About 20 years ago, more than 40 million people had HIV and AIDS with 15 000 more were infected every day. Records of health institutions showed that 8, 000 people died daily. It was so bad that 14 million boys and girls were recorded as losing one or both parents to AIDS. Seventy percent of the world’s AIDS cases were in Africa. It was a global issue. The fastest growing rates were recorded in the former Soviet Union, followed by the Caribbean, China and India. But retroviral drugs were made to combat the dreaded ailment. The disease known as the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – AIDS used to be the most dreaded disease of this century. Not anymore because that prime position has been yielded to Coronavirus that has ravaged the world so intensely that it appears humanity is waiting anxiously to board another ‘’Noah’s Ark,’’ a ship in which Biblical Noah, his family, and the animals were saved from the Flood, according to the Biblical account (Genesis 6–8) And so, we have continued to raise our voices in supplications to God, in high pitched tones for Him to forgive us.
THE WAYS OF THE LORD: The standard practice of God as recorded in the Holy Bible is that: ‘’Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets’’ But the Lord might have informed only a few of His prophets because if He spoke very loudly, intercessions are capable of drawing the Hands of the Creator from retrogression. God is not the author of confusion but has the power to permit its occurrence. From the United States to Beijing, New Zealand to Rome, Geneva to Johannesburg, Lagos to Austria, Bonn to Russia, and other major capitals of the world, the story is the same – a world under threats of extinction. No thanks to Coronavirus – code-named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization. Its outbreak has been very devastating to the global community and has turned the counsel of the wise into foolishness with such velocity that many people are turning to the Creator for mercy in combating a virus you cannot see with the ordinary eyes; with no known cure or solution. It has not spared the rich; not even heads of government. The poor have been touched. Indeed, it is a leveller. Coronavirus is more than a health crisis, and more than a human crisis, says the Bulgarian Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Ms. Kristalina Georgieva. The World Bank Group has been forced to devise measures aimed at
cushioning its global effect.
LIFE EXPECTANCY MAY BE SHORTENED: The whole world continues to wonder and speak on the causes and the cure for the strange ailment said to be in the category of the Avian Flu of 1918. Participants in the process of governance are among the most challenged. Others confronted are researchers and analysts. Highly notable is the fact that Coronavirus has in humanity the need to ensure that necessary changes are firmly embedded into the process of international relations. And that we can move even faster to get ourselves re-orientated for improvement in the political and bureaucratic systems. The World Health Organization continues to work round the clock, coordinating global regulatory information. COVID-19, the unseen virus is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. Researchers say there is no cure, and one might not emerge in the next 18 months. These droplets are too heavy to hang in the air, and quickly fall on floors or surfaces. The World Health Organization warns that people may no longer live long following threats of COVID-19. That means the whole world has to be circumspect and plan to defeat not only the dreaded disease but also map out strategies for refreshing humanity through alleviating poverty, hunger, economic and health reforms, among many other agenda that must emerge.
COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY: United Nations agencies have moved very commendably to fulfill their duties of collective responsibility. That outstanding son of Africa, Kofi Annan had spoken about Franklin D Roosevelt as being the architect of the United Nations; and President Harry S. Truman was the master-builder, and the faithful champion of the Organisation in its first years. Kofi Anna had spoken in one of his most usually brilliant deliveries as UN Secretary-General that: ‘’In today’s world, the security of every one of us is linked to that of everyone else. That was already true in Truman’s time. The man who in 1945 gave the order for nuclear weapons to be used – for the first, and let us hope the only, time in history – understood that security for some could never again be achieved at the price of insecurity for others. He was determined, as he had told the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco, to “prevent, if human mind, heart, and hope can prevent it, the repetition of the disaster [meaning the world war] from which the entire world will suffer for years to come”. He believed strongly that henceforth security must be collective and indivisible’’
PROPHETIC SPEECH: Annan, in the 2006 speech prophetically spoke about what is happening today: ‘’But how much more true it is in our open world today: a world where deadly weapons can be obtained not only by rogue states but by extremist groups; a world where Sars or avian flu can be carried across oceans, let alone national borders, in a matter of hours; a world where failed states in the heart of Asia or Africa can become havens for terrorists; a world where even the climate is changing in ways that will affect the lives of everyone on the planet. Against such threats as these, no nation can make itself secure by seeking supremacy over all others. We all share responsibility for each other’s security, and only by working to make each other secure can we hope to achieve lasting security for ourselves. And I would add that this responsibility is not simply a matter of states being ready to come to each other’s aid when attacked – important though that is’’ Kofi Annan found an ally in President Bill Clinton whose speech at the inaugural edition of the Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture series hit the nail on the head.
THE GOODS OR POSITIVES OF CORONAVIRUS: Some of the prime considerations are the fact that COVID-19 has taught us lessons about our vulnerability, the importance of good governance including visioning and long-range planning, as well as looking inwards and the importance of prudence. The World Bank through its Worldwide Governance Indicators has submitted that “governance is the exercise of political authority and the use of institutional resources to manage society’s problems and affairs.” In other words, governance is about seeking solutions to problems through the judicious management of the available human and material resources for the achievement of set goals and objectives. Poor management of the almost limitless and vast human and material resources available over the years has been identified as the bane of Nigeria since independence. From a steadily growing economy sustained by agriculture, the revenue accruing to the nation has grown rather steeply and astronomically, giving rise to the phenomenon of sole (and over-) reliance on crude oil for economic development. It is worthy of note that countries of the Far East such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and China, which had the same GNP as Nigeria in 1960, have since multiplied theirs several times and are now second-world countries while Nigeria, in spite of its enormous human and material resources, is still classified as an under-developed or emerging economy.
THE VIRTUAL OFFICE TO THE RESCUE: The concept of a virtual office has roots before and during the Industrial Revolution, where parallels to current work styles, specifically working from home, have been drawn. The virtual office concept is an evolution of the traditional executive suite. As an executive suite lease became increasingly impractical for certain types and stages of business, it naturally opened the door to a virtual office concept. One factor that has often worked against the implementation of social development programmes is the initiation of policies and programmes without reference to the target population. It is to be noted that no matter how beautiful a programme is, the achievement of its set objectives will not come to be if it does not take the aspirations of citizenry into consideration. The reality today is to examine the way forward. The first known serviced Virtual office was created in 1962. If the statistics of cost of governance over the past few weeks of COVID-19 are to be examined, they would certainly reveal that several millions of dollars have been conserved, though the global economy has been badly hurt. The economy has suffered, incomes drastically reduced, the rich have lost billions of naira in their investments, while several people have lost their jobs.
ALL OUR HISTORY IS THAT OF STRUGGLE: President Bill Clinton, in his treatise at the first Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture series held in Johannesburg noted that: ‘’Ever since human beings first rose up on this earth on the African Savannah over a hundred thousand years ago, we have constantly struggled each in our own little way with fear and hatred and hurt, with selfishness and short-sightedness, we constantly struggled to get beyond the narrow confines of our own experience to the larger truth of our common humanity. All of history in a way is the story of that struggle. That is the lesson of Mandela’s monumental life. Ancient wisdom in modern form. My Bible says, “All the Law is fulfilled in one word even this, love thy neighbour as thyself”. The Koran says, “Requite evil with good and he who is your enemy will become your dearest friend”. The Talmud says, “That man is a hero who can make a friend out of a foe”, in the Dhammapada the Buddhist says, “Never does hatred by hatred cease but by love alone”. Easy to say, hard to do. But we live in a world without walls and we cannot own the future of that world unless we share it. In my lifetime only two people have made that personal journey as the leaders of their nations, in the rough and tumble world of politics, Mahatma Gandhi and his worthy successor, Nelson Mandela. And so I say to you Madiba, for whatever time I have on this earth, my birthday present to you is to try to help build that village, for every African child, every child in the Middle-East, every child in my home country, and God willing, when we come back here in 10 years for your 95th birthday party, we will all be closer to your dream’’
WE ARE NOW WISER: In Nigeria, we are now Virtual technology compliant with today’s Federal Executive Council meeting through the Virtual office. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the National Economic Council, including State governors, Hon. Ministers of the Federal Republic, as well as the Sustainable Economic Team have met several times using this technology. It has saved enormous amounts on travels and movements from the States to Abuja for issues that could be handled electronically. It shows that Virtual offices could replace the zonal structures of organizations thus reducing costs. It shows that those who manage zonal offices could do so from the headquarters of their organizations or even from homes to reduce maintenance costs. The zones could exist located in headquarters of organizations and serviced from within, if really they serve the purpose of coordination. Objectives and parameters that would guide the country’s journey till 2023 are being worked out to evolve strategic initiatives. While governments are duty bound to regulate socio-political and economic development, the people also have certain obligations they must always strive to meet as a means of further ensuring that all citizens benefit maximally from the process of governance and what has lately come to be identified as ‘democracy dividends’, in Nigeria.
MINISTER OF FINANCE, BUDGET & ECONOMIC PLANNING
From the way it has been structured since independence in the Western Region of Nigeria, the Ministry of Finance has been a strategic agency of government. The Minister of Finance usually held the position of Leader of Government Business in the Parliamentary system. From personal interactions in the past two decades, I have always reasoned that managers of this strategic ministry cannot sleep well because of the burden they carry. The woman who shoulders the greatest burden of economic planning and finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed has disclosed that the federal government intends financing the N5.36 trillion budget deficit through domestic, foreign loans, and proceeds from privatisations. Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed has disclosed that provision has now been made for COVID-19 in the revised budget just approved by the Federal Executive Council. The finance Minister Ahmed revealed that the budget revisions approved at the FEC meeting ministerial agreed on an oil price of $25 per barrel along with output of 1.94 million barrels per day and an exchange rate of 360 naira to $1, a framework for its 2020-2022 spending plan. However, the proposals require parliament’s approval before being signed into law by the president.
OBLIGATIONS: On the other part, it is incumbent on citizens to fulfill their obligations to the State. Part of the social responsibility expected of the citizenry is respect for the provisions of the constitution by being socially responsible and exhibiting behaviours that would promote national development and cohesion. It happens quite often that many citizens compare Nigeria with the developed world and lament that the nation is yet to develop appreciably, without necessarily bothering whether or not they are fulfilling their obligations to the country. If social services work in the western world, it is evidently because their people support the nation to make facilities and infrastructure work. There are some very critical sub-sectors that require huge attention and the populace has to be properly educated and sensitized on this matter.
THE GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: The Sustainable Development Goals aim to: end extreme poverty, fight inequality and fix climate change, in all countries, for all people. Global Goal 2 is ‘Zero Hunger‘: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. For CBF, Goal 2 is particularly important. The UN estimates ending world hunger each year would cost $30 billion. So ending world hunger since 2003 would have cost $330 billion. About 815 million people all over the world – 11 percent of the world’s population – went hungry in 2016. Arecent U.N. report shows that, after years of decline, hunger is on the rise again. The number of hungry people in the world and people who still do not have enough to eat continues to rise on current estimates. Asia is the continent with the most hungry people – two thirds of the total. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger.
CLIMATE & WEATHER: Natural disasters such as floods, tropical storms and long periods of drought are on the increase — with calamitous consequences for the hungry poor in developing countries. Drought is already one of the most common causes of food shortages in the world. Federal Government of Nigeria has said that it would finance the N5.36 trillion budget deficit through domestic, foreign loans and proceeds from privatizations. This was disclosed by the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed after the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has warned that COVID-19 could become endemic like HIV, and cautioned against any attempt to predict how long it would keep circulating; calling for a “massive effort” to counter it. In the words of the WHO DG, we require ‘’sharing experience and best practices is critical for strengthening our response to the pandemic. ‘’Learning together is key to building national unity and global solidarity so that together we accelerate progress faster and build a better world for us all to live in’’
WHO Director-General led by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has disclosed that is unrealistic for anyone to predict when this disease will disappear, just as more than 100 potential vaccines are being developed, including several in clinical trials, but experts have underscored the difficulties of finding vaccines that are effective against coronaviruses. Also, Public health experts say extreme caution is needed to avoid new outbreaks. This is why we all must listen to the coordinated agenda of government that has the responsibility of shielding all of us.
Let us reach more people with explanations of the implications of our actions individually and collectively, in languages that they understand and through messages strategically designed for their understanding. The news of the Sustainable Development Goals must reach the hinterland and leaders — opinion and community leaders must join the global crusade of public enlightenment.
May the Good Lord Bless Nigeria