Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari was quoted to have recommended the trial of the alternative medicine from Madagascar for the treatment of COVID-19, which has elicited mixed reactions. Before then and thereafter, there have been claims and counterclaims of developing medicines for the treatment of the pandemic by Nigerians. While the orthodox medical experts will disregard these developments, some traditional medical practitioners and indeed some Nigerians say it’s time to look inwards for cure as the virus continue to spread. ROLAND OBY OGBONNAYA writes
Lagosians are doing their normal thing, right from the Agbero at the motor park, Danfo conductor and the driver to the passenger. Government rules are being flagrantly flouted and the security organisations are over-whelmed in enforcing the regu-lations,” Adeleke Adesiyan, a gift shop owner at Oshodi, said. Ebube George, a scientist told the Saturday INDEPENDENT on Wednesday that, “I am not in support of the partial opening of the lockdown in Lagos given that this opens up the channels for rapid contagion and spread of the Covid19 virus. It is all due to the failure of leadership to meet up with adequate palliatives for the citizenry the decision to relax lockdown was taken. If possible I would have supported the ex-tension of the lockdown because of the lethality of Covid-19 vi-rus, which seems to be mutating with newer strains indicated to be emerging.” Uju Chinedu, the managing director of Firmview Paints.
There have been consistent and unrelenting claims even when they are not apparently given the adequate attention. This week the claim resonated again and this time from a foremost Catholic reverend father and traditional medical practitioner, Reverend Father Raymond Arazu, who announced that the Anambra Traditional Medical Board has developed a cure for Covid-19. Arazu, who is the chairman of the Board, also took a swipe at the World Health Organisation (WHO), stating that the body knows very little about African herbal medicine and does not make any effort to study and appreciate it.
The Catholic priest of the Order of the Holy Ghost Fathers popularly called the ‘Revered Living Ancestor,’ argued that for that reason, WHO has no locus standi to criticise African medical alternatives since it has never shown interest in the solution. He said, “The person saying that African herbal medicine is not tested and not reliable has no knowledge of African medicine. As the chairman, Traditional Medicine Board of Anambra State, I want to tell you that we have discovered a cure for the Coronavirus. The World Health Organisation can do nothing about the virus.
“They are completely lost about what to do. We traditional medical practitioners don’t make noise about these things. We move quietly and we know what to do and when to do it. From the results, you can assess. So this is not the first time WHO is making such a pronouncement on issues like that. What research have they carried out into the efficacy of African medicine as to ascertain whether it’s safe for use or not? Is it because it’s labelled African? You can’t just be making statements. What are the proofs? We have had enough of that,” he said.
There have been such other claims across the country, not only from the traditional medical practitioners only, but also from some few researchers in the universities. In the cause of the week, Prof Ikemefuna C. Uzochukwu, Principal Investigator, COVID-19 Drug Design, Discovery and Development Project, School of Pharmacy of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka also announced of the discovery of a cure for the coronavirus. He said his group identified nine existing drugs, 14 phytochemicals from natural products and three N-acetyl glucosamine analogs with good binding affinities to two important COVID-19 proteins (glycoprotein S and protease) using computer-aided drug design tools.
These, Uzochukwu said may be potential inhibitors and possible drug or lead candidates for the treatment and prophylaxis of COVID-19. He further stated that his group found existing (approved) drugs that could be used for pre-and post-exposure chemoprophylaxis and treatment of COVID-19. “The identified phytochemicals performed better than the existing drugs and could be developed as well for pre-and post-exposure chemoprophylaxis and treatment of COVID-19.”
He explained that the next step is for the group to do in-vitro validation studies as well as Phase 2 clinical trials for identified existing drugs.
In all these and as the world strive to medically and scientifically find solution to the rampaging COVID-19, majority of Nigerians are not only thinking, but also wondering why the country has not keyed in and find its own home-grown solution. What do we do to these claims of available alternative medicine? Isn’t time the government and her appropriate ministries and agencies listen critically to these local traditional medical practitioners?
Jackie Ikeotuonye, nutritionist, botanist and CEO of BFA Food & Health Limited, Abuja told Saturday INDEPENDENT earlier in week that she wonders why Nigerians will always associate herbal remedies to ‘claims’, saying that it’s more of politics found in medical systems. She explained that traditional medicines have been “with us before the arrival of allopathic medicine. As a practitioner in that field, I have seen outstanding results even in situations that clinical medicine says is incurable. What we do primarily is get people to use their food as medicine. Teach them the elementary path of nutrition and you see people begin to recover from the so-called ‘incurable’ diseases.
“So to answer your question, yes, we should incorporate the traditional medicine option, traditional medicine not in the way it is being perceived by those who are ignorant. Take it from the angle of nutrition, we can start with teaching Nigerians how to use the foods we eat to boost their immune system. We all know that a healthy immune system is the number one line of defense in fighting any disease.”
Ebube Ebisike George, scientist and technology consultant extends the narrative. He said that these traditional medical remedies’ claims by some Nigerians should be subjected to global standard rigorous testing and then conduct clinical trials later once the first stage is satisfactory. Usually science starts out as fiction and through research and development (R&D) processes once it satisfies the rigours of logic, nature and sustainable replication it can becomes fact!