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Opinions of Sunday, 10 May 2020

Columnist: Festus Adedayo

COVID-19: Time to go Madagascar

Like many other societies in the world, Africa boasts of a past that is ambivalent, a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly. She had villains, despots, tyrants, developmental leaders and all sorts as rulers. As she had a ruthless hero in leader of the Zulu Kingdom, Shaka kaSenzangakhona, better known as Shaka the Zulu, who reigned from 1816 to 1828, so also did Africa have 16th century notorious Basorun Gaa of the old Oyo Empire Army (Oyo Ile).

In modern time, Africa had Ugandan Joseph Rao Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan guerilla group. Kony was queer and weird. He proclaimed to the world that he was the spokesperson of God on earth and the spirit medium through which He could be reached. He also claimed that he was always host to thirteen multinational spirits that included a Chinese phantom. He led a syncretic mix that included the usage of Christian fundamentalism, mysticism, Acholi nationalism and claimed that he was establishing a theocratic state, based on the Ten Commandments. He was subsequently indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for the abduction of 66,000 children who were turned into child soldiers, as well as sex slaves and causing the internal displacement of two million people from 1986 to 2009. This is not to talk of the Alaafin of old Oyo who ordered the head of his father-in-law brought on a platter because, while helping to scrub his back in the bathroom, his new wife had jokingly teased his limp manhood thus: “Kabiyesi, so you are this small, yet the whole world is afraid of you!”

Pre-colonial Africa was equally very rich. Egyptian civilization, for instance, has been held to be a major gladsome past of Africa, even from prehistoric times. Agricultural irrigation method that flourished in the deployment of the Nile for agricultural purposes, as well as Egyptian architecture are major sources of study in strides of prehistory. This is not to talk of Egyptian science of embalmment. This method gained wide mention in its unique system of preserving the dead called mummification so as to achieve some measure of immortality, even in death. Deploying herbs and locally sourced chemicals, Egyptian native doctors dispossessed dead bodies of all moisture, leaving dried flesh that could not decay. With this, many Pharaohs were preserved for centuries and archaeologists claim to have excavated centuries-old bodies preserved with leaves and still effusing scents of embalmment.

On a visit to the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, some years ago, he told me of two scientific strides bequeathed by his forefathers. One was that of a fascinating palace environmental science wizardry. According to the Alaafin, no matter how heavy a downpour was in the palace, within a few minutes, you can never find its trace in the palace. There is an inscrutable and undecipherable flood control network in the palace which ensures that it can never be flooded. The palace is centuries old. The second, as told me by the Alaafin, is an African DNA system in the palace which enables an Alaafin to identify whether children born to the palace were genuinely of the monarchy. The third, as related by the revered monarch, is a potent local cure for cancer of the prostrate. The Alaafin told me that if local traditional doctors treat such a patient of prostrate, he will, in Alaafin’s words, “die with prostrate but never of it.”

There is no doubt that African medicine was potent and was efficient for centuries in treating sicknesses like cancer, diabetes, malaria, stroke, epilepsy, benign prostatic herperplasia, gout and all manner of ailments. Traditional African medicine involves indigenous herbalism that is many times mixed with African spirituality. Its own doctors were known as diviners, herbalists and midwives. They are reputed to have cured complex ailments, even psychiatric disorders. I was a living witness to a then three-year old boy who was, seventeen years ago, treated for asthma. The local traditional doctor never came in contact with his patient. He merely asked for the presentation of this ailment which had taken the child’s parents to different orthodox hospitals without any remedy, handed them two bottles of herbal potion and in the last seventeen years, the parents have reported no manifestation of the sickness. To the best of my knowledge, Western medicine has no cure yet for asthma.

The recent altercation over the claimed remedy to the raging COVID-19 pandemic by the government of Madagascar was what propelled the above narratives. Madagascar, which is officially known as the Republic of Madagascar, but which before now was known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island. A country in the Indian Ocean, Madagascar is said to be approximately 400 kilometres off the coast of East Africa. It is reputed to be the world’s second largest island country. As is known with all island countries, the desire for survival usually forces them to take initiatives about their existence. So when Madagascar was said to have thought out of the box, not tying its fate to the fate of a world that is hopelessly bayoneted by a tiny microscopic virus which had to date killed over 200,000 people, to those who know the initiative-driven existence of island countries, they weren’t taken aback by the Madagascar innovation.

When the country launched Covid-Organics (CVO) which is reportedly effective in the treatment of this strange disease, it naturally raised some dusts, especially from the World Health Organization (WHO). Since the virus cast a spell on the world, killing global compatriots like chickens, Madagascar is yet to record any death, even when it had 193 cases. This stride has confounded the world, especially many African countries who are said to be seeking Madagascar’s intervention. Explaining how the country got to this ennobling cusp, Marcel Razanamparany, who is the President of the Academy of Medicine in Uganda, said it was an initiative of the work of Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA) researchers, who he said had conducted clinical study into herbs in the quest for a connect between modern and traditional medicine.

In the process of seeking cure for the coronavirus, Madagascar was reported to have made use of its biodiversity by embarking on a therapy protocol that uses an admixture of chloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin, as well as deployment of medicinal plants. IMRA and the National Pharmacology Research Centre of Madagascar were said to have depended heavily on the usage of artemisia plants hitherto renowned for the cure of malaria. Indeed, Madagascar, since 1975, was said to have begun researches into the potency of this artemisia annua, a research said to have been pioneered by a Professor Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga. The result is that today, even when WHO is ululating over this splendid outcome, the world is giving thumbs up to Madagascar and the country is able to rescue her citizens from the pangs of coronavirus. Since then, the road to Madagascar has become the path to tread. Madagascar has since introduced the native-brewed but effective medicine it christened COVID Organics to Guinea Conakry, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, with Tanzania about to place its order. Nigeria’s Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) has also indicated that Nigeria might also follow suit.

WHO’s reaction to the Madagascar road that has become the path to tread, was predictable. In a statement, it warned against the use of traditional herbs by African governments, saying that as “efforts are underway to find treatment for COVID-19, caution must be taken against misinformation, especially on social media, about the effectiveness of certain remedies.”

No one should need to tell Africans that even though colonialism ended some decades ago, neocolonialism is still ravaging Africa. While it is true, as propounded by Italian Antonio Gramsci, that physical coercion as a system of control of man had died a natural death, control of the mind of the African has hugely deputized for physical force. And because African leaders are a bunch of simpletons who have no minds of their own, they are easy recruits into the war to enslave the minds of their people. Their poverty of materials and lack of the mind have ensured that they are appendages to the west. In spite of his penchant for thieving the resources of his people, Sani Abacha was about the only Nigerian leader who called the bluff of the west and who can be compared to Andry Nirina Rajoelina, current Madagascar president. The ones before and after him appear to be mere agents of the colonizers.

If not, a government that has a mind of its own shouldn’t be deterred by the threats of the west, especially in the quest to rescue its own people from the pangs of a global pandemic. It is apparent that finding cure to a global ailment by any common African country is an effrontery, indeed insolence by Africa against her masters. How could those black niggers who cannot fend for themselves without the help of their white slavers, be the ones to find medical rescue to the problems of the world and end a superior white race’s medical agony? That would surely be racial impudence. To worsen matters, what that also means is that shipment of cash from all the nooks and crannies of a world that is in search of stoppage to this colossal death, would go to Africa. Absolutely nauseating!

If the Nigerian government encourages traditional medicine practitioners and departments of botany of different universities to find cure to COVID-19, I am sure remedies could be found to this fiery disease and we would jump up in the estimation of the world. Yes, traditional medicine practice has been infiltrated by mediocrities, charlatans and fraudsters, but there is still a tiny window inhabited by genuine traditional practitioners. Gladsome is the news that the Federal Government, through the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Mashi Abdullahi, has directed the National Agency for Foods Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to carry out necessary procedures to assess plant-based cough mixture as a possible treatment for COVID-19. Government should go a notch higher. All efforts must be made for Nigeria to follow this laudable road to Madagascar. It is a road that leads to self-sufficiency and homegrown solutions to continental and international malaises.

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