Let’s talk about the show of shame between BUA and CACOVID over vaccines [Pulse Editor's Opinion]

It doesn't matter who gets the coronavirus vaccines across to Nigerians right now. What matters is that Nigerians get those jabs in the arms.

Aliko Dangote is Africa's richest man (Business Insider)

I mean, who wouldn’t be? As the rest of the world stocks up on COVID-19 vaccines, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has been on the outside looking in.

A gift of one million doses of badly needed COVID-19 vaccines from the private sector was enough to spark some hair growth on my bald pate overnight.

But I digress.

“We expect the vaccines to be delivered within the next 14 days and hope priority will be given to our frontline workers who have committed their lives to managing the pandemic," BUA founder, Abdulsamad Rabiu, announced gleefully.

Before midnight, however, the story had changed.

CACOVID, which is a private sector led organisation against COVID-19, announced that BUA had told us all a lie.

“Alhaji Abdulsamad must have been misquoted because these claims are not factual,” CACOVID said in a deadpan statement that immediately returned me to shiny scalp status.

According to CACOVID, its “leadership agreed to contribute $100 million to procure vaccines for Nigeria, these one million doses from Afreximbank worth $3.45million, being the very first tranche. CACOVID will purchase vaccines through other credible and subsidized mechanisms such as COVAX.

“CACOVID would like the Nigerian public to understand that vaccine purchase is only possible through the federal government of Nigeria, and that no individual or company can purchase vaccines directly from any legitimate and recognised manufacturer.”

Of course BUA was embarrassed by CACOVID’s statement, so it returned with a rejoinder, warning CACOVID about playing politics with the lives of Nigerians.

According to BUA, when Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele relayed to the larger group that he had spoken to Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Herbert Wigwe and Afreximbank President, Benedict Oramah about purchasing one million doses at $3.45 per dose totaling $3, 450,000; and that payment had to be made “today or tomorrow--failure which the opportunity to get those doses next week may be lost,” none of the other big corporate players was ready to drop the money to bail Nigeria out.

BUA said “after extensive deliberations, there was no agreement reached and despite members being offered the opportunity to donate funds towards procuring the doses, none offered. BUA then took it upon itself to offer to pay for the one million doses at the agreed rate.

“This payment was made immediately after the meeting and BUA transferred the money to the CBN in order to meet the deadline.”

Here’s the clincher from BUA: “We now have just cause to believe that some members of CACOVID were not happy that BUA took this initiative in the interest of Nigeria.

“We will however like to state clearly that we are aware that a prominent member of CACOVID (is this Dangote?) is not happy that BUA took the initiative to pay for the vaccines. Now they want to scuttle it by this action because they were unable to take the initiative.

“We find this release by CACOVID to be very petty and unbecoming of seemingly serious corporate citizens because it is tantamount to playing politics with the lives of Nigerians.

"This is no time for politics. It is time for us to come together to help Nigerians and it does not matter who is helping or paying.”

Whew!!!

There are a few deductions to extract from this exchange between CACOVID and BUA and which I’d summarise in a few words below:

  1. This is a cement and business war between Dangote on one hand and BUA on the other. Dangote can’t stand the sight of BUA taking all the glory from this scenario. There is ego and corporate braggadocio at play here and Dangote is fuming that he’s been beaten to the game of securing Nigeria’s first tranche of COVID-19 vaccines and all of the PR that comes with it, by a competitor.
  2. This was supposed to be a joint venture or what my colleague Samson Toromade calls a ‘Group Project’. CACOVID is miffed that BUA decided to 'go rogue' by publicizing its donation when all of this should have been kept under wraps and ascribed to the entire group. In other words, CACOVID had to issue its statement to teach BUA a lesson and embarrass BUA because BUA hasn’t been a team player.

All of which has left me visibly irritated and gobsmacked.

There should be a time and place for corporate wars and boardroom politics; definitely not when the lives of 200 million Nigerians are at stake.

We are talking about a novel virus that has infected over 140,000 Nigerians, killed close to 2,000 of our compatriots...and the private sector thinks this is the right time to play politics, flex muscles and underline who’s boss of the cement or foods market? Who raised these guys?

Who gives a flying f** (forgive my French) about who's the bigger player in cement manufacturing between Dangote and BUA right now? These guys should be reminded about reading the room. Urgghhh!!

In any case, we should not take our eyes off the ball. Not now. CACOVID was a brilliant initiative ab initio, because we just can’t trust the federal government to save lives or get anything done without support from the private sector in 2021.

We need those vaccines--all 42 million doses of them--and we need them as soon as the manufacturers say they are available for shipment. Nigeria needs to attain that herd immunity status by inoculating millions of its citizens as soon as possible.

Dangote, BUA, all of the private sector and the federal government need to close ranks now and get the first tranche of one million doses readily available in any way, shape or form before February gives way to March. We really don’t have the time for corporate theatrics and muscle-flexing at the moment.

This is not the time to be fighting for market share. For goodness sake, people are dying!!!

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*Pulse Editor's Opinion is the viewpoint of an Editor at Pulse. It does not represent the opinion of the Organisation Pulse.

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