was unprecedented, she would insist we left change for hawkers and road-side sellers whenever we stopped to purchase items like roast corn, roast plantain or bottled water. “I feel for these people and I wish I had the power to turn around their fortunes – how much would they make from these items they are hawking?’’ She would say. The peak of her generosity was when she requested that we started paying the school fees of our security guard’s children. Our security guard in the village has five children, two in the secondary school and the remaining three in the primary school. She started paying the kids’ school fees herself before informing me; when I asked her why she did that, she replied that it is to prove to me that it is doable, especially now that we are done with paying school fees for our own biological children. We had both agreed that we were going to set up orphanages and help stranded children back to school. We had actually started a programme of help to widows which we tagged “Lifeline”. She spare-headed the programme; every December she would travel to the village to arrange the bags of rice, and other ingredients and items we distributed to widows before Christmas. When she passed, we – my children and I and her younger brother who had been contributing to the programme, decided that we are going to rename the NGO after her. We named it – “Beatrice Ado Kola –Balogun Foundation”. Arrangements were on going and my eldest daughter was coordinating things in Canada, making contacts to relevant agencies. While all these were going on, my brother in-law, Mark, her younger brother said he had a dream where she was asking about the foundation. This is her lot! – doing things well and at the right time. We were able to conclude all arrangements and made the first presentation these month August at the first anniversary of her passing working in collaboration with Women impacting Nigeria, an NGO that touches the lives of widows. (She was compulsively kind-hearted but in ways that weren’t apparent to many people.)

My wife was one of the most brilliant students of the Bible and preachers I’ve ever known. But she was so modest, humble and quiet about her abilities that she didn’t often get the credit or recognition that she deserved. People often said I wrote her sermons whenever she was invited to preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The truth is that my wife didn’t believe in my ability to prepare a good sermon for her. She would sit down and write everything herself! The only thing she would request I assisted her to do was in typing in bold font for easy reading for her, with a serious warning not to change anything from the original manuscript and that I should come back with both – manuscript and typed copy.

Beauty was a rare combination of beauty and brain. A bastion of support, dependable ally, soul-mate and partner of unprecedented standing. Life, truly is not fair; but I dare not give in to the disempowering tyranny of despair. That would tantamount to a disservice to the perpetual optimism that defined Beauty, my loving wife, whose favourite scripture is lamentation 3:37- “Who is her that says a thing and it comes to pass, when God has not commanded it”. I’m consoled by the fact of the above scripture that God had permitted it that she should go and rest in the bosom of her creator.
Once more, I want to use this opportunity to express my gratitude for the barrage of empathy and support I have been receiving from friends, brethren and family for this past one year. Amina Ohunene Francis-Audu (my wife’s gist partner), thank you so much for the delicious vegetable soup you send across often. You have shown that you are a friend indeed and I am sure that she would be proud of you in her new position.

May God almighty reward you and your husband and all those who have been standing by me for this past one year.

Beauty, my love, the memories of your love, sacrifices and affection for me and the kids will remain ever green in our hearts. If truly a person’s quality is measured by what he or she wants to achieve and not what he or she achieved, then, the quality of your personality is unquantifiable. You had those great plans – to touch lives, especially the girl-child! I will always love you. Thanks for the privilege and value of your friendship!

Kola

 

 

Continue Reading

Opinion

Secondus, PDP and Nigeria’s political development

Published

on

By Emeka Alex Duru

The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus, may have secured a breather with the sudden re-arrangement of the party’s elective national convention from December to October.

But for that face-saving move by the governors of the party and the Board of Trustees, he was almost being swept aside in the manner of his predecessors. Even then, his travails are not over, yet. The odds are clearly stacked against him. His remaining days in the office will be rough, henceforth. He will at best, remain a lame-duck.

The concern is not particularly on whether the allegation that Secondus lacks the capacity to reposition the party holds water. But in the PDP tradition, he has more or less, been declared guilty as charged. And in the typical Nigerian political culture, his seat, has been subtly declared vacant, even when he is still in office. Nocturnal meetings are already taking place even among his friends on who gets what from his anticipated fall.

That is the way of our politicians – friends in the morning and enemies at noon. Theirs, is akin to the ways of the vulture, a cursed species of birds that derives pleasure in feeding on the vulnerable, including its own. In the game of power, Nigerian politicians do not take prisoners; they go for a kill.

Secondus understands the rule as much as his traducers. He has been a beneficiary of the sordid game and knows the language; no permanent friend or enemy but an eye on fixed interest. At all time, Nigerian politicians have their eyes on the ball, not for public good but primarily for what they stand to gain.

In the curious book by V., “The Mafia Manager”, they fit into the characters driven by one aim: “profit and not averse to using any means to ensure and increase that profit”. None is altruistic in the true sense of the word.

That is, perhaps, how the current crisis in PDP, Nigeria’s leading opposition political party, can be properly understood. But that is not a story that can be exhausted in one setting. Just as the party, at its height, had appropriated the claim of the largest political party in Africa, the dimensions of its story have been those of an octopus.

One thing that cannot, however, be contested by even its committed members (assuming there are still some) and its supporters, is that the party has become a bungled dream, in a way.

Even when it had been thought that managers of the party would learn from the avoidable mistakes that pushed it out of power six years ago, nothing seems to have been learnt. In the process, the slide continues.

The piteous situation in PDP is usually what you get in a system that is nourished on intrigues – a verdict of history! From the skewed emergence of Olusegun Obasanjo as its presidential candidate in its1998 Jos convention against the established principles of the party, PDP has not had any transparent primary at all levels.

The party has also not had any democratically elected National Chairman since the former Vice President, late Dr. Alex Ekwueme and Second Republic Plateau State governor, late Solomon Lar, occupied the office in interim capacity.

None of the party’s Chairmen had also served out his term on a good note. What has rather been the norm is a culture of imposition and absence of internal democracy – a far cry from the original agenda of the party.

The charade that passed for a special convention in 2012 at the Eagle Square, Abuja, in which the then President Goodluck Jonathan supervised enthronement of Bamanga Tukur as National  Chairman and allocation of offices to other cronies in most undemocratic manner, was all that it took for the party to embark on its present implosion.

The immediate outcome of that flawed convention was the exit of key members of the party. PDP has not recovered from that misguided outing.

Here, for instance, was a party, which at its formation on July 29, 1998, the facilitators had imbued with great vision of putting the Nigerian nation on a new phase of political engineering.

The long-term objective was to create a frame work that would ensure a just and equitable distribution of power, resources, wealth and opportunities to conform with the principles of power shift and power sharing, rotation of key political offices and equitable devolution of powers to zones, states and local governments so as to create socio-political conditions conducive to national unity and to defend the sanctity of electoral democracy.

To add up, the PDP had in its fold, a generous spread of the nation’s first-rate politicians. It also appropriated to itself the tag of the largest party in black Africa. In a way, its claim of greatness paid off handsomely, initially, as it garnered many electoral victories, though, often questionable in some cases.

At a time, consumed by intoxication of power, its officials had pranced about, boasting that PDP would rule the country’s political space for 60 uninterrupted years. How then did the party get it wrong? How did it crash from its Olympian height to its current piteous state? And how can it be pulled from its unceasing drift?

These are the questions that many chieftains of the party do not seem bothered to ask themselves or may have chosen to ignore. This is why PDP has remained a toddler at 23; a scarecrow of sort and indeed, an object of ridicule, even among casual political observers.

It is the failure to address these questions that has seen the organisation, even in its fallen state, still being callously raped by its officials and members who only see in it a platform for attending to personal needs and attaining political offices.

For a party that says it wants to claw back to power in 2023, the expectation is that of a radical departure from an ugly past that has not earned it enduring rewards. But that seems far-fetched.

Of course, with the uncertain trends in the party, it may be convenient to watch from the sideline and say; ‘it is their thing; it is their business’. That may be correct, to some extent. After all, it is not everybody that is a politician. More so, not all the politicians belong to its fold.

The danger, however, is that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which seems poised to reap from the fall of the PDP, does not offer hopes for Nigerians. Between the PDP and APC, the difference is that between six and half a dozen. APC lacks focus and sense of direction, hence more than six years after coming to power, it is still confused on what to do.

All it will do, henceforth is to sustain its culture of recklessness and continue riding roughshod on Nigerians in the absence of a viable alternative.

Whatever any person may make of the current situation in PDP, it points to a sorry tale in the country’s political development.

 

*DURU is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos (08054103327, nwaukpala@yahoo.com)

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2021 Sunrise Magazine. All rights reserved