COVID-19 VACCINE, Now as Status Symbol

Eddy Odivwri

One of the wise sayings my village people used to write at their door posts was/is:

“If Men Were God…” Growing up, the saying did not make much sense to me until latter years.

But its import is becoming clearer and clearer. Indeed, if men were God, life would have long been on a cash-and-carry basis, and it would have been a game exclusively for the rich and powerful.

In recent weeks, I have read and watched how “powerful, rich and influential” Nigerians have been dazzling us with the tales of having been vaccinated in “the abroad”, leaving us, lesser mortals, to depend on the shifty promises of vaccine for Nigerians.

The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has been raising and dashing hopes of Nigerians on the issue of when the vaccines will really come.

The controversy, suspicion , efficacy and misgiving around the vaccines itself is another matter, for another day.

But what do we say of leaders or dealers who have shown, by their action, that indeed, all animals are equal , but some are more equal?

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar had gone public with his vaccination “the abroad”, seeming to say that while Nigeria and Nigerians are dilly-dallying about the access to the vaccine, he’s gone ahead to secure his own life, and perhaps that of his immediate family.

Already, Nigerians are dying in their scores everyday, almost.

The vaccine is meant to protect humanity from being infected by the global scourge.

Nations are struggling to get the vaccines from the advanced countries where they are being produced.

But smarter (?) Nigerians have hopped into the planes and gone to the very countries that already have the vaccine to get vaccinated.

The funny thing however, is that after their vaccination, they still come back to mingle and meddle with the unvaccinated folks.

What the likes of Mrs Ebele Obiano, the wife of the Anambra State governor, did with her own vaccination exhibition in Texas, United States of America, was to flaunt her power, wealth and depth of reach, with the intent of taunting the less connected folks. Were it not so, what was the essence of travelling all the way to America (most likely on tax payers’ bill), with a one-man media crew? The said journalist was himself a videographer and a reporter, all rolled into one. He had to capture the vaccination exercise itself, organize an interview (with rehearsed questions and answers by both parties), and then upload the video to the Nigerian folks, all to drive home the go-and-die showmanship, which the whole enterprise was meant to achieve.

So, now that madam Anambra First lady has been vaccinated, how many of her personal and official staff have also been vaccinated? Or is it that those ones can get infected and possibly die, so long as their principal is safe and vaccine-insured?

We have not forgotten how ever desperate Mrs Obiano is to draw marked line between they (in the bourgeois class) and the rest of us, the plebian folks. Few years back, in an attempt to rub in her class nuances, argued that her husband (Willie) does not drink alcohol, but drinks “only Champagne”.

Perhaps, the Champagne madam is talking about is a special one made from orange juice!

But while Mrs Ebele Obiano is rather selfish with her class hit, a frontline politician in the South West in one of he leading political parties, who is also eyeing the presidency comes 2023, is a little more egalitarian in his disposition to the vaccine privilege.

The politician had indeed flown his private jet to the (same infested) United Kingdom, perhaps with his immediate family, to be vaccinated. It is a marked show of power and connection for somebody to fly in from Nigeria and, pronto, get vaccinated, while even UK citizens who are resident in that country are still struggling to be vaccinated. True, “all animals are equal, but some are more equal”.

His large heart was said to have been on display, when he (politician) ordered all his personal staff and aides to fly to the United Arab Emirates and get vaccinated, while the rest of the nation is still embroiled in the banal argument of the cost, the access, and the ‘hidden agenda’ of the vaccine.

He could pull the necessary strings even in the Arab world, as a Christian! The staff, have long gone and returned. All vaccinated!

But hey, what happens to the motley crowd of the politician’s supporters? Shall we ask, like Jesus’s disciples, “Master, carest not thou that we (they) perish?”

Among the poor and lowly, there are usually a plethora of consolatory proverbs and idioms. One of such is that “ it is only God who drives away the flies of a cow without tales”.

So, for us who literally have no tales to drive away the pestilence called COVID-19, it is God that will remain our shield and buckler. This is even more so when the entire country is struggling to get less than a million shots of the vaccine, for a people over 200 million. So when will the poor folks get vaccinated? Little wonder the narrative has remained sticky in the public domain, albeit wrongly, that “Corona Virus is a disease of Big Men”.

Already, states like Lagos is going ahead to negotiate directly with vaccine-producing companies abroad to get enough for its people (Lagosians).

If Lagos can afford that, can Jigawa or Yobe or even Osun States afford it?

While the efforts are ongoing, people are dying. While many are dying, the blind critics are still arguing about what they describe as “COVID-19 Scam”. Some (including even Gov Yahaya Bello of Kogi State) are already escalating conspiracy theories that the Vaccines are meant to kill Africans and depopulate the black race, urging those who will take the vaccine to “shine their eyes”.

All said, what remains an invaluable lesson from the plague called Corona Virus pandemic is self development and preparedness. Nigeria literally depends on the western world for all her vitals. Let this pandemic challenge the Nigerian Academy of Science to, at least, do something original and reliable in tackling our own issues. After all, little Madagascar gained traction last year when it announced having a herbal combo that sold like hot cake, during the first wave of the pandemic. Nigerian scientists, Wake Up!


NIN Registration and the Return of Reason

Eddy Odivwri

So, at last common sense and reason has prevailed. It is such a relief.

Who lacked common sense before? What are you talking about?

It is the National Identification Number (NIN) exercise of course. Did you not hear that the Hon Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, has extended the NIN registration exercise by eight weeks?

Did you not feel the panic and tension the deadline had given many Nigerians?

So, what are you excited about now? Was it not a mockery of the office to say that a Minister in charge of Digital Economy was so embroiled in manual and analogous exercise? What is digital about massing up anxious and angry Nigerians in front of locked gates, under the scorching sun, just so they can obtain a number?

No, I am saying that agreeing to shift forward the deadline for the exercise, was being thoughtful and a return of reason, and that it has given lots of relief to Nigerians.

The minister did not have a choice. Only naïve Nigerians were killing themselves to get registered, simply because there was a threat to disconnect all telephone numbers not linked to their NIN. The shift in date was bound to happen. Even now, I am not sure that by April 6, all Nigerians would have enrolled their numbers. As at last Monday, just a little over 50 million Nigerians have been captured. Is it in two months now that the remaining 150 million or more Nigerians would be enrolled? My brother, we shall come back to the kick and struggle, after April 6, bet me!

I think you should admit that Nigerian are a difficult people. They are a last minute .com people.

You will notice that since they have shifted the date forward, many people will relax and even forget about the exercise, only to be roused up in haste and tumble, when it is just a week to the new deadline.

You don’t understand the peculiarity of the Nigerian nation. We are talking of over 200 million Nigerians, expected to get registered in less than a thousand centres across the country. Do you know that in many of the so-called NIN centres, only one computer is working? Do you know that sometimes even the staff cannot capture the enrollees because “there is no network”? What kind of Digital economy ministry is that?

Did you not see the footages of helpless Nigerians everyday struggling to be registered, all to no avail, even after paying bribes?

But the ministry had announced the registration exercise for about one full year now. Did Nigerians respond? Was it not only when they heard that their telephone lines will be disconnected that they started rushing and sweating? Is that not what we see during INEC registration exercises?

Look, you are treating the symptoms of the disease, not the disease itself. I have told you about their insufficient equipment. How can just one laptop/computer be enough to attend to over three thousand people in three or so weeks?

How many staff does the NIMC have? How much of training have the registration crew got?

What stops NIMC from recruiting ad hoc staff like Youth Corps members, like INEC does, to speed up the process? And don’t forget that even the few NIMC staff have toyed several times with the idea of going on strike. And you still want to blame the innocent Nigerians who file out daily to be captured?

Look, I know Nigerians. Even if they say the exercise will last till December 31 this year, many people will remember to come for it only on December 30.

The NIMC itself has not been alive to its duties. Do you know that some people who had got these so-called NIN for over five years, are still holding on to the slips they were given? Whereas, NIMC had said “You will be notified when your National Identity Card is ready”. Five years after, there has been no word ever from NIMC, let alone seeing the ID card. How does a system work with such analogous disposition to tasks?

Or have you forgotten that this so-called National ID card scheme has been on the table since the days of late Sunday Afolabi, the then Minister of Internal Affairs, under President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 1999? Did you forget the scandal that followed the exercise, involving Siemens at the time? Hey, what have we not suffered in the hands of governments and their shenanigans?

But there is a new determination by the present minister to correct all the flaws of the past. That is why he is following up this task with so much zest and devotion. You know he is a youth and he is bringing all of that energy to bear on the task.

That is part of the problem. He is a narrow-minded youth. He does not understand the complexity of Nigeria. He thinks Lagos is Gombe State, for instance.

He is just waking up from his slumber. Where was the ministry when kidnappers have been carrying over 200 SIM cards with which they negotiate ransom of their victims?

He is not thinking outside the box, or else he would have devised easier, efficient and more COVID-19 friendly ways of getting this exercise done. Why is NIMC rejecting BVN-generated NIN, for instance? Couldn’t his ministry have done something about collating and synchronising all the previous data of Nigerians either from INEC records, Bank records, Motor Licensing offices, or even from Immigration Service? In all the above cases, there were finger/thumb prints. So why don’t we collate all of that first and focus on others who do not have any of these documents, and then graduate to upgrading and updating the records subsequently?

It is not as easy as you are mouthing it. The special security features peculiar to this exercise is not accommodated by these previous efforts.

Hmmmmm. If we consider how long a snake is, we shall find no stick long enough to kill it. We can start from somewhere.But before I leave you, what happens to the people in the rural areas who are not even aware of all these NIN hoopla? How would the NIMC filter out many of the foreign /illegal immigrants like these Malians, Togolese, Ghanaians, Nigeriens, Beninois etc., who are all milling around in Nigeria as Nigerians?

I am tired of your many questions. When you see Hon Isa Pantami, please ask him your questions. I have tried for you.

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