…could we pray never to be affected at all until the vaccines come and reach us here in Africa? Do we know that even vaccines have risks? This is where the concept of lottery comes in. We are playing the COVID lottery game, whether we like it or not. So long as we are alive, we are drawing cards and hoping on God and luck, not to draw a bad card that would send us to the grave.
My apologies, but when I saw the applause and staff guard of honour that greeted Foreign Minister Onyema’s return to office after testing negative to COVID-19, I wondered if that is the right way to express our emotions at such a time. This is not because we shouldn’t be happy and thankful when our loved ones escape death, but because this disease is still raging and there is still much mystery around it. Whether we cry when bereaved, or clap and shout in happiness at the good luck of our loved ones who survive, it seems to be like the dead mourning the dead, or the dead applauding the lucky. I believe we need a lot of contrition, soberness, introspection, reflection and general feeling of caution around this COVID-19 matter.
Readers know that I am not an advocate of running away from the problem called COVID-19. I believe that the solution to the coronavirus disease (and its successors) will come from brave men and women who stare the diseases in the face and methodically tackle the issues involved, by keeping their eyes and ears open, asking the right questions, and finding scientific solutions, not those who hide under their beds. We are being told to stay at home, to be very afraid, to not interact with anyone or anything. But even as we stay at home, we have the leverage to keep speaking up and communicating over the world wide web, as opposed to just leaving the space for a very tiny number of people to run the world. The COVID-19 challenge does not offer any medals for victimhood.
COVID-19 is like a lottery. No one knows what their luck will draw. Staying at home and in sterilised environments for long – for whomever that is possible (like those billionaires) – also reduces one’s immunity (against COVID or any other disease). In reality though, it is impossible to stay locked-in, bathe everything we touch or eat in disinfectants and sanitisers, and totally stay shut away from the whole world for as long as this disease rages. Already we have been told to brace up until at least the end of 2021 (for developed countries), and the end of 2022 (for less developed countries). The initial prognosis was a lockdown of four years, which has seen a downward review because normal human beings have shown resistance and angst and dared the disease, even if foolishly. The most careful of people at some point begin to venture out, or admit a single person into their space, after some time. At this point such a person is very vulnerable. The reality of our socio-economy is that the really poor people, who make up the majority of our population, live in very clustered places. So, if madam hasn’t ventured out at all for say six months, and because she is tired of looking like Mrs Flintstone, decides to invite a hairdresser into her sterilised mansion, chances are that she could get infected, and since her immunity is low, a lot could happen. Now, you can totally disinfect the hairdresser, make her wash her hands a dozen times, but viruses could hide on the surface of clothes, on the packages and containers of creams, inside the creams and soaps used to wash hair, and of course, a lot could escape from the sweat and mouth vapour of your hairdresser, or cook, or masseur, the random security man, or the washman etc. These are what we have been told in the past six months. The only option at this point is to develop obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD); the type that afflicted Michael Jackson and Howard Hughes. Howard Huges, the aviator, died pitiably.
I often wonder how else we should process COVID-19. What should our prayers be? Given that there were at least six variants as at the last count, should one pray that when it comes calling it should be symptomless? Or that it should hit with few symptoms and pass quickly? Or could we pray never to be affected at all until the vaccines come and reach us here in Africa? Do we know that even vaccines have risks? This is where the concept of lottery comes in. We are playing the COVID lottery game, whether we like it or not. So long as we are alive, we are drawing cards and hoping on God and luck, not to draw a bad card that would send us to the grave. There are still many fuzzy issues around the disease. First, for some reasons, one is not sure why the disease is not as deadly as predicted among the poorest, most vulnerable (healthwise) people of Africa and Asia. They are simply (and thankfully) refusing to die by the millions as some ‘experts’ and their sponsors had predicted, and we pray that the situation remains so. Someone should study what is going on empirically. In fact, that research should be carried out by us, if we took ourselves seriously. The reason for resilience could be valuable information. We are also unsure why COVID-19 affects some people more badly than others, even when they have similar health statuses. Since this is a totally microscopic and airborne phenomenon, of course what is going on is incredibly dangerous to mankind. Should one pray to be affected and then recover? How many people will be strong enough to say that prayer?
The world is in some serious trouble with this disease. The lottery is still being played, whether we sign up to it or not. Nobody knows who is next. In fact, with the rapidity of deaths these days, nobody knows who will be left at the end of the day. I observe, in surprise, how quickly we move on from the deaths of so many people these days.
From all I have read, seen and experienced so far, the literature suggests that those who develop strong immunity are those who have gone through the whole crucible by surviving a bad attack. COVID-19 is also a smart disease that attacks the weak points of its victims. It is beyond being a mere flu. It coordinates fungal and bacterial infections and make them more potent and dangerous. COVID-19 sort of tests all of a person’s major organs – the liver, kidneys, brains, nerves, and of course, lungs. For men, it also affects sexual organs, rendering many impotent for at least a month after recovery. The generalised attack on organs and activation of fungi and bacteria is the reason why antibiotics/antifungals come into the mix of treatments. This factor may also be why most of the people who survive are the ones who get treatment at home, or who are lucky to get the full attention that simultaneously considers the infections in every organ of their body. At isolation centres, the focus may be totally on the flu, and not hypertension, diabetes, kidney failures, heart diseases, nervous breakdowns and so on. The crowd there may also mean that personnel are too stretched to take personal care of each patient properly. For the reason of its devious sophistication, I feel almost certain that this disease was manufactured in a lab somewhere by some rogue scientist(s), and the aim is to see to the decimation of the human population. As things stand, COVID-19 has taken hundreds of thousands of mostly the weakest people in the world – those with serious underlying health issues, old people, obese people and so on. The figure is heading to a million deaths worldwide. It is a disease designed to cull the weakest of humanity – though it has largely failed to date among the poorest people in Africa and South Asia. Still, I urge eternal vigilance because if it is indeed a deliberate concoction, those behind it will find a way of achieving their aims. Call it conspiracy theory if you like.
I recall a short clip that went viral on WhatsApp in the past few weeks. Someone in 1956 did a video predicting how the world would change in future. The person predicted changes in technology, the office environment, air travel and so on, and also that in the year 2020 a flu will come that will devastate the world. Alarm bells went off in my head. My initial thoughts were that that video could be a recent video with a clever voiceover made to look like a prediction. But if indeed it was a video done in 1956, 64 years ago, I wonder why they were specific about the year 2020 and a flu, given that their predictions on other changes were vague in terms of date. And if that video is real, chances are that some people could make it a self-fulfilling prophecy in 2020 i.e. someone said in the year 2020 such and such will happen, so let us make it happen. I have always quarreled with anyone who can ‘exactly’ predict that a flu will come in a certain year, and who describes the kind of flu, to the point of drawing the exact diagram of how the flu will look like through a microscopic lens. Natural occurrences do not come in cue to the wishes of man. Human beings have not yet developed the capability of conjuring organisms into life by wishful thinking but human beings can perform experiments to mutate organisms. However, anyone who makes such accurate predictions should show us the science and calculations of how they arrived at the conclusions. Until they do so, they are culpable and deserving of every accusation that suffering people throw at them. I see a scenario where some smart people have totally miscalculated the reactions of human beings. They expect to barrage everyone with figures of rolling deaths and infections on a daily basis, and expect everyone to be scared and stay locked down at home. They don’t know that at some point, they will be resisted. When the people start to think and push back, they are labelled as conspiracy theorists. Conspiracy theories may just be the mental medicine that gets people from one day to another today because the experts only offer fear, despair, and hopelessness.
In response to the video and in particular the exactitude of the prediction that a flu will come in the year 2020, I recalled the formula we applied in calculating the price of Options (a financial instrument), which I was taught in my Masters’ programme in the U.K. There is a formula called the Black Scholes formula, which is a fusion of the formula for Diffusion (of heat or pollen) in physics, with another formula called the Ito’s ‘Lemma’ – so-called because after Professor Ito found the groundbreaking formula, he couldn’t explain how he arrived at it. Lemma is a single conundrum or an ‘intermediate theorem’, while Dilemma is a double conundrum or inability to choose between two (usually bad) options. The financial world relied on this formula until markets crashed in 2007/8. It is instructive to note how formulas from physics made it into the world of finance as engineers, physicists and medical doctors became bankers and hedge fund managers. Every time I think of COVID-19, I think of the formula for DIFFUSION, because an airborne disease can diffuse in a million clever ways. Also, the debacle of the Balck-Scholes formula and the collapse of financial markets as a result of cocked-up algorithms, which relied on scientific and mathematical calculations, is a clear reminder of the fact that human beings cannot predict nature exactly.
There is a malaria vaccine that was introduced to Africa last year, and it only works for 37 per cent of children. Still it is seen as desirable because of the rate of infections. If the COVID-19 vaccine works 50 per cent of the time, this may mean that everyone will have to take the vaccine multiple times. Sometimes, vaccinations also go wrong, causing other complications.
The world is in some serious trouble with this disease. The lottery is still being played, whether we sign up to it or not. Nobody knows who is next. In fact, with the rapidity of deaths these days, nobody knows who will be left at the end of the day. I observe, in surprise, how quickly we move on from the deaths of so many people these days. But rather than cowardice, fear, and selfishness, we need the exact opposite. Yes, I know that the first instinct is to preserve one’s own life; to be selfish. However, there have been many cases where those who were really scared of this disease, who hid away, are also the ones who got it bad and died. I have always called for a deliberate strategy from the beginning. For now, we are doing nothing as nation; just waiting for other people to help us find the vaccine. We are not documenting much, by finding out why our poor people are resisting or getting cured from the disease; whether our local herbs are helping at all, or even the exact rate of deaths among our people (the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is only reporting what it sees, which is a fraction of the reality). Those who should be brave to do the job are probably hiding away in fear. Fear is one main reason why Africa never developed, because we weren’t very great for wandering to unknown areas. At this moment in time must earn some respect from the rest of the world, which is now taking delight in harassing Nigerians and deporting us in egregious circumstances.
And we must ask questions. The people who presently rule the waves and are in control of every narrative on COVID-19 would rather we accept everything that comes from the mouth of their ‘experts’ without question. A self-respecting person does not just accept things, especially given that the ‘experts’ have failed the world many times. What we need to do is to think through everything we see, look at how these apply to our environment, consider what value we can add, and offer our own quota to development.
In the meantime, let us note, that on the basis of research, as contained in a recent CNN article, any vaccine that can prove that it can help 50 per cent of the time will be approved. There is a malaria vaccine that was introduced to Africa last year, and it only works for 37 per cent of children. Still it is seen as desirable because of the rate of infections. If the COVID-19 vaccine works 50 per cent of the time, this may mean that everyone will have to take the vaccine multiple times. Sometimes, vaccinations also go wrong, causing other complications. We must be prepared for eventualities. For now, there is a certain political economy going on. Rich countries are buying up everything in sight, pre-booking and funding vaccine manufacturers in exchange for billions of doses. African countries are not raising a finger to help themselves or to negotiate cheap vaccine for their people. We heard from Minister Ehanire that we may get some out of the 2.5 billion doses being sponsored by GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines International) – another Gates initiative. But somehow, I should confess that up till now, we have had God on our side. Our people are not dying by the millions. The lottery is yet working in our favour in general. I pray it continues to until a permanent solution is found to a terrible global crisis. For now, lets be all about cautious bravery, intelligent engagement and fearless enquiry please.