WHAT we blandly refer to as international politics and diplomacy are an uncanny mixture of economics, philanthropy, religion, military might. The wheels of technology of technology have borne them most recently. The Corona Virus pandemic has been an unexpected beneficiary of international meddlesomeness, my favourite cognomen for international politics and diplomacy. The search for a cure, or at least a vaccine, has pitted countries against each other. The engagements have been characterised by extensive blame sharing about the origins of the virus.
Everybody knows that whoever finds a cure or vaccine for a pandemic that has shut the whole world down, in unimagined ways, for the first time in a century, has found something better than the largest oil well. It has become a world power, a big economic centre, an advanced point for the medical sciences, and a pacesetter in a new world order that the pandemic is propounding.
Enter Madagascar with the unpronounceable names of its peoples. Its capital Antananarivo is a speller’s nightmare. The President Andry Nirina Rajoelina, is a precocious 45-year-old media owner, concert organiser, only a year in office. Eleven years earlier, he pulled out a street protest that removed the government of Marc Ravalomanana from office. Rajoelina was in office for four years as President of the High Transitional Authority – he was just 34 years old. His political party has a more impressive name, Determined Young Malagasies.
With a population of 27.5 million people, and military strength of 13,500, 103 armoured cars, 12 tankers, and 28 towed artillery for army; six helicopters for its air force, and seven patrol boats for the navy, Madagascar placed 125 out of 138 nations in the 2020 global firing power ranking, the indices for military might.
Madagascar, Africa’s largest island, is 450 kilometres away from the coasts of Mozambique. Other neighbours are the islands of Reunion, Mauritius, and Mayotte, a French colony.
How then would the cure to the world’s ailment come from small Madagascar? Why would the World Health Organisation, torn between the United States and China, pay any attention to the Madagasy discovery, a herbal mixture mostly from the Artemisia plant that it named Covid-Organics? Rajoelina claimed that it can prevent and cure patients suffering from the Corona Virus. The drug was developed by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research.
Who is permitted to discover a vaccine or cure except Bill Gates, world richest man, who is on a mission to appropriate the world? It appears only a vaccine or cure from Gates would be acceptable to WHO.
Madagascar is considered an interloper in the high-class global politics encapsulated in the race for the Corona Virus cure. It disrupted the narrative about technological fortress that the world powers, so called, claimed to have built for themselves.
As they brood their sudden loss of control, Madagascar with the confidence of a world power, against WHO protocols, found a curative and preventive product for the Corona Virus, all in a month. Its people are using it, and it is available for whoever would be interested.
The world ignored it. The best WHO has done is to keep warning that no cure or vaccine has been found for the virus. Africa acquiesced. There are exceptions. Equatorial Guinea and Guinea Bissau have taken delivery of the products. Senegalese President Macky Sall applauded Madagascar. Congo and Comoros have indicated interest in the mixture. Tanzanian President John Magufuli told the local media he was in touch with Madagascar. He would send a plane to fetch supplies for his people. Tanzania has 480 cases, 16 deaths and 167 recovered.
According to Anadolu, the Turkish news agency, the African Union, AU, wanted the technical data on the safety and efficacy of the drink for its review. Nigeria’s deafening silence is salient.
Did anyone notice President Rajoelina sipping the medicine in public? Is he so mad to put his life on the line? What is his point? Madagascar’s Covid-Organics, made from materials sourced from Madagascar, without the notorious gang of international pharmaceutical giants leading to its discovery was safe for adults as well as children. Rajoelina had conducted a public clinical test of the drug on himself.
Global pharmaceutical giants could have felt affronted and so does former Madagasy President Ravalomanana who has protested to WHO over the distribution of an uncertified drug.
Madagascar spoilt a party it sneaked into. What would they do to Madagascar? They will continue to ignore it though it keeps attributing its successful management of the pandemic to the drug. Madagascar by 10:24, Central African Time, on Thursday had 158 cases with 101 recoveries, and no death.
What would happen to the Madagasy miracle? The international agencies may not license it. A major pharmaceutical company can steal its formula and make a globally acclaimed discovery. Madagasy international creditors could start placing stiffer conditions causing unrest that could ease Rajoelina out of office, especially as his pet project is upsetting the plans for the “new normal”.
Rajoelina is soliciting international partnerships for mass production of the drink which he said could also be given as injections. A bigger factory is being built to increase production.
The world is watching as Madagascar, often derided for being in the backwaters of health services, rescues itself and others. Less than three years ago, from 1 August through 22 November 2017, 2,348 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of plague, including 202 deaths (case fatality rate 8.6 %), were reported to WHO by the Ministry of Health of Madagascar in a devastation that swept through the country. Madagascar was not used to managing the pneumonic version of the plague which was deadlier than the bubonic plague of 2014 that killed 71 from 263 cases. It seems that Madagascar said “never again” without making noise about it.
How do these affect our own dear native Nigeria? We have ignored the “cures” our people produced. We are waiting for WHO and Bill Gates. Nigeria is indebted to Bill Gates, especially in this matter. It is not the type of debt that can be repaid or forgiven.
Gates is a major funder of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, through Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The world’s richest man with a war chest of $105.6 billion is a philanthropist. It is telling that Gates’ foundation is sponsoring six out of the seven awards that NCDC has for researches into various infectious diseases. The remaining one is by the European Union, EU.
More telling is that the latest grant is for a study on the Corona Virus. Can Nigeria promote local cures at the expense Gates and the foundation? The possibilities are dim.
At the National Assembly, there are frenzied activities to pass a bill that would make vaccination compulsory. Where is the vaccine? Why the hurry to pass a bill that some legislators say they have not seen? Who has promoted vaccines more than Bill Gates? Nigeria is unlikely to patronise the Madagasy invention. Where do these leave Nigeria? What chances are there that a Nigerian vaccine or cure for Corona Virus would get the type of hype the Madagasy President is giving the drug manufactured in his country?
Madagascar is not joking. Schools have re-opened. The production of Covid-Organics is going on smoothly in Madagascar with the President making its consumption compulsory for adults and children. Stores are short of supplies, yet the foreign demands have not started in high numbers.
The product is distributed free in schools and to poor neighbourhoods. Madagascar is making the point that an African country can act for its people. There have been no adverse reports about the product that WHO has not tested or shown enough interest in how Madagascar is using it to manage the global pandemic. If the mixture had proven toxic, WHO would have long stepped in to condemn the Indian Ocean island.
Madagascar has broken the ceiling that its littleness in international politics imposes on it. Madagascar freed its abilities for the safety of its people at a critical time that has tasked the nuanced sagacity of the West and its allies.
Every African country can learn from Madagascar that self-sufficiency is not just a word to be bandied about. Madagascar’s independent response to the Corona Virus pandemic is commendable. It has succeeded and is on the verge of pushing the frontiers of the importance that would be attached to its unique biodiversity, the source of Covid-Organics.
Credit: _By Ikeddy ISIGUZO_