The Political Economy Of Coronavirus By Kunle Wizeman Ajayi

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The most powerful person in Aso Rock, Abba Kyari; who is the chief of staff to the president, has tested positive to Covid19. No government official can reach President Buhari without him. There is a ripe suspicion that the kitchen cabinet might have been infected. Likewise in Europe, the most powerful person, Angela Merkel the chancellor of Germany, has been quarantined. While Trump and Boris Johnson took the same path in trying to ignore the pandemic, their governments are in deep crises of the damages and exposures their neglect has caused the citizens.

As I type, the fear of corona virus is the beginning of real wisdom as governments are now banning even churches and mosques from gathering. The Nigerian federal ministry of health has announced 42 cases so far. And even the mass of working people who have hitherto doubted our thieving class so far, are now more wary and precautionary over their immediate safety without relying on the failed health institutions. People seldom shake hands now. Corona waves na the way to greet now! That corona virus has turned a corruption racket is what will be duly discussed another day.

Industries are closing down as Wall Street falls like pack of cards. US President Donald Trump is shouting “cuts” for the working class and bail-outs for industries and big business. Whereas, Socialist presidential aspirant Bernie Sanders is calling for “healthcare for all” as well as pay for all US citizens staying at home during the pandemic days. The globalised trend of the corona virus needs a global understanding and lessons of how the world is being ruled everywhere. The way US rulers have failed to care for the poor and invest in proper and compulsory healthcare for all but private pharmaceutical companies who make healthcare a commercial quantity that only the rich can afford, is the same way Nigerian rulers failed to build hospitals and kept allocating between 4 to 6% budgetary spending on education while them and their children spend billions on medical tourism. Also, Boris Johnson’s UK government is renting “beds at hospitals.” This is unlike Spain that has nationalized its healthcare!

The price of crude oil has fallen globally. The global stock exchange has crashed as workers can no longer go to work and make great wealth for their casino. Coronavirus has superceded SARS with its speedy spread and effects globally. So the world economic crises have been, for the first time, propelled by a health crisis. What can the Left and the revolutionaries in Nigeria make out of this global crises that could leave no island untouched?

Naomi Klein, the author of the classic ‘The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism’ has come up to warn that “if you’re a hard-core free-market economist, you understand that when market fails it lends itself to progressive change much more organically, than it does (when) the kind of deregulatory policies emerge. Political and economic elites understand that moment of crises is their chance to push through their wish list of unpopular policies that further polarize wealth…”

I argue that while the government in Nigeria has reduced the cruelly expensive cost of petrol by just #20, and there is lipservice to building new hospitals, there is a larger probability of massive corruption as the federal government has already declared #2trillion intervention fund. Why we the working people have to very much care is because the same elements who created the crises (whichever ways) would end up profiting largely from the crises. This just as many military officers and politicians are billionaires courtesy the Boko Haram war.

The interplay of methods of these corruptive accumulations on one hand, and the trajectory of working class resistances is critically assessed weighing up why and how the working people were at the loosing ends at the 2008/9 global economic crises that made the Central Bank under the Soludo/Sanusi bail-outs policies made the criminal banks even richer than before. Though a few bank MDs and top officers were detained on “hospital beds” and such other “ajebutter” prisons; no bank owner was even questioned.

The fact that both the US and Nigeria are rich governments that have bad healthcare policies, discussing social infrastructures as class struggle under this system of “primitive accumulation” needs to be knocked up as perspectives to guide millions who want an end to crises and build another world that would be for all and not a tiny thieving few.

A CLASSLESS PANDEMIC

The corona virus has shown that the gap between the rich and the poor is just an artificial creation. The nature of humans is more communal than competitive. Plenty of the rich mouth the fact that we are all equal, but some are more equal than others. This virus is a threat to all and shows that the world can organize together and defeat any virus that attacks it. Crises like this shows that there is no policy that is pro-rich that can save society. Most of the capitalists who rule our world have been saying that government cannot help all and cater for the needs of majority. They tend to tell us that getting “healthcare for all” is rocket science. Corona virus has proved that all that is wrong!

Meanwhile, many Nigerians are debating as to the cause of corona virus, and why it has drawn more attentions than malaria that kills about 800 everyday and child mortality that murders about 300 women daily. These debates became rife when Ibrahim Magu; head of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) asserted that “corona virus is caused by corruption.” His position, while quite misleading, is correct to the point that the virus is actually caused by the greed of man in unsettling the animal and forest lives. Most of the viruses live in the wildest of forests but humans go in and destroy their habitats. These make the virus homeless and have to migrate to live with humans.

The corona virus has also made the Nigerian politicians to have no escapist lives again. Most of them used to go abroad for medical tourism. But there is nowhere to run to now! This is why revolutionaries must use this chance to support striking doctors and demand for free, functionally standard and compulsory healthcare for all. We do not want a situation where the ruling class would use state wealth to build defence and cure for corona virus, only for the rich, instead for all. We must avoid repeating case of the last economic meltdown where what we could see is socialism for the rich and leave the poor uncatered for. This is why we must all reject the paltry #20 that was reduced from oil price as well as condemn the full devaluation of the naira. These policies will make the rich eat their cake and have it. Petrol price should be reduced to at least #45 while naira should be strengthened. The time to consider the #RevolutionNow demands of an “economy for the majority” is now!

2008/9: A FLASHBACK

When the 2008 global economic meltdown stormed Nigeria, the rulers ordered “technocrats” to adopt the Obama measures in bailing out the banks and their thieving managers. After prosecuting five CEOs of Afribank, Oceanic, Finbank, Intercontinental, and Union bank, The CBN went ahead to put #460bn as bail-outs for the banks after recovering just #70bn. The CEOs lost their posts for giving out #700bn loans without collateral. The loans portfolio of the bank, according to CBN, is #2.8tn. The richest guys in the country were involved in this public racket and were never touched. A good instance is Aliko Dangote who had a loan worth $15m with Oceanic Bank but got elected to replace Ndi OKereke as Nigerian Stock Exchange president. The same person has the monopoly of trading in rice, salt, sugar, textiles, and vegetable oil. The same persons who created the crises in the same place got rewarded after the crises. This is what Naomi Klein is warning about. For the rich, socialism is never good for the majority. The rich, in the time of corona virus and other disasters, want bail-outs but never for the working people. Just as Omoyele Sowore noted; “when crises arises, capitalism retires and socialism becomes the messiah!

We must start asking for Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) from the federal government. Every Nigerian must each be paid at least #100,000 monthly as the corona virus effect billing. We should also demand a standard hospital per 5 streets with the doctors and nurses paid appropriately!

THE TRUMP/BUHARI DISORDER

President Buhari’s address to Nigerians has failed to address the pandemic. Trump’s tweets are of the same mental disorders like those of the ministers and officials of Buhari’s government. Trump boasted that the “virus is under total control…The market will take care of itself,” he had to recant after the Dow Jones Industrial closed with its worst one-day decline since 1987; “The market will be very strong as soon as we get rid of the virus.”

“But even as he was doing so, Trump maintained that he hadn’t said the virus was “under control,” which is something he has most definitely said on many occasions — along with other attempts to play down fears” CNN noted.

Garba Shehu and other spokespersons of President Buhari have also been speaking from all sides of their mouths. They first downplayed the effect of the virus by revealing that malaria has been killing hundreds…Until they made some allocations of about $1.2trillion to the virus effects. The question remains the goals of the government. Many Nigerians do not trust the same government that has never given as much as 8% budgetary allocation to healthcare since the Buhari regime came into place, just like the PDP governments before it. While the president is one of the most sick, he prefers to betray electoral promises and visit private hospitals in the UK for months instead of building standard public health care.

Working people in US,UK, and Nigeria should look beyond their reactionary rulers and make real political demands that will make sure the same rogues who cause the crises don’t come back to claim to be the super heroes of the same crises. The case of Ebola and Lassa in Nigeria are classics in this regard. While Nigeria was lucky to get over the Ebola case with the sacrifice of health officials; Lassa fever has killed thousands so far loosely tackled because rodents most likely cannot enter luxury houses.

Nigerians should be aware that both Buhari and Trump are exponents of crazy capitalism and prefers to give false answers to real threats and would only be falsely apologetic later. We must understand that the rulers are neither interested in our well being nor our future. Their fear is that the virus should never become for all. They prefer crises for just the masses. But oga corona no mind. This is why despite Trump trying to call it Chinese virus or Buhari trying to boycott addressing the country, nothing matters to the working people than having a healthy society. Arms in arms, we will have to care for one another and defeat the most dangerous virus ever in the history of the world!

OPIUMS ON THE CROSS

Pastors in Nigeria, aside the ban on public and mass gatherings, are seriously on trial! Many a youths are asking what their “God” would do in this time of corona virus to save the followers from untimely deaths. The first pastor to become so fearless had predicted that he would go to China to cure the virus. But by the time the Italian became the first case in view; the pastor got admitted in a hospital for unknown reasons.

Also, the mosques are closing shop. Even many are contemplating drinking alcohol to help in preventing corona virus. Despite the fact that many a churches and mosques become well attended public places, the belief in better life and a prosperous world without danger have been the egg tacts around the building of these beliefs. Saudi Arabia has stopped religious visitations. Government everywhere is banning all worshipping junctures. If these bans have been summoned by political demands of the left, it couldn’t have sailed through but the struggle is being marshaled by a pandemic. Bernie Sanders was seen as too extreme but most of those pro-establishment strollers must be shitting in their yanshes now!

Karl Marx was very clear that “religion is the opium of the masses, the soul of the soulless.” The realizations of the fact that the immediacy of the problems of society can only be derailed if the people think that there is an umbrella or belief that can make some magic. With corona now, even the state that employs religion is not apologetic in banning its public activities. Sadly, many priests still in shock as to a possible demarketing have kept on lying to their congregations. A viral video shows a pastor saying “coronavirus cannot enter Nigeria where there is corrosive anointing;” so cocky in ignorance. Such public ranting must be condemned.

CONFUSION BREAK BONE; NAIJA HEALTH IN CRISES

When the deposed emir of Kano, former CBN governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was banned to Awe in Nassarawa State; the town has two (2) doctors to two hundred thousand (200,000) people. Such is the metaphor of health care in Nigeria. Most doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel have migrated to other climes in an unprecedented brain drain. As Yusuf posited “7 out of 10 Nigerians live on less than $1.25 (~500 Naira) a day and they also live in a country where 70% of health expenditures are out-of-pocket payments. Nineteen years after the Abuja Declaration where African Union states pledged to allocate at least 15% of their annual budget to health, Nigeria continues to default. With over 23,584 public primary health care facilities, 8,290 private primary health care facilities and 200,000 patent and proprietary medicine vendors (PPMVs) in Nigeria, yet the country’s health indices and other health indicators continue to remain abysmal without any significant improvement compared to other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Citizens are condemned to self-care using several unregulated drugs and African raw herbs. The yearly allocations to health care in the budget never rise beyond 6 and 8%. This is despite the fact that Aisha, wife of President Buhari once publicly complained that Aso rock clinic has no syringe! At the Teaching hospitals, one has to pay heavily to get health care as the state has been practicing health care commercialization. The medical equipments are really not there while there are so poor remunerations of medical personnel. Yet, when Ebola came knocking in 2014, the health workers paid the sacrifices.

Corona virus is global and has now halted the medical tourism of the rich class of whom President Buhari is the chief. If not for Covid-19, he would have gone visiting his London doctors for the umpteenth time!

The health workers’ unions have been fighting for a better system for years. This has been led by the Joint Health Staffs Union (JOHESU) and the Nigeria Medical Associations (NMA.) JOHESU has led enormous strikes and pickets but the neo-liberal policies of the ruling class keep ignoring these strikes. As I write, doctors in Abuja are on strike. The rulers are now in a quagmire. This is the time for the unions to collaborate with the civil society and revolutionary movements to take up the state and fight for “free health care for all.”

THE EXAMPLE OF CUBA

Fidel Castro’s people are the certified global doctors today!

A small island at the backyard of the United States of North America; Cuba is a state-capitalist economy led by revolutionary socialists. While the state have yet boomed since 1959 as a result of the prevailing capitalist globe, it has been vociferous on social welfarism especially education, food, health, and housing. This has been the minimum with which the Communist Party has been working on since the revolution. With its third president in charge now; Cuba is the country that is now rescuing the world from the genocide of corona virus. The vessel that is wholly affected by the virus has been shipped to the Cuban shore and Cuba has been treating the patients on board. Italy is receiving about 200 Cuban doctors and nurses as the catholic country leads the population of casualties. The Cuban health statistics shows that 98% is living healthily just as education is 98.5%.

Cuba stood by the world on hurricane Katrina; by South Africa against apartheid; by Angola against imperialist Portugal, and now that “God-forsaken communist country” stands by the world with the best of its great medical care against corona virus. This is a lesson that we need to abide by and make the world a socialist island. The current system of “greed and power” is a pandemic. It is ruled by political viruses that live mainly on primitive accumulations of the sweat and blood of the majority. The working class of all lands should unite and fight capitalism to the ruins and replace it with a world led by the people who make the wealth, not those who do nothing but steal the wealth.

IN ALL; THIS PANDEMIC WILL FALL

The struggle for a safer world is in danger of that “common ruins of the contending classes.” Italy, Nigeria, Spain, China, US, and some others have recorded deaths through corona virus. It is currently rumoured that some senators and members of the House of Representatives have contracted the deadly virus. We have 582 deaths in US and 46,145 cases with only 295 recoveries. One death has been recorded in Nigeria with 46 cases recorded. 6,777 are dead out of 63,927 cases in Italy. China has 16,578 dead in 382,570 incidents. Germany has 29,056 with 123 people dead. German chancellor, Angela Merkel has been quarantined. India with over 1 billion population has about 500 cases with no deaths.

The Indian case is very peculiar in lessons for Nigeria. Public health care in all tiers is free and subsidized for those below the poverty line. The Indian health sector encompasses 18% of total outpatient care and 44% of total impatient care. Middle and upper class use public health care less than those with a lower standard of living

The Covid19 pandemic has exposed big countries like Britain, US, China, Nigeria, and others. The pandemic have also exposed capitalism as an idea that is deficient to the mass of working people. The idea does not care for the majority but the thieving minority. The rich continue to be richer while the poor becomes poorer. We need labour and civil society to work together and reconstitute revolutionary relationships to make sure that working people does not be at the receiving end of this pandemic. We must remember that those who destroy the country must not be allowed to continue with their madness after the covid19. We must demand for #FreeHealthCareForAll!

We must also demand that world-class hospitals are built massively all over the country and we leave the madness of neo-liberalism in the dustbin of ruins. To do these works, we need a movement of the working people dedicated to the revolution that will build a country for all like the Take It Back movement and the Coalition for Revolution (CORE). Socialist organizations like the Socialist Workers and Youth League (SWL) serve as the political tribunes that remind us all on the ideal and alternatives to the rot that is causing pandemics and wars to the world today.

Capitalist presidents that combine neo-liberalism and fascism are in deep shit today as the covid19 has exposed their inefficiencies and monumental social infrastructural dangers. The health of the world is the safety net to our wealth. Why would we allow those who care about the wealth alone to continue to rule us? Why should we continue to allow those who think of only the individual and never the collective to continue to rule us? When Greta Thunberg was leading the climate change campaigns, Donald Trump was scolding her. Bernie Sanders, Jeremyn Corbyn, Omoyele Sowore, Elvo Morales, Bobbi Wine and other revolutionary change-seeking eggheads have all campaigned for another world; the point is for we the working people and all oppressed, in unity and action, lead #RevolutionNow to get a life warranty of #FreeHealthCareForAll!

Nigerians should demand for Cost of living allowance (COLA) of at least #100,000 in order to survive as the country is being locked down. We all must observe hand washing regularly; social distancing; avoid touching of faces, and other sophisticated parts of the body. Government should provide water, gloves and hands sanitizers to all. There is no electricity just as there is very poor housing for the majority of the people. We need the majority of empty house in cities and towns to be massively redistributed. Electricity must be renationalized.

With all unity and actions, we will defeat the yet another genocidal virus. This also tells us that we must choose to build the world for all and not for the few as the threat of grand barbarism stares us all in the face once again. Rosa Luxembourg would be rolling and smiling in her grave as we are condemned to learn from her battle cry: “socialism or barbarism!”

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Godwin Okafor is a Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. He has over 16 years experience in financial journalism. His experience cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career at Business Day, Nigeria and founded Naija247news Media in 2010. Godwin holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. He is an alumni of Lagos Business School and a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists). Over the years, he has won a number of journalism awards. Godwin is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.

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