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HomePoliticsFlattening the curves, ahoy!

Flattening the curves, ahoy!

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One of the most popular phrases in this age of COVID-19 must be “flattening the curve.” Apparently, it is a statistical statement that a certain variable is to be decreased. However, that variable is the amount of infested persons over a stated period.

But trust the oyinbo man. He is more inventive than we are. It is not for nothing, for instance, that Professor Chinua Achebe tells that “the white man is very clever.’’ Today, we can relate a flatten-the-curve anecdote that further suggests Achebe is in the right. We got a believable WhatsApp post. It was forwarded to us by one of those serious and informed minds. It reads:

“The Greek Prime Minister in an interview with CNN explained how Greece has succeeded in flattening the curve. According to him, he evacuated the public space of charlatans and generalists and left commentaries open only for subject or domain knowledge experts.”

In other words, just by clearing the public space of noise and nuisance, one is able to purchase solutions to problems. In plainer words, to solve a problem, what are required are not bleeding and excitable hearts. What are needed are informed and becalmed brainpower. And if you don’t have one, you shut up your mouth. The point is to have less and less noise as to retrieve more and more life-saving signals.

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And we have forever aligned with this position. Anyway, for those who are acquainted with our bylines, it will at least be clear that we have railed our throats dry on this Nigerian, all-too-Nigerian, incident. It is the tragic incident of nearly every Nigerian urban hero in one area turning up a hero in all areas. Just the other for day, for instance, we wrote: “The points are simple. Epidemiology and virology are specialised and specialist expertise. They are ordinarily post-doc adventures. In other words, it takes a minimum of 9.5 post-secondary years of rigorous education to come into such an honour. The matter is so much that Peterside needs to be a deity to cover such grounds in less than six months.”

It was our kind advice to the legendary banker, Atedo Peterside, to keep his peace and let others speak on this COVID-19 matter. It was nothing personal. It is actually a way to flatten the curve of the variables of those to be infested.

How? If less and less cacophony of voices are heard on one hand, the more focused and less distracted will be those informed enough to tackle the pandemic/disease. In other words, it will be a question of the most signals against the least or even zero noises. This is in contradiction to the current Nigerian station of more noises, more interferences, than signals.

And just the other day, as if to prove the Nigerian, all-too-Nigerian factor, another legendry banker waddled into the same COVID-19 matter. Fola Adeola, retired banker as Peterside, was up in arms editorialising on COVID-19. In an essay, “All Aboard…! Steering Nigeria’s COVID-19 Action Train.,” he makes quotidian ‘noises.’

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However, what are called for are informed insights. But trust our era of interactivity, feedbacks, and information technology empowerments. Today, folks talk back and are not just talked at. And to the Adeola’s missive, there were commentaries, apparently pseudonymous. Two typical ones read:

“We do not have a pandemic yet” Stop confusing high mortality rate with the occurrence of a pandemic… This lengthy writeup has not added a scintilla of knowledge to what had been projected two months ago. Iskacountryman.

For goodness sake, why give this Adeola man such space to waste today. One has to begin to wonder if every rambling frame of thoughts must appear…. Mystic Mallam.

Please, notice he falls short on his use of register as he confounds pandemic with mortality rate ala Nigerian statistics. Truth be told, he is not to blame. No man is a universal genius, in today’s terms. Presently, subject matters are too farflung to be gathered by one mind. We have definitely gone beyond Aristotle’s times. In ages gone, one could know everything. Today, however, to so do or pretend to, is to be in humour. However, Adeola’s blame comes not from his failures at articulation and use of right register, but in his not knowing his limits.

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In other words, Adeola has added to the confusion rather than cleared the fog. He, perhaps not intending it, just as his bankerly colleague, Peterside, is adding to, not subtracting from, the problems. In total, they have only aided to spike, not flatten, the curve. Finally, we repeat, genius in one area, say economics or banking, is not genius in all areas, including say topology and viruses. A balance sheet is not code to the mystery of all life. Nothing is.

Like we have observed severally, it is too often economists and lawyers who famously fall into this error. Too readily, they comment on everything, with admittedly fine, even if content-free, prose. And, apparently, since they have star or plutocratic powers, they are able to corner column spaces and electronic prime times. And they feed us with chicken shit for ideas. And spike rather than flatten the curves.

That’s why, when we read/heard Professor Chukwuma Soludo, yet another banker, speaking of homemade remedies – herbal? – we just switched off. Genius demands that every man restrict himself to his discipline. And that is only where he or she has command of domain matter and appropriate register. To stray off track is to suggest Socratic ignorance. You can’t sell generalist knowledge with the “moral hazard” of expertise in an unrelated area.

Finally, one may call this the Adeola Syndrome. But why Adeola, when he is not the only such guilty guy? The others have not been “caught on independent cameras.” Adeola has the fortune of having his missive characterised by others, not us. So, that helps in triangulating his name as a standard for this Nigerian, all-too-Nigerian, ailment. Please, if you are an expert in A, don’t be seduced by the idea that you can be an expert in B, certainly, not because you are a Nigerian, an Adeola or what not.

One last thing. The ancient truth subsists. It is that: Star power is not all-knowing power. Otherwise, our dear and glorious J.J. Okocha would have been teaching astrophysics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. And would have been good and great at that.

The tragedy is that star power in commanding attention distracts and confuses youths. Take Ms. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for instance. She is a huge star and one of the world’s favorite darlings. As a novelist, as stringer of words and fables, she probably has the world at her command. But when she begins to theorise on bride price – ignorantly – she becomes indictable. Just like the star bankers and economists, her indictable offenses are those of misinforming and confusing innocent youths, etc. And if we all recall, that was sin enough for which Socrates, our darling gadfly, was executed. Nobody is calling for anybody’s head. However, we advocate for silences, not sciences, in these matters by these star powers. Let their genius admit to their limits.

To save Nigeria, perhaps the better option is to teach more about Socratic ignorance than Aristotlean metaphysics and all that jazz. That’s all we have to say for now. All else is humour. Shalom. Ahiazuwa.

Thinker’s Corner

“The stupidest virus is cleverer than the cleverest virologist.”

– Professor George Klein

There is no economics without politics. Every economic model is built on political assumptions. Lobbyists, who engage in “marketing” ideas to policymakers and to the public, are actually influential. They know how to work the system and can dismiss, take out of context, misquote, misuse, or promote research as needed. If policymakers or the public are unable or unwilling to evaluate the claims people make, lobbyists and others can create confusion and promote misleading narratives, if it benefits them. In the real political economy, good ideas and worthy research can fail to gain traction while bad ideas and flawed research can succeed. (Professor Anat Admati)

Power of the Talkback. Thursday, April 30, 2020. I sincerely appreciate your style of writing, laced with hard facts, humour and persuasive reading. However, I regret to inform you that you spoil my Thursdays when you refuse or fail to write. No matter the reason, save for health issues, know it that your readers are left frustrated when their copies of The Sun Newspaper on Thursday are delivered to them with your column missing. When next you write, offer unreserved apology or write on more topics than one to make up for ‘lost’ reading. (Pat Azurunwa)

From The TurfGame: Advice well received. However, running columns is the editor’s prerogative and game. We may be guilty but certainly not as charged. Shalom.

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