By Francis Onaiyekan
Steve Biko (1946-77) (of course you remember him), warned many years ago that “Black man, you are on your own” (Omuabor, 1994).
This was the slogan he coined for the South Africa Students Organization that he led. He meant that Africans should not expect deliverance from their sorry plight from outside of Africa. Decades after his murder by apartheid security agents, he remains right.
The solutions to the problems that confront the black man must come from him and his continent, from his capabilities, competencies, and, above all, individual and collective ‘yes we can’ confidence. Alas, a number of recent incidents within Nigeria (touted by even the great Mandela as the hope of the Black race) give cause for worry.
For two successive days, The Guardian ran a news item that a Nigeria expert in parasitology claimed discovery of a cure of Coronavirus that currently ravages the world. Professor Ayodele Israel Adeleye a former lecturer in the Department of Microbiology, at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, was quoted to say that his “COVID-19 cure is real and the next after God in terms of effectiveness”.
A Yoruba proverb says ‘Ti ogun eni ba da ni loju, a fi gbari”. This is to say that one so sure of the efficacy of his medicine will dare to apply it to himself. This researcher does seem to be sure of the efficacy of his drug. I shall quote him copiously and as reported, so the reader can hear ‘from the horse’s mouth’.
The professor (and you don’t become a professor just like that, I should think) challenged the government of Nigeria to give him “five people with COVID-19, I will treat them for free, right in front of your camera” adding that “ if the world adopts my cure the lockdown in the world will end”.
This is confident writ large and I want to believe that no professor worth his salt can afford to be frivolous with his research claim. Prof. Adeleye, apparently, didn’t pre-test his discovery on animals because “animals are not susceptible to COVID -19.
The only luck we have is that someone who had [the viral infection] was brought to us and cured.… One of the patients was having breathing problems already and he took the treatment. In 10 minutes, he was already getting better [but] we told him that this is new, we cannot assure you how long it will give you immunity, so stay quarantined and keep social distancing”. This is the report in The Guardian of Tuesday, April 14, 2020.
The following day, April 15, the same paper carried again, the Adeleye ‘feat’ saying that he urges the Federal Government to engage him over his claim to cure COVID-19. Again the parasitology expert said about his work:
“this research is not recent. It had been going on for some years but it has now come into manifestation. It is a practical thing; if it fails, the whole world will see it. But if it succeeds, credit goes to Nigeria as a nation. I have done what God has told me to do; the rest is with the Federal Government”.
How daringly plain can a man get? I must point out that, in these times when cost of production is high and readership size is not encouraging, every news item in a paper must be adjudged worthy to be there.
I imagine that The Guardian seems to subtly nudge the Nigerian authorities to take up Professor Adeleye’s offer, subject it to scrutiny by qualified local assessors who are not mentally enslaved by foreign knowledge systems. So, what on earth is the government of Nigeria waiting for? To contain and possibly eradicate Coronavirus is a global task that must be done.
And to this urgent end, every serious country is conducting research with all unique resources it can marshal. A Yoruba proverb says that “iwa ku’wa l’an wa oun to ba so nu”. Meaning: we tend to search with unreasonable desperation that is missing.
The COVID-19 threat to humanity is so huge and so weighty it demands, as is done at brainstorming sessions that everyone brings to the solution table every imaginable solution.
No idea is too crazy to be discussed in a brainstorming session. Before Adeleye, Prof. Maurice Iwu has been reported to isolate ‘a chemical compound’ that may cure SARS and hopefully, Coronavirus too. His finding is undergoing ‘testing’ in the US “to confirm whether this could be a cure for COVID-19 or SARS” said Minister for Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu. This was early March.
But why send Iwu’s findings to faraway US when a respectable team of Nigerian specialists can be charged to examine it and test it on afflicted persons? And lest we forget, before Iwu was a certain Dr. Abalaka whose research efforts, whatever it was worth, was derided into oblivion by his ‘foreign mentored’ colleagues and his own federal government. But no one else came up with an alternative cure to the HIV disease.
How intellectually insecure can a people get? I dare to say that our elite class truly undermine this continent!
Since COVID-19 became a pandemic, many Africans have proposed preventive and curative preparations using local herbs, roots, and fruits such as onion, bitter cola, lemon, lime, garlic, dogon yaro leaves. These concerned and thinking individuals practically demonstrate their ideas for all to see in the social media.
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State acted on the recommendation of a medical doctor to raise his immunity with a twice a day intake of a local preparation. His COVID-19 status subsequently reverted from positive to negative. Said he, “I mixed [black seed oil] with honey and took one tea spoon in the morning and in the evening”. The efficacy of this combination has, based on Quranic injunctions, been corroborated by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar.
A few weeks earlier, His Majesty, Ooni Adeyeye Ogunwusi of Ife reportedly suggested a combination herbs, vegetables, and other locally available ingredients that may cure or even prevent COVID-19. I cannot imagine that Makinde, the Ooni, the Sultan can be speaking on so weighty a matter without deep consideration.
Are these claims credible, reliable, and replicable? No one can say until authorities constitute an impartial team to verify, using appropriate investigative tools. Even now, Nigeria’s record of handling this scourge is not bad compared with other parts of the world. As at the morning of Saturday, April 18, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control reported 542 confirmed cases with 19 deaths and 166 persons discharged.
Whatever treatment was applied to those discharged should be up for scientific analysis and replication. We need to be confident enough to make public whatever is our findings and its efficacy to the world, improve on it and, hopefully, save the world. Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire reportedly admitted lately that traditional medicine practitioners have written him “series of letters” on a possible cure. (Saturday Punch, April 18, 2020).
The proposal is so far ensnared by the red tape of the department of traditional, alternative, and complementary medicine in his ministry. Surely, there are experts in this country and in Africa, who, using the appropriate investigate tools, can ascertain the efficacy of local medicines”.
Professor of Pharmacognosy in the University of Lagos, Olukemi Odukoya, in a write-up published in The Guardian of April 23, 2020 suggested in her researched paper, a combination of vegetables and spices, including garlic and ginger to be evaluated and “use to alleviate sufferings from the [COVID-19] pandemic.
Is the government of Nigeria listening to its own people, looking inward and possibly, make a name for Nigeria and Africa? No. Nigerian and Africans leaders are awaiting money and medical supplies and personnel from China and other even worse affected countries, and donations from the Bill Gates and Jack Mas of this world.
To be continued tomorrow
Onaiyekan is a visiting member, Editorial Board, The Guardian.