Quick one on 16 January
Two quick ones to talk about following today’s Freshly Pressed. First, the story in ThisDay: The Presidential Candidate of G-5 Governors. I don’t think this is a news story, so I berated the producer for including it for us. It is an opinion piece, and we shouldn’t be analysing opinions on a news analysis programme. But talking about the G-5 is important for a simple reason, the lost opportunity.
From my point of view, the main driver behind the G-5, Nyesom Wike, is doing this only to retain political relevance after his tenure. However, that his group has not plunked behind either Bola Tinubu or Peter Obi speaks to two things — first, his personal antipathy towards Peter Obi, and second, his deep knowledge that openly supporting Tinubu in Rivers is political suicide for him. This speaks to an important thing we need to come to terms with in Nigeria: what do we do to our gods when they leave political office?
As far as I know, and I stand to be corrected, since 1999, the only person who has managed the transition from god to man elegantly is Victor Attah of Akwa Ibom. No other person has, and Mr Wike’s antics are because he sees this transition coming and has no idea what he will do with himself when he becomes a floor member of society in a few weeks.
A second point to be made is the missed opportunity of Southern solidarity. Yes, the G-5 had a valid point especially after the Asaba Declaration, but they ended up sacrificing that very valid point on the altar of Mr Wike’s personal disappointment that he was not picked as Atiku Abubakar’s running mate. I daresay that if Atiku had picked him, we’d be hearing a very different song from him. This speaks to the point of Nigeria’s political class not aligning behind principles, and it’s something that hurts us all the time.
The third point is in handling the idea that some god would sit on his throne and dictate how whole blocks of people should vote. This idea has driven all of the engagement, visits to, and meetings with the G-5. If they had been ignored, perhaps we would have had a chance to kill the idea. As it is, the idea has been entrenched that governors can dictate who their citizens would vote for.
For the record, I’m not naive. In democracies the world over, there are power brokers who influence people’s votes or at least the direction people gravitate towards during election time. It’s just that in Nigeria it is more egregious. They actually tell you who to vote for. It is our high poverty rates that give them that power…
The second story from today’s Freshly Pressed I want to talk about is the declaration by the Coordinator and Technical Head of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Dr Muktar Muhammad, that Nigeria would not be imposing restrictions on Chinese travellers. It’s the right decision. The restrictions on China are a geopolitical move by countries that are positioning themselves as anti-Chinese, and I will give an example: on Thursday, 29 December 2022, the UK’s health secretary, Steve Barclay, was briefed by the country’s CMO, Chris Whitty. Whitty told him there was no benefit in restricting or testing travellers from China as COVID has now become endemic in the population. At that time, only the US, Japan, Italy and Spain had imposed tests. The very next day, the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, overruled the scientific evidence and told Barclay that it was more important for the UK to align itself with “friendly nations”.
On 31 December, Prof Whitty, Prof Mark Woolhouse of Edinburgh University, and Prof Paul Hunter of the University of East Anglia told The Observer, “they don’t think the UK will get any public health benefit from this measure. That point-of-entry screening had been scientifically proven to be ineffective at controlling diseases, and that this was done purely for political reasons.”
The point of this turenchi is this: Nigeria is not an ally of the West. We are a non-aligned country. Since the science does not tell us to antagonise the Chinese, who happen to be our biggest trading partners, we should not.