Growing up with my late father, Chief Emmanuel Nwodo Ogbu-wa-chima, I learnt the leaves to cook and drink whenever I had ‘Iba’ (Malaria). I learnt that for every ailment, there is a tree bark, herb or root to peel, rub, cook, drink and/or bath with for one to be cured. There is a particular leaf called ‘ugbo-ufe’ in my native dialect (I don’t know the central Igbo word for it) which induces blood clotting within seconds of being applied on a flesh wound. Each time we went hunting and any of us got gifted with a snake bite, we knew what to use. And each of these tree bark, root and herb worked. They still do.

And no, I’m not some old man in his eighties who grew up some sixty or seventy years ago. I just clocked 34 which means my clause “growing up with my late father” was referring to the not so distant past.

Fast-forward today, the whole world is on lockdown as a result of a ravaging pandemic and African countries, with the exception of quite a few, are all waiting for America, Europe or China – the new kid on the block – to gift them with a vaccine – a vaccine no one knows when and If it will be discovered. 

If our forefathers treated themselves of every ailments long before even a single pharmaceutical company opened in Europe and America, why do we think we can not look inward and find a home grown solution to COVID-19?

Why must we cripple our economy, lock our people indoors in the face of acute hunger when we are not even funding any local research for a homegrown solution?

Not too long ago, the Ooni of Ife mentioned some local herbs he believes could help in fighting the pandemic but rather than his theory being interrogated, he was roundly insulted. Now, Madagascar has come up with something their President believes could be the solution and rather than his claim being subjected to further interrogation to establish its efficacy or otherwise, it is being outrightly dismissed both by the global health body, W.H.O and the country’s medical association. Bikonu, let me ask, is this some sort of inferiority complex?

Must the vaccine come from Europe or the US for it to be valid?

Why are we ever ready to accept every orthodox drug recommended by the West or the US or any of their agency and subject them to clinical trial but so quick to dismiss any suggested local remedy without even allowing them to be tried and if successful, we standardize them??

One more question, why do most African practitioners of orthodox medicine always act as though they are in perpetual competition with traditional medicine???

Do they even know that many of the modern drugs they use today are nothing but chemical replication of synthesized active ingredients from herb and roots.

Deep down, I have never stopped thinking that somewhere in our bush is the leaf, root or tree bark that treats COVID-19. We are just not seeing it because we’ve been so brainwashed to believe that nothing good can come from our continent.

The Kenyan writer, Ngugi WA Thiongo was right. The African continent may be free but she is still in need of total de-colonization of the mind. As PLO Lumumba puts it even better: “The battle is the battle of the mind. That’s where it is won and lost”. Sadly, we lost this battle a long time ago.

A shame, isn’t it?

By Charles Ogbu

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