As Nigeria grapples with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, watching some members of her political class display the kind of attitude that has grounded this potentially great nation for the better part of 50 years, has been disheartening, to put it rather mildly.
Take Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed for instance. After testing positive for COVID-19 on March 24, Mohammed announced his recovery on April 9.
By April 30, Mohammed had turned medical doctor and was prescribing COVID-19 treatment cocktail from underneath his flowing agbada.
“We are used to taking chloroquine in Nigeria. We are going to use them. We have taken responsibility and I have taken responsibility. Rather than saying that something is harmful, we should not follow what the white people are saying by not taking anything and die.
“Zithromax and chloroquine are not harmful to our body, our physiological system has adapted to it. If you are having a fever you take chloroquine,” the governor declared matter-of-factly.
Former presidency spokesperson, Doyin Okupe, was just as brazen with his self-medication gig.
After announcing he had undergone treatment for COVID-19 and had indeed recovered from the virus, Okupe, a medical doctor by training, reeled out the drugs that ‘cured’ him--all without provocation.
“My medications for COVID-19 were Hydroxychloroquine 400mg 2ce dly for 2days then 400mg dly for 3days. Azithromycin 500mg dly. Zinc sulphate 100mg dly . VitzC 1200mg dly . I also supported it with a mixture of ginger, garlic, turmeric and lemon. In Kaduna, they added dongoyaro leaves,” he tweeted.
After emerging from an isolation center in Abuja, founder of DAAR Communications Ltd and AIT, Raymond Dokpesi, declared that COVID-19 is no worse than malaria, to applause from his staff.
Dokpesi said: “There’s no gainsaying that the numbers of COVID-19 positive people in Nigeria have been rising. But I still have doubts in my mind. I still want to be properly educated. I am a bloody mechanic. What is the difference between COVID-19--which is a virus--and malaria?
“Because every medication we were given was malaria medication. Even some people--before being told that they were COVID-19 positive--they were tested in reputable laboratories in Abuja, they were tested in hospitals in Abuja and what was found is that they have a lot of malaria parasites in their bloodstream.
"So, when did malaria become synonymous with COVID-19? That is food for thought.”
You would have thought that members of the society who have had quite the rub of the green at our expense through the years, would be more circumspect after surviving an ailment that has killed close to half a million and infected some 5 million people around the world.
We’d never know how many Nigerians have overdosed on chloroquine after listening to Mohammed, Okupe and Dokpesi.
We'd never know how many have abused certain drugs because some members of our privileged political class won't just shut it.
We'd never know how many have passed on the ignorant take that COVID-19 is a hoax after Dokpesi dismissed it as malaria by another name.
As health experts around the world continue to warn about the consequences and danger of self-medication in these precarious times, while announcing that no drug should be ingested as a cure for COVID-19 until clinical trials on the said drug are concluded, some members of Nigeria’s political class have chosen to be unfortunate and irresponsible.
They appear to be walking back their comments now after being taken to school by social media users, but the damage may just have been done.
Okupe has deleted his prescription tweets, Mohammed has warned that he never asked anyone to take chloroquine as a cure for COVID-19 and Dokpesi has asked staff at AIT to stop broadcasting his tape in order not to create “doubt in the minds of the public.”
“I write to kindly request you to discontinue referencing the comments and views expressed by both the founder – high chief Engr. A.A Dokpesi, OFR and the chairman – chief Raymond Paul Dokpesi Jnr in all your news bulletins and in fact bring them down from all your official websites for now.
“Very senior citizens and elders have argued and [I] agree with them that I should have addressed a private letter to the PTF and the presidency rather than cast aspersions on their methods thereby creating doubt in the minds of the public. I also agreed to an immediate truce,” the politician and businessman wrote.
For all its touted potential as a panacea for COVID-19, doctors have warned that taking the old school anti-malarial drug could result in serious side effects like renal and liver damage.
"We need larger, high-quality randomised clinical trials in order to better evaluate their effectiveness," says University of Oxford's Kome Gbinigie, who has authored a report on anti-malarial testing for COVID-19.
Nigerians should also realise that across the world, what doctors have done is manage the symptoms of the virus until the patient recovers, seeing as there is still no cure or vaccine for COVID-19.
Tolu Ogunlesi who is Special Assistant to President Buhari on Digital and New media, summarizes Dr Sani Aliyu’s (national coordinator of the presidential task force on COVID-19) take on the subject better than most: “80% of people with COVID-19 will show only mild to moderate symptoms and recover, regardless of what they are given. So even if you’re taking Kolanut, the likelihood is that you will recover from COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean it was the Kolanut that got you better.”
We need to print these words on T-shirts and gift them to Mohammed, Okupe and Dokpesi.
Pulse Editor's Opinion is the opinion of an editor of Pulse. It does not represent the opinion of the organization Pulse.