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RE: Ebola Exposes The Disdain Of The West For Africa

Sat, 23 Aug 2014 Source: Baidoo, Philip Kobina

Blaming others for insurmountable problems is a form of psychological therapy that helps humanity to get through life’s difficulties. They function, predominantly, as a clutch for lesser souls. I, therefore, never expected a powerful brain like Dr Perry Brimah who says he is a molecular scientist and physician to stoop so low to express our helplessness in the face of this deadly virus. I read with absolute incredulity the spin that he put on the current Ebola epidemic and the supposedly untested ZMapp drug. The following is the link to the article that engendered this piece: http://www.modernghana.com/news/563022/1/ebola-exposes-the-disdain-of-the-west-for-africa.html.

His main bone of contention is that the experimental drug has not been made available to treat African Ebola patients. Nevertheless, it’s been readily offered to two Americans and a Spanish victim. For the record, as I write the Spanish has died. And according to reports, the American company that makes the drug have sent all its supplies to the affected areas. The crux of his piece is that the West do not care a dime whether we all perish from Ebola. Since the leaders of the endemic areas have been crying for the drug, yet they have been denied, perhaps till the time he penned his diatribe. As much as I agree with some of the things he said, but his conclusion lacks any serious merit. It is a cheap rant that should be left to the exclusivity of uninformed peasants.

The outlandish claims he made in the article beggars imagination. I will be naive to say that all white people are saints. There are those who wouldn’t like to share this planet with us and so are many people around the globe, and I have met quite a few of them. There are people that we have shared the same continent for millennia, who harbour much disdain for us than any other humans on God’s earth. The North African Arabs refer to us in Arabic as ‘abeed’, meaning slaves. Of course, their brothers in the rest of the Arab world still keep black African slaves more than a century and a half when slavery died in the West. I have met dark skin Indians who referred to me as black, though I was lighter in complexion than they were. It will take an eyewitness experience to extrapolate the mentality behind the use of that adjective.

We have known the deadly havoc that Ebola causes for 40years on the African continent. Though, we have numerous African Universities with pharmacy faculty, for what they have been doing for the past four decades your guess is as good as mine. And I can assure you, this is not rocket science it is just a matter of perpetual time in the laboratory and trying out different compounds. The reality is, the funds needed to the pay the scientists to labour for the breakthrough is not there. Yet, what do our leaders do with our national wealth. In my country Ghana they create bogus government schemes like GYEEDA and SADA to siphon funds and literally steal with the help of their cronies.

I am not privy to the current corruption trend in Nigeria, and there is no evidence to suggest that it has curtailed. However, I am aware that Abacha is known to have stolen $4 billion. Though, there is no plausible evidence to substantiate the veracity of the amount, the credibility of the freezing of accounts worth $485m by the United States government department of justice is beyond doubt. Umaru Dikko, the big daddy of them all in my book, is reputed to have done away with $7 billion, though conservative estimates put it at $1billion. Come on tell me, if our leaders behave like pigs do we have any course to blame others when we are cash strapped to develop drugs to fight deadly diseases?

Colonialism ended well over fifty years ago when most African states, on mass, freed themselves from their shackles. The euphoria petered out within a decade as a result of flawed economic system. We then resorted to the barrel of the gun to divide the crumbs left after shameful and unpardonable odyssey of mismanagement. As we seriously rationalise the ravages of decades of retrogression, we still lack the integrity to look into the mirror and ask the requisite question – where did we go wrong? We are still using the crude medieval methods of witch hunt to get by. We never get tired of our colonial bogeyman as the root cause of all our predicaments.

Let’s be honest, are we the only group of people that have been once colonised in the history of the world? The British that happen to be both the colonial masters of Ghana and Nigeria were themselves once colonised by the Romans. Alexander the great, the Macedonian Greek conquered the known Western world and parts of the East all the way to Persia. A couple of centuries down the line the Greeks themselves fell victim to the Roman legions. The Moors conquered part of Western Europe and they were driven back during the twilight years of the 15th century. The atrocities the Japanese wrought in the Far East before they fell under the superior fire power of the Allied forces is beyond description. The history of the world is a history of injustices. I don’t hear the British whining about the Romans for subjugating them on their land nor the Koreans against the Japanese.

Let’s hypothetically assume that they feel disdain for Africa, which in this instance I have my doubt. But if they should, why wouldn’t they when after 50 years of independence we still go begging cap in had for loans, queue at their embassies to migrate for economic reasons, when we cannot guarantee the security of our own citizens in the face of religious fanatics like Boko Haram. It is a natural feeling for the conqueror to feel disdain for the conquered. The Roman senator Cicero told his fellow countryman, Atticus, not to buy slaves from Britain because they were difficult to teach. In effect he was being told the Brits were thickhead. Are the Brits blockheads? If he did not feel disdain for them he wouldn’t have been that presumptuous.

Ghana and South Korea, for example were on comparable level of economic development about 50 years ago. Both had the experience of colonialism. Can anybody in his right mind compare the economy of Ghana and South Korea? The answer is undeniable. They chose an economic system that our ignorant intellectuals still object to. If Ghana spend $1.2 billion to buy finished petroleum products that can be produced in the country. And then a few years down the line they turn around and contemplate on IMF loan, which will be around the same amount to salvage its economy. Are you going to tell me it’s the fault of the West or the IMF for administering a bitter pill if the deal goes through?

Now, let us come to the epistemology of the drug industry. The ZMapp is an experimental drug, which has not gone through testing by the American standards. Dr Brimah is demanding that it is release for medication. If anything goes wrong, which is highly possible, he will be the first to condemn the West for using Africans as guinea pigs. And this is not a figment of my imagination. When the US drug giant Pfizer rolled out an experimental vaccine for the elimination of polio some Muslims in Northern Nigeria objected to its use and accused the West and strangely the WHO of conspiracy to render them impotent. Therefore they stopped using the drug and the disease began to proliferate again. This is the distressing part of the tragedy; it jumped borders into neighbouring countries that had earlier on checked in as polio free. Sadly, Nigerian pilgrims took the disease to the Holy city of Mecca and implication is yours to conclude. There have been instances where tried and tested vaccines have gone wrong. On the worst scenario when a child or two die from it hell breaks loose. The news reporters and their cameras descend on the bereaved mothers to capture their grief like vultures while they bemoan over the pharmaceutical company that sold them the dangerous drug. However, what the cameras fails to capture are the thousands of babies saved by the same drug. The current Ebola outbreak will die out just like a storm. The pain and the grief of the affected families will heal with time. On the other hand, the permanent damage that polio does to the individual is incalculable. And it is unnecessary self inflicted damage borne out of similar misconceptions in the minds of people like Dr Brimah.

Also, it is this same mentality that oxygenates the rationalisation of those who rain against pharmaceutical companies. That is, when they manufacture drugs, which the active ingredient cost pittance to produce, and yet sell it at eye watering price to the public. What they miss out of their flawed argument is that the company would have paid industrial pharmacist for probably ten years to develop a compound. Then they have to pay millions of dollars to test it before it comes to the public. That expenditure is called fixed cost by accountants. Now, if you spend billions to develop a drug wouldn’t you like to claw back that investment during your patent period before it is produced generically? It is a very unpredictable industry. Some companies spend billions to develop compounds that never make it to the pharmacy shelf, and somebody has to pay for it. They come from pension funds, private and corporate investors etc. Now, if those investments don’t come in where is the next cancer, malaria and diabetic drug etc. going to come from?

The most dangerous kind of ignorance is the ignorance of the educated. They are schooled in rhetoric; therefore, they wield destructive pens and acid tongues to articulate their harmful and spurious beliefs to the detriment of the larger society. And a lot of African intellectuals are causing serious damage to the continent. I wonder when we Africans will learn to take responsibility for our actions and stop pointing accusing fingers at others. We have to be honest to ask the question why the West should develop a drug for Ebola when the disease is only endemic on the African continent. It gets to a point when you have to stop and take responsibility. In Europe when someone gets addicted to drugs or alcohol he goes to the rehab. In Africa, it is a witch in the village that bear the brunt of a dipsomaniac’s wrath. We are the architects of our own helplessness. The recovery will come when we realise this fact and stop blaming others for our current circumstances as the product of some historical injustices. We should leave the West alone. They are not the only people to have colonised others in history?

Philip Kobina Baidoo Jnr

London

baidoo_philip@yahoo.co.uk

Columnist: Baidoo, Philip Kobina