It is painful to see a man who has dedicated his life to promoting global health getting dragged over hot coal for his good work. It has been one stupid allegation after the other. From mass sterilisation through vaccination to mass death on multiple continents, it would not have been worth writing on if they were not trending on social media in a big way, and if public commentators were not propagating them.


The outlandish claims and conspiracy theories meant to shame and malign Bill and Melinda Gates were initially imbecilic and unworthy of attention. In the last few days, as fear mounted and the American body count went up, the lies and twists gained currency and became outrightly shameful. What started in the dark recesses of QAnon and far right wingnut sites, which got tired of their erstwhile favourite attack object – George Soros, suddenly went mainstream. Unfortunately, new media sites and social media ecosystems have become the habitat for the sort of people who believe the earth is flat, among other moronic claims. As the coronavirus pandemic rages throughout the world, these conspiracy theorists and thousands of social media users who consume their dark brews, continued pushing the narrative that the world’s second richest man and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, helped in creating the coronavirus and the COVID-19 pandemic.

While giving a TED talk in 2015, Bill Gates had warned the world of a possible pandemic that could kill over 30 million people in six months, similar to the 1918 pandemic that killed over 50 million people. He said, “The world needs to prepare for pandemics in the same serious way it prepares for war”. What Bill said is a known fact to many experts in epidemiology and public health – pandemics from unknown pathogens are the biggest challenges mankind faces. Were we all not witnesses to the emergence of Ebola and Swine Flu? Conspiracy theorists latched on to this TED talk, making preposterous viral claims that Bill Gates is a Eugenicist who has developed a vaccine that would depopulate the world through a microchip. How is his warning about the threat of pandemics related to producing vaccine with microchips?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed $1.56 billion to Gavi Alliance for the 2016-2020 strategic period. It is painful to see a man who has dedicated his life to promoting global health getting dragged over hot coal for his good work. It has been one stupid allegation after the other. From mass sterilisation through vaccination to mass death on multiple continents, it would not have been worth writing on if they were not trending on social media in a big way, and if public commentators were not propagating them.

This thoughtless conspiracy being promoted on social media platforms have disastrous implications for the global south, for Africa and especially Nigeria. If this gains ground and filters into policy and the minds of people, we will have tragedy on our hands. This scenario is all too familiar and it will end with the deaths of many poor people…


Obviously, the conspiracy brigade are beyond facts. Conveniently, they have ignored or forgotten Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s selfless work on health and education in Africa for more than a decade. Without Bill Gates, the North of Nigeria would have been ravaged by polio. This thoughtless conspiracy being promoted on social media platforms have disastrous implications for the global south, for Africa and especially Nigeria. If this gains ground and filters into policy and the minds of people, we will have tragedy on our hands. This scenario is all too familiar and it will end with the deaths of many poor people, while the elites who are the purveyors and transmitters of these conspiracies will go untouched.

The other hare-brained conspiracy theory making the rounds is the 5G conspiracy theory. It is so sickening that people who should know better are repeating and sharing the claims that 5G networks are spreading coronavirus, like technology morons. They claim that 5G towers are emitting radiation that is letting the virus propagate easily and affecting more and more people. It is so pervasive, persuasive and taken so seriously that people took to vandalising, breaking and setting 5G towers in the United Kingdom on fire. Like the vaccine claim, the 5G tower claim is false. There is no link between 5G technology and the novel coronavirus. The virus spreads from one person to another. Neither your phone nor your 5G technology has anything to do with the virus. To any enquiring mind, these theories are easy to debunk as bunkum.

As influencers and opinion moulders, we have the responsibility to debunk rabid claims that flies in the face of science. It will be a tragedy for science and mankind, if we reject human trials because a racist doctor suggested that treatment of the coronavirus should be done in Africa. Success in clinical medicine and treatment of diseases depends on vaccine and drug trials.


As a country, we must choose our battles carefully. Most countries of the global south are at the lower end of the food chain. Nigeria can’t be in isolation, while implementiing social distancing and economic shutdown for long. We need a vaccine. Vaccination saves lives. By late teenage, most Nigerians would have taken more than a dozen vaccines protecting them from mumps, chickenpox, polio, measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, pneumonia, meningitis and others. Nigeria may be have been spared the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic because almost everyone got vaccinated with the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine that protects against tuberculosis based on correlation in some studies. Many of those attacking Bill Gates today owe their lives or that of their children to vaccines developed, tested and made available for free by donors like Bill Gates.

As influencers and opinion moulders, we have the responsibility to debunk rabid claims that flies in the face of science. It will be a tragedy for science and mankind, if we reject human trials because a racist doctor suggested that treatment of the coronavirus should be done in Africa. Success in clinical medicine and treatment of diseases depends on vaccine and drug trials. Our genetic composition affects how we react to vaccines and drugs. If tests are not conducted locally, the lack of data can affect how our population reacts to the vaccine or drug. Participation in trials is how the course of science is advanced. It will be a monumental tragedy for Nigeria if we refuse to participate in COVID-19 vaccine trials or any other drug trial because of these conspiracy theories. We must not buy fear or the story will not end well.

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo