GUEST COLUMNIST By Ikenna Emewu
I had been wondering why it is impossible for Nigeria or any African country to make vaccine to cure and stop Covid-19 that is ravaging the world when I came across a document that made my heart sink.
I honestly never believed Nigeria hasn’t the capability to make vaccines to heal the world. We don’t need to be taught about the best brains God endowed Nigeria with even with the worst political leaders.
At the outer world, a Nigerian professor of Medicine at the Yale University, Uzoma Ogbuagu has been reported by the world media as part of the top team of Pfizer whose research has made breakthrough in getting an answer to the coronavirus pandemic through a vaccine.
Every day, Nigeria keeps proving it is a society of the best managed by the worst.
In November 2019, I met a new friend in Nairobi Kenya during a conference and as she knew I was a Nigerian, she warmed up to me especially as a Kenyan who lived in Washington DC.
In the course of discussion, she told me the story of her huge disappointment the previous year she visited Nigeria for the first time. Asked why she was disappointed, she said on her arrival in Lagos, what she saw was the opposite of the picture she had in her mind of Nigeria. Why so, I asked? She dropped the bombshell: “because having lived in Washington DC for years, I have found that about 80% of African world class experts living big in the exclusive white neighbourhoods are Nigerians. So I was expecting to see a wonderful world that produces those great people. But I was terribly disappointed.”
That is Nigeria and I never had any doubt that Nigeria has the right personalities to compete with the best of the world, not even Africa. But Nigeria is the most mismanaged country in the world with what is not fit to be called leadership.
Today, Nigeria borrows from everywhere and scrounges from the refuse bin to feed. Our latest exploit is scurrying bank ledgers to find dormant accounts and borrow money from them to buy the next meal. We have plans to borrow pensions money to feed.
We have already started soliciting for money to borrow and buy Covid-19 vaccines human beings like us produced.
While we see vaccine production as esoteric science today and a feat for only the spirits, even when we have experts like Maurice Iwu and many others who have challenged Nigeria that they have cure for the coronavirus, I found from the world wide web that in 1971, 50 years ago, when cholera ravaged Kano in one of the worst outbreaks, it was a Nigerian professor at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Augustine Njoku-Obi who discovered a vaccine against the scourge.
Njoku-Obi’s vaccine was fully, truly, completely endorsed, accepted and put to use by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to handle the Kano challenge. I mean the same Nigeria, 50 years ago, in the same Nigerian university that has been reduced to a ghost place through the hangover of neglect occasioned by incessant teachers’ strikes caused by rulership that doesn’t care about our education system because their own children attend universities abroad.
Njoku-Obi, born in 1930 lived till 2003. In 1985, he was appointed the President of the Nigeria Academy of Science after Prof. Emmanuel Emovon. So, Njoku-Obi wasn’t a fiction character. The great virologist wrote Nigeria’s name in gold in the world of invention and advancement of human wellbeing. But today, the same country that produced him has become lame and beggarly and can’t handle anything until some other people feed us. We don’t even make any effort to.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, I never heard our government summoning a team of Nigerian experts and challenging them to come up with cure for Covid-19. All we have is a presidential team that hosts jamboree before the media everyday and gets allowances for scouting all over the world where we can find panadol, ventilators, nose mask etc and regurgitate what super humans tell us is the only way out of the pandemic.
How would we come up with anything to advance humanity when we first don’t believe we are up to anything good? We don’t believe in ourselves. That is the beginning of failure.
Before the military cancer scourged Nigeria between 1983 and 1998, Nigerian universities never knew what is called ASUU strikes. It was in the ravage days of successive military regimes that our universities got totally ruined. Ibrahim Babangida, for instance, handpicked 20 professors from among the ranks of our university dons who he savaged and rubbished in his eight cancerous years. Abacha continued from where he stopped. Muhammadu Buhari’s regime also took its toll when it came on board on December 31, 1983 thereby turning us backwards in our democratic journey.
Today, we cannot boast of anything meaningful from our universities because the managers of Nigeria love it that way since it affords them the opportunity to send their children abroad and demonstrate their high standing. As our universities are in tatters, powerful and elevated citizens are not groomed, thereby stopping Nigeria having the crop of people to challenge the destruction.
Could you just believe it that Nigeria would with eyes wide open order 100,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer of all pharmaceutical companies?
Here in Nigeria in 1996, Pfizer brought its poison called Trovan and Ceftriaxoneto experiment with our people. Two hundred Nigerian children in Kano were used for that gamble. The Trovan scandal that was enough to earn Pfizer charges of deliberate genocide is what we have forgotten overnight to go back to Pfizer to supply us vaccine to cure coronavirus. Guess what, we possibly borrow money to buy that from Pfizer.
The same Pfizer that acted contrary to ethics and used 200 Nigerian children as guinea pigs to test their two new drugs on meningitis for which they grudgingly paid compensations ofUS$75m out of court to the affected eleven Nigerian kids they killed deliberately are the ones Nigeria trusts to bring us Covid-19 vaccines, a country that developed world accepted cholera vaccine 50 years ago.
That is where Nigeria is – a society in retrogression and with no plans to do the opposite.
We are presently at our worst level where nobody makes any efforts to do anything or even believes we can do anything on our own until some others feed us.
At times like this, one feels really down being a Nigerian. It is so agonizing that Nigeria disappoints herself and the entire black race everyday with leadership that lacks confidence in itself, infesting the entire country with retardation.
Emewu, journalist, wrote from the Afri-China media Centre, Lagos (ikeroyal.africachinapresscentre.org)