John Ogunlela is a man of many parts. Even though, he has a degree in Agriculture, he has varied interests in different areas of life. From History to War, Global Affairs to Strategy, Science to Economy, his curiousity knows no bounds.He had a chat with Rasheed Adebiyi on various issues around the world. Here are the excerpts of the interview.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is John Ogunlela. I obtained a degree in Agriculture from the University of Benin in 1991, a discipline that exposes one to all areas of foundational knowledge except Law. Leaving the university at an early age of 21 has afforded me years of extensive personal study and opportunities to broaden my views over time. I have work experience in both public and private sector and right now I am setting up a manufacturing interest to serve high quality affordable housing.
Bernie Sanders recently left the US Presidential race to Joe Biden. What does it portend for the Democrats’ chances in November? Do you see the party unseating President Trump?
Donald Trump has a committed base but let us realize that he never won the popular ballot and his base has not expanded since 2016 – if it has not shrunk. The Democrats also seem to have solved the major problem of the revolt of Bernie Sanders supporters who now appear to have lined up behind Joe Biden. Donald Trump is presently strung out trying to manage the fall out of his handling or mishandling of the Covid problem and his flagging self confidence can be seen in the way he regularly gets into a trade of words with reporters during his regular Covid-19 press briefing in the White House. He has reasons to be worried and agitated mostly because he wades in a field of dead bodies – the virus has killed 40,000 of his citizens so far. Moreover, all the gains of the economy during his beat have been washed away and unemployment is soaring as stocks are down. The oil industry has collapsed with over 100 oil companies in dire straits. The unemployment figure being thrown up is about 20 million – a depressing figure indeed! His road to reelection will have to be as miraculous as his wishing the virus away at the beginning of the infections in the United States.
As part of the “infodemic” that has hit the world’s battle against the COVID 19 is its link with the 5G. What does 5G have to do with the emergence of the Coronavirus?
Evidently there is no link between 5G and the Coronavirus responsible for Covid-19 or any virus whatsoever. A misconstruction may have been fed because most people have had ample time on their hands due to the lockdown and had had time to extend their minds about issues like viruses and took biological and digital viruses to be the same thing. They also seem to have assumed that radio waves and radioactivity are the same and as such found a relationship between 5G using more antennae than 4G and increase in ‘radioactivity’! It seemed to help the moment you explain that digital and biological viruses are completely unrelated while radio waves and radioactivity are essentially two different phenomena.
The emergence of the Coronavirus seems to have brought the entire World to its knees. How soon do you think the world would bounce back from this global setback?
Several nations are taking steps already to reopen and there are demonstrations in US states of Alabama and Michigan against a continued shutdown as we speak. The efficacy and correctness of reopening while the pandemic still rages will be seen in the coming weeks – if testing is undertaken among the reopened populations.
Conventionally, reopening of businesses is critical to the world bouncing back and a clearly suppressed rate of transmission of this virus is a prerequisite of reopening both government and private businesses. It is hard to put time to it especially as this virus is new and the whole world is just learning through experience. But what about China which has reopened after the Wuhan devastation? Let us note that the Chinese plaque never became national but was limited to the Wuhan area and that country’s figures are also mired in controversy: China’s experience may not be regarded as very relatable at this point. We should also note that we have seen an ‘m’ curve in Singapore where the virus infection peaked and tapered only to begin to rise again. All these have to be digested and analysed before a date can be set for the rebounding of the setback inflicted by the virus.
The US-China cold war seems to be taking the centre stage even in the race to find solutions to the novel virus. Which country do you see eventually giving the world the leadership it critically desires at this point?
The race to find a cure for Covid-19 will almost probably end in a stalemate given progress or essential lack thereof on studies on antigens so far. Antigens are disease-fighting factors naturally built in the plasma of the blood after a patient survives an infection. Vaccinations are administered on the premises that the body can be induced to form antigens. So far, the promises are not reliable with respect to this virus. Both the US and China may not be able to mine this issue for any lasting political advantage.
China has a fairly well documented 4000-year history and written all over that history is the reluctance of that country to project power: China has always been instinctively a self contained nation not really interested in expanding neither its influence nor territory unlike Western nations like Britain, United States, Germany and France who lead the western way of thinking. That could change of course but China has barriers that economic advancement alone may not automatically help it scale in becoming the leader of the world. One of those is, China is a not an autocracy. Its system of government may make it easier to take and implement government decisions faster, but it is so packed with inherent weaknesses that on the balance, we must conclude that it is unattractive and will lead to spiralling instability. Unstable nations do not make progress. Let’s remember that it took China a revolution to have this type of government imposed and installed and it cost millions of lives (consider the death of millions from starvation during Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward) to test-run and fine-tune that system. This is a hard sell in every way and a nation that cannot recommend and fairly easily replicate its system of government will find it nearly impossible to lead. There are other issues like the general quality of Chinese goods, both real and imagined, the fact that the Chinese language is apart in its written structure and demands a fresh education. China’s attitude to freedom of thought and conscience is also less of an attraction. I do not foresee a quick end to the world as led by the West over the next fifty years. At best, we will have a sort of diarchy where both sides strive for control – a formula for conflicts, unrests and proxy wars pretty much like in the days of the Cold War.
The US fund to the WHO has been stopped by President Trump. Don’t you think this and many other ways he has handled his country’s war against the COVID 19 would affect his chances at the polls in November?
Probably not. We have to acknowledge that there is a lot in the United States of America that is nationalistic in the way in which Albert Einstein warned against nationalism. Part of the emotions feeding this ultra nationalism is the declining population of the Caucasians whose birth rate officially slipped below the combined figure for the minorities in July 2011, according to the New York Times. Nationalism will make the supporters of Donald Trump overlook his action on the WHO and if he loses the election, it is for other factors. We should also note that other nations can probably extend themselves to cover the missing portion of the US contributions to the WHO, the statutory portion of which is about $120 million per annum.
Donald Trump’s handling of coronavirus will go a long way in shaping how voters act in November, without a doubt. His unfounded confidence at the initial stages of the infection and boasts that the thing will go away ‘like a miracle’ will haunt him as a simple matter of common sense on the part of the voter because his confidence was premised on the sheer wind of blind luck – which of course failed and has cost 40,000 lives in that country. That will not be casually forgiven. If he loses in November, his apparent failure on Coronavirus along with the attendant economic disaster will be playing a major role.
Many analysts have said China would soon overtake the US as the World leader. Do you agree? What are the factors pushing the country to the global front seat?
The American way of life, promising the freedom of greed with openness is more appealing to the Chinese option where prisons team with Uighurs and people who disagree with the government disappear suddenly. We also do not really know exactly how Chinese millionaires are made without state backing. These are dicey things and they make the Chinese option a big challenge – almost like a challenge of getting initiated into a cult. The curtailment of freedoms is not something the world is prepared for and it makes the prospects of a world led by China hard to conceive.
We should also lay it open that China has come this far mostly by reverse-engineering products whose original roots are in the West. The atmosphere for original innovation is not a Chinese idea. I will also like to highlight that innovations are not even enough. The philosophy of life based on equality and freedom is what informs a lot of the most powerful innovations in the world today. These basic ideas do not drive China but on the contrary, China is driven by the need to curtail, control and limit – a socio-political mindset deeply rooted in Chinese history and which will prove toxic to ideas and innovation. This should make a China led world improbable indeed. Unless something very tragic in the range of a devastating war or major economic collapse hits the United States, things will continue more or less this way for the next 100 years with China ever seeming to be set to take over but never really attaining to the leading edge.
Will China’s rising profile not sound the death knell for liberal democracy in emerging economies looking at the US model of democracy?
Autocracy is definitely good at spurring copied growth and imposing models that make early progress but it proves unstable on the long-term. Has China not passed laws to enable its present leader Xi Ji Pin stay on almost indefinitely? And how far is Xi from Mao Zedong, the founder of modern China? Just a couple of decades – an indication that the Chinese experience is still green indeed and is still undergoing testing. Now, whatever is not tested cannot be trusted. It should be expected that smaller nations of Africa and perhaps Eurasia and Eastern Europe may experiment with autocracy a la China, but it will prove dangerously unstable and hard to sustain much like the classical Soviet model which always loops back to democracy, a system that promises the most stability, despite its other weaknesses.
Nigeria just lost the Chief of Staff to the President. Do you foresee any serious power play in the courses of replacing him?
The president of Nigeria is not known for flexibility and adaptability. His choosing a new gateman will be a challenge for him given the level of trust he placed in his former aide. Now, naturally, politicians have started lobbying desperately for the job and what is on is probably more than a power play. It is more like a power-fight, Nigeria being what it is politically! I often wonder if these fighters ever thought of the volume of involvement they will have and spared a minute to figure out if they will be safe from what stopped the former occupier of that office.
When eventually the World emerges from this pandemic, what lessons do you think African leaders should learn from this?
African leaders should learn the need for good healthcare facilities and the futility of depending on foreign medical tourism. They should also learn that they ought to contribute to biomedical knowledge and research. Their ability to make such commitments and stick to it is a different issue, we should note.
Of the 52 African countries combating the Coronavirus, which leader in Africa do you think deserves an applause in their handling of the crisis? And why?
Botswana. They promptly locked their gates and succeeded in preventing the importation of the disease. South Africa also did excellently by launching mass testing on time and isolating infected people.
Thank you for your time
It is my pleasure.