Otapiapia and the Reign of Begology; Ebola Virus Disease, By Joel Pereyi
Joining ranks with neocolonialism, corruption, backwardness and other derogatory anecdotes that chiefly repose on Africa’s logogram, begology – the art or say disease of begging – has fast secured itself accreditation as one of Nigeria’s nay Africa’s rue trademarks. As of now, there is no scintilla of doubt or atom of hyperbole if we say we are a crippled continent. We have so perfectly acted the script of a disabled child being wheeled on a gurney, that standing up for ourselves is alien. We have become psychologically and socio-economically feeble that as a shriveled husk, we can hardly survive both as a people and a continent without aid.
According to the conventional benchmark of Official Development Assistance(ODA), Africa receives global aid more than any other part of the world. Hence, it came as no surprise that just like the government of other Ebola ravaged countries, Ladi Okubadejo, a doctor at the First Consultant Hospital, Lagos, appealed to the U.S government to urgently send whatever medication in its possession on Ebola virus to save his colleague, who out of patriotism, heroically treated the index carrier of the disease in Nigeria. Sadly, his call fell on deaf ears, she paid the ultimate price. It is yesterday’s news that countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Central African Republic, Tanzania, and a whole full lot of African countries still survive on funds provided under the rubric of donations from OECD and non-OECD countries. When such funds go trickle, the symphonies of soulful songs caused by hunger pangs automatically pitches to Everest frequencies. Melancholic grunts, hisses and screams ditto.
Disgustingly, the country I live in, the chief of all African countries, a country that rightly analogizes the “federal republic of anyhowness” suffers grossly from this disease too. A bunch of killjoy abokis, whose passions are ignited by the putrid smell of human flesh and scalded bodies abducted our Chibok bachelorettes and we saw our federal might scamper for foreign aid, albeit guised as military assistance. In truth, begology may not be the sole cause of our maledictions, but it serves a marker, an expose of sort, to our sin of inability. Our inability to solve our problems ourselves regardless of the fact that we have some of the smartest buyers on God’s bazaar.
We sure have bright minds and by that, I don’t mean to regale you with tales of how civilization started in Africa or how the greatest library in the world once had its residency in Alexandria, Egypt or how secessionists Biafrans built refineries and make-shift airports in the late 1960’s or the brilliant literary works of Chimamanda Adichie, Teju Cole, Lupita Nyong’o and Tunde Leye but to mention a few. Instead, let’s take a peek into the life of Richard Turere, a 13-years old Kenyan who devised a means of nocturnally scaring lions, elephants and other predators who meal on livestock of locals, from their cowsheds and farms in the savannah grasslands of Nairobi and subsequently the whole of Kenya. Please, what should we call the design optimization and assembling of motor parts being done at Nnewi, Anambra state, by skilled Nigerians? While I’m not a fan of counterfeit products, I admire the enviable works of our Aba boys. These innovations may be un-techie, but they exemplify ingenuity and self-reliance – things we typically don’t indulge in. With these and several other testaments of eggheads, why is there a gargantuan developmental hiatus between us and the west? How come the number of patents we turn in yearly is diminutive? Why do we have to be reactive rather than proactive, in disaster management? Why do we have to wait for vaccines whose efficacy were previously tested only in Rhesus monkeys – if not for Dr. Kent Brantly and Ms. Nancy Writebol’s infection – to be sent to our Ebola endemic continent, when we brag of several chemical scientists, pharmacologists, this-logists and that-cologists in our varsities and colleges?
The answers are not farfetched. In fact, it is simple and straight. While we head to worship centers, they spend quality time in research centers. While we build more churches, mosques and ill equipped institutions, they spend money building laboratories, libraries and improving their education. Rather than questioning the cluelessness and incompetence of our government, we are preoccupied with who said what against our revered men of God. Today, the difference is clear. Despite the fact that the disease is oblivious to them, they produced Zmapp serum, when firstly, bitter kola, seconded by an un-therapeutic salt and water concoction, was what our underdeveloped and ignoramus minds subscribed to. Our Diaspora brethren left much to be desired. Shamefully, at their best, Nanosilver, an upgraded version of otapiapia – a homemade organophosphate pesticide – was what they could bring to the table. Before I get mistaken for an atheist, I vehemently believe in the potency of prayers, and I’m not a despiser of fellowshipping with whatever God or god one believes in. I’m only trying to make exoteric how prayer without work and backwardness, underdevelopment and other adjectives in their ilk are non-distant relatives. If for nothing, at least, for us to digest the fact that prayers – quote and unquote – can’t take the place of inaction.
Let’s not forget to remember that, necessity, they say, is the mother of invention and you truly don’t know how strong you are, until you have only yourself to depend. If these maxims are valid, there is no better time than now to bring their effects to bear. If our professionals can take their expertise beyond ordinary paper presentation and journal publishing, they should do so with what Dr. Martin Luther King(Jnr) called, “the fierce urgency of now.” Evidently, innovation and invention isn’t queer to us, we know it transcends religious, ethnical and continental seams. It is high time our pharmaceutical giants flaunt the stuff they are made of. We should be spared the somewhat overused excuse of, ”the government’s underfunding of research and development.” If they are unready to up their game, they better come up with a new set of lies, more creative ones at that, as the old ones are no longer tenable.
The future holds limitless opportunities for Africa, but we have to decide first what the future holds for us. Our tomorrow squarely hinges on our decisions and actions and indecisions and inactions. We can dare the odds by developing, supporting, and stewarding creativity and invention or keep blaming our failures on systematic flaws. We can acquiesce to the West’s opinion of us or refuse to back down until we see it become arrant bunkum. We can stroke our potentials, play blind to our seemingly insurmountable hurdles and invest heavily in research and development, or keep appeasing ignorance by justifying our inabilities on premises of disabilities – corruption, bad leadership, sentiments and young democracy. We can transform our continent into a hatchery of inventions, or stay stuck in our ways and reluctant to change. We can make underdevelopment and third-world-cocooning continuously reign supreme over us, by upholding the death and dearth of invention and innovation, and needlessly elongating the reign of begology. The choice is collectively us and ours.
Joel Pereyi, a freelance copywriter, is a final year Petroleum Engineering student of Niger Delta University. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria with his books and pen. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
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