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Infectious Disease Bill Controversy, Consequence of Mistrust

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By Joel Popoola

Nigeria has fallen among the category of nations which find itself with a government unable to pass vital health protection laws during a deadly worldwide health crisis because its people believe that government was too powerful.

And that’s exactly where we find ourselves today with the stalling of the Infectious Disease Act.

This is a bill designed to make it easier for organisations like Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to take rapid action to prevent the spread of infectious diseases across Nigeria, and respond effectively to emerging public health emergencies.

And right now this couldn’t be more important.

The number of people around our world to have lost their lives to the Coronavirus has passed 250,000 while a good number of others who have now caught the deadly disease is enough to fill a city the size of Kano. And that number increases every minute.

Public health officials are our frontline soldiers in this battle, and it should be obvious to every Nigerian how vital it is that they have weapons they need to fight. The only way to stop COVID-19 is by quarantining and effective public hygiene.

And the only way to defeat it will be vaccination. So our health protection agencies need right resources to enforce effective quarantining, effectual hygiene, and to successfully vaccinate our people whenever a vaccine arrives.

It’s not just about the fight against COVID-19, but also the fight against the next outbreak, whether it’s Typhoid, Cholera, Dengue Fever or something as destructive, unknown and terrifying as the current coronavirus.

This should not be controversial. I cannot think of anyone – whatever their political leaning – who would not agree that the primary purpose of any government is to keep the people safe.

And yet the government stands accused by some of intending to use the law to carry out sinister medical experiments on its people or to bring back military rule through the back door.

As the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said:

“Suffice it to say that none of these allegations are true. Unfortunately, we now live in a time when conspiracy theories have gained such currency that genuine endeavours in the public interest can quickly become mischaracterised and misconstrued to raise the spectre of sinister intent and ominous possibility”.

The fact we have found ourselves in this position tells us a lot about Nigerian politics – and what needs to change.

  • People get their information from social media. And that information cannot always be trusted

More and more Nigerians get most of their news from social media. And as we have seen, if your only source of news is social media, you might end up believing that President Muhammadu Buhari died some time ago, and was replaced with an alien clone.

Fake news of the kind we’ve seen in Nigeria in recent years necessitates the public having reliable sources of information they can go to online – and where better than going direct to their local representatives?

That is the thought behind Rate Your Leader, a free app which connects registered voters to the elected officials who serve them – giving them the power to get credible information from credible sources at the touch of a button.

  • People do not trust the intentions of their leaders

In times like ours, who can blame a government for trying to get public protection bills into law as rapidly as possible?

But the government did itself no favours by trying to force the bill through parliament so quickly.

But with this Bill giving the police the power to detain infectious individuals and officials, the power – with a court order – to destroy buildings, it was bound to be controversial.

If you already think that your government has the worst of intentions, such provisions are bound to alarm.

A politician Nigerians trust is worth more than an oilfield. That’s why Tobias Chukwuemeka Okwuru was recently appointed to the Federal Character Commission despite having passed away.

Nigerian voters need to know what information they can trust, and also that they can trust their representatives. The Rate Your Leader app is designed to battle this democratic deficit by helping politicians engage with voters they serve, helping them understand what matters most to the people who elect them, and build relationships of trust with the electorate. And in return, voters can even rate their responses, convincing their neighbours that this is a politician who listens.

  • The people of Nigeria are desperate to get involved in the political process

Speaker Gbajabiamila has announced that public hearings will address public concerns relating to the Infectious Diseases Act.

People are more likely to accept something if they feel like their fears have been considered and addressed, and even more likely to support something if they are able to help shape it.

But this should not be something which only happens in times of crisis and controversy. This should be built into all our politics.

We designed Rate Your Leader to give the people of Nigeria a direct channel to their leaders. This is something they expect. And it is something our democracy depends on. Everyone should come on board now to have a voice.

Joel Popoola is a digital democracy campaigner, tech entrepreneur and creator of the free Rate Your Leader app.

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Strange Disease Emerges in Rivers Community, Kills 11

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At least, 11 persons have reportedly died of a strange disease in the Bonny Local Government Area of Rivers State.

Two of those who died as a result of the strange ailment were identified as Pauline and Fubara.

A source in Bonny, who identified himself as Ezekiel, told one of Punch correspondents that while Pauline died on Friday, Fubara died of the ailment on Saturday.

Ezekiel explained that some officials of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control moved into the area on Saturday with a view to finding out the cause of the recent deaths in the place.

The resident said, “Fubara died yesterday, Pauline died a day before yesterday. Within two weeks, there are up to 11 persons who have died.

“As of today (Sunday), the NCDC officials are in town and taking samples from volunteers to test for COVID-19 and will soon make their findings public.

“A lot of people in Bonny now have malaria and typhoid. Again, over the past one week, many people have lost their senses of smell and taste. That is the worry we have. The next thing we saw after that incident is that some young men started dying.

“For the past two weeks, we have lost 10 men; one of them who worked with Saipem died yesterday; his name is Fubara. It is very painful. We cannot trace this one because the NCDC just entered town on Saturday to ascertain the causes of death and loss of taste and smell.

“Some are saying that the loss of taste and smell is associated with COVID-19. Besides that, the rate of pollution in Bonny has increased. In fact, you cannot drink our underground water because the pipes that enter the water have polluted the water. There is fear everywhere.”

Earlier, a statement from the Bonny LGA sighted by one of our correspondents on Sunday indicated that there had been an increase in drug-resistant malaria in the past two weeks on the island.

The statement signed by Omoni LongJohn, Secretary of the Bonny LGA; and Pafuro Tolofari, Supervisor for Health, showed that about 50 per cent of patients complained of dizziness and bitter taste in the mouth.

“There has been an increase in drug-resistant malaria in the past two weeks on the Island. There is also an increase in the cases of typhoid fever in the same period. About 50 per cent of the patients also complained of dizziness, bitterness in the mouth, lack of sense of taste and smell.

“The resistance to normal malarial drugs results in patients returning almost immediately with the same complaints, resulting in the administration of intravenous injections. This treatment shows 100 per cent improvement in the health of the patients.

“Patients with loss of taste and smell are given allergy drugs and they report improvements, as majority of them do not show symptoms of cough and catarrh.

“There has been no death as a result of these illnesses in any of the hospitals/clinics on the island in the past one month. There have been less than six in-patient deaths in all the hospital/clinics on the island in the past two weeks and they all have chronic medical history.

“There are about six cases of dead patients brought to the hospital/clinics for confirmation. They also have compromised health situations beforehand, on inquiry to their families by the doctors.”

The Punch

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Why Nigerians Find Fault with Corruption Fight Amid Buhari’s World Acclaimed Efforts

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By Joel Popoola

Here’s irony for you: Nigerian politics has a better reputation with international experts than it does with Nigerians.

We all know that when it comes to reputation, the Nigerian government can be its own worst enemy.

Whether it’s accidentally appointing dead men to government commissions, or copying entire laws off the internet like a naughty schoolboy, our political class has kept us laughing for longer than Papa Ajasco!

That’s why many Nigerians will be surprised to hear of research from the University of Edinburgh Global Integrity’s Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) programme, which shows how much better Nigeria is getting at tackling corruption.

The study reports that the prosecution of high-level corruption cases in Nigeria has noticeably improved in recent years with “key legislative reforms, as well as innovations and pragmatic adaptations undertaken by prosecutors and investigators (underpinning) much of this progress”.

The international academic observers even describe the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as “a robust and effective agency”.

The report concludes:

“By looking at evidence of what is actually happening, rather than relying on apocryphal accounts or worn-out stereotypes; policymakers, practitioners, civil society and international partners can work together more effectively to support effective anti-corruption law enforcement practice in Nigeria.”

The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration obviously understand how important these changes are to the government’s national and international reputation and performance. It is therefore, believed that the government will prioritised these changes in the coming days.

Sadly, Nigerians themselves are not as impressed with the progress being made.
The Pew Research centre reports that more than seven-in-ten Nigerians (72%) believe the statement “most politicians are corrupt” describes our country well, and six-in-ten say it describes Nigeria “very well.”

Just 39% of Nigerians are satisfied with the way democracy is working in our country – with 60% not satisfied – and 57% stating their belief that no matter who wins an election, things do not change very much for Nigerians.

And as Nigerians, we have to face facts; there’s a reason people feel this way. The international Corruption Perception Index (CPI) still ranks us 146 out of 180 countries, making us the 34th most corrupt country on Earth. One online poll even suggested that 80% of Nigerians think that placing is deserved.

As the Acting Chairman, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, stated recently that: “Corruption is a huge burden to our nation. It has spread to insecurity, poverty, unemployment, falling standard of education, weak access to affordable health care, falling infrastructure and so many others.”

What is to be done?

Well, the ACE study recommends that Nigeria’s main anti-corruption agencies; the EFCC, ICPC, and CCB should “increase transparency as well as intensify collaboration and information sharing with other government agencies and non-governmental partners”.

I believe that this recommendation should be followed throughout Nigerian government. And that’s where technology comes in.

Nigerians need to see the progress that is being made. And in the twenty-first century, people increasingly find information they get from their peers to be the most credible. But to many Nigerians, the political class feels far away and irrelevant. It doesn’t have to be that way. The power to change is in our hands. Literally!

26 million Nigerians voted in the last presidential election. 24 million have social media accounts.

39% of Nigerians voted in the last presidential election. 46% have a Facebook account.

Online and on handheld devices, are increasingly where connections are made in modern Nigeria.

My Digital Democracy project was established to make electors and elected true peers, connecting people with their elected officials via their phones using our free Rate Your Leader app. The app also allows leaders to explain direct to the people they serve– without any sort of spin or fake news distortion – what decisions they have made, why they have made them, and how it affects local people.

This in turn leads to greater levels of trust in a political class that the voters can see are working for them, and accountable to them.

Another survey reported that almost half of Nigerians believe that corruption cannot be defeated.

It can, but not before our political class takes important steps to improve its image through greater accountability and transparency.

But thanks to smartphone technology, that can be done from the comfort of their homes, with the touch of a button.

Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur, digital democracy campaigner and creator of the Rate Your Leader app.

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Food for Living: Elevate Your Game

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By Henry Ukazu

Greetings Destiny Friend,

In the journey of life, everyone’s goal and desire is to constantly elevate their game. Elevating games means several things to different persons. To some, it is going up the ladder of success, while to others, it can be stepping up their game plan by scaling it up. Most of us are driven to succeed, yet it is amazing how many of us view the process of getting to where we want to go as a chore, rather than as the greatest, most fulfilling adventure of a lifetime.

The pursuit of success is our greatest gift, as it is exactly what develops our character and makes our lives extraordinary. When we have a goal in mind, we are instantly purposed. Succeeding comes down our mindset. Our mindset must be driven to succeed, to sacrifice and to have the resiliency and patience to chart our path.

In today’s business world, the only entities that will stay relevant are businesses and people who are willing go the extra mile to gain not only theoretical knowledge, but practical knowledge through learning, unlearning and relearning. In an evolutionary point of view, those who are not adaptable to change will not survive. This is the most reliable way of elevating your game. It’s quite unfortunate many corporate organizations don’t take time to learn contemporary skills and certification which will enable them to be ahead of their competitors. The same philosophy is applicable to progressive beings who don’t take time to improve themselves. When you elevate your game plan, opportunities will locate you. This is because you have set yourself apart from your contemporaries.

In elevating your game, it is important to mind who you spend time with, your network of friends, the books you read, the associations/organizations you relate with, and most especially, your mindset. It is instructive to note that you cannot achieve more than your imaginations can assimilate. According to Henry Ford, if you think you can and if you think you can’t, either way you’re right. It is pertinent to note that who you spend your life with will determine how your life will be. You cannot hang out with chicken and expect to soar. Isn’t it true that your friends can make or mar you? It is widely believed that, if you hang out with nine millionaires, you’ll be the next millionaire. Therefore, today, I charge you to look at your friends and see where you are likely to be in five years.

You can’t be doing the same thing over and over again and expect to get a different result. Always make it a point of duty to set new record for yourself. In setting a record, you have to be on the lookout for certain qualities you’ll like to learn. You can also check out the qualities you can learn from your friends. Whatever qualities your friends have is likely going to rub off on you. Just like spirits are transferable, bad friends can influence you with their character

Set Boundaries

In order for you to elevate your game, you need to set boundaries. For instance, If you’re going to reach your highest potential, you have to step up your game by raising the bar for only a select group of people who identify and share in your vision. You need to ask yourself hard questions on what you really want. Inferior minds are always concerned with what they’ll lose if they cut off from certain boundaries/person. They fail to ask themselves, like what is important to them? Money, fame, value or vision. If you are among these categories of people, who always ask what if I lose my business? I have a simple question for you, what if you miss your destiny?

When you’re in the process of elevating your game, what you’re unwilling to separate from, will continue to follow you. The law of the group says, we associate with people with the way we see ourselves. Happy people hangout out with happy people. What most people don’t know and understand is that twenty years from now nobody will care about your friends. It’s not about quantity if your friends but quality. A one loyal and impactful friend is better than ten general friends.

You shouldn’t apply sentiment in business. Don’t mix family and business together. It’s not a good business idea to do business with only people associated/connected with you, because they may not have the same spirit unlike strangers. Treat them with respect but relate from a distance.

In the journey of life, your joy is your joy, none can share it with you. What this really means is that your success and failure lies with you. If you don’t get the wrong people out, the right people won’t come.

How Can We Elevate Our Game

It is generally believed that one’s entrepreneurial journey won’t be such a grind if they learn to take joy in your growth along the way.

1.      Start a personal project. Define a specific goal/project to realize in a specific period. It should be something that you absolutely feel is yours.

2.      Get trusted advisors. It is time for you to stop taking suggestions from anyone who has an opinion. Search for a mentor who has the expertise in the industry you are passionate about.

3.      Read as vast as you can. Trying to have knowledge about almost every aspect of life. In that way, it makes you to position yourself very well.

4.      Run Your Race

To get to our next level we must focus on our own race. We must not succeed for anyone but ourselves. We must not pursue success to show up, get revenge, or take someone down that we fear is better. The reason race horses have blinders on their eyes is so they don’t get distracted by the other horses when they’re racing. The blinders do not allow the horse to see anything but what is in front of them. It forces the horse to stay focused on their own race. We must do the same thing. We all saw what happened in the Olympics with the South African swimmer and Michael Phelps. The South African was watching Phelps, and Phelps was watching the finish line. It’s no wonder Phelps won. We must each focus on our own finish line.

5.       Keep the faith.

To elevate our game, we must always hold a vision of the next step in our process. The vision we hold is the picture of success we chase. We must drive, dig, grind and then let go, and have faith, as we witness how the results of our actions land. Every single day our eyes open in the morning, we must make sure we’re clear about what we want. We each have control over how hard and how smart we work; the rest comes down to having the faith that our efforts will pay off in the ways we want. The large majority of successful people work from faith. Faith is the energy that funds belief. Without belief, success isn’t a possibility.

6. You must believe.

The more we push ourselves beyond our perceived limits, the more we expand our belief in ourselves. This is exactly how we elevate to the next level. If we see a door that has a sign that says “limit,” “fear,” “I can’t,” “its not possible,” or “who are you kidding?” on it, we must take it upon ourselves to push through every single one of those doors. The majority of the time we will find that the signs on those doors were lies we’ve been telling ourselves. When we walk through them and achieve the “impossible,” we build our character and greatly increase the confidence we have in ourselves. The more confident we are, the more we elevate our game.

7. Be a team player.

One of the most important ways to elevate our game is to be inclusive. Success is a team sport. There’s an  African proverb that says if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to far, go with a team. If we are selfish, and we try and hoard or hide our success, we won’t get nearly as far as when we choose to include others in achieving our goals. It’s teamwork that makes the dream work. When we’re on our mission and we see anyone on our team wearing thin, we must partner up and bring them along, and expect the same in return. We must drop our egos, and ask for help whenever and wherever necessary. We are much more resilient when we have a community of support to turn to.

What are you doing to elevate your game?

Henry Ukazu writes from New York. He works with the New York City Department of Correction as the Legal Coordinator. He’s the author of the acclaimed book Design Your Destiny – Actualizing Your Birthright To Success. He can be reached via henrous@gmail.com

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