"Natura est optimus medicus" - Nature is the best healer. Nigeria struggled not to enter the year 2000 with military rule. And so, by 1999 she made frantic but successful effort to enthrone democracy.
Military regime has lost its appeal in the comity of nations. It was no more the trendy method of leadership. So Nigeria can't afford to be different.
No wonder, the return to democracy in 1999 was a hurray time for the nation and her citizens.
Many countries who had uprooted their flags off our land, because of military regimes and its anachronistic policies restored them with amiable countenances.
Broken diplomatic ties were re-tied. All countries of the world extended hands of fellowship to us. We were so happy about it. We regained active membership status of many international organizations and became signatory to many international treaties. Trade agreements were reached across Europe and America.
So many things were happening so fast!
We became the bride of the millennial world order.
But then, something awful was happening to our identity. We were fast losing who we are, to assume whom we are not; allowing our Oyibo friends' culture shape our identity. We started copying their lifestyles verbatim.
Their feeding habits became our feeding habits; and their costume became ours as well. Our culture consequently got diluted. Westernization was gradually eating deep into the sinuses of Africa's native and unique lifestyle.
We prefer taking packet fruit juices over fresh guava, mango, paw paw smoothies. We prefer beer over palmwine, we prefer noodles (indomies), or pastas (spaghetti etc) over Abacha ncha, we prefer tin tomatoes over fresh tomatoes. We prefer spices (e.g maggi or Onga) over local pastes (e.g Okpeyi/Ogiri). Semovita was gradually replacing pounded yam.
Adopting the Whiteman's man's lifestyle, including his diet choices became a show of luxury and buoyancy for us.
Little did we know that while we can adopt their lifestyles, we can never adopt their DNA. We still retain our unique cellular compositions that made us Africans, which suited the metabolism of our natural diets for healthy nourishment.
The resultant effect is now rampart, barely two decades after.
Today, Nigeria is on epidemiological transition from communicable diseases (CDs) to Non communicable diseases (NCDs).
We could live like the Oyibos, but can we endure their ailments? Can we be as rich and advanced as they are in treating their illnesses when we contract or develop them? Is our genetic make-up same as theirs to suite our blending to their way of life?
Very few of us cared to ask these questions at that time. We just played along the tide.
The nutrients in oyibo man's food may be good, but what about the chemical preservatives and other flavouring additives aimed at prolonging its viability and shelf life?
The western medicine alongside its pharma products were good as well, but it has capitalist undertone. It emphasizes more of curative than preventative approach to health. It aims at making its subscribers depend more on them, so the proprietors/practitioners will get paid.
This capitalist dimension filtered into their manufacturing. They make those synthetic food materials which they export to us with vested interests on profits, more than our health benefits. So they could afford to add powdered silica gels and other desiccating chemical agents in packet foods to prolong their shelf life irrespective of the long term oncological effects of such agent on our health.
They can't stand the monetary loss in exporting short-dated food products. Yet we kept on patronizing them.
The uncensored lifestyle change among Africans, in relation to diet choices, as the new century progresses, paved way for strange health challenges such Cardiovascular diseases, cancers and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) to rear their ugly heads into our infirmity dictionary. This was not exclusive to industrially manufactured foods alone, adhesive use of prescription drugs was another agent of toxicity to the biosystems.
Many a disease that were alien in Africa took abode with us, and in utter helplessness, our Medical experts dubbed them 'incurable'.
And while we record harvest of deaths, more than before, secondary to this unprecedented negative shift in our approach to life, BioScientists went into research for solutions.
Their findings were not unexpected, we (in adopting the white man's lifestyle) dung our graves with our own hands. Patronising industrially packaged and synthetic food substances, as well as some toxic pharma drugs endangered our health, while we pretend to be living luxurious life. It was the same as "eating poison in golden dishes".
Prior to the year 2000, life expectancy of Nigerians were 80 (+-5) years for females and 70 (+-5) years for males. But today we sorely face the decline of these indices to 50 (+-5) for both genders.
Worse still, the United Nations Population Fund(UNFPA) released a heart rending figure on our life expectancy in 2019. It said Nigeria has the world’s third lowest life expectancy rate of 55 years, this means Nigeria is only better than people in Sierra Leone, Chad and the Central African Republic.
Earlier in 2017, The University of Edinburgh's Journal of Global Health published an article on the First Africa non-communicable disease research conference held in Nairobi, Kenya. The article was consistent with the 2017 WHO NCD Progress Monitor report.
"Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) prevalence is rising fastest in lower income settings, and with more devastating outcomes compared to High Income Countries. While evidence is consistent on the growing health and economic consequences of NCDs in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), specific efforts aimed at addressing NCD prevention and control remain less than optimum and country level progress of implementing evidence backed cost-effective NCD prevention approaches such as tobacco taxation and restrictions on marketing of unhealthy food and drinks is slow."
"NCDs such as cardiovascular disease (CVDs), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and mental illnesses, are a significant and increasing cause of illnesses, disability and deaths globally, but more devastating in sub-Saharan Africa.
For instance, of the 54·7 million global deaths in 2016, 39.5 million, or 72·3%, were due to NCDs, with majority occurring within low income countries. Notably, NCDs rise is also faster in lower income countries and populations. While there has been profound progress made in health sector over the last three decades prior to the new millennium, even in the sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) – such as improved life expectancy – the current rise of NCDs threatens to reverse these gains and stall social and economic developments."
This report said it all. We landed ourselves in near irreversible health quagmire. But thanks to Pro-life Scientists, all hopes are not lost.
Now, it's over to us to device means of navigating to safety.
In brief, we must evolve a holistic wellness approach towards all-around health assurance in Africa.
NCDs and drug-induced health hazard were geometrically decimating life expectancy in Sub-sahara regions of Africa. Reversing it is a task that must be done.
A change has to be effected. We need to engage the reverse gear of the vehicle of our lifestyle back to the bustop where we left it.
To do this, our Medical and Healthcare providers had to lead the way in both research and implementation.
And to ease their work in this mighty crusade, they must be equipped with the gospel of longevity, preaching a radical change in our lifestyle, persuading the people to return to nature. According to Charles Simmons: "Sickness is nature’s vengeance for violating her laws".
Integrative Medicine is the way to go.
How this can be reversed using integrative medicine will be addressed in part 2 of our discourse next week.
Jude Eze (B.MLS)
Medical Laboratory Scientist.
Mobile: +2348099062006 (WhatsApp/sms).