Short Stories

The tale of ZAGABU: Wonder drug



‘Try am, the melecine dey work well well’ He told me, looking as sure of his charm like a Nollywood witch doctor.

He was wearing a brown oversized washed up coat in the sultry Lagos afternoon. He kind of looked like a modern-day John the Baptist in the wilderness. The balded man with sweaty dark skin stood at the entrance of the yellow Eko bus. He sounded like a tape in repeat mode. Same line, same gesture etcetera.

I tried to look away, obviously irritated. The more I tried his gaze seemed to hit mine at every angle I turned. Me sef! He dug his feet with stubborn resolve doing the sales detailing for his nondescript company.

He knew he had me on a choke hold when I searched my wallet for a blue antediluvian looking polyester material, the #50 note. The drug went for such a ridiculous dime indeed even when the manufacturers claimed it was potent against all manner of human ailments including chronic and terminal ones like diabetes and cancer. Maybe the scientists didn’t have that prim phony talk on the business prospects of their products.

He collected the money and quickly squashed it in the inner pocket of his coat and thanked me profusely like he just made a fortune out of me.

‘ZAGABU!!!’ these all-purpose miracle drug was the magic bullet indeed. I was still fiddling with the container as my eye moved absent-mindedly searching over the petit container and then my vision zero in on a string of characters. There sat in self-deprecating manner, a number that seem to have a life of its own.

This number I thought I had seen before on ‘pure water’ sachet, food items, herbal formulations…

Yap that was the NAFDAC reg. number.

The container had no patient direction for drug use. The main attractions were just the florid hypertrophy power man with a thong and an address presumably the manufacturer’s. It didn’t even have at least a drug composition profile.

It didn’t take for me much to figure out what a fraud this was. As a scientist, this had to be what Ben Goldacre called Bad Science. No evidence based medicine. Just a bunch of boggers with an incorporation name doing ‘business’.

However, the more baffling aspect of the ordeal was the role of food and drug regulatory body in the whole conspiracy. Such number indicates the product above other things had be screened, registered and vetted for use for the Nigerian public. It was deemed safe for consumption in addition to its avowed efficacy. For chrissake!!!!

The  self-acclaimed village apothecary  sold out a few more pieces to the other commuters in the bus and since there was no written drug information, he dispensed the prescription by word of mouth. The content was to be mixed with very hot pap every day.  He left his phone number for after-sales service though which was also doubtful owing to the nomadic nature of his trade

Well…this might be nothing out of the ordinary for an everyday Nigerian Joe. But when I took in the full impact of what had just gone down, my heart bled. Finally, I understood the reason why many Nigerians die from diseases induced in the care of the  trusted family neighbourhood face we have all come to know as doctor, herbalist, ‘chemist'(patent medicine seller), nurses cum GPs and recently the food and drug regulatory authority.

I am especially interested in the way food and drug information are disseminated in the country. The dailies inundate us with horrible news on death to whole family after consumption of a food item. The increased incidence of Politicians and many middle class elites dying under the doctor’s knife and so many medications that just lurking around like the tool in the hands of the grim reaper. Peons dying from roadside herbal concoction from our own traditional medicine men. The Agbo jedi, opa eyin, agbo iba, even herbal formulations for sexual and reproductive issues. Market people and industrialists spraying and mixing all manner of poisons in the name of preservatives, pesticides, agrochemicals in food, water and beverages, that do long-term damage to the health. ‘Bet you heard about the fizzy drink-NAFDAC-fiasco?

Trust me the patronage is mad. I mean understandably high. And really who can blame us – the masses, the great majority of people who are not covered by overseas medical care, expensive medical procedures, well and highly motivated medics and insurance packages. We are mostly left with two choices: lock yourself tight to the local religious leader or stick to the readily available nomads whose trade is peddling potent mostly harmful substances they usually don’t know jack about and thus should have no business handling.

It begs the question of who or whom is responsible for what, when it comes to health in this country. Who is accountable to the health safety for the general public? So I checked up some information of the issue at hand.

The NAFDAC is of course a government parastatal under the auspices of the Nigerian Ministry of health.

NAFDAC is responsible for broadly most things we consume in terms of food and drugs.   No need for the history. It is concerned summarily: regulating / controlling the importation, exportation, sale, distribution and use of drugs, cosmetics, chemicals, medical devices etc; conduct appropriate tests and ensure compliance to standard specifications for effective quality control…the list go on. You could check it out on the NAFDAC website or Wikipedia.

I also did a quick skimming on the American FDA website, since we modelled most of our internal policies from the Americans. The FDA mandate also was similarly explicit. The regulatory body are concerned with protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy and security of humans with respect to their health. They regulate manufacture, marketing and distribution of food item, drugs, beverages and a wide range of edibles to protect the public.

They also among other responsibilities, advance public health by helping the public have access to accurate, science-based information they need when it comes down to the use of food and drugs to maintain and improve their health.

Now isn’t that not a beautiful manifesto? Or to sound less sarcastic a lovely governmental policy.

So when I mulled over the current happening in the country from say a few years back till date, the situation hasn’t really changed much if at all. Like the other extensions of the government, the food and drug regulatory body responsible for the safety of the public health at all or like one line in the Marvin gaye song say ‘who cares?’

The questions came rushing at me all at once.


Who cares about you and I?

Do we even have any idea what we consume?

Have they been adequately tested, screened and deemed fit for consumption with the best science knowledge available?

Is there a compromise to health?

Do we really value our lives and by extension, our health?

And please. Please don’t even get me started on a few noisy policies like pharmacovigilance bla ba bla as if it’s even effective.

Like an Islamic note would say: ‘Death to one is indeed death to all’. If you think deeply about that these issues on health in the country. The probability of accomplishing the self-fulfilling prophesy of the low life expectancy today in Naija. It answers a lot of question about national prosperity and where the heck where are going to with this insincerity…the lies from the echelon.

My advice: Be safe and be healthy.

written: Mayowa Shobo

Picture: Google..

Categories: Short Stories

2 replies »

    • We have to be the change, first by refusing to patronize this people, and also sensitizing those around us about the dangers of such act in the short term and long term… T21

      Liked by 1 person

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