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Where are Trump’s ventilators promised Nigeria BY Fredrick Nwabufo

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On 28 April, US President Donald Trump in his accustomed cadence said his administration would send 250 ventilators to Nigeria.

According to him ‘’Nigeria will do anything for ventilators’’.

On May 21 while touring the Ford Motor Plant in Michigan he summarily ballooned the figure of the medical equipment to 1,000. It has been three months since this pledge.

Ventilators are not apples. They are expensive – a single unit can cost as much as $5,000 or $30,000 – depending on the brand. I have always wondered – who foots the bill for the medical equipment — 1,000 of it? Is it the US or Nigeria? There is absolutely no information on the particulars of the ‘’deal’’.

I know the US itself is in dire need of ventilators. Or to toe into Trump’s snobbery –‘’the US will do anything for ventilators’’. I recall, in the heat of the COVID-19 morass, Trump had told governors of the US states to “try getting it yourselves’’ when they demanded support for COVID-19 response within their borders.

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“We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself,’’ Trump told the governors during a conference call, according to the New York Times.

So, I am puzzled. Will Trump who was insouciant to governors of his country in their demand for medical supplies be doting on Nigeria, a country he once labelled a ‘’shithole’’? And will the US president who is notorious for extracting a toll from any country America gets involved with dispatch the medical consignment to Nigeria at no cost? I do not think so.

On May 29, Lai Mohammed, minister of information, said no specific date was given for the materialisation of the medical items. “On when the ventilators promised by President Trump will arrive, to the best of my knowledge, they have not arrived. When they do arrive it will be made known to the public,” he said. Again, it has been three months since Trump’s promise.

But why are there no specifics regarding the medical items? There is zero detail on who is paying for the supplies and when they will reach the country. Even Mary Leonard, US ambassador to Nigeria, appears to be confounded. Speaking on the ventilators in May, she said: “I don’t have an arrival date or specifics about it.’’

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So, could it be that there is unsettled business concerning who pays for the medical equipment? I do not think Trump has milk of magnanimity in him. He is an illiberal businessman who understands ‘’the Art of the Deal’’. Everything must be paid for. Or could it be that Trump played a fast one for the cameras? He is capable of the unimaginable, you know.

Seeking answers, I shot an email to the US embassy. But I am yet to get a response. I also reached Nigeria’s ministry of health but without healing for my curiosity.

Here is what I think. I surmise that Trump’s promise of shipping ventilators to Nigeria could be one of his many harebrained jabbers. While Nigeria said the US president made the offer, Trump himself said the Nigerian government called to beg for the items.

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The US president is notorious for making unprocessed statements and walking them back. He could have blurted out a promise he did not intend to keep while giddy on the phone with President Buhari. A fact check by the Washington Post shows ‘’Trump has broken more promises than he has kept’’ since he became president.

So, it is possible that Trump could be walking this back. But I want to be proved wrong. It is narcissist to crave the ‘’I said it’’ trophy in this case where hundreds of lives are at stake.

And with over 400 plus new COVID-19 infections reported on Saturday; nearly 40,000 cases recorded so far, and with fatalities inching to 1,000 – one of the highest in West Africa — Nigeria really needs the medical equipment. Time is of the essence. But we do not have to grovel to Trump.

 

 

*Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist. Twitter: @FredrickNwabufo

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Corona party and a foolish, restless generation BY Fola Ojo

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My wife and I are very fond of this young white boy in our neighbourhood. He was born about two years after we moved to the city 20 years ago. We have been neighbours for that long. I love the boy. His biological father, whom I learnt was a member of a street gang and shuttling in-and-out-of-jail, has been out of his life since he was born. His step-father is not forthcoming raising his stepson; and I still wonder why. With no father-figure in his life, the young man’s struggles seem to have doubled. For the purpose of this write-up, I’ll call the boy Isaac, and his mum, Sandra. These are not their real names.

Sandra had several times suggested that Isaac is free to go anywhere my family goes, even if we intend to move out of state. She has spoken loftily how much she loves my boys; and wanted Isaac modelled after them. Isaac, now 18, graduated from High School about two weeks ago in the same class with one of my sons. But during the graduation ceremony, Isaac was conspicuously absent. That was when I sent a text to Sandra why her son was not at the event. My heart dropped when she messaged me back about this boy whom I love. Before I relay the contents of the message from Sandra, let me give you a backdrop to the story. My intention sharing this is that some young people out there reading this may learn a lesson from it.

In April, I took Isaac along with my boys for my birthday celebration in our home in Texas. We stayed together for over two months and I got to know him better. He is a very intelligent boy; and just like a typical young man with some peculiar surmountable behavioural challenges. Isaac loves partying, drinking, and ‘chasing’ girls. How many of us in our younger days successfully dealt with this youthful lifestyle? Isaac takes a few wrong steps; but he sincerely doesn’t see them as wrong because he has no guide or guardian. But he will respond to help and guide, especially from a father-figure. I have promised myself to be there for him as he grows. After my birthday celebration in Texas, we returned to Wisconsin in June and I asked Isaac on the airplane if he would stay in my house for the rest of the summer. He agreed. Barely two hours after we got home, he took off. He said he wanted to go pick up his pay-cheque at work. That was around 7.30pm. I waited for him till around 1am to return home. Isaac did not show up. My boys and I had not seen or heard from him since then until about 30 days after when I asked after him from his mother. She sent me this text message in reply: “Thank you for thinking of him. He had got sick with COVID-19…”. Coronavirus? Oh my God! How and where did Isaac get it? What I heard was an earful.

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In this pandemic, young people in America organise parties they call “Corona Party”. They’ll invite two or three people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and shut themselves for hours in a rambunctious house party, dancing, singing, and drinking alcohol with COVID-19 carriers. Their actions are deliberate. The foolish thought behind this is that “Corona Party” is a test of their manliness. It makes them feel like ‘real men’; whatever that is. They believe they are too strong and immune to COVID-19. That was exactly what happened to Isaac. He does not drive, but his friends drove him 40 miles from home to attend a Corona Party in another town. There, he caught the virus! His parents decided to quarantine him in the basement of their house for 10 days after he had tested positive. But on the fourth day, he got sicker and was having problem breathing. He was then taken to the Emergency room.

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Younger people are making up a growing percentage of new coronavirus cases in many cities and states around the world where the virus is surging and not abating. For example, in Arizona, United States, people ages 20 to 44 account for nearly half of all cases. In Florida, which breaks records for new cases nearly every day, the median age is 35. In Texas, young people now account for the majority of new cases in several urban centres. People in their 20s and 30s are also more likely to go out socialising, raising concerns that asymptomatic young people are helping to spread the virus. They restlessly flood bars, beaches and restaurants as if the coronavirus has decided to take a vacation.

“What is clear is that the proportion of people who are younger appears to have dramatically changed,” said Joseph McCormick, a professor of epidemiology at UTHealth School of Public Health in Brownsville. Now that the US and many nations are contemplating reopening schools in the Fall, the behaviours (or misbehaviours) of young people could easily complicate plans to return to normal classroom settings come next calendar year which begins later this month. Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, recently concluded that younger people have helped fuel the increase in known coronavirus infections.

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Now, permit me to return to the story of my young man neighbour. What later happened to Isaac? I didn’t get to ask anyone how many young people who participated in the foolish Corona Party had gone for a COVID-19 test. Is it possible that it was only Isaac who fell prey to the ravages of the virus at the party? I doubt it. And those ones who caught the virus would have definitely spread it somewhere especially to their loved ones. My heart goes out to Isaac daily in prayer. So, what happened to the young man who missed his own graduation because of his foolishness? Sandra, Isaac’s mum sent me this text message on Wednesday. “We were worried for him to be around too many people yet and taking the chance of getting sick again. He has fully recovered. He moved up north to his grandparents where there are better job opportunities. He hopes to get back to work soon. Thanks for your prayers and concerns”.

– Follow me on Twitter @Folaojotweet

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Why we need to calm down BY Femi Adesina

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Enemy of the state by Femi Adesina

There’s this hilarious video that went viral recently. A boy had offended his mother and was about to get a beating. Tearfully, even before he got whipped, the boy tried to plead his way out.

As the mother told him to stretch forth his palm to be caned, he entreated: “Mummy, it must not be hard beating o…This is my last chance. Last chance in the world.”

Amidst tears, he said he had a question for the mother:

“Will you be going out today? You must rest a little…Mummy, calm down. Don’t be angry. I’m just telling you to be ‘calming’ down. You must rest a little.”

The boy then reclined on a couch, to show how the mother must calm down, and rest.

The boy and his mother became some sort of celebrity. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State asked to meet with him, and said there were fundamental lessons to learn from his tearful admonition to his mum.

Calm down. I’m just telling you to be ‘calming’ down. Hahahahahaaaaaaa.

But if the truth the told, that message from the boy is for the entire country. We need to calm down. We are too uptight, nervy, edgy. We grumble, murmur too much, call the government a lot of names, try to demonize those serving the nation, when it could be “our last chance. Last chance in the world” to really fix things.

If you listen to some people; angry youths, religious leaders, political analysts, newspaper columnists, news reviewers, so-called activists, then nothing positive is happening in the country. It is all about insurgency, banditry, killings, joblessness, corruption, lack and deprivation. True? False!

Those things are there, as they are also in many countries of the world. But they are not the only things happening in Nigeria. Only that we would not see the positive things, except we calmed down. We would never enjoy the rainfall, if we expect rainstorm to carry away our rooftop at any moment. Calm down. “I’m just telling you to be ‘calming’ down.”

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One of my favourite boyhood songs is the one by Jimmy Cliff. ‘Keep Your Eyes on the Sparrow.’

Here I stand with my head down in my hand
Wondering what on earth I have done wrong
There’s a cloud that has overshadowed me
Blocks the light from my eyes, I cannot see
But I know where I wanta be
Right or wrong, I’ve got to face my destiny

Somebody tell me to
Keep your eyes on the sparrow
Keep your eyes on the sparrow
Keep it on, keep it on now
Keep your eyes on the sparrow.

That is a song of hope. It’s a song of encouragement. The Good Book says God keeps His eyes on the sparrow, and none can fall down without His permission. If He watches over a bird, how much more we human beings, created in His image? But man has walked away from that original estate. We sit on the complaint counter. We murmur, curse, cavil. We rail against God, against man, against the government, even against our own selves. We indulge in hate speech, concoct and spread fake news. And it blinds our eyes. It blocks the light from our eyes, and we cannot see. We never see good, even when it surrounds us. We focus only on negative narratives.

Let me give a practical example. Last Sunday, one of the guests on Sunday Politics, hosted by Seun Okinbaloye of Channels Television, was one Group Captain Sadeeq Garba (Retd). He was also deputy head of safety and security at the African Union Commission, and now a private security consultant.
The retired Air Force Officer was asked to talk about the worrisome trend of killings in the country. The man said the killings were sad and regrettable, but things were not as completely negative as some people and interest groups would want to make them seem.

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Quoting what he called reliable statistics from the Centre for Research in the United States, he gave these figures of the evil development from 2011, in the number of total killings:
2011-1096
2012-3761
2013-7167
2014-15,600
2015- Not available
2016-4618
2017-5763
2018-6565
2019-8350
2020-6195, as of June.

Now, one life lost is already too many. One single life should not be taken wantonly, not to talk of in hundreds and thousands. It is bestial, inhuman. But why do some people want to make it appear as if we hadn’t passed through worse times in this country? Forget about who was in power as President. It is not about individuals now, it is about the descent of a country into the Hobbesian state of nature, where life is nasty, brutish and short. For President Muhammadu Buhari, it’s a solemn pledge that lives and property would be secured. And a lot is being done in that direction, though we are not there yet. Unkind, negative comments can only demoralize those fighting to secure the country.

When the President said recently that things were better in the area of security than what he met in 2015, some people wailed endlessly, as is their wont to. But when the Group Captain came with facts and figures on national television last Sunday, not one word was heard. Not even a whimper! Why do people like to spread negative, rather than positive developments? Killings dropped from 15,600 in 2014 to 4,618 in 2016. But not one positive word. Simply because their eyes are blinded by negative thoughts and sentiments. And they now need to calm down. Rather than upbraid, our security agencies should be challenged and encouraged to rediscover what they did in 2016.

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During the week, the Ministry of Power said electricity generation had returned to over 5,000 megawatts. Not a word from professional complainers. If it had dropped to below 1,000 megawatts, we would not have heard anything else. Calm down. “I’m just telling you to be ‘calming’ down.”
If we calm down, what would we see? Massive infrastructural developments. Roads, rail, airports, bridges, efforts to reverse power deficit of many decades, newly approved Youth Bank to empower the younger generation, strident efforts to secure the country, N2.3 trillion stimulus package to combat the negative effect of COVID-19, and many other positive developments. There are many and many more.

Jesus looked at Jerusalem, and wept over it, saying: “if thou hadst known in this day, even thou, the things which belong unto thy peace. But now, they are hid from thine eyes.” (Luke 19:42).

We will see the things that pertain to the peace of our country, if we would just calm down. As the young boy said, “this is my last chance. Last chance in the world.”
It could well be.

*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity

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Investing in Nigeria BY Rosemary O. Enemuo

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Nigeria Foreign Direct Investment in the first quarter of 2020 declined 427.76 USD million from 1,266.824 USD billion in the same quarter the previous year representing a -66.2% change. A 5 year (2015-2019) analysis of Nigeria’s Gross National Income (GNI) shows that the GNI continuously declined from 522.52 USD billion in 2015 to 385.05 USD billion in 2018, but picked up a bit in 2019 at 407.93 USD billion.

Recent events such as the reduction in the value of FDIs in Nigeria and the looming exit of big markets such as ShopRite and Mr Price, alongside previously exited players like Truworths, Woolworths, and Opera subsidiaries; Opay and Oride have contributed to an increase in unemployment, decline in national revenue generation, increased inflation on locally produced goods, loss of revenue from unexplored and undeveloped sectors, and a regression to the informal economy.

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This economic downturn emerged from poor economic policies of the government; the land border closure, a badly designed import-substitution program, poor accessibility of loans by SMEs, an outdated land use act, high-interest rates amid global meltdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, low interests on savings, the CBN’s CRR liquidity control, as well as subsidies and the control of foreign exchange (FX) amongst others.

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Nigeria’s difficult business environment is the main reason for the exit of these foreign investors: an unfriendly tax system, the prohibitive cost and processes of importation, poor transport links, pervasive corruption, social unrest, terrorism and kidnap as well as bureaucracy and sudden changes in government policies without an adjustment window.

Although part of the reality for the ShopRite’s Group exit from the Nigeria market is the increased competition in the Nigeria supermarket space, local investors and SMEs have also suffered stifling regulatory policies that hindered innovation, investment plans and affected business growth.

Measuring investment with the Nigeria stock market as an index, all shares in NSE have reduced by 1984 points or 7.38% since the beginning of 2020; additionally, it is worthy to note that no state in Nigeria attracted any foreign direct investment all year. For a country that intends to diversify away from oil, a harsh economic environment will only take the country further away from growth and economic development, and on this long antiquated roller coaster of oil dependence.

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Therefore to increase revenue generation and participatory economic development of all sectors, the government will have to relax dis-incentive policies that hinder investments in Nigeria.

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