COVID - 19 pandemic is without doubt, the greatest health challenge facing humanity in the recent past. Although pre-empted by many, it seems to have caught the world by surprise. Initially, most nations of the world paid little or no attention to the virus until it became a global phenomenon.
With no proven and acceptable cure even by the western orthodox standards up till now, the general response to the pandemic has been by way of western defensive methods: border closure, erection of isolation centers, mobilizing medical personnel and facilities as well as enforcing 'stay at home' orders or lock down except for food, medical and so called essential services and facilities along with a hype on personal hygiene and so forth. These have really not helped in containing the scourge of the pandemic.
In the midst of all this however, the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), a Parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, assesses the pandemic and post Covid- 19 Nigeria, urging for a trado- cultural pathway. It is imperative to note that the Institute which was established by Act 93, of 1993 came into existence in response to the United Nations Declaration of the World Decade for Cultural Development (WDCD) 1988-1997, which acknowledged the cultural dimension of development and the need to broaden participation in cultural life, among other things.
The institute was set up with the primary responsibility of harnessing our cultural resources to meet the challenges of social integration and to serve as a vital force for energizing the various cultural establishments.
NICO also serves as a focus for orientation for Nigerians and also ensures that the cultural dimension is seen to be central rather than peripheral in Nigeria's development programmes.
Incidentally the global pandemic presents an opportunity for us to plan on how to survive post COVID -19 using the cultural way.
Culture as defined by the cultural policy, “ is the totality of the way of life evolved by a people in their attempt to meet the challenge of living in their environment which gives order to their social, political, economic, aesthetic and religious norms and modes of organization thus distinguishing a people from their neighbours "
Culture comprises the material, institutional, philosophical and creative aspects of a people. The material aspect has to do with their artefacts in the broadest form, such as tools, clothing, food, medicine, utensils, housing, etc. The institutional deals with the political, social, legal, and economic structures erected to help achieve material and spiritual objectives, while the philosophical is concerned with ideas, beliefs and values. i. e the creative concerns a people's literature (oral and written) as well as their visual and performing arts which are normally moulded by as well as help to mould other aspects of culture.
From the above, we can see that culture is a complete and holistic way of life of a people.
It is noteworthy here that food, clothing, tools, utensils, housing and interestingly medicine i. e. traditional medicine which is where our interest lies is at the heart of the material culture of a people.
It is instructive to know that several people have advanced 'cures ‘for the Corona virus pandemic. The US President Donald Trump has been quoted as saying that drinking of disinfectant could cure it. This of course has been waved off as being outlandish. The French leadership opined the use of hydrochloric oxide yet none has been approved as a possible cure or a preventive.
Some lion hearts of Nigeria's traditional medicine and alternative medicine are proudly and confidently bringing out one formula after another as possible cure for the coronavirus. Professor Maurice Iwu led the way by saying he'd found a cure. Professor Ayodele Adeleye, a former microbiology lecturer and medical researcher at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria also said he's found a cure. Dr. Ben Amodu who owns a thirty bed African Alternative Medicine Hospital in Abuja claims that one of his patients had tested negative after treatment. He displays an array of herbal formulas which he claims have cured lung cancer, other lung diseases and therefore can cure COVID19 and most recently the Catholic months in Ewu, Edo state have also claimed to have made inroads into finding a cure for the virus.
Outside the shores of Nigeria, the government of Madagascar claims it has found an herbal cure for the virus through a herbal tea derived from Artemisia, a local plant with proven efficacy in the treatment of malaria, a claim which is of interest to the Nigerian Government as we woke up to the news that the Federal Government has ordered a trail of the Madagascar’s “cure”
While we view this as cheering news the Institute also wants to encourage and lend a voice to the efforts of the Taskforce, the Federal Ministry of Health, NAFDAC and others in canvassing for a home based solution to the Covid 19 Pandemic
Nigerian herbal medicine practitioners have been treating malaria and other ailments for centuries. It will therefore be wise to look their direction. We urge that it is time for us to jettison our standoffish attitude towards traditional medical practices which we have always considered as ‘local’ and backward. This has always been the bane of trado-medical and cultural practices in the country.
As a cultural Institute, established with the primary responsibility of harnessing our cultural resources to meet the challenges of social integration, we advance a way forward that Nigerians and indeed the global community need to embrace a culture related life style both now and the post pandemic period.
While we advise Nigerians to change their lifestyles and be more conscious in terms of how we relate with one another and not neglect the basic issues of personal hygiene, we are certain that there are a lot of herbal plants that can cure many ailments that orthodox medicines cannot – corona virus inclusive. We urge government at all levels as well as creative entrepreneurs to invest heavily in researches into them as a sure way towards achieving national development. We must take pride in our cultural materials which have sustained us over the years and give room for more research into the different aspects and dimensions of our rich trado-medical practices.
Brigitte Yerima is the Director overseeing the office of the Executive Secretary National Institute of Cultural Orientation (NICO