‘Africa traditional medicine can once again rescue the world of pandemic’
Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, in a chat with journalists on the occasion of the African Traditional Medicine Day (August 31), announced the inauguration of his Foundation, Pan African Foundation for Indigenous Medical Research and Development (PAFIMRD). He, among other things, said since he became the Ooni, he has depended on traditional medicine for most of his health need and has never been to the hospital in five years.
The Royal Father said the Foundation is working with professional experts on how to take traditional medicine to another level in the foreseeable future, even as he insisted that Africa traditional medicine could rescue the world from the Coronavirus. STANLEY AKPUNONU was there. Excerpts:
What inspired your support for African Traditional Medicine (ATM)?
I always love to use myself as an example. Before the kingship, I use to have a lot of headaches because I work a lot, but when I became the Ooni of Ife, my duties are now like 10 times what I have been doing. You know what? I changed to herbal products that I inherited on the throne of my ancestors. I do not use anything aside herbal products; even my sponge, they are all from herbs. I make my soap in my palace and ever since I started using it, I have never been to the hospital in five years. I go to the hospital once in two or three months or check-up, but I turn out very fine. Since then, I work 10 times better. I am a living example of it and everything about me is 100 per cent herbal.
Amid the globally pandemic, what role can herbal drugs play?
It is time for us all to wake up; it is time for us all to realise that we should give what belongs to us a good shot in terms of research and development. We should all continue to learn from this Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic that has actually confined each and every one of us within our locality. The Western world released a report that history of vaccination or the discovery of a vaccine was from West Africa in the 15th century; it was our people. The exact thing is still being used in my palace; they got it from us. All we have to do is to find the missing link.
If we do not celebrate what we have by ourselves, do we expect them to celebrate us from outside? The whole world is looking for a vaccine. So, why can’t we look inward? We have done it before and we can do it again. It is time for us to come together, proffer solution to this and take it to another level. Challenges will come, but we are ready to meet up the challenges. Africa traditional medicine (ATM) can once again rescue the world of the pandemic.
What efforts are being made to make the ATM more acceptable?
The plan is for indigenous solutions for traditional medicine to be actually accepted globally. A lot is being put in place to ensure the global acceptability of ATM. For example, the ATM is celebrated 31st of August every year, globally and recognised by all the world major agencies. Also, we are launching the Pan African Foundation for Indigenous Medical Research and Development (PAFIMED) because it is important for us to have an umbrella body for the entire herbal practitioner to further subject themselves to advance research and development. So, we are working in conjunction with professional experts on how to take traditional medicine to another level in the foreseeable future. Also, the foundation will coordinate the entire activities of the various herbal solutions and this will be done in partnership with reputable medical institutions in the country with support from federal and state government
Is there any herbal product yet for COVID-19 treatment?
If I am using something, why can’t I have products? I can mention the names of people we have given to, both high and low in Nigeria, even outside the country. We have huge testimonials and that is why we are coming up confidently. That is why we have decided to set up PAFIMED so that we would advance research and development because of what I inherited on the throne. We have thousands of testimonials, including leaders in this country, we do not have to mention the names, but I can assure you that with what we are doing, we are planning to play our part to bring down the pandemic. It is a lot of success stories. The solution is there. We are not in isolation; we are working with all the agencies of the Federal Government. Do you know that even professional doctors, surgeons, and consultants are using our product?
Have there been any clinical trials on any herbal solution yet?
Our products are very natural; they come from natural herbs, leaves, and shrubs. They are not subjected to any synthetic process, but for clinical trials, we have got to an advanced stage. However, concerning the clinical trial, we did not set the standard; the medical world order set it and as a result of that, they have looked at the pros and cons for them to get to that level; they try it on animal and later on human and that process takes a long time. We are working with the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRID) Abuja and a lot of universities and institutes, like Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti. It is very rare in Nigeria for us to have level 4 biosafety laboratories but some of our partners have it and we are working closely with them. I give credit to Pax Herbals and Prof Maurice Iwu. But, the issue is the standard that has been set globally as far as medical research is concerned. All these things must go through clinical trials and that takes a long time. You cannot project all these mixes as a cure because they have to go through clinical trials.
So far, how has the journey been?
We started over five months ago, but we are doing it quietly and we are advancing. I can tell you that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. For products, very soon you will see products for immune boosting. It will get into the market soon. We have a factory. A lot of people do not have the system set up; factories that can actually produce it on a large scale that is the advantage that we have. We have partnered with the biggest factory as far as indigenous products are concerned in West African and we have already commenced the production. We are working closely with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) and at the same time, we have experts on board. We are working together to take it to another level and the world and Nigeria will be happy with what we have done over the last few months.
What does the Foundation bring to herbal medicine advancement?
The essence of the Foundation is to create a viral and formidable platform to be able to promote ATM and also to create support for research and development of ATM. Furthermore, there are also lots of African traditional practitioners that are there who might not be able to get their voices heard. We want to be like a link between them and the professional bodies so that they can showcase their products and make sure the products are made in a safe condition.
We also have a lot to do in terms of products, to make them more acceptable to the public and also to the medical world and that is why we are talking about the clinical trials the need to do a lot of analysis on the plants or herbal solutions. They are quite effective but they need to go through some analysis, need to estimate the actual ingredient. We need to put that ingredient into a particular acceptable formulation the medical world would accept and it takes lots of processes and that is why we have come out with what we call supporting research and development. We are partners with institutions, we have research currently ongoing now, very soon we are likely to come up with a drug for this COVID-19 to boost the immunity of the public and we also try to put a quality control system in place so that we can ensure quality to the end-users.
Is the government living up to its responsibilities in developing traditional medicines?
They are doing their best within the confines of what they can do; everything should not be the government. The organised private sector is there, they should take the lead and that is what we are doing now. A particular government comes and goes, but the private sector is always there. We work with a lot of traditional institutions, which in turn support the Federal Government; and by that what we are doing can be sustainable. Enough of blaming the government for everything, we do not want any more blame. All we need to do it to come together and walk the talk. We have not had a major outbreak in the country and we do not even have up to two per cent of deaths. And we have to give the government the credit because they have not stopped talking about it.
What is your message on the commemoration of Africa Traditional Medicine Day amidst COVID-19?
It is very important for us to use the medium of Africa Traditional Medicine Day that we are celebrating to help reach out to one another and for all of us to know that nobody is coming to solve our problem. Nature is very supportive of us; we can solve our problems by ourselves. I use this occasion to greet everybody in Nigeria that we should all continue to keep safe, COVID-19 is real; we should follow all the normal protocol the government has actually set up. We should follow every rule and regulation of the government for us to continue to keep safe. God bless us and God bless our dear country Nigeria.