Can Africa Keep Coronavirus Under Control?

By Bunmi Makinwa

The map that is emerging of the global situation of coronavirus disease, better named as COVID-19, is strange and surprising.

Coronavirus Map: Distribution of COVID-19 Cases Worldwide, as of March 17, 2020. Credit: WHO

Take a map of the world with an all-white background and put black spots to mark the places where COVID-19 cases are high or significant. Africa stands out as the only continent that remains mostly white. The other continents have a large number of people who have COVID-19. Many of the countries with a high number of cases also have a correspondingly substantial number of deaths from the disease whilst African countries have recorded very few deaths.

What is strange about Africa? Why is COVID-19 unusually bypassing Africa?

Epidemiology is the study of incidence, distribution, and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health. It uses a lot of data and statistical information to reflect its conclusions or findings. It gives an account of fundamental factors that influence course of diseases.

As in similar studies of humans, nature and society, when no coherent explanation is possible to explain a phenomenon, epidemiology infers, extrapolates and uses conjectures.

In understanding why Africa is spared to date of many cases of COVID-19, there are a lot of inferences and suggestions, but very little coherent or solid explanation. It is understandable. COVID-19 is a new and rapidly evolving disease. The scientific knowledge is growing but It is too early to draw conclusions.

Compared to the rest of the world, cases of COVID-19 are low in Africa. As at this time of writing, Egypt leads with 196 and also has the highest number of deaths at 6. South Africa is a distant second with 85 cases, followed by Algeria with 61 cases, Morocco has 38 cases and Senegal has 27 cases, in that order. Morocco has recorded 6 deaths and Sudan has one. All other African countries with COVID-19 cases are in single units.

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South African Development Community unites to tackle COVID-19. Credit: WHO

The current situation on COVID-19 does not say a lot about where things maybe tomorrow or in the near future. Whilst China was dealing with the first major epidemic and a high number of cases, most countries that became almost overwhelmed with the disease did not foresee the trend. Within weeks, Italy has a raging epidemic with 31,000 plus cases and over 2,000 deaths, and Iran has more than 16,000 cases with almost one thousand deaths. Spain, Germany, France and the USA are battling with rising numbers.

There is, therefore, no valid reason to celebrate or be lackadaisical about the current situation in Africa. Rather, it is as good a time as any to adopt an active and serious preparedness stance. African countries should anticipate any eventuality. There are already lessons to learn from other parts of the world.

African countries cannot be over-prepared, because its best preparedness situation in medical and health services will be not anywhere as strong as the services in China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, France or the United Kingdom – which health care and management capabilities were overwhelmed fast by the epidemic. According to WHO, healthcare and services in Africa, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, are the weakest in the world.

“Keep it out and be prepared”. This is my shorthand of a combined strategic imperative that should drive Africa’s readiness on Coronavirus or COVID-19 given the facts and data available regarding the disease.

From reports and personal observation, African countries have set up testing facilities at airports to monitor travelers and identify possible infected persons. This is excellent. It is doubtful that the same kinds of facilities are available at land borders which are often too numerous to count, and very porous.

COVID-19 is said to have an incubation period of between 14 and 21 days based on current knowledge. It means that an infected person with no symptoms yet may pass through the temperature recording tests at airports and manifest the disease later on. It has probably been the case with several international travelers who have been identified with the disease days after their arrival in countries.

It is also assumed that COVID-19 or a variant of it is not indigenous to African countries. If it exists already, it is most likely to be passive or not as virulent as the type that is ravaging other parts of the world. The assumptions are reasonable until facts prove otherwise. If the assumption proves wrong with time, there will arise a need to respond to emergencies.

For the above reasons and others, the efforts to “keep it out”, may not be as successful as it is touted to be. Therefore, the second part of the strategy, “be prepared,” becomes even more important.

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Senegal partners with UK lab to develop a hand-held coronavirus test kit. Credit: CNN.

Most African countries have Centre for Disease Control (CDC), or National Institutes of Public Health and similar bodies that are a repository of knowledge and skills in control and preparedness for communicable and non-communicable diseases. They have capabilities to test, confirm COVID-19, treat and manage cases locally, including the capability for contact tracing, isolation and follow-through medical services.

However, medical and care services are most beneficial and effective when disease burden is limited. The fact that most people in the continent do not have reasonable access to health care facilities is a grave complication when epidemics strike.

The maxim, prevention is the cheapest cure, cannot be more appropriate at this time. In order to “be prepared”, African countries should adopt a preventive approach premised on behaviour change, a well-developed public health and change management field.

COVID-19 is a communicable, infectious disease. Unfortunately, merely reviewing measures taken by African countries to date reveal that less than 10 countries out of 54 have taken the preliminary steps of behavior modification and change that can enable people to “be prepared” to overcome the disease. Measures such as limiting the gathering of groups, enforcing reduced movement for social activities, and continuous enlightenment and education with rehearsals for practical understanding are very important.

It is difficult to ask people not to socialize, greet, congregate to celebrate, meet up with family and friends, as they normally do. It is challenging to ask people to wash hands with soap for at least 20 seconds every so often; not to touch mouth, nose and eyes; and to avoid handling public facilities. People just like to do what they normally do. It is human. The social and cultural practices of African peoples have proved tough and resistant to behavior changes that place individuals above groups and community. We have seen it in HIV and AIDS programmes, and in combatting Ebola.

Now with COVID-19, people must be ready and comfortable over time with the disruption of normal life and daily routines. It is difficult to stay home for days, weeks and maybe months, but people must be geared to practice and adopt the new behavior.

Official announcements setting stringent requirements to reorganize life in new ways, cancel public gatherings and events relating to education, work, leisure, and social life, are in order. People must be prodded towards changing their lifestyle.

Behavior modification and change are what it means to “be prepared” for COVID-19 in Africa. It is known that behavior change takes several steps from awareness to understanding, through acceptance, adoption, and ultimately the sustainability of new behavior. It also takes several supporting factors, including policy, politics, faith, social and economic contexts to effect a change of behavior in institutions, societies and amongst people.

The time to begin implementing a behavior change movement to contain COVID-19 in Africa was yesterday. There is no justifiable reason for any country to be taken by surprise having seen how the disease has evolved dramatically in several countries.

If, as time goes on, Africa remains unaffected by the ravages of COVID-19, nothing would have been lost by being prepared for the worst-case scenario. Indeed, it would be a much better situation than saying “had we known” after the unexpected havoc that the epidemic can wreak on a fragile continent.

Bunmi Makinwa was the first head of behavior change communication of UNAIDS at the global level from Geneva. He is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Facts and Lessons on Coronavirus

By Bunmi Makinwa

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It is highly unlikely that you will be infected by Coronavirus, code-named COVID-19, according to prominent facts from the ongoing epidemic of the virus. This is not what you would think given the hysteria, myths and information that spread every day on the disease.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that may cause a range of illnesses in humans or animals. Among the most well-known coronaviruses are Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Swine Flu. The most-recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease and has been code-named COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is known so far to have originated from an animal.

Prevention and avoidance of infection is easy and possible through simple actions that each individual can take, and which organizations, companies and communities can facilitate.

The chances of recovery from the disease are also very high compared to other recent viral epidemics. Facts and data on COVID-19 reinforce the positive conclusions stated above. Yet the spread of COVID-19 is real and new facts are likely to surface as the epidemic becomes scientifically more familiar.

The caricature of Chinese people as being carriers of COVID-19 is incorrect. Though the first known cases of the disease and the largest number of infections and deaths were in Wuhan in Ubei province of China, COVID-19 has appeared in at least 64 countries, three of them are in Africa – Algeria, Egypt and Nigeria.

Egypt was the first African country to report a Coronavirus case, a Chinese person who has since tested negative and has been discharged from quarantine. Algeria has two suspected cases and one of them was confirmed for infection. The two cases were Italians. Nigeria has reported a case and the Italian who travelled to Lagos on February 25 had his case confirmed on February 27. He has been quarantined at a facility in Lagos.

According to the government of Lagos State, the patient’s symptoms have subsided. It means that his potential to infect others has decreased. If the trend continues, he will be released as he will no more pose any danger to others.

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It is likely that more Africans will be infected by COVID-19 as time goes on, especially Africans who live in or visit places that have a high number of cases of the disease. For example, two South Africans were detected to have the disease on board the cruise ship, The Diamond Princess, in Japan. The Diamond Princess has recorded 705 cases of COVID-19 and 6 deaths to date. It carried 3,711 people and was sailing from Singapore to Japan when the first case was discovered.

Unfortunately, infected people may carry the virus for many days before they show symptoms, and they can infect others. Infection takes place through droplets when infected persons sneeze or cough. Fomites, object or substance that is capable of transmitting infectious organisms from one individual to another, also may carry the virus through to others. Metals and metallic objects are said to be efficient fomites for COVID-19.

Estimates by credible organizations are that infected people have 98 per cent recovery rate from the disease. The two per cent of patients who die from it are predominantly vulnerable

persons such as older people above the age of 50 and most of them have pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, chronic respiratory disease or cancer. It means that young people have a very high capability to recover from infection based on what is known to date about the virus.

In a larger context, whereas SARS has 9.6 per cent and MERS has 34 per cent mortality rates, COVID-19 has about 2 per cent mortality rate.

How does one avoid COVID-19? Remember the following simple measures.

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Wash and rinse hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 30 seconds. Do it frequently and encourage others to do the same. The hands are the major carriers of viruses and washing hands with soap and water properly kill most viruses. In the absence of water and soap, sanitizers are also effective but not as well as soap and water. Water alone if it is all that is available is useful but very weak as a cleaner for viruses.

Avoid touching the nose, mouth, eyes with hands. The hands pick up viruses and transmit them easily through these parts of the body.

Stay a good distance, about one metre or three feet, away from anyone who sneezes or coughs. The droplets from their sneeze or cough cannot reach you at this distance. Anyone who sneezes or coughs should cover their noses and mouths to avoid spreading droplets to others.

Fomites, such as clothes, utensils, and furniture, also transmit viruses. In public places especially, use fomites sparingly and clean hands frequently when public objects are used.

Stay at home if you feel ill and seek medical care as soon as possible if the illness persists.

It is important to be informed and to obtain new information on the new virus. However, avoid misinformation and myths. For example, the WHO recommends the use of face masks for those who are taking care of patients with COVID-19 or for those who may have a cough, cold, or sneezing. Wearing masks is not a substitute for regular hand cleaning.

There is a lot of wrong information about the current epidemic given the power of social media that turns just about anyone into specialists. Each country has credible sources of information and there are various international organizations that competently provide information. Top of the list is the World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control, National Public Health agencies, and well-established, reputable media organizations.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Buhari and Sowore – The Road to Change

By Bunmi Makinwa

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Image via Daily News Gh

One is lean, slow, deliberate and often distant as he stares into space. The other is compact, quick, agitated and often preoccupied with his mobile phones. I am describing, respectively, my impressions of President Muhammadu Buhari and Mr Omoyele Sowore from watching them both up close physically.

They are two different people, as different as two people can be, including in their age and life experience. Yet, they are two very similar persons. In so many ways that this article will explain, their trajectories have been different, but their ways have been very similar.

In taking a stand against the establishment, Sowore has lived a life of protests. He was a relentless advocate for civil and political rights as a student union leader at the University of Lagos. Later on, he founded Sahara Reporters, one of the early online alternative media that champions agitation against all governments of Nigeria since 2006.

Buhari as a professional military officer might be perceived as conformist and obedient to military tradition. A closer look, however, reveals something different. His most visible form of protest has been that within and outside his military career, he has demonstrated a non-conformist mien. He has been described as austere, withdrawn and often aloof. In his political roles in military uniform, he has not been given to the physical and social excesses that characterized several of his contemporaries who assumed political roles.

Just as Buhari has held several political appointments and worked within the political structures, Sowore has been around and within politics, including engaging institutions of government to criticize them, and sometimes to collaborate with them as sources of his investigations. Buhari and Sowore came to the same conclusion. Neither was happy with the government and the regular politicians.

Both men sooner than later, in their typical day, are apt to show their angry demeanours in social and political discourse. President Buhari and Omoyele Sowore in many ways have led lives that reflected their dissatisfaction, even anger, about Nigeria’s political leadership and parties.

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Buhari as a military officer has been one of the leaders of several coups d’etat against military and civilian governments. For example, in December 1983, he was one of the military leaders that overthrew President Shehu Shagari. Buhari and his deputy Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon ruled Nigeria for some two years, a regime that was characterized by their “War Against Indiscipline”. They jailed many people,
punished many others and made draconian laws. Buhari has not led a quiet life of conforming to the established order.

Similarly, Sowore has never been short of negative words to describe what goes on in Nigeria. His lifelong pursuit of activism against the government has been loud. He has been intolerant of corruption, misrule, abuse of office and exploitative social norms.

President Buhari, after his military career, found his voice within a new political party, the All Nigeria People’s Party, and later in the Congress for Progressive Change. He ran three times unsuccessfully to become president. He won only at his fourth election campaign using the All Progressives Congress party platform. He has fulfilled his desire to rule Nigeria.

Sowore, who had established a powerful, successful media platform, Sahara Reporters, to destabilize the political space, also found a political party, the African Action Congress, in 2018. The party lost resoundingly at Sowore’s first attempt to use the electoral system to become president.

When President Buhari lost his earlier elections, he did not keep quiet. He spat fire. His frustration with the electoral process was heard loudly. For example, Buhari claimed that the 2011 elections were rigged. He angrily stated that “if what happened in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood”.

Sowore after his electoral loss did not keep quiet. Moreover, he concluded that open agitation to upend the system was perhaps more effective. He spoke angrily too.
In their characteristic ways, neither of the two men accepted their losses nor did they settle down to parley with the winners. They did not go quietly into the night.
Sowore, reacting against the electoral process of 2015, called out other instruments of persuasion. He brandished a new slogan of “Revolution Now” and led street campaigns.

Unfortunately, for seeking new avenues to change the political discourse, he became the enemy that must be stopped by the forces of law and order.

It is written and said by many people that Sowore was the nemesis of President Jonathan’s government and that Sahara Reporters was a most potent media that charted the way for the end of Jonathan’s government and the entry of President Buhari into office in 2015.

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Sowore, especially through Sahara Reporters, has campaigned in the public arena consistently against the ills of every government from 2006 to date. Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Musa Yar’Adua, and Goodluck Jonathan were not spared, nor were their ministers, appointees and other political associates.

Some of these leaders have had their wives painted in undignified portraits in the online media, especially for corrupt activities.

How did Sowore who acted in support of, advocated for Buhari, and his political party’s “change” agenda, become the “enemy” of Buhari and his government?

Buhari was fed up with poor governance, he campaigned in support of a new order and fought hard to get into power. Both Buhari and Sowore swear that Nigeria must change.

Sowore’s impatience with slow or lack of change leads him to seek possible pressure points to accelerate change. What differentiates the two in the new sphere is that whilst Buhari is bound by the fences of government house and its dictates, Sowore chooses to try the paths not taken, using mostly words.

Nigeria is ripe for change. The road to change is already littered with promises not kept, accidents caused deliberately by agents of the status quo, and obstacles that hinder progress for the largest segment of the population. Sooner than later it may become a stark reality to decide which path can truly lead to change – within the existing order, or its overturn to give way to drastic shifts. Patience may have an expiration date.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

CJN Case – Buhari a Dove or a Hawk?

By Bunmi Makinwa

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President Buhari and former CJN Onnoghen (image via pulse.ng)

In his initial actions on assuming office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari was painstakingly slow. The list is long. He took six months to appoint a cabinet. Many important organizations and parastatals continued to be led by nominees of the previous government. Management boards of key governmental organizations and ambassadors for important foreign offices were not appointed or confirmed.

For a considerable time after becoming president, Buhari was not known to have articulated any clear policy statements on the three key areas of his campaign- security, economy, and corruption. 

As time went on, he accepted the label of “Baba go slow” and explained that it would not stop him from reaching his goal on retrieving stolen monies. Perhaps the slow posture helped to demonstrate his change of image from that of a past military dictator to that of a democratic president.  Maybe his ill-health explained the slow pace too, but the disappointment was real.

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‘Go slow’ in Lagos, Nigeria (image via cmgsite.com)

Meanwhile, the high profile cases of corruption that his government made loud noises about went nowhere or stalled due to court processes, also known as legal technicalities. Yet, many cases went to court, and large amounts of monies and assets were confiscated. But extremely few of the major allegedly corrupt persons got convicted.

Very quickly, the more than 15 million voters who brought Buhari into office settled into the new reality. The new leader and his government appeared to succeed reasonably in limiting the effectiveness of Boko Haram, which was a good thing. But the government would not be able to find an effective way to reduce corruption. Not in court, not in the mobilization of people, not in policy clarity. At best it would scare some corrupt politicians within its ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party and in the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) party.

The system, thoroughly soaked in corrupt ways from top to bottom, has won. Despite his experience as former head of state, holder of several political offices, and his hunger to rule Nigeria, the new Buhari was a dove who would play the political game and not hurt. After all, the dove is a symbol of peace.

Many people were disappointed because they wanted a hawk – an aggressive and war-like leader who would find ways to correct the ills. But the political realities emasculated the government.

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Acting CJN Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed (image via BBC)

Like a thunderbolt, the allegation against the Chief Justice emerged. Buhari acted rapidly. His unusually quick and decisive step caused a massive uproar. The opposition and other critics found a rallying point.

It is probably the most controversial decision of Buhari’s government – the suspension of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen and appointment of acting Chief Justice Tanko Mohammed to replace him. The CJN was allegedly found to have misrepresented his financial standing in the sworn declaration of assets.

The whirlwind of opinions, protests, and statements on the decision continues within and outside Nigeria. Legal analysts and professionals voiced strong but opposing views on the situation There can only be finality when courts pronounce.

Buhari’s APC and the main opposition PDP hold diametrically opposing positions on the CJN issue. For APC, it is right that a CJN who “forgot” to state in his official papers that he had millions of dollars in bank accounts was guilty of misconduct. But the PDP differs.

Public opinion is an aggregate of the views and thoughts of the general public. The coming elections will reflect where supporters of APC and PDP and other parties stand on several issues, and perhaps, more importantly, the decision on the CJN, taking three weeks before the crucial election.

Many people and organizations have spoken and demonstrated against the decision. And as many have spoken and manifested their support for it. The supporters find the decision bold, correct and necessary.  Can it be the kind of decision that many people expected when they voted massively in 2015 to support APC and made sure that Buhari clinched the presidency?

USA’s president Donald Trump during his campaign did several things that were unorthodox. The more he showed Americans and the world that he was not a typical politician, the stronger his support base became. The more Trump angered mainstream America the more his followers cheered.

A large number of Americans were fed up with the political system. They were seeking a president unlike their politicians in the Senate, House of Representatives and Washington D.C., the political capital. The forgotten Americans wanted to turn the tables against politics as it was being played. They wanted a non-political leader.

In the USA, the media, opinionists, commentators, and experts did not get the message of the disgruntled, voiceless people in open and hidden corners of America.  Trump got the message. He acted the part and played ball with the coalition of immigrant haters, faith fundamentalists, blue-collar workers, and such-like others. He fitted the bill and he won.

In so-called democratic Nigeria today, the average person has no right at any place or institution. It is a well-known fact that who-you-are and what-you-have are the sole determinants of what you get. Yet, the elites and dominant office holders are quick to claim the rule of law as the answer to resolve the disagreement.

More than some of the controversial issues of Buhari’s presidency – the cattle herders’ rampage, the allegedly Northern-bias in the appointment of key federal officers, and general un-hurried attention to crucial national issues – the public perception on the CJN issue may be the decisive factor of Buhari’s re-election.

The president has shown he could find a way within the rotten political and legal system to take a vital blow on seeming corrupt behavior. The action may turn out to be the most populist decision by his government. Or it may be the most foolhardy. The decision of President Buhari will be validated or rejected by the result of the elections of February 16 when he squares up with his main rival, former Vice-President and candidate of the PDP, Abubakar Atiku.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. 

 

More Fake News Here.

By Bunmi Makinwa

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Can one avoid fake news? It is highly unlikely.

Anyone who uses social media, also called social networking services, will receive fake news. The more frequently one uses social media, the more fake news one receives. The challenge is to identify and ultimately avoid spreading fake news as the personal and social impact can be damaging. In fact, it may also have legal implications.

The growth of technology, media technology in particular, in combination with the ease of creating one’s information through cheap mobile telephony, has democratised “news” both for good and bad uses.

An active user of social media receives information many times each day from friends, families, casual acquaintances, and unknown people. It has become easier than ever to generate and spread information. It can be about anything. In several formats, including text, video, photo and voice, anyone can use just a smart telephone to express views, ideas, wishes and news that can reach numerous people across the world in rapid time.

Such shared information may be fake news which contains misinformation and inaccuracies. The information may be designed purposefully to deceive or mislead the receiver. Or it may be used to inform, or promote a viewpoint, sale, generate interest in an issue, or perhaps to entertain. Most people re-post information quickly and hardly spend time to verify its authenticity.

Fake news varies in appearances and implications. As Nigeria’s 2019 elections for president, governors and other offices draw nearer, fake news will increase in frequency and sophistication.

The relevance of newspapers, radio and television notwithstanding, social network services are very effective means of communication. Their impact on political discourse and communication is significant in Nigeria.

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(image via pulse.ng)

According to available statistics, Nigeria’s active users of social media increased from only 52 million in 2013 to about 90 million users in 2017. With a huge population of young people, the country will most likely surpass its hitherto growth rate of about three percent for active users. Especially if the costs of mobile telephony decreases and the economy picks up in the near future, more young people will use the Internet with social media as primary means of communication. The mobile telephony subscription in the country rose from 1.6 million in 2002, to 87.4 million in 2010, and it is now at about 154 million.

Some fake news can be sighted from a mile off. Especially by astute communication and media professionals. A casual observation will show if the name of the purported media organization is wrongly portrayed, or if there are wrong spellings, unusual language or style of presentation. In some cases the hyperlink used as source of the news or information does not exist. Or the statements made are simply doubtful.

Yet, fake news can be cleverly done. It is possible to use modern innovations to modify photos, voices, images and scenes, and combine them to look credible. In such cases, it is difficult to spot the manipulations. More advanced analysis or technology is required.

Recently, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka spoke of a fake website that had his identity all over it. He succeeded to trace the originator but the person has not taken the website down.

Many wealthy people, celebrities, well-known persons, leading brands and organisations have fake information about them and attributed to them on the social media. Facebook, Twitters, websites and blogs, WhatsApp and Instagram are popular in Nigeria, and they contain a lot of fake news despite deliberate efforts by the platforms to identify and eliminate fake news and their creators.

Whilst there is general agreement that fake news should be discouraged and stopped, there is little common position on how it can be done. Current libel laws may be already adequate. Others ask for special policies and laws to counter fake news, whilst some countries place special taxes on use of social media. There have been several instances where national authorities closed down access to the Internet.

Just as one does in daily lives, one must apply common sense to determine what is fair, right or wrong. There are no better ways than to question claims and appearances.

For ease of doing things, you may want to consider the following ten points for social media messaging (text, voice, video, cartoon, photo and other materials). I call them my intuitive 10 laws of social media scams. They are particularly relevant in Nigeria as the political space heats up with ongoing campaigns.

  1. All freebies on social media are scam. If the freebies are actually free, everyone and too many people have already taken whatever was available before I get to know.
  2. If it sounds like fantastic news, a truly phenomenal happening, I hesitate. If it sounds untrue, it most probably is untrue.
  3. Who said it? The same liar. He/she lied about things in the past. Forget it.
  4. Oh, this story is credited to a well-known person, a public figure etc. If it is really true then I should find it on websites of the relevant major media, including newspapers, radio and TV. Is it there?
  5. This does not sound like the same person I knew as a public figure. He or she would never do it, or say such a thing.
  6. Does this quoted person have the qualification or experience to speak with authority on the issue? Can I find his background information or depth of knowledge through a regular Internet search?
  7. Alright, this item quotes a reputable major news organization. Let us check it on the website or in the information area of the news media.
  8. The fact that it is written does not make it true. Anybody can write anything about anybody at any place at any time for any reasons. Where else can I check the truth of it? Who should know?
  9. Allegations of corruption and abuse of office stated about every top politician is likely to be true. But proof is hard to come by. Choose which ones to accept and act upon. Avoid the ones that may lead to a libel case.
  10. Buhari does not hate Atiku. And Atiku does not hate Buhari. They are friends, and will remain friends after the elections. Please, do not send me these hate stories.

Bunmi Makinwa is the Chief Executive Officer of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Kofi Annan’s Unmet Wishes

By Bunmi Makinwa

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Kofi Annan, who passed away on August 18, 2018, at the age of 80, can be situated within the select group of aspirational Africans of his time. Within their generation, the group was imbued with huge dosages of hope, logic and grit. They had numerous wishes but only few were met.

His generation started life when Africans who had opportunities saw no limit to what they could achieve. They hungered after acquisition of education, combined with hard work, and they would use both to conquer the world. They would move Africa, poor and lagging behind, ahead of the world.

Annan was one of the most successful representations of his generation.

In 1957, 19 years old Annan graduated from high school as Ghana his country became independent. He earned degrees from universities in Ghana, USA and Switzerland.

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A handout photo made available by the United Nations shows Kofi Annan (L), Secretary-General of the United Nations, with fellow students, during his younger years, as an MIT Sloan Fellow, studying copper industry, in Zambia, 1971

By the time Annan was 40 years old in 1978, almost all African countries were ruled by Africans. The colonial era was past. Putting an end to apartheid was a political and emotional ambition of Africans under the umbrella of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), founded in 1963. Development, peace and stability were seen as beacons in the horizon.

Annan was fluent in English and French. His first wife, Ms. Titi Alakija, was from Nigeria. After his divorce, he married Ms. Nane Lagergren from Sweden. Annan was culturally assimilated into many parts of the world.

In 1962, he started work with the World Health Organisation as administrative officer. Within the various organs of the United Nations, he rose to become Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping in 1992, a senior political role in an inter-governmental institution where one’s emoluments allow a comfortable and cushioned life, though not a wealthy one.

By the time he became United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) in 1997, Annan had probably fulfilled his hopes and wishes. He was at the peak of an illustrious career, and a political peer of heads of state and government.

His continent had matured politically, but it remained seriously under-developed. Africa was ravaged by conflicts and hobbled by extremely poor execution of otherwise laudable policies. Under-development was becoming chronic, and it went hand in hand with diseases and attendant epidemics such as HIV and AIDS. Unemployment, poverty, high mortality of infants and mothers, droughts, corruption and poor access to infrastructure were common.

Annan was a high-flying African; he had international recognition and acclaim, but the successes were diminished by the sad state of the continent. Africa, despite its immense potentials, remained the least developed region of the world, a basket case of world’s political and development agenda. The situation must have affected the number one global diplomat sorely.

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In 2004, six years into his tenure as UN SG, Annan, speaking at a summit of the African Union, created in 2001 as successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), called on African leaders to refrain from changing the law once in office to extend their mandates. The audience comprised presidents and representatives of countries that were guilty of such mandate extension, and others that were scheming for it. They included Gnassingbe Eyadema, Robert Mugabe, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Omar Al-Bashir, Muammar Gaddafi, Jose Dos Santos, Paul Biya, Paul Kagame, Yoweri Museveni and Meles Zenawi.

It was an unusual speech for the audience. As this writer looked around in the hall at the United Nations Economic Commission (UNECA) where the summit was held, the tension was high. Some presidents looked away from the podium where Annan stood. Some others shifted in their seats, obviously unhappy, uncomfortable.

Annan told the summit that national constitutions were meant to protect society, not to advance “the short-term goals of the ruler”. He said the days of one-person or one-party governments that hung onto power were over. “There is no truer wisdom, and no clearer mark of statesmanship, than knowing when to pass the torch to a new generation. And no government should manipulate or amend the constitution to hold on to office beyond prescribed term limits that they accept when they took office.”

Annan prescriptions were clear and direct. Every country in Africa must have free and fair elections, a credible opposition, an independent judiciary, a free and independent press, and civilian control over the military.

Looking his usual unflappable self, it was clear that the medium size-framed diplomat had decided to use his office to take the moral high ground. He was the voice of the people. He would not merely please presidents nor be cowed by the fact that there in the hall were the leaders of the organization that he coordinated.

At many public forums, Annan continued to be the champion of term limits for political leaders, the spokesperson of good governance, and a shining light calling for much-needed progress in Africa.

At the World Economic Forum in South Africa he maintained the pressure on African leaders who clung onto power. He pointed out that there was a “leadership deficit” in Africa and little was being done to create jobs and lift millions out of poverty.

A highly respected moral authority and voice, he spoke to African leaders as nobody else dared to do. Unlike some past African leaders who would berate their peers for bad deeds for which they themselves were equally guilty whilst in office, Annan’s integrity and impeccable standing made his position unassailable. He was strong though he had no army to fight with, nor did he have money to give as incentives.


The Kofi Annan Foundati
on, which he created after he left office as Secretary General, pursues the same agenda of service as leadership. Annan spent his life and used his moral authority to advance themes of good governance and democratic ideals directly with African leaders.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan shakes hands with South African President Nelson Mandela in a meeting on the sidelines of the 12th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). September 2, 1998.
AFP/Getty Images

At the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in 2007, Annan cited Mandela and several other past presidents as examples of former leaders who have shown that “the center stage is not the only place from which you can make a contribution”. 

In 2017 at the 5th Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa, Kofi Annan said that elections were being conducted by leaders in ways to keep themselves in office. Such elections contributed to conflicts in the continent.

In similar vein, in August 2017, delivering a lecture at his former high school, he decried how African leaders subverted their people by organizing elections that “lack integrity”. “We need true democratic leaders who understand that they are at the service of the citizens… Leadership is service. Leaders must understand that they hold power in trust of the people… Unfortunately, Africa has had too few of enlightened people of this kind.

Annan was a Nobel laureate whose accomplishments put him shoulders and head above his peers anywhere in the world. Another African Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, born in 1934 in the same era, once said that he belonged to a “wasted generation” as his country’s political leadership has fallen short of expectations. Like Soyinka’s, Annan’s life remained incomplete because his wishes for a stable, peaceful and developed Africa remained unmet. Whence comes another honorable, strong voice to challenge the selfish and inept leadership by many African leaders?

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Ekitis and Fayemi: Moral Values and Integrity of Choice

By Bunmi Makinwa

There are new lessons and confirmation of old ones that have emerged from the July 2018 gubernatorial election in Ekiti State.

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Ekiti State

The first time that I witnessed an election up close was in 1983 in Ibadan. No, I was not an observer or a politician. I was “inside” the political campaigns, sitting next to gubernatorial candidates of political parties. I saw political thugs of candidates in cars and trucks that drove recklessly on town roads. I observed thugs using dangerous weapons to attack other thugs and supporters of political opponents of their leaders. I saw men lying in their pool of blood and barely breathing whilst policemen watched them dying. I was a terrified, fairly new reporter covering the campaigns.

At the then capital of Oyo State, I also witnessed heavily armed policemen who guarded the offices of the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) whilst vote counting went on inside. Only the returning officers of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) that constituted the federal government were allowed inside. The NPN agents were fully protected by the frightfully armed policemen. The officials of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) the opposition party that governed Oyo State were prevented from entering FEDECO premises to witness or observe the vote counting.

As results were announced on radio stations, the city was locked down by security forces. The winning candidates circulated freely. The candidates of the opposition party were locked up in their homes or detained in police stations. According to the security forces, the security actions were necessary to “maintain law and order”.

When a political party constitutes the federal government in Nigeria, it has control of the security forces, and with it the power to manage and decide outcomes of elections is almost unlimited. The federal government uses this power when the stakes are high.

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Voting in Nigeria (via Techpoint)

In 2014 in Ekiti State, candidate Peter Fayose defeated sitting Governor Fayemi with a near 100 per cent vote count in the gubernatorial election. Fayose had the backing of the strong Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that formed the federal government. The party hence was in charge of the security forces and they backed candidate Fayose. During the election the state was locked down by security forces.

In the recent July 2018 elections in Ekiti State, sitting Governor Fayose’s hand-picked PDP candidate, Mr. Olusola Eleka, deputy governor, was defeated by former Governor Fayemi. The latter had the backing of the strong All Peoples Congress (APC) party that forms the federal government. The state was locked down by security forces.

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Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi

 Lesson one – the party at the centre with control of security forces can use the so-called “maintain law and order” in ways that are open to various interpretations . The security actions that were taken by the federal government during elections in Oyo State in 1983 do recur in several elections. They were similar to the security actions taken in Ekiti State in 2014, and again in Ekiti State in 2018.

Lesson two – money has become absolutely crucial to win elections among Ekiti people. And the amounts needed to influence voters and buy results of party primaries and elections has increased significantly. The use of money is more public than ever. The Ekitis were general perceived as tough, stubborn and fiercely loyal in their political beliefs. They would hold a position, support a candidate and protect their beliefs with their lives, if necessary. The Ekitis have changed. Money has become the dominant factor for the voters. They guard their stomachs with their lives. Governor Fayose used “stomach infrastructure” as official governing policy. His opponents adopted it for the elections. At every stage of the recent electioneering process, within their means, for all parties, including APC and PDP, money was the currency of engagement.

Lesson three – the more money is spent by candidates to win their elections, the more money the candidates have to recover once elected. In addition, the successful candidates have to look after their party, members and their personal future interest. What do people expect from their governments, governors, elected politicians? Having spent huge amounts of money to buy party delegates during primaries, and also to buy voters during elections, there must be a lot of holes to plug once in office.

Lesson four – Nigeria has become more homogeneous in expectations from political leaders, especially during elections. Ekiti people are no longer an exception. “What we get NOW from the candidates for political offices is the only benefit to us. Once they assume office, we get nothing”, say the voters. For various reasons, including poverty, loss of confidence in the political leadership, pressing needs and sharp “marketing” by politicians, people have given up on higher standards of politics as service to the people.

Lesson five – election results are almost invariably contested. Only in rare instances do candidates accept their losses and cheer the winners. Campaigns and elections are desperate, win-or-die times for politicians to attain power and wealth. The reports of observer groups on Ekiti elections vary. Whilst some say that it was reasonably free and fair, others say that it was unfairly conducted and over-militarised. Both APC and PDP are accused of carrying out activities that could undermine the proper conduct of voting and determination of results. Several cases are in court to ascertain whether party primaries and state-wide elections were done properly.

Can the in-coming government of Fayemi recover some of the lost moral values of Ekitis? Can he rally his people to bring back the personal integrity of Ekitis on choice of political leaders? Can he rekindle the high ground that he took when he lost gallantly to Fayose in 2014? Can he raise the “bar of excellence” as he stated while conceding defeat? Or faced with the realities of desperate politics of acquisition wealth and power, will he fall further into the “stomach infrastructure” miasma?

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).