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Pope Francis to get COVID-19 vaccine next week

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Pope Francis says that he will soon receive a coronavirus vaccination, perhaps as early as next week, while calling the inoculation a duty for everyone.

“I believe that ethically everyone needs to receive the vaccine,” Francis said in an interview with Italy’s TG5 that will air Sunday.

Francis did not specify the exact timing of his inoculation, but the pontiff said the Vatican’s vaccine rollout will begin next week and that he had already booked an appointment.

Francis’s plan sends a significant pro-vaccine signal to the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics. But it also marks a crucial step in safeguarding an 84-year-old who is missing part of a lung, doesn’t like to wear a mask and relishes face-to-face interaction.

Vatican watchers had widely anticipated that Francis would be administered the jab, and he has spoken favorably for months about the international vaccine effort, calling it a light of hope “in this time of darkness.”

Until now, though, the Vatican had remained vague on its vaccine plans for the pope. The Holy See only said that its campaign would first target the elderly, medical personnel, and those most in contact with the public

The Vatican’s health director said the city-state would be using the vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech.

Francis suggested his own perspective on vaccines had been shaped by childhood memories of polio, when “so many kids ended up paralyzed because of this and there was a desperation to receive the vaccine.”

“I don’t know why some will say, ‘No, the vaccine is dangerous.’” Francis said.

“But if doctors offer it to you as something that can work, that poses no special risk, why not take it? There is a suicidal denialism that I wouldn’t know how to explain, but today you need to take the vaccine.”

The journalist who conducted the Friday interview of the pope, Fabio Marchese Ragona, shared a passage of the transcript with The Washington Post.

Almost since the beginning of the pandemic, Francis seemed to have the vaccine on his radar.

In May, he said that the search for vaccines should be “transparent and selfless.”

And he has said several times that leaders must ensure that vaccines are provided to the poor, the sick and the vulnerable.

Once fully vaccinated with the two doses, Francis — and the church — will still have to behave cautiously.

Medical experts say even those vaccinated should wear a mask. But the pontiff can more easily resume some of the activities that have been on hold for nearly a year, like international travel.

Francis is planning a trip in early March to Iraq, what will be his first venture outside of Italy since the start of the pandemic.

Francis, who complained of feeling “caged” during Italy’s initial spring lockdown, has made it clear that he does not want to be a Zoom-only pope.

As that initial clampdown loosened, Francis tried to reclaim the parts of his papacy he seemed to miss the most, mixing to a greater degree with crowds and meeting with pilgrims. Even amid Europe’s second wave, Francis has continued to host groups and hold in-person meetings.

Francis’s resistance to mask-wearing has perplexed some inside the church, and by forgoing masks in meetings he is bucking the Vatican’s own safety protocols.

Neither he nor the Vatican has offered an explanation for his decision to generally go mask-free.

– Washington Post

Politics

Wike, Obi keep people guessing, meet again in P/Harcourt

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Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, on Friday visited Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.

Obi’s visit was coming barely 48 hours after the official commencement of the 2023 election campaigns.

It is the third time Obi would be visiting Wike amid the internal crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party  which Wike belongs to.

The Friday closed-door meeting in Port Harcourt lasted for a few hours at the governor’s private residence.

The Punch reports the two politicians were having a handshake in front of Governor Wike’s residence in pictures that surfaced online.

Wike was spotted in white, while his guest, Obi, wore a blue senator material.

Sharing the pictures of the meeting on his Twitter handle on Friday, Wike wrote, “It was nice hosting my brother @PeterObi once again.”

Although details and outcome of the meeting were not disclosed, it came amid allegations and counter allegations of bribery within the PDP fold.

Apart from photos shared by Wike, Obi, who is a former Anambra State governor, on his Twitter handle, shared pictures of his meeting with Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde.

“I was at Ibadan, and I visited my brother and friend, HE @seyiamakinde, the Governor of Oyo State as part of my consultations ahead of the 2023 general elections. We had very frank and constructive discussions. -PO,” he wrote.

The PUNCH reports that Makinde, Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue State; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State; Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, all believed to be loyal to Wike, including the governot, on Wednesday, boycotted the inauguration of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council and book launch in honour of the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.

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Sports

Nigeria beaten 1-2 by Algeria, third loss under Peseiro

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The Super Eagles on Tuesday lost 1-2 to the Desert Foxes of Algeria in an international friendly played n Oran.

The Super Eagles opened scoring with Terem Moffi connecting from a deflected Kelechi Ihenacho’s shot in the box to give Nigeria the lead.

The Jose Peseiro side were the dominant side in the first half and had a few more chances but the efforts yielded no result.

The home side almost replied immediately after Zaidu Sanusi headed waywardly, setting Youcef Bilaili on goal.
Although Bilaili pushed the ball beyond a prone Uzoho, Riyad Mahrez could only hit the side of the post from the ensuing scrap-up.
It could have been two nil in the 28th minute after Mustapha Zengha spilled Iheanacho’s shot in the path of Moffi, who teed up Lookman — but the latter was ruled offside after putting the ball into the net.
Iheanacho called the goalkeeper into action, sending two successive shots into his palms.
The home team began exerting themselves in the game, with Uzoho forced to save two free kicks.
Mahrez and Islam Slimani bombarded Sanusi on the right side of the Eagles’ defence as cracks began to manifest.
The pressure paid off for Algeria in the 40th minute. Ramy Bensebaini reacted quickly to a rebound off a shot, and Onyeka dived into a tackle only to take the Algerian down.
Mahrez sent Uzoho the wrong way from the resultant penalty.
Desert Foxes completed the comeback in the 60th minute after Uzoho punched a corner kick and a couple of passes set it nicely for Youcef Attal, who sent 35-yard pile driver flying into the left bottom corner.
The result means Peseiro has lost three of his six games as Nigeria’s coach. The first two defeats were against Mexico and Ecuador.
Nigeria will play Portugal next in an international friendly billed for November 17.

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News

Presidency divided over national honour for Bukola Saraki

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There are indications that the immediate past Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, may miss a statutory national award on October 1 when deserving Nigerians are conferred with the awards.

The Presidency, according to a report by Sunday Punch, is divided over including Saraki on the list of the awardees.

As part of a series of activities lined up to mark Nigeria’s 62nd independence anniversary, President Muhammadu Buhari will on October 1, 2022 confer various categories of awards on deserving Nigerians, the Presidency has confirmed.

The investiture ceremony, billed to hold at the International Conference Centre, Abuja is eliciting diverse commentaries with the omission of Senator Bukola Saraki.

The convention and norm have always been for a Vice President, Senate President, and Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, to be given the title either on the assumption of office or when national awards are being generally bestowed on recipients.

The belief was that the former Kwara State governor Bukola Saraki had not been conferred with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON because Buhari did not confer the awards before now.

Sunday Punch however gathered that the committee set up to recommend deserving Nigerians to the Presidency, enlisted Saraki, but a power bloc in Aso Rock denied him a place on the list.

It was revealed that the group labelled Saraki an “enemy of the administration,” arguing that the All Progressives Congress-led government should rather beam its searchlight on other Nigerians.

This position, Sunday Punch gathered, did not sit well with another group in the Presidency, which was said to have argued that though Saraki’s opposition to some of the policy decisions taken by Buhari while serving as Senate President was well documented, he should not be denied a place in the 2022 honour list.

This is more so as Saraki’s successor, Senator Ahmad Lawan is set to bag the prestigious award next week.

The latter group also argued that Saraki is more popular with the people and is credited to have achieved more while in office, pointing out that he deserves the award based on his achievement in office and that the award should not be seen to be politicised by the incumbent administration.

It turned out however that the former group prevailed and Saraki is now set to miss out unless a dramatic twist in fate plays out.

In what appears a calculated effort to deny Saraki his place in history, Ahmad Lawan has refused to include his predecessor’s portrait among those of former presiding officers of the Senate in the main gallery of the New Senate Building more than three years after he (Saraki) left office.

It would be recalled that former Senate Presidents, Pius Anyim and David Mark, as well as ex- CJN, Walter Onnoghen, all had the GCON conferred on them in compliance with the convention.

Speaking exclusively to Sunday Punch, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome urged Buhari to right the error before the date of the event.

He said, “By protocols and convention, Vice President and Senate President are usually conferred with the national honour of GCON. I want to believe that the President’s attention was not drawn to it. He can still amend the situation by including his name before the date of the award because this is beyond politics.”

On his part, former Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Canada, Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, said Saraki deserves the award on merit.

He said, “I believe that in keeping with the hallowed tradition in the conferment of honorably awards, all former Senate Presidents deserve the title of GCON, Dr. Bukola Abubakar Saraki inclusive.

“Buhari should convoke a ceremony for such awards quickly to redeem his image as the father of the nation and not a mere patron of political bias.”

However, a chieftain of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Anthony Sani, told Sunday Punch that those conferring the title know the criteria for selecting deserving awardees.

He said, “I am not conversant with criteria being used for the award of national honours. If it is on merit, the President is the one to explain why the former Senate President does not merit it.

“But if it is statutory, he has to explain why he has denied him (Saraki).

Meanwhile, Saraki has stated that his silence on the recent happenings in the People’s Democratic Party does not translate to him opposing the party’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar.

Saraki, in a series of tweets on his official Twitter account on Saturday evening, noted that he had been on his annual vacation, and had returned on Friday. He said he headed straight to the celebration of the 35th year celebration of the creation of Akwa-Ibom State.

-Punch

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