December 5, 2022

Inside Biden-Harris White House and Africa: The experts or the people? That’s the choice Biden faces

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris meet with Secretary of the Treasury Dr. Janet Yellen and business leaders Tuesday
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris meet with Secretary of the Treasury Dr. Janet Yellen and business leaders Tuesday

President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s approval ratings continue to sink and the choice he has now is to either listen to the people or the experts who seem to be far away from ordinary citizens.

Those same experts recently wrongly advised him to impose a travel ban on only African nations over the Omicron variant, many of them with zero cases of the strain.

But before I proceed, I would like to tell you the story of Prophet T.B. Joshua, a Nigerian clergyman who passed away last year at the age of 57.

Prophet TB Joshua passed away on June 5

Temitope Balogun Joshua did not go to school, but before he passed away last June, just days to his 58th birthday, he had touched the lives of millions of people, given out millions of dollars to people and charities, and become known all over the world.

The New York Times in New York City and the Washington Post in the American capital wrote about him. People in Mexico and Colombia mourned him. In the Central African country of Cameroon and the Southern African nation of South Africa, people refused to believe that he had passed.

While he was alive, heads of state, kings and celebrities visited him for prayers, miracles and blessings. Some sent their private jets to take him to them. Americans abandoned the United States to work with him in the impoverished area of Ikotun in Lagos, and Australians left their country just to be with him.

But what was his secret? Was it because he was doing more miracles or praying more for people? Was it because he was the best preacher in Africa’s most populous country? Was it because he mastered the English language so well that those who attended his services were blown away?

No, no, not at all. None of the above. As someone who spent a lot of time with him, either face to face or on the phone, I came to understand what his secret was, far beyond his miracles and prayers.

It was RELATIONSHIP! Yes, nothing else. For instance, he would be in a one of his cars in Lagos, the commercial city of Nigeria, and he would see a portrait of himself by the roadside, and he would ask his staff to locate the artist and bring them to him. He would thank them and pay for their artwork!

A journalist who did not know him personally would write a positive article about him, and he would personally call them to thank them. He would get in touch with anyone who had ever said anything good about him or his church and he would personally thank them, no matter what country they were in.

He would go to his village where he was born and ask to have the list of all the elderly people there and neighboring villages and he would send each of them a bag a rice and some chicken at Christmas and any other time he could.

He would hear that an earthquake had just struck Haiti followed by flooding and he would reach out to the government or NGOs there and fly a jet a deliver them food, blankets and some other items.

Personally, I would post on Facebook that I had just been attacked by a robber in Cameroon and he would be the first person to call from another country. And when I still wrote a story about an aspect of his church that he did not like, he would express displeasure on the phone and stay away from me for a month or two and then call back when he had a great news to share. He would tell me, with all the chaos you have created with your pen, why am I still even talking to you?

Everywhere he went to preach outside of Nigeria, they would house him in a big house and hire many people to take care of him and his staff, and before he left, he would speak to each one of them and thank them, and give them enough money to carry on for a few weeks or months.

Often, those ordinary people would cry whenever he left, knowing that he might not come back there and, most times, he never did.

RELATIONSHIP is what made him famous and loved by many, not his English, not his miracles (many were controversial), not even his blessings (some people did not believe in them).

As I continue to reach out to those who knew him for a book, I understand more and more that it was not because he was the most handsome or eloquent man, or even the best preacher in Nigeria that the world came to know about him.

It was because he understood that the secret of success is in building relationships with your fellow human beings!

Biden, his presidency and building RELATIONSHIPS

As I argued in a recent newsletter, those who have already written off President Biden because of the challenges he faces now, and his deteriorating approval ratings might be wrong in the end.

They would, however, certainly and definitely be right if nothing changes. If the President and his administration continue to listen only to the experts around them rather than the people who elected him. And to explain it all, COVID-19 provides us with the clearest example of the biggest dilemma facing the Biden presidency.

As I talk to ordinary people about COVID, I realize that if nothing changes, the Democrats will definitely suffer a severe defeat this year that might lead to another bigger defeat in 2024.

COVID-19: The experts versus the people and Biden’s RELATIONSHIPS

As a White House Correspondent who also covers the World Health Organization, I have listened virtually to most experts in the United States, Switzerland and Africa, however, like most people, I remain confused.

For instance, I was told by the experts that if I wore a face mask indoors, got my first, second and third shots of COVID-19 vaccine, and applied other public health measures, I would be fine. I would not be able able to catch COVID-19 and even if I did, I would not experience severe disease or die from it. And so I did, but since the beginning of this year, I have not been able to attend a White House briefing because of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant.

The leadership of the White House Correspondents’ Association argued that the decision to limit the number of reporters in the briefing room to 14 was based on recommendations from medical and health experts. However, those recommendations go against everything the scientists have told us thus far.

There lies the biggest problem of the Biden administration: The experts or the people?

The people seem to have understood that variants would continue to come from any parts of the world, and vaccination could help, but that life must go on. The WHO once told me during a live press briefing in Geneva that the last pandemic more than hundred years ago lasted several years and the virus circulated for many more years. Worse, even after several decades, new variants continue to emerge. It does not go away within years. This one will not be any different.

When you add the confusion about wearing masks, and new understanding that the clothe masks that we have been wearing for two years are not effective against COVID-19, when you add other variants that would likely come, the people have concluded that life should move on perhaps with vaccination and nothing else.

But the experts and the drug manufacturers continue to push for more restrictions, more masks, more vaccine doses, and the same old tactics that people have embraced in the past two years but close to a million people have died.

Failure to change course, and listen to the people would likely cost the Democrats the Senate and the House of Representatives at the end of this year, and make life more difficult for the people. Changing course too close to election would also be too late.

Changing course does not only mean communicating better. It’s not just the messaging. It’s taking a drastic approach, changing what you have been doing, getting more people vaccinated if you can, but lifting all restrictions. It’s almost like Afghanistan. You can postpone the withdrawal by 20 years but things will not get better. One day, you would still need to withdraw, and it might be worse then.

President Biden would need to listen more to the people rather than the experts who have been wrong many times as the disease continued to evolve and data continued to be clearer. There is a reason why experts and intellectuals hardly win elections. They seem to live in a different reality far away from what the people are seeing or need. And the people seem to have concluded that there would never be zero risk to COVID-19 for several more years but life would need to go on right now!

President Biden is, however, right that building relationships with the people, traveling across the nation and listening, not talking to, but listening to the people, would certainly give him a clearer idea about what the people want and need.

The President would also need to build relationships with the people as he said earlier this week and from those relationships, he would hear directly from them across the country and provide them with answers.

Building relationships with your fellow human beings is more important than sticking with the experts that the President mentioned earlier this wee when he outlined his priorities in 2022. Those experts are important, but many times, they have been wrong, and seem to be far away from the people’s desires. And that is our take today.

Simon Ateba, Publisher and White House Correspondent for Today News Africa in Washington DC

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