Barrister Hannatu Musawa @hanneymusawa

“Once upon a time in Anglo-Saxon England all the way back in AD 867, there lived a female saint named ‘Saint Ebbe the Younger.’ She was the Mother Superior of a Monastery and she looked after several pious women. One day Viking Pirates landed on the shores where Saint Ebbe’s Monastery was and started to wreak havoc. Upon hearing of the raid, in a bid to defend the chastity of the female nuns, Saint Ebbe urged them to all cut off their noses in the hope that they would be unattractive to the Vikings. It so happened that Saint Ebbe’s plan worked and the Viking invaders were so disgusted with the appearance of the nuns that they burned the entire convent and community to the ground with the nuns inside… killing them all!
While the women were saved from abuse, their act of self-mutilation did not save them from death. Tragically each and every one of the Nuns, together with Saint Ebbe, all perished… The end!”

It has been suggested that the story of Saint Ebbe and her self-disfigurement forms the origin of the saying ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face,’ where one takes self destructive actions motivated purely by anger or a desire for revenge.

The expression describes a needlessly self-destructive over-reaction to a conundrum, one motivated by acting out of pique, or against pursuing revenge in a way that damages oneself more than the object of one’s anger.

On a daily basis, situations where this manner of boomeranging self-mutilation takes place exposes itself. One such case presently playing out in Nigeria would appear to be the impasse between CACOVID and the BUA Foundation, where the purchase of one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the ‘latter’ has unceremoniously rubbed the ‘former’ the wrong way.

The apple of discord between the leaders of Nigeria’s private sector seems to be the method, means, credit and acclaim on the important Coronavirus pandemic intervention that brought them together in the first place.

To fully appreciate the elements of this standoff, one has to go back to the very beginning…

The disastrous Coronavirus pandemic, which forced the whole world to cower on its knees, came at a time that the Nigerian government’s resources were under strain. In response, the private sector stepped up to help in the fight to stop COVID-19 in its wake. Estimably, Nigeria’s private sector mobilized itself and generously made significant contributions to support the Federal government and health facilities in containing the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.

What emerged from that high-level association was the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), a private sector-led task force established in conjunction with the Federal Government, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to assist the government in combating the Coronavirus disease in Nigeria.

Since its inception, this task force has put together resources to provide technical and operational support, built advocacy through awareness campaigns, equipped medical facilities all over the country, created testing, isolation and treatment centers, provided Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and molecular testing labs and responded to the crisis in the manner required.

The BUA foundation, a member of the coalition, has been at the forefront of providing the much-needed resources for CACOVID to operate and succeed. It has been one of the most vital players in the partnership. As the world grappled with the chaos, devastation and loss brought about by COVID-19, the BUA foundation started to think ahead on reaching out to render assistance to the most disadvantaged societies and families all over Nigeria facing the disease.

Consequently, the foundation has gone beyond donating to the relief fund, to directly supporting states and communities to deal with the disease. The BUA foundation has given donations of over 8.6Billion Naira spent so far in cash, grants, medical supplies and equipment, foodstuff, awareness campaigns, amongst other forms of assistance. And that amount significantly increases daily. It has utilized its resources from state to state, entered the most vulnerable neighborhoods to deliver food, gone into hospitals to assist patients with bills, been consistent in ensuring COVID-19 patients get the care they need, provided frontline workers with essential supplies and equipment and accelerated efforts to provide tests and treatments. Now, the foundation has taken the initiative of preparing for the next phase, which is the COVID-19 vaccine acquisition and vaccination rollout.

In a bid to continue the philanthropy it has consistently engaged in since the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria began, the BUA foundation went ahead and paid for 1 million Coronavirus vaccine doses. The BUA foundation took the decision to secure these 1 million vaccines by singlehandedly paying the full amount the moment the vaccines became available through the AFREXIM vaccine program. The 1 million doses are to be delivered imminently and on their arrival in Nigeria, it will become the first delivery of vaccines to Nigeria since the COVID-19 vaccines were certified for global use.

The payment for the vaccines by the BUA foundation came after a CACOVID steering committee meeting was held on the 8th of February 2021. In that meeting, members, including the BUA foundation, were reported to have been informed by the CBN Governor that CACOVID had been given the opportunity through the AFREXIM Platform to access and pay for 1 million doses provided payment was made on that same day. Supposedly, with the offer came the condition that failure to make that swift payment would likely jeopardize the negotiations and the opportunity to get the doses might be lost.

As reported, after the discussions on CACOVID securing the vaccines went from pillar to post with no tentative agreement being reached, members of the coalition were offered the opportunity to donate funds towards procuring the doses. Apparently, when none offered, the BUA foundation stepped up and went ahead to singlehandedly pay for the vaccines. The BUA foundation did so by requesting, through the CBN Governor, for the Naira equivalent be paid to the relevant account with CBN, and that CBN forward the dollar payment to AFREXIM on CACOVID’s behalf. This payment by the BUA foundation was made “immediately after the meeting, when the BUA foundation transferred the money to the CBN in order to beat the deadline.”

Just as the news of the BUA foundation’s intervention started seeping into the public sphere, CACOVID came out to issue a scathing rebuttal, disowning the BUA foundation’s acquisition of one million COVID-19 vaccines singlehandedly for Nigeria. CACOVID claimed that “vaccine purchase is only possible through the Federal Government of Nigeria, and that no individual or company has the capacity to strike such a deal or purchase vaccines directly.”

In response to the public rejection by CACOVID, the BUA foundation insisted it singlehandedly paid for the one million doses, providing documents and payment slips to show proof and detailing how the payments were made. Despite CACOVID’s rebuttal, the BUA foundation managed to pull off a great feat and struck a deal to selflessly pay for the 1 Million doses in the interest of Nigeria singlehandedly. History will record the BUA foundation as the first to pay for the Coronavirus vaccine for Nigeria notwithstanding the moans from CACOVID.

Call one leery but isn’t the whole purpose of CACOVID to work towards combating COVID-19 in Nigeria, of which the procurement and rollout of the Coronavirus vaccine is a major part of? The coalition’s ‘tantrums and tiaras’ of the BUA foundation’s procurement of the Coronavirus vaccine really does seem quite puzzling. And incase CACOVID failed to grasp the point, it takes a certain aplomb to try and reject a selfless act carried out to boost the purpose of which CACOVID was created; a generous act which can contain the number of lives and livelihoods that will be lost in Nigeria. And it takes even more aplomb to try and demean a key player in CACOVID’s membership; one of the biggest contributors to CACOVID’s objective.

With the sole aim of combating Coronavirus in Nigeria, CACOVID should be pulling together all of its resources for the survival of Nigerians. The rollout of the 1 million doses the BUA Foundation has paid for and the extra 5 million they are in the process of procuring is, surely, one of those resources.

Some obscure social media outlets have started to report that the Coronavirus Vaccine paid for by the BUA foundation is the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which fails to prevent mild and moderate COVID-19 strain from South Africa and that prompted CACOVID’s response. However, this was never expressed in the rebuttal issued by CACOVID. Precisely, the very same vaccine that CACOVID was negotiating for is the same vaccine that the BUA foundation paid for. Surely, if the reason for CACOVID’s rejection of the particular vaccine paid for by the BUA foundation was based on the vaccine’s inability to prevent the new Coronavirus strain, that would have been the main point buttressed in their statement castigating the BUA foundation. But CACOVID remained shtum on this point, so it wouldn’t be out of place to put this narrative down to fabricated and propagandized social media chinwag. If in future CACOVID uses this point as a reason for rejecting the BUA foundation’s payment of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, then it cannot in good faith turn around and order the same Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in future. Nigerians will be closely watching.

No matter what the dynamic playing out within CACOVID is, even it must realize that every failing of the coalition culminates into a calamity for desperate Nigerians who are banking on its success. CACOVID was designed to focus on the salvation of Nigerians in this Coronavirus battle. By ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ in reaction to the BUA foundation’s payment of 1 million doses of the Coronavirus vaccine, its reaction is more harmful to the coalition and to Nigerians than it is to the BUA foundation.
The legend of numerous pious women disfiguring themselves in order to protect their virtue stands as a testament against doing something that is meant to harm someone else but that also harms the person who does it. When CACOVID attempts to rubbish a charitable gesture that will better equip it with the capacity to do its work, those who end up paying the price for that self-degradation are Nigerians and, ultimately, CACOVID itself. Their act of rebutting the payment of the 1 million free doses of the coronavirus vaccines may serve a purpose for some in-house fracas that Nigerians are unconcerned with, but it certainly does nothing to save the country.

It should be noted that, CACOVID is a coalition partnering with the private sector, the Federal Government, the NCDC and WHO to stem the tide of ravaging global pandemic but it has no monopoly in such partnership. While CACOVID may operate on a collegiate fund contribution model, there is no existing policy of government, at any level, that the COVID-19 vaccine must be procured only by CACOVID. There is absolutely no legislation giving CACOVID the right to prevent any person or organization from helping government in this trying time to effectively vaccinate Nigerians against COVID-19.

Although CACOVID has done a stellar job in maintaining its mission to ‘collaborate with the Government to provide direct support to private and public healthcare’s ability to respond to the crisis,’ it has no legal franchise over the COVID-19 Vaccine that will be administered in Nigeria. While CACOVID has, thus far, upheld its values of ‘humanity, integrity, transparency and professionalism,’ it must refrain from taking a stand, which may appear to the ordinary eye as playing politics at a time that the world is gasping for breath in a frantic effort to find a lasting solution to the ravaging pandemic.

At worst, the most important consideration for CACOVID on the procurement of the Coronavirus vaccine by the BUA foundation should be whether WHO has approved the vaccine for use and whether it has passed through NAFDAC examination and gained approval. If the procured vaccine passes these tests, CACOVID should be absolutely delighted because the BUA foundation has performed a magnanimous act by paying for 1 million doses of the Coronavirus vaccine for Nigeria.

The terrain of managing a virus vaccine rollout of this nature has become difficult because of the global demand. Everything is happening at the same time for many countries. And although African countries are making efforts to acquire the vaccines, they have to compete with wealthier nations who have scooped up huge amounts of the vaccines, mostly by pre-ordering millions of doses. Also, legal guidelines, monetary deficits, and cold chain storage requirements have slowed the process of rolling out the vaccines. As a result none of the main, Western vaccines have yet been dispensed in Africa despite the fact that Europe and America received their first doses several months ago.

Reality bites and Africa will have to patiently wait in line before receiving COVID-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organization. And although Nigeria plans to vaccinate, at least, half of the population against the coronavirus in 2021, its first batch of vaccines has still not arrived. So, to have a conglomerate such as the BUA Group swoop in to save the day and provide 1 million Nigerians with protection, truly is a blessing. Now that developing countries are being told that there will be a delay in the acquisition of adequate COVID-19 vaccines approved by WHO, all hands must be on deck to help propel the Giant of Africa to the next phase in addressing, containing and managing the pandemic thus far.

The BUA foundation has been at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19 right from inception and has been consistent, not for any pecuniary gain, but a genuine effort to assist government in keeping Nigerians safe and combating the global pandemic. It must be stated that the BUA foundation did not purchase the vaccine for any monetary gain and is not giving the vaccine to Nigeria on contractual terms but rather, free, with utmost good faith, as a charitable donation.

The BUA foundation should be commended for its benevolent stride rather than sacrificed on the alter of unhealthy politics. It shouldn’t really matter who is taking the initiative to purchase the vaccine for the purpose of needy Nigerians or which personality does it first. What should matter is that someone, a Nigerian, is willing to use their hard earned money to secure the vaccine in order to save Nigerian lives. The BUA foundation should be praised for the role it plays in helping societies all over Nigeria solve its problems.

Any good spirited Nigerian or foreigner with philanthropic inclination can aid Nigeria in combating the spread of COVID-19. That is exactly what is on display with the procurement of the Coronavirus vaccines by the BUA foundation.

It is a good development that the BUA foundation intends to continue supporting Nigeria’s COVID-19 response because it has already committed to procuring 5 million doses of the Coronavirus vaccine for Nigeria once there is availability. This initiative that the BUA foundation is taking has the propensity to push Nigeria to the front of the queue in vaccine procurement in Africa. The charity that the foundation is performing is a major boost, not only for the survival of our citizens, but for the mental health of Nigerians, taking into consideration all the uncertainty, insecurity, fear and financial dearth that most are grappling with.

The world is literally on the brink of collapse owing to this catastrophic pandemic and the price will be paid with lives and livelihoods in countries like Nigeria unless something is done to secure and roll out the vaccine promptly. This is precisely the option that the BUA foundation took out when it went ahead to beat the deadline and pay for 1 million doses of the Coronavirus vaccine.

This global pandemic must bring citizens, governments and business leaders together, not apart. The initiative that the BUA foundation took in paying the vaccine for the safety of the Nigerian public is a highly laudable one. Surely, even as it kicks and screams, CACOVID must know, recognize and appreciate that. The fact that the BUA Foundation has decided to let the money it paid for the Coronavirus vaccine remain in the CACOVID Account with the CBN pending when the coalition is ready to utilize the funds for Nigerians to access the vaccines exhibits the foundation’s willingness to continue peacefully working with the coalition in the interest of Nigeria.

-Legend has it that in AD 867, Saint Ebba, The Younger, the Mother Superior of the Monastery of Coldingham Priory overreacted when she urged her pious nuns to cut off their noses as a weapon against Viking Pirates. In her effort to carry out a vengeful act against the invaders, she ended up hurting herself and her nuns more than the object of her ire.
In the same vein, if CACOVID continues with this needless self-destructive over-reaction to the charity of one of its own members, the BUA foundation, singlehandedly paying for 1 million doses of the Coronavirus vaccine, it will be making the same gaffe that Saint Ebba did. And instead of Collaborating with the sole aim of combating Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Nigeria and providing support, CACOVID will effectively be carrying out an action that hurts itself more than another because it will be… ‘CUTTING OFF ITS NOSE TO SPITE ITS FACE!’.

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