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Congratulations Cuba!!!

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Kole Omotoso


Of all the good news that came from the restrained face of President Ramaphosa, last Monday, the most welcome was the nomination of Cuba for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, 2021. South Africa must be congratulated for summoning the courage to nominate Cuba. Let us not forget that very few countries in the West are going to be dancing to the United Nations headquarters in September to support South Africa’s nomination. We must not deceive ourselves that it would be a popular nomination.

For anyone familiar with the history of the Revolution in Cuba, the care of the ordinary people of Cuba was the concern of the revolutionaries of Cuba. Once the safety of the authority of the government of the island-nation was secured, the rest of the story was how to feed the people, how to take care of their health and ensure their cultural satisfaction. In the field of medical endeavour, Cuba has been punching well above its slender weight. And it had done wonderfully well.

I remember a small incident when we arrived at a cultural Centre for the opening of that year’s Caribbean Festival of the Arts. There had been a small shower before we arrived. As we got down from the combi buses, an elegant lady slipped and hurt her ankle. Immediately, an ambulance took her to the health center where she was treated and sent back to join the rest of us. It was like magic.

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The Caribbean Islands have different products and different talents. Trinidad and Tobago had petroleum products while Cuba had the beginning of a manufacturing industry. Barbados had built a solid education foundation with teacher training programs all over the island. Thus, in the early years of independence, there was a well organized exchange program. Medicine and Medical Studies were the most prominent areas of exchange.

During this last year alone, Cuba has sent COVID-19 equipment to over 40 countries including Italy and other European countries. In some cases, it is the continuation of on going programs that simply went into the pandemic relief program. For instance, Cuba runs a programme of free medical education for African Americans. It is a six-year programme. Cuba also runs the same kind of programme for South African blacks since the 1990s. The world is not unaware of Cuba’s medical diplomacy. It is controversial. Trump of the recent presidency tried to persuade different countries not to accept the medical gifts from Cuba. Countries who are in need of medication would not go for Trump’s voodoo Covid-19.

Today, countries, which accepted Cuban help are better off than the United States of America that Trump left for President Biden to set right.

There is no doubt that Trump must have been jealous of little Cuba sending medical aid to the rest of the world. Some countries send military aid to others. Other countries contribute food aid to other countries. Here, at a critical time in world history, Cuba is contributing to the good health of the world. Definitely, congratulations to Cuba again.

But seriously though, is it not time for African countries to have begun supporting some prizes in African countries? May be that is the mistake. Such prizes should not be for African countries alone. All countries of the world should be able to compete for any of them. The prize for the best behaved head of state in office fizzled out once we ran out of the few qualified candidates. Today, the prize has not been awarded for five years?

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What about literary prizes? They have gone the same way. The Japanese award for publishing in Africa has disappeared. But some infrastructure survived from it. But the next literary prize funded by Africans must be open to the world. That way, the worth of the prize will increase. Contributions to its monetary worth will increase. Imagine if President Ramaphosa had announced a peace price dedicated to the greatest medical aid, open to the world and its first country to receive it is Cuba. What would have been the reception of such an announcement? Groups such as Medicine Without Borders would win it from time to time. It is in this kind of world that we can speak of nominating anyone we like for prizes we like.

After all, it is the year of the chairmanship of the African Union. As a sense of renewal, let’s begin such a number of prizes. And make them available to the rest of the world.

Africa now has names that such prizes can be named after and they would be accepted. With pride. Let there be no national committees to decide the winners. Let it not be in the example of one African country where it was decided that it would be a good idea to have a national lottery worth a few millions in the currency of the country. It was agreed that the First Lady should be the first winner. Unfortunately, the president was a polygamist. It was decided that the president should be the first winner and share the prize among his wives according to their ranks.

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After that, who next to win the lottery? The Vice-President. Except that it was a particular African country where East, West, North and South had their own Vices. By the time the Vice-Presidents had collected, there was nothing left in the bank.

To make matters worse, no one bought the tickets any longer. The reason people bought the ticket was because their turn will come and they too will have a chance to win the national lottery. Unfortunately, the national lottery varnished.

The cabinet discussed the possibility of the nation funding the lottery. It was rejected. The country needed money for development. There was no money for funding a national lottery.

So, please re-write that part of the speech, President Ramaphosa, and let’s get ahead with Africa’s first world prize for aid to the world medical aid. In no time, the world will join us to praise Cuba and other countries in applauding such efforts.

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