In 1999, the Gate’s Foundation pledged US$750 million to set up Gavi Vaccine Alliance. With that commitment, everyone interested in global health matters knew at the time that Bill Gates meant business. With the same drive he deployed at Microsoft, he has pursued the eradication of polio relentlessly. Polio is still endemic in Nigeria. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s share of spending on polio eradication is a third of the global effort. With his immense contribution, polio cases have declined from 400,000 when he started to 22 in 2017. Last year, no new cases of polio were recorded in 125 countries where it had been previously found, when Bill Gates made polio eradication his life’s mission; except in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. at this rate polio, like Smallpox, will be eradicated.
Bill Gates speech to the National Economic Council is about human dignity and equality. How many Nigerians who went bat-shit-crazy on social media blasting Gates in a fury of misplaced patriotism know this? Beneath the crushing weight of ignorance, many whose education has brought no significant value to mankind, queried the verve of a man whose genius has changed the world of computing and philanthropy! The sin of Bill was that he removed the rheum in our diseased eyes with concern, understanding, and showed us without violating our dignity. Instead of us to be grateful, embrace our condition and begin the search for remedies that will lead to recovery, the conclave of the ignorant went wild in simultaneous anger and denial.
Anger and denial changes nothing. They are established stages of grief. Our reality is vivid and unchanged! Nigeria has 11 million out of school children. The country has no concrete plan for over seven million children born within its boundaries every year. Nigeria has one of the worst maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. Despite our oil wealth, the country remains one of the worst places to live on the planet. Life expectancy is abysmal. The World Bank’s 2017 Atlas of Sustainable Development shows 35 million more Nigerians were living in extreme poverty in 2013 than in 1990. The Atlas defined “extreme poverty” as living on less than $1.90 a day. Consistently, Nigeria has failed to increase the odds of living by improving healthcare, reducing economic inequality, providing clean energy, and rather continuing to underperform in improving literacy rates. Among the 10 most populous countries for which data is available, only Nigeria has recorded an increase in the number of citizens who live in extreme poverty
Before Bill Gates, there was Andrew Carnegie who gave most of his fortune away. Philanthropy before Bill, was about need, which was done by throwing money at suffering people or funding a cause. In some instances, philanthropy was about wanting to be known and recognised as a do-gooder.
Unlike Nigerian leaders and the country’s incorporated thieves, Bill is motivated by suffering. He is driven by need and much more. It is a shame that those who have contributed nothing to humanity are deriding a man who has redefined charity, calling him a college dropout. The ignorant diatribe on social media not only signposts our lost values, it showcased how low our education has sunk. The world famous “University dropout” has deployed the same acumen he used in running Microsoft to philanthropy. Apart from being motivated by need, he found out how his money can have the greatest IMPACT and yield the best return on investment. That is not found in the province of dullards.
Bill created the new paradigm of philantrocapitalism in charitable giving. He created a utilitarian approach to philanthropy by bringing a for-profit mentality to the non-profit world. By a stroke of genius, he introduced new variables to the charity equation, where every $1 given to cause Y can yield X units of measurable impact. Again, that is not what the unintelligent do.
He spoke our minds. He spoke the mind of millions who want Nigeria to rise to its full potential, and not the minds of government apologists, sycophants and pseudo-patriots with questionable allegiances. An average Nigerian spends so much money on private education, which would not have been necessary if the government had invested properly in education at the primary and secondary school levels. That money could have gone into savings, starting a business or getting a mortgage. Financing children’s education and having a roof over one’s head are the major reasons why many people steal public funds. Thousands die daily because they have no means and access to healthcare. The government cannot provide clean potable water to its people. Households spend the equivalent of hundreds of dollars buying water in sachets and bottles, which in turn litter the environment with materials that are not easily biodegradable. Hence, our personal and food security is threatened.
What Bill is telling us is that we should improve the life chances for our people by providing the basics. He knows us. He has spent more time in Northern Nigeria than most caterwauling crowd on social media. While he spends millions of legitimate, earned dollars on programmes in Nigeria, the country’s incorporated thieves drive in convoys with police escorts on pothole ridden roads, and hop around dingy airports with their private jets. How much have your millionaires given to health, education, the arts and social institutions? While the priviledged class are busy shafting hapless Nigerians, how do you feel seeing Bill Gates caring for the same children they robbed?
Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront”