POLITICISATION OF COVID-19 VACCINES

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Gbajabiamila’s timely warning on the vaccines is in order, writes Bade Omolade

For fifth columnists, nothing is too sacred to be trivialized on the altar of politics and other selfish interests. The greatest asset of man, Life, is not spared by agents of disinformation and destabilization.

The Coronavirus pandemic that ravaged the entire mankind for the better parts of 2020 and still wreaking havoc opened the floodgates of conspiracy theories that are largely mischievous or borne out of sincere ignorance.

Religious pundits spin viral theory of powerful individuals in the world wanting to control the human race through emplacement of chips, humans to control them and manipulate them at will. They tagged it, ‘digital identity’.

A popular televangelist with a staggering global followerships postulated that the experimentation and deployment of 5G network technology triggered the plague. He created a classical case of contradictory paradox. The cleric that launched the assault on technology essentially depends on the internet and broadcast technology for mass reach.

On the political turf, Governor of Kogi State, Yahya Bello and Ben Ayade of Cross River State were also vocally downplaying the scourge and living in self-denial. The former even got hysterical when he chased out officials of the Nigeria Centre For Disease Control (NCDC) insisting against all scientific facts that there was no single case of COVID-19 in Kogi that is bordered by many states.

So, the patriotic call by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila warning against attempts to infuse dirty politics into the rollout of vaccines for Nigerians was apt and highly commendable. Those who sneered and doubted the existence of COVID-19 despite hundreds of painful deaths globally are also on overdrive to dissuade and misinform Nigerians on vaccines.

Yahya Bello is a lead culprit in this case. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) should act fast before the Kogi governor drowns the ship of the federal government. Last June, he was reported to have said, “Nothing kills faster than fear. COVID-19 is only out to create fear, panic, pandemic. It is a disease created to shorten the lifespan of the people. It is a disease propagated by force for Nigerians to accept.

In Kogi, we say we have no COVID-19, and actually we have no COVID-19”.

Then last week on Channels Television interview, he punctured the mobilization drive of the Nigeria government for vaccination. He said, “COVID-19 is not our business in Kogi State. We have more pertinent issues and more pertinent matters that we are attending to in Kogi State. Insecurity we met, we’ve tackled it and several others. We met disunity on ground and we have united Kogi State today not COVID-19.

“COVID-19 is just a minute aspect of what we are treating or handling in Kogi State; there have been outbreaks of Lassa fever and Yellow fever and those were handled without making noise about it.

“The last Yellow fever (outbreak), we vaccinated our people against it, we encouraged them, we educated them and they felt the impact…If the federal government is gracious enough and give us COVID-19 vaccines, we will equally sensitise our people, people who wish to come and take can come and take but I am not going to subject the people of Kogi State to vaccines or vaccination and I will not make them the guinea pigs.

“Mr President is the leader of this country. I respect him so high; all of us respect him. We love him and he is leading by example. If he needs to take the vaccine and he takes it, it is a welcome development.

“As far as I am concerned, I don’t need to take the vaccine. There is nothing wrong with me, I am hale and hearty. I am 100 percent healthy…I won’t take any vaccine.”

It is disturbing that a man appointed as Chairman, APC Youths, Women and PLWDS Mobilisation Committee for the membership drive campaign could be openly undermining the government his party produced without sanctions. The Nigeria Governors’ Forum too appears impotent in wielding the big stick.

I Hope the deep moral suasion of Gbajabiamila will rein in doubting Thomases in Yahya Bello’s mold. In his heartfelt appeal, the Speaker said, “This is the time for us to rally behind the government. Like the Secretary to the Government of the Federation has said, the virus knows no creed, knows no religion, knows no ethnicity, knows no sex and knows no age.

“So, it is important for all of us to come together as a country to fight the pandemic. As I have often said, we are actually in a war, but in a war with an unseen enemy. Therefore, when a country goes to war, you go as one. I want to implore the journalists and implore all Nigerians, therefore, not to give in to conspiracy theories because we will hear them.

“We must not play politics with vaccines; we must not play politics with the health of our neighbour; we must be on the same page whilst we also correct and do what you need to do in terms of your role in checking the government and holding their feet to the fire.”

The galvanization of Nigerian public by Gbajabiamila for the vaccines is the latest in the series of his interventions, advocacy and support since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The speaker stood firm and ensured that frontline health workers who are combating the plague got their entitlements. He put the Health Minister on the spot for the sake of Nigerian doctors and other health workers.

To ensure full compliance with the sit-at-home order during the lockdown, Gbajabiamila pushed for two-months free electricity for Nigerians as a form of relief to the poor masses. He argued that succour must be provided at all costs for millions grappling with socio-economic needs which were further worsened by the pandemic.

Gbajabiamila was not paying lip service to health workers’ welfare and improved health infrastructure; he started the charity at home in his Surulere Constituency. He visited health facilities in the area and provided medical supplies and supported health workers.

Nigeria needs more of Gbajabiamila and less of Yahya Bello as leaders.

Omolade wrote from Abeokuta