NIGERIA, WAITING TO CONSUME AS OTHER COUNTRIES WORK HARD TO FIND COVID-19 CURE
By Nnanke Harry Willie
It is now clear that one of Nigeria’s major challenges as a nation-state is its refusal or lack of ambition to move out of its comfort zone and confront its challenges headlong by creating its own solutions to its own problems.
This has been the case for years as we kept on coming up with various plans on how to import and subsidize fuel and other petroleum products instead of quickly increasing our production capacity and even exporting the refined products. In like manner we out-sourced our food supplies such as rice, tomato paste and vegetable oil importation became multi-billion-dollar businesses; all to the detriment of local industry and devaluation of the Naira.
Every serious nation’s approach to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic includes a program on how to find a cure and vaccine for the virus. There is a clear absence of that component in the Nigerian strategy as we concentrate our effort at preparing ourselves to serve as guinea pigs for trials of vaccines and possible medicines that can serve as cure.
As usual, there is no shortage of professionals and resources for Nigeria to be at the forefront of providing solutions on COVID-19 and indeed, solutions in many other areas but unfortunately every professional and inventor is only as good as his country (read government) allows him to be.
One such professional is Abuja-based Ben Amodu who has laid claim to drugs that can cure COVID-19 symptoms. A pharmacist and a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and an alternative medicine caregiver, his letters to the ministry of health and the ministry of science and technology have not even been acknowledged. There are definitely several hundreds of Ben Amodu’s wallowing in disbelief and shock in Nigeria.
The presidential task force on COVID-19 recently dismissed such effort by insisting that they would have to follow “due process”. The truth is that there is really ‘no process’ to find a cure for COVID-19 presently in Nigeria, therefore, all professionals eager to make defining contributions will either have to go through a more serious nation or end up in frustration.
The Island-nation of Madagascar is one such serious countries and they have worked outside the WHO paradigm to produce a herbal solution that is working for their people and they are even shipping it to other African countries who have indicated interest. They have recorded zero deaths and have reopened their schools and economy. The UAE has also recently come up with a treatment methodology based on the use of stem cells.
How did Nigeria, that was a WHO certified producer of vaccines for the West African region in the 70s, become so irrelevant in the health-care value chain that we are now only good enough for tests and consumption?
Why are we like this? Is it inferiority complex or is it because of selfish pecuniary interests that make us subordinate our personal greed over our collective victory and pride? For years our government and citizens have tacitly endorsed and promoted the narrative that any imported item is superior to our local alternatives.
At other times they will argue that the imported item is cheaper but they forget that our patronage has enriched the exporting nation to the extent that their infrastructure and economies of scale have been enhanced to the point where they can produce much more at less cost.
There are many variants of the popular saying that ‘where there is a will, there is a way’. This is true of individuals as it is of organizations and nations. Man’s mind-blowing achievements have been made possible because of man’s imagination, desire and determination to discover, create and achieve set goals and ambitions. But man can only do this successfully if his environment allows him and supports him. The near-disdain of the Nigerian solution will never bring out the best in us.
The government has scant regard, scant budget and scant time for local research and researchers. But development in any field is dependent on continuous and sustained research and until the government lifts research to its pride of place and actively mobilizes its citizenry to crystalize their creative and inventive juices, Nigeria will continue to be a dumping ground of the world for all things good, bad and ugly!