Wednesday, January 20, 2021 / 7:21PM / OpEd By Tope Fasua / Header
Image Credit: Tope Fasua
Having been out of the UAE for a clear one year, my business registration there, and the visa that came with it was nigh expired. The Economic Zone in which I registered Global Analytics Consulting advised that I need to get into the country before full expiry otherwise the visa and business registration may be cancelled in the system. That got me into a flap trying to organize tickets and everything else that goes with traveling these days. Traveling anywhere these days feels bizarre, given the depression being marketed at home.
Anyhow, I had moved my company from the UK to UAE effectively in 2012, after 6 tough years in the UK. The expenses and the taxes, the multiple layers of regulation, and the fact that no matter how hard you tried, you may not get a single business from within the UK made us flee. I couldn't even totally extricate from the UK until 2014. Depressing place to do business. I had been hearing about Dubai, UAE and one day I asked my UK staff, Syed to get us cheap tickets to see what it was like. What I saw was not the 'Onitsha market' that some Nigerians said Dubai was. I reckon many get to Al Sabhka in Deira to buy cheap articles and believe that is the end of the UAE. The real country is however limitlessly inspiring.
The authorities had given us registered business people some forbearance from the normal 6 months visit requirement. They are very welcoming to business people and even though it's your money you will spend, this is one place that makes life and living relatively cheap and ensures you get value for your spend. I tell people that Europe, and to a lesser extent the USA had altogether become tired of us Africans at some point, and the opening up of the UAE is a saving grace to many Africans who had been traumatized and defrauded in many an European and American embassy who believe everybody is trying to run away in their country.
I know of a situation where about 5 Vice Chancellors of Nigerian universities traveling into London were detained for about 2 days because some silly immigration guy thought they will not run home if allowed to enter London! Imagine the cockiness. So without places like the UAE many Africans may never have seen the possibilities of human achievements. We hope that some of our children will one day seize the initiative to replicate the ideas that are almost freely available in places like the UAE, on our continent; a continent which is basically an open canvass presently. If the Chinese are at least helping out with some infrastructure construction, the UAE offers travel and tourism opportunities, ideas for architects and builders and town planners, and for us businessmen, a very efficient base that places you in the centre of global markets, away from the snobbery of places like London, Paris and New York.
Ticket booked, I had to run around to get the COVID-19 test two days to travel. My forever-helpful and highly informed travel consultant wife gave me the names of approved centres and I ended up at EHA clinics at Lifecamp. N39,500 paid I drove in the next day to have that irritating stick poked deep into my nostrils and about 9 hours later they had mailed me the result. NEGATIVE. I also had to do a travel insurance and print out an authority to travel to the UAE from a website before I could leave Nigeria. Abuja airport remains glistening even though I will advise that they understand that it is constant cleaning that helps maintain any facility. I see that in many of Nigeria's installations they don't care about cleaning suspended stuff, like Chandeliers or decorations.
Those things must be reached otherwise in time they gather dirt and give us away. Traveling out of Nigeria was stress-free. Everybody kept their masks on during the flight but when dinner was served everybody took it off at the same time. I wondered whether eating will stop aerosolized breath from traveling around. There are a thousand ways this virus could spread even with the masks on, but that is story for another day. I just felt sad that somehow the world had been had and the media frenzy behind the disease is a pointer to the not-so-kosher beginnings of it and the intent it is meant to achieve.
We were forewarned to have our covid results out when we arrived Dubai seven hours later, and I thought I heard that some people may be required to take the covid test if their temperatures were high. What I did not expect was that EVERYBODY getting into Dubai will have to be tested FOR FREE. That was the first queue we entered. The entire hall was full. Dubai is still in business. A battery of nurses were available to interview travelers and issue test kits. Another army of nurses were there to insert the stick - again - in your nostrils and 3 hours later you get a text on your phone as to whether your result was negative or positive. Everyone is allowed to go to their places of abode.
Dubai is testing millions of visitors absolutely free. The UAE is focused on the future, while some countries are stuck in the past. I believe that if someone has a positive result, you will also have medics at your hotel to whisk you away within 3 hours. A friend who lives here, Tony, tells me of the 5-star treatment given to anyone who catches the Covid disease here. In Nigeria, we use everything to show class. A friend railed recently against those who think Covid is a scam but also said he was treated in VVIP ward. That means very very important personality ward! Important personality is not enough. Very important is not enough. But very very. Ok. Nigeria is not investing anything to get out of this problem except by trying to lock people down, asking struggling people to stay at home and I see that some elitist, miseducated people are even pressurizing government to keep public schools closed while their own overfed children get lectured through zoom - so that we can create millions more of illiterates and get thousands of SS1-3 girls pregnant and truncate their education right?
Nigeria is not working with data that is why. Because our NCDC and perhaps entire government is sponsored by Bill Gates (having squandered monies meant for taking care of the people) they have to just do what is called 'cut-and-paste' and get with the program.
Our press are also in cahoots with this program and I suspect there is a fund somewhere that keeps them oiled for barraging the people with bad news at this point. You hear that they are keeping students home in Europe and because you don't know yourself in Nigeria you forget you huge educational disadvantage or the fact that Covid-19 is not particularly an issue for children - and even for Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole - and you ask children to sit at home where you have no plans for them. You hear that some states are shutting down businesses in America and so you shut down your own buying-and-selling businesses where people are trying to survive over here. You forget that your economy produces nothing and cannot afford unnecessary lockdowns.
Settling into my hotel (you can't believe how cheap they are here. If you knew, you will curse all the overrated hotels located in expensive slums in Nigeria that rip people off), I see intermittent ads that one could go to the Department of Health website to book an appointment for the Covid-19 vaccine. As at then 1.7million out of the odd 10million population had already received the first shot of the vaccine by then. I tried to book online and it wouldn't work so I made a note to visit the World Trade Centre where a new vaccine centre had just been opened just to find out what was happening. I also needed to make a booking for a meeting room for an upcoming event sometime in April. I was a bit apprehensive of it all as I walked the long halls of the WTC. But I shouldn't have worried. These guys are professional and friendly.
The first security guy I asked told me there is no need for an appointment. I should just sit there and they will call me in. There were more than a thousand people around, male and female. It seemed that as I was already there there was no escaping. They were so nice, so firm, so cooperative, so helpful. So, I took position. 30 minutes later I had the first shot. Free. Second shot in 21 days.
There were people from every race there; Caucasians, Arabs, Indians Africansâ€¦ the works! I have never thought they could want to kill people with the vaccines. How many will they kill? Sterilize? Maybe. But I am no longer in the baby-producing department lol. The UAE is a place of hope, and Dubai especially is ahead of them all. Sheikh Muhammad Bin Rashid Al Makhtoum understands the value of investment in people. Dubai is the most positive and futuristic of nations. On the Morning Show on Dubai One TV Channel they reported that many Indian businessmen were recently moving their offices to Dubai as a result of this positivism.
I must say that I have been spared of the enveloping gloom that has become of Nigeria these days, where all we hear are the deaths of usually big and famous rich people. I have had to block some sites that only report corona death and invincibility. Let us give hope and life to our people, not to kill them in a thousand ways before their deaths.
So, I think we can see that contrary to earlier story, Alhaji Atiku did not spend N8m to get his vaccine. He is a Dubai resident and like every Indian or Bangladeshi worker, he will stay in the queue and get his shots. If Nigerian leadership, past and present, had not been army of locusts, we would have been able to start giving then jabs by now. We hear they want to buy 100,000 shots but they will prioritize 'strategic leaders' in government and health workers. Health workers I understand but who is a strategic leader? What has the strategic leader done for us lately? This means it will be another man-knows-man matter as the 'strategic leaders' first protect their own family and then long-leg ensues.
We should be putting the government under pressure to get the vaccines and urgently return Nigeria to business. We should be using this to position for advantage at the now operational AfCFTA. This is what I suggested right at the beginning when we didn't even have this benefit of one-year experience with Covid-19. Seems even with one year gone, we don't want to learn anything. A nation like the UAE knows that it cannot fight the powers that be.
Many people I have spoken to here believe this is a man-made disease, but a disease all the same. Now, let us get the vaccine and keep moving, not crawl into a corner, lose hope, and die. Well, for me, I suffered no effect. The jab happened so quickly anyway, and when I removed the plaster later, there wasn't even a hint of blood. I hope it was not a sleight of hand. Who knows? Who cares? The mystery around covid remains, but a people can choose whether to get swept away with misery from the mystery, or actively pick themselves up and keep moving.
Dubai has chosen to move on, and I wager that this country UAE will reap big time after this is all over, barring any unforeseen catastrophe from anywhere else. The UAE keeps expanding. I hear there is an EXPO city being built afresh near Jabal Ali. Makhtoum is mad! China has also moved on. A country where the first occurrence was reported, has not declared more than 4,000 plus infections out of her 1.4billion to date. China remains a closed state, but productivity has since been going on even as it strategically takes positions in other countries with its savings (e.g rail sector in Nigeria). Most of Europe is toying with its future, especially the UK. The USA under Biden will also almost likely shut down again. Winners and losers are emerging.
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