The President, Muhammadu Buhari has given approval that the drug to fight the vicious Coronavirus may be brought in from Madagascar. He does not see any harm in bringing in the drug as long as it is validated and it works. It is not clear whether we are paying for it or not. Some believe the drug is an allocation and Nigerian is not placing orders for it. The President’s nod has predictably been engulfed in a controversy. The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria is aghast, describing bringing in what it calls COVID Organics as importing “coal into New Castle.” It fights shy of calling it a scandal, but does say it is a shame.
Buhari could not have given approval without consultation with his experts reasoning that if it works in Madagascar, why should we fight shy of having the drug from there to work for Nigerians, our own internal problems we can take care of later. We are in an emergency. What does a man who is in the throes of death care about where you get a rescue drug from? You only need to watch the confusion into which a family is thrown and the lamentations when their loved one has gotten to the last stage when death struggle begins, when the soul is detaching from the body. A desperate wife begins to say, “Darling, why do you want to leave me alone? Remember where we have been coming from. Look at me, it is your wife. Look at Adaora, your daughter; she says you cannot go. Look at Junior; how do we cope without you?” etc. A President who has just lost his most treasured Chief of Staff can be put in the shoes of a prospective widow. He said emotionally and in deep pains of his chief of Staff that he was the “best amongst us.”
The second reason Buhari could not refuse an offer from Madagascar is that about seven or so of his brother Heads of State from African countries gathered in that country and could be seen gleefully collecting their own packages of the drug. In any case, given the rate the pathogens are spreading like wild fire during harmattan—whether in Lagos, Kano, Jigawa or Potiskum, or Nguru, we cannot say the Nigerian dispensary is filled with remedies to overflowing. WHO said when the news began to spread about the feat in Madagascar that the Coronavirus drug coming from there had not been validated through its clinical testing. Andy Rajoelina, Madagascar President said the WHO pronouncement was prejudiced, accusing the Europeans of having a condescending attitude towards African medicine.
What are our internal problems? This is where the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria has unassailable argument. The position of this column is not, therefore, to vitiate their valid criticisms of the government. It is rather to say you first drive away the fox before you blame the hen. When Mr. COVID-19 is driven away, we can begin to face ourselves. After all, Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who is heading the presidential committee on the Coronavirus pandemic, was himself shocked at the magnitude of the rot in our health system. He did not know it was this bad! Aisha Buhari drew our attention to it a long time ago, her outcry was lost on the authority. The pharmacists are right to be appalled that Nigeria has dragged herself low in the eyes of right-thinking people by jumping to receive offers from Madagascar while neglecting her own robust resources at home.
How does anyone justify this, as in the words of Mazi Sam Ohuabuwa, Nigeria has about 174 universities compared with Madagascar’s six. It is Nigeria with 43 Federal universities, 52 state universities and 79 private and 20Faculties of Pharmacy and about 69 Federal-funded research institutes that has Madagascar to thank in a way. The research institutes include National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, and the National Institute for medical Research while Madagascar has only one Faculty of Pharmacy and nine Research Centres.
The emergence of Coronavirus pandemic has many lessons to teach Nigeria. It has exposed us as a country that is big for nothing. Government functionaries would rather elect to live in opulence than worry about the general welfare of the citizens, what if they were not in government they would not be able to afford by themselves. But for the vigilance of the members of the Zamfara House of Assembly and the courage of the state governor, recall what the erstwhile governor, Abdulaziz Yari was going to be carting home as perks every month. Professor Itse Sagay alarmed the nation that a Senator is paid N30million a month. Nigerians thanked Shehu Sani who said it was N13million for his accustomed candour. Nigerians felt that with the information coming from Shehu, a beneficiary, we were getting somewhere. A humungous sum was voted for the renovation of the National Assembly in the current budget and a similarly scandalous amount to buy cars. They were unmoved by negative public opinion on the issues. Deaf ears are turned to research institutes complaining about underfunding. Up till today, the pay of our legislators is still wooly. And senior government functionaries live practically at no cost to them. Mitchell Obama, speaking to Oprah Winfrey on her book on her experiences as America’s First Lady, she said every nut she and her husband took was counted and at the end of the month, they received the bill from the kitchen.
Senate President Lawan himself was distressed when he visited the University of Abuja by the lack of readiness in terms of facility to receive those who may have tested positive to rampaging Coronavirus. These are our internal problems of callous irresponsibility the nation would have no choice but to face once we can see our way through the war on the COVID-19 pandemic.
We have Nigerian Natural medicine Development Agency (NNMDA) and the National Board for Technology Incubation which has centres called Bioresources Development Centres (BIODEC) and Technology Incubation Centres (TIC) in about 30 states in the country. The research institutes, in addition to charges of gross underfunding levied against the government, complain of sidelining. Many herbal companies and producers, according to Ohuabuwa, have announced specifically that they had herbal formulations that could do the same “invention” from Madagascar can do. He continued: “They have suggested that a portion of the nearly N25million donated/ allocated for the COVID-19 pandemic should be dedicated for local research and development. But our government has remained essentially silent, only waiting to participate in WHO sponsored or mandated trials. We have been told that Nigeria is participating in WHO solidarity trial, but nothing on trying our own inventions and formulations. Now we want to import COVID-19 Organics from Madagascar to try? Why are we like this?”
This column is persuaded that the expertise obtains in our country to tackle the pandemic. Every night we are regaled with the number of those who have been successfully treated and allowed home. Total discharged in Lagos as of Tuesday night was 502 persons, 41 in Sokoto, Ondo 5 and Ekiti 5. Nation-wide as of yesterday morning, the total number of those discharged after testing negative twice was 959 persons. This attests to the knowledge and ingenuity of our experts and doctors. If we go by the testimony of the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, the claim is further reinforced that we have the requisite expertise as local remedies were applied on him. The Governor of Bauchi State, former Minister of FCT, Bello Mohammed, spoke in the same vein. Prof. Maurice Iwu long said confidently that the expertise and remedy to tackle Coronavirus already existed in the country.
Nature is ever so perfect. What each community needs to heal their ailing bodies and for their wellbeing is always in abundance around them. Mrs. Elizabeth Kafaru, that great promoter of herbal remedies within and without the Nigerian shores, once said that when a plant begins to sprout around us, on our premises, it is an indication that an ailment is about to break out for which Nature ( by which is meant Elemental Beings in the service of the Most High) is already providing the remedy well in advance. We must therefore be on the alert at all times. Our people have the knowledge in and outside the ivory towers. The elemental Beings who are the keepers of the household of God talk to herbal practitioners who are open. They, it was who taught the early people seasons, what to plant and when to plant them. So is it that knowledge of herbal medicine is worldwide. The modern man is waiting on WHO for validation because he has closed himself to Nature. Little wonder a wise man once said: “God is not mute, it is man that is deaf!” We still have a few gifted herbal practitioners in our midst, no doubt. The government has not harnessed the assets.
So, what is the problem? Prof. Maurice Iwu has said he had sent what he has come up with. What clinical validation and proof of efficacy can we have than our people being successfully treated and discharged on a daily basis? Waiting for global validation by WHO? That is where Madagascar has proven wiser. Go ye to the ant, man, and be wise! President Andy Rajoelina has triumphantly and proudly opened wide his doors: “Come to Madagascar you who are sick; my country is ready to receive you with enthusiasm. Our own remedy is in yellow.”The appointment of Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari has put paid to all manner of speculations on who becomes the Chief of staff to President Buhari in succession to Abba Kyari snatched away by Mr COVID-19, alias Coronavirus. Babangana Kingibe was mentioned. The name of Adamu Adamu was thrown up, so was that of the Aviation Minister. The name of one-time Governor of Lagos State, Abubakar Marwa was on the cards. The emergence of Agboola Gambari was unexpected. Yes, he had been Buhari’s External affairs Minister between 1984 and 1985. No one looked in his direction. What would a citizen of the universe want to be chief of staff to the Nigerian President for?