COVID-19: THE VIROLOGIC POLITICS OF TODAY
By Uma Ukpai.
Originating from China, COVID-19, a disease caused by the novel corona virus, has brought the world to a halt. This pandemic is presumed to become the biggest catastrophe after the Second World War and it is pushing economies (even robust ones) toward recession and depression. Policies on socioeconomic stimulus, packages and lockdown are being implemented by governments around the world as means of flattening the outbreak curve of COVID-19. But the question is ‘’has the corona crisis already changed the world system? Many people certainly seem to think so. From doomsday prognoses of a collapse into a bio-authoritarian dystopia to a cheerful vision of a rejuvenated benevolent state, political commentators have already identified 2020 as the date on which a new world is born.
When Harold Laswell viewed politics as ‘’who gets what, when and how’’, he was referring to politics as a ‘strategic plan towards a strategic goal’. This goal, as also encapsulated by Easton is webbed in the authoritative allocation of values. In politics, as argued by F. D. Roosevelt (32nd President of US) nothing happens inadvertently, for if it happens, you can bet it was planned that way. If this statement holds any water, then suffice it to say that the political gladiators and juggernauts can contrive and orchestrate a radical process or a structural order to; promote a polarized or unilateral interest; create socio-political and economic advantage and domination; and by extension secure technological dominance.
A retrospective review of international politics will bring to the purview the momentous turn of event in the world vis-à-vis power and politics (i.e. the first world war, the second world war and the hypothetical & ideological world war III).
All these events and conflicts are ascribed to global politics which centers on the struggle for the acquisition, flexing and utilization of power and might in the international arena.
Nations of the world are faced with COVID-19 as a pandemic which has become a calamitous world threatening issue. COVID-19 (..reality or otherwise) has now become a means to a political objective, hurling up political cum economic opportunities and threats in the international political system.
The Machiavellian assumption that the end justifies the means and the economic assumption of man as a rational economic being have become logical theoretical tools for examining, analyzing and inferring political actions (politics) in the world. Politics, power-play and conflicts in the international system have taken a twist from what we used to know to a more subtle virological approach.
*Virologic Politics* (VP) is the struggle for the acquisition, utilization and allocation of power and resources for political cum economic gains through the deployment of virological strategies and equations. It is a type of politics that involves virologic paraphernalia as a means of achieving socio-political and economic goals. For the purpose of intelligibility in operationalization, we can look at virologic politics from different dimensions in the world today. Since we cannot escape the reality of global politics and national politics, we may be tempted to also look at virologic politics from two perspectives: the global virologic politics and the national virologic politics.
In this article, my concern is confined to only the national virologic politics, pending a further research on the former. The reason for this is that the pandemic has not offered us a single narrative to tell, though one can perhaps best visualize this global moment as the traversing point between two temporal arcs: one showing the cyclical time of politics as defined by the triumphant resurgence of nations and borders, the resuscitation of the muscular states, and the flexing of old-fashioned geopolitical rivalries; the other marked by the radical acceleration of global connectivity in science, in digital and surveillance technologies and – not least – in disease dissemination and transmission itself.
*Virologic Politics in Nigeria*
In Nigeria, a lot has transpired in this COVID-19 adventure. Should we call this health tragedy or political catastrophe or economic pendulum or high-tech revolution? Well, we might try viewing it from the entrepreneurial theme or perspective, thus: politicians or government representatives who have the electorates as victims or clients would always perceive them as disposable meal tickets (in large scale) just like a doctor who has patients as his clients will also see such persons as susceptible meal tickets. Do not also forget that a business man also sees his customers as expedient tools for wealth creation and empire building. This whole insipid socioeconomic racketeering has been systematically entrenched and politically exacerbated in Nigeria.
Thus, the trend of 2020 politics of COVID-19 (Virologic Politics) can be presumed to have created prodigious political opportunities and a milestone incubator for prebendal, booty and plundering escapade in Africa and it seems that political leaders and government functionaries in Nigeria did not shillyshally nor refrain from maximizing the opportunities of the new political movement (the era of virologic politics). In Nigeria the inordinate quest and desire of our leaders, as masqueraded in the purported and exaggerated show of concern and sympathy for the vulnerable masses, prompted them into mobilizing and deploying necessary political and economic structures to perfect their intents, efforts and goals attainment.
We can proudly say that our leaders (government) rose to the occasion and formulated laudable and palatable policies and modalities to deal with the pandemic. The government also mobilized funds from local and international benefactors to help the citizens in fighting corona virus and also to survive the economic and social effects of the lockdown policy. But can we say that these policies and modalities have been effectively implemented to the benefit of the citizens or the people of Nigeria? To what extent have the people (policy beneficiaries) been impacted through the implementation of this policies at the federal and state levels?
We hear of palliative measures, palliative foods/items, medical equipment and facilities, employment and payment of health/social workers , intervention funds, cash transfers, fuel subsidy, loan/grants to farmers, electric bill subsidy, new hospitals, isolation centers, other medical centers and a lot of other social and security benefits at the state and federal levels in the country.
But can we say that our leaders and politicians have efficiently implemented these policies and modalities to the benefits of the general masses or should we say that there are all still in the pipeline?
Well, let me not sound pessimistic nor disgruntled. No, let me not sound impatiently critical or fastidious or unpatriotic. No, let me not sound as if our leaders say something and do something else, let me not sound as if our leaders have other intentions outside the good will of the people, (I will try not to sound like that.. lo!).
The veracity is that in Nigeria we are playing the politics of virology (virologic politics) and we are trying to score great political goals and maximize, greatly, political benefits of the political dispensation/era. Our focus as leaders or a nation is presumably remote from global dominance, global control and competitive advantage, socioeconomic and health security, and political empowerment. Rather, our concern or goal is local dominance, political control over the citizens and exploitative relationship between the privileged leaders and the helpless followers (the led). In a recent statement on COVID-19, a renowned lawyer, Femi Falana in his response to COVID-19 policies in Nigeria, was quoted to have said ‘’ it is time to stop official impunity and hypocrisy in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic…
In virologic politics, policy makers leverage on nosophobia among the people to drive self-oriented or quasi national goals. That is to say that policy makers take advantage of the prevalence of a disease and the people’s fear of a pandemic to develop and implement specific policies that will benefit policy makers and government officials, sometimes to the detriment of the masses (i.e. policy illusion approach: the more you look the less you see). Virologic politics is taking its turn in Nigeria now and we can only pray and act for better days.
In the contemporary, Nigerians do not have to anticipate more from our leaders (politicians) than we can do or contribute to ourselves, our environs and the nation. We do not have to be excessively optimistic nor extremely pessimistic, but to be prayerfully optimistic though, about our leaders and government. There is a great need for us to pray fervently for our leaders (government), our nation and the world at large. This is because we are transiently in the era of virologic politics and trust me our leaders and politicians are playing this politics assiduously and perfectly even at the expense of the people’s health, lives, survival and posterity. But they forget that there is a congruent congress among politics, religion and natural retribution.
May we (Nigerians) live to see posterity and may we live to see our true friends and true enemies, and their ends thereafter.
*Uma Ukpai Uma*
Political Science Department,
Arthur Jarvis University