Sopona, Sanitizer, Prayers…nEXT-vIRUS (Shhh…!) GOD FORBID!

by ahjotnaija

When a continent willingly refuse to learn from or teach history, consequences abound!

For the records, various West African Governments (WAGs) and the people, the highest victim of the ravaging Ebola epidemic, will contain the epidemic, and that successfully only with the help of the West. WAGs and the people shall do nothing beyond containment. That (West)Africans should have done more to prevent an epidemic in the first place is expected. Unfortunately, they did/SHALL not do this! Take note of the capitalized word! SHALL is a reference to the future.

The first Ebola outbreak was in the 1970s. Since that time, no country in the presently seriously infected West African sub-region did anything tangible (particularly in research) to fight the virus. In fact, they forgot it once existed!

I am barely 30 years, Nigerian(West African). If not for the latest outbreak, I would have heard/known nothing of the virus, not to talk of knowing that the deadlier than AIDS virus was discovered in Guinea (West Africa/my backyard).

Who knows, if we taught our history (old and recent) in schools, a child born in the 1970s, historically and scientifically minded, could have discovered a vaccine to battle the deadly virus. ZMAPP manufacturer knew the consequences of ignoring history and science. That serum in the proverbial left-hand saved the lives of at least two of their own. It shall save more (American) lives, if need be.

Two quick facts: (1) WAGs and the people never learn! (2) we forget history (almost) immediately!

Once a crisis is done with or contained, (West) Africans live as though yesterday was a normal day; it became as it were before the epidemic. The saying, after the crisis, is before the crisis describes so well the contented condition of these people. They only cared enough for an immediate rescue from a raging death, for example Ebola. It is strongly doubtful if they cared about nipping the death in the bud.

A quick back-leap into the early 20th century. Smallpox ravaged Nigeria (West Africa)!

The disease killed in loads and tonnes. In short, she was an epidemic. If an account is believable, that of Chief Obafemi Awolowo is. The elder statesman lost his father to the epidemic.

He touched briefly on the emergence of the Sopona deity. With smallpox in epidemic-like version, killing indiscriminately, herbalists, healers and priests of various traditional gods, to whom the people had hitherto turned for help, were outmaneuvered. There was no cure in sight.

Clearly, in a ready-bid to exploit the desperation of the vulnerable, Sopona (The Smallpox Deity) was birthed. Unscrupulous healers and priests deemed it the appropriate moment to catch-in financially on their suffering kins-(wo-)men.

The Sopona priests were feared. They were namely powerful enough to invoke on anyone smallpox. So much were they dreaded that people never called Sopona by name. Alternatives were found to reference the god of smallpox. If anyone was down with smallpox, he/she (un-)willingly sought the Sopona priests for appeasement. Should (s)he not, the priests might seek him/her out, forcefully.

Rituals, which cost fortunes, were performed. In most cases, the victims died. Even if (s)he survived, he would have been ruined financially. Death might be a better alternative, really. Rites of appeasement included but not limited to self-painting with whitechalks, dancing to and praise-singing the Supernatural Sopona.

The gullibility of these victims is not only sorrowful, their helplessness is pitiable. By the way, the father of Chief Awolowo was not a victim of the Sopona trickery and thievery. He died in self-imposed quarantine. That way, he saved his family alot.

Fast-forward. Over 100 years later, Ebola struck!

Let us understand this: It is no crime to be scared! Who would not be in the face of a sickness that has yet no certain cure! Panic and desperate search for a solution were responsible when some Nigerians bathed with and drank saltwater solution. Like the victims of the Sopona Deity, they are helpless.

Even the FGN seem helpless and clueless as to the way forward. If not for the cursed Patrick Sawyer, I could have bet my shirt, the government would do next to nothing about Ebola. However, it is gravely worrying that the best the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) can offer is a sanitation advisory.

Placing both centuries side by side, it is no exaggeration to compare the hand-washing advisory (sanitizer) to recommendations of the Sopona priests à la self-white-chalking, dancing and praise-singing the Almighty All-Dreadful Deity.

This is no justification for ignorance on the part of our fore-parents. Considering however the achievements in scientific/medical researches presently enjoyed worldwide, those (forcefully) duped by the Smallpox Deity are excusable! At least, they had nothing comparable to the vast knowledge in science we enjoy today. Shameful beyond words is that Nigeria/(West) Africa still lives medically in a time comparable only to the Smallpox Days. The choice of WAGs and the people of little or absolutely zero-investment in (scientific) research is unfortunate.

People were enjoined to wash hands thoroughly in case of contact with an Ebola infected body. In fact, hand-washing need become a daily routine! Fairly enough, the FGN has excelled thus far in calming people’s fear on an impending Ebola-inspired amargeddon.

It must not be left unmentioned that the FGN, like many other WAGs, upon issuance of the advisory and kicking-off the media campaign, awaits the Almighty US-America to find a cure for Ebola. After all, the colonial masters later found a formidable cure for Smallpox!

Taking on the FGN’s advisory, the only reaction that comes to mind is ridicule; not only for the FGN but also for Nigerians and West Africans as a whole. The advisory is a clear pointer to a prevailing culture of nonchalance in the society. That an adult must be told that hand-washing need be a daily routine calls for worry.

Why would anyone care to wash hands if (s)he lives to daily survive infections from open drainage and inadequate sewage systems? The whole land is an eyesore- full of shits. Everywhere is a refuse-dump! Even drainage and sewage-systems constructed according to Federal and State Governments’ master plans are open gutters, canals and death traps!

A child will largely ignore instruction not to eat cockroach when his/her parents feast daily on cockroaches! Go outside to sniff the air where common people live in Lagos, Monrovia, Freetown, Connakry, Accra, Lome, Cotonou and other cities across West Africa and you are dead! One need not talk of villages and small towns, where animals jostle with humans for toilet space in the open fields!

The FGN-campaign on hand-washing is an attempt to combat an age-long problem that is basically societal, i.e. Nigerian/West-African in nature. The maxim is, since my government does not care if I die from bad air and open refuse-dump in Ojota and Oke-Odo, a hand-washing-culture is the least on my worry-list. Until Ebola struck!

Leaving the FGN alone to address an observation common to Nigerians; probably to (West)Africans as a whole. Prevalent among these people is the Talk-before-you-think-syndrome. Most times, they do not think at all, let alone act on whatever said! Apparently, it gives a drug-like-feeling to talk nonsense.

This syndrome is noticeable in the spread of the efficacy of saltwater solution to Ebola. Shortly thereafter, another professor purportedly suggested he could cure Ebola with bitter-cola. As if these two mis-talks were not bad enough, another landed on us. A consultant for/at LUTH claimed Ewedu (A Nigerian vegetable) can cure/prevent Ebola! The weird-ness of the claim is really not the problem, that it came from an individual who consults for LUTH is greatly disturbing. If strange talks like these could come from professors and consultants, one could only imagine what efficacious power quack doctors, native marabouts and religious faith healers of various colorations would claim to possess!

I hope readers are not tired yet. The last lap is here.

Talking about religious leaders and power to cure Ebola, a pastor laid hands on an Ebola patient in Liberia. Subsequently, he contacted the virus and died. That the pastor pulled his luck too far with laying of hands cannot be over-emphasized. He challenged his Eleda (creator) and paid fatally for it.

On the one hand, his death is very unfortunate. His God forsook him, when he most needed him. On the other hand, at least one can confidently say he died honorably. Proverbially, the pastor put his money where his mouth was. That is, he had not only preached the laying of hand, he practised it!

It is important to (1) underline the stupidity of the Liberian pastor and (2) connect it to a Nigerian pastor, who, notwithstanding this epidemic, seemed to encourage the laying of hands in this dangerous time.

In an online message credited to Pastor David Oyedepo of Winner Chapel, the Nigerian pastor ridiculed those in his village who fell victim of the Sopona trickery. He emphasized their foolishness and God’s protection for his family. He went ahead to talk on ways to prevent Ebola infection. It need no saying that he outlined religious ways and preached faith in God as pillar to Ebola prevention.

When I finished the message and realised he proffered only solutions comparable to those of Sopona priests, I died a thousand death!

Summed up, remedies for viral infections has been the same for over two centuries! We either (1) invent a god! (2) Call on a presumed stronger God! or (3) Wish for God to forbid an outbreak! But why are Africans like this?! For goodness sake!

Obviously, the next cure for the next virus shall therefore be shhhhh…! Did I hear somebody say gOD fORBID!