When last week House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila rushed his colleagues through the first and second reading of a bill seeking to compulsorily vaccinate Nigerians, many had feared that the conspiracy theories making the rounds might have come home to roost.
First was how the new 5G mobile network spectrum was linked to the coronavirus pandemic.Then came the fears that Africans might be the test laboratory rats or guinea pigs for vaccines being developed in faraway Europe. This is in clear disdain for Africa-grown efforts at a cure already being pushed forward by some respected African scientists, including former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, Maurice Iwu, a renowned pharmacognosist.
Fears that Western conspiracy to forcefully test vaccines in Africa came to the fore on Wednesday, April 1, 2020, when two French doctors, Jean-Paul Mira and Camille Locht, first suggested that Africa might be the ideal place to test a vaccine because it would be hard to get masks while prostitutes would still be at work.
The comments were made on the French television channel, LCI, about COVID-19 trials for launch in Europe and Australia to see if the BCG tuberculosis vaccine could be used to treat the virus.
Mira, head of intensive care unit at Cochin Hospital in Paris said:” It may be provocative. Should we not do this study in Africa where there are no masks, no treatment or intensive care, a little bit like it’s been done for certain AIDS studies, where among prostitutes, we try things, because we know that they are highly exposed and don’t protect themselves?”
Camille Locht, research director at France’s national health institute, Inserm, agreed: “You are right. And by the way, we are thinking in parallel about a study in Africa using this same approach.”
Almost immediately, Africans and the World Health Organisation (WHO) descended on Mira and Locht, calling their comments racist, saying Africa would not be a test laboratory for any vaccine. The doctors were forced to retract their vile words and apologised. Leading the charge against the French doctors were two former African Footballers of the Year, Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto, who countered immediately on Twitter.
According to Drogba, “Africa isn’t a testing lab. I would like to vividly denounce those demeaning, false and, most of all, deeply racists words.”
Eto added his voice, using unprintable labels to describe the doctors.
WHO’sDirector-General, Mr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the comments were “a disgrace” and “appalling to hear in the 21st century from scientists”.
According to Ghebreyesus, “Africa cannot and will not be a testing ground for any vaccine. We will follow all the rules to test any vaccine or therapeutics all over the world using exactly the same rule, whether it’s in Europe, Africa or wherever. The hangover from a colonial mentality has to stop. WHO will not allow this to happen.”
But while speaking on CNN cable news network, co-chair of Bill and Belinda Gates Foundation, Belinda, said, “It’s going to be horrible in the developing world.Part of the reasons you are seeing the case numbers still do not look very bad is because they don’t have access to many tests.Look at what is happening in Ecuador, they are putting bodies out on the streets, you are going to see that in countries in Africa.”
Mrs. Gates feared things would get worse for Africa once cases peak because of poor health care systems and lack of humanitarian support.
According to her, her worst nightmare was when she “saw what China had to do to isolate enormous part of its population. My first thought was Africa. How in the world are they going to deal with this?”
Miran, Locht, and Mrs. Gates are troubling global perspectives on a world pandemic and how it affects Africa, nay Nigeria.While the Gates foundation has done a lot of philanthropic things in Africa, many people are still not comfortable with it, sometimes accusing it of underhand dealings.
Now, many have started looking at a possible link between these individuals representing certain institutional interests and Speaker Gbajabiamila’s hurried legislative bill.And the questions arise: Is Speaker Gbajabiamila representing interests other than Nigeria and Nigerians? Why was he in such breakneck speed to get the bill passed before any scrutiny from members from who he withheld copies of the bill?
In whose interest was Gbajabiamila working? Even in Europe where COVID-19 is hardest hit, most legislative houses are yet to reconvene, least of all discuss compulsory vaccination. So from where or whom did Gbajabiamila get his vaccination inspiration he so desperately wanted to force down the throat of Nigerians via a bill?