The United States of America, USA, is arguably one of the most liberal countries on earth where people of every creed, religion and tribe find permanent homes. Beyond that, the country also offered them the freedom to aspire to any given height. Former President, Barack Obama, is a glaring example.
Nigerians have enjoyed these freedoms, with many of them in positions of prime authority. One of the most recent of such is Dr David Ladapo, a high-end Public Health academia who recently got appointed as Florida’s Surgeon-General.
His appointment, hailed in many quarters, is also assailed in as many, principally for his non-populist views on Covid-19 protocols. How does the view reflect on the divide in the American perception of the pandemic? What impact do his views have on global, African and indeed Nigerian perception? How does his appointment impact on the Nigerian?
These and other questions are dealt with here by Michael Ovienmhada, Author, Poet, Playwright and Public Affairs Commentator.
A Nigerian, Dr Ladapo, has been appointed the Surgeon-General in Florida. How important is it and how does it reflect on the Nigeria’s image internationally?
It’s always a good thing when our fellow countryman or woman is acknowledged and recognized and honored. It rubs off on all of us, his countrymen and women. People begin to readjust their lenses and view us in new light. *There are other high profile appointments for Nigerians in the US. For those of you in the country, how do such appointments make you feel?
Our image in the US has taken a beating over the years. More recently, with the arrest of Hushpuppy, our image got even more rubbished in the mud. To see appointments like these therefore, it helps to bring to the fore, alternative narratives that Nigeria after all is not just a country of scammers. The scammers do not get to write our story.
Is there any lesson young Nigerians in the diaspora should take away from his appointment?
For young Nigerians, traditionally, we are an academic driven country. Our parents did not let us rest when we were young. In turn, we are not letting our children rest. They must aim for the sky and that is what they are doing already. America is a level ground. It only recognizes hardwork.
Dr Ladapo is an accomplished public health expert. He is heading a state health sector where official policies on the global covid-19 pandemic are at variance, largely, with the American federal government. What’s your take on that?
Now, this is where our paths diverge. Whilst Dr. Ladapo has a string of degrees to his name, it would appear to anyone with commonsense that he may have a deficit in the department of integrity of science and commonsense. America is a country that touts individual freedoms, but it cannot in the same breath allow freedom without responsibility. To talk freedom in a science based situation that is costing lives, to me, as an act of irresponsibility and disservice to science. The governor he wishes to serve is vaccinated. He ought to be a drum major for mandating vaccines and safety measures to keep his State safe and alive and thriving. Let us look at the numbers. If we take two States with similar populations, say New York versus Florida— whilst the 7-day average of deaths currently from COVID in New York is 10, the same number is 352 for the State of Florida. The aim of a Surgeon General to begin with is to do no harm. He should be aiming to bring that number down to zero. If however, he wants a bigger house and a bigger car, he has his freedom to talk down science to please his piper.
Are such policies not confusing to the average American?
It is not only confusing, it is costing lives. By the time the people who have been confused find out what’s going on, they are in ICU advising people to do the right thing. At this point, it is already too late for them and they may have infected other members of their families. In the matter of infections, science must drive, not politics.
Would you give an opinion on how Nigeria can leverage on his and other international appointments for Nigerians?
My feelings are mixed on the matter of leveraging on such appointments. For the benefit of whom? More appointments abroad? We should rather be thinking of how to make our own country attractive enough for our bright minds to desire to come back home to contribute.
Do you have an opinion on what’s going on in Nigeria with regards to the need for people to be vaccinated?
The matter of Nigeria and vaccines ought to leave a sour taste in our mouths. On the one hand, we do not have enough vaccines to go round. On the other hand, millions of Nigerians have surrendered their intellect to pastors whose only call to intelligence is that they control a pulpit. A stance on vaccines like Dr. Ladapo’s who I am almost 95% sure may be vaccinated, serves to exacerbate the already ugly situation with regard to misinformation on vaccines in Nigeria.
What would you have the various governments do in terms of handling the pandemic?
I believe in mandates for the public good. People who want to exercise their freedoms should be free to also stay in their homes so as not to trample on the freedoms of other people who desire to live in a safe society.
What roles do you think Nigerians should play?
A commonsense approach. When you have malaria, do you exercise freedom or do you see your doctor to get treated? This is no different. If anything, it is much worse and it threatens society.