African Politicians Continuously Belittle African Scientists And Doctors: Even In The Midst Of Africa- Originated Medical Crises

By Lawrence
A. Zumo, MD

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
August 11, 2014


African politicians never fail in making their own scientists and doctors look so small and so bad to the outside world. Nigeria, a country of 175 million, (Africa’s most populous nation and 7th in the world, and half the population of the United States,  with a huge reserve of natural, human and intellectual capital), should not be asking the US for monoclonal antibodies as experimental therapeutics against Ebola.  I strongly believe this.

No need for acrimony, nor to be down or frustrated.  This should be a defining moment for Africa and its politicians. They should be more invigorated and ready to use local available talent via modern science and their existing infrastructures to tackle the Ebola crisis head on.

The Biafra War of 1967-1970 showcased Nigerian ingenuity. What happened to that?
See Chapter 11 of Ukaegbu’s TheNigeria-Biafra War

Well, some recent   insights:

At least one would have expected them to have brought their own current scientific and therapeutic efforts to the table when they made this request to President Obama last week in Washington, D.C. America has every right to keep its own stockpile of monoclonals to this deadly disease that no one knows where it will show up next.  That is foresight, painful as it is. Had the Nigerians and other African politicians prioritized their health services and research dollars, Nigeria, for example, should have  been in a position to have an array of monoclonals and neutralizing antibodies in hand when making the request to President Obama. I am sure with some tangibles in hand (eg their own clinical trial results), Goodluck Jonathan would have been in a stronger position to help supplement what they have on the table.

What's so hard about producing antigen specific monoclonals. Thanks to Cesar Milstein (of Argentina), Georges Kohler (German postdoc student of Milstein ) and  Neils Jerne (Danish immunologist incidentally whose hypothesis of immune sequestration network I used crucially and  successfully to  defend my doctoral thesis on myasthenia gravis in 1993), that technology has been mainstream since 1975, almost 40 years ago, for which these three were awarded Nobel Prize (1984) in recognition of this work and its future huge medical impact.


The Nigerians and others at that meeting, thinking ahead always for the sake of their people and their collective pride, should have strengthened their own experimental therapeutics branch of their Federal Health Institutions. They have the manpower right there with those brilliant hands and minds in especially Nsukka .

A local Nigerian neurosurgeon took an early leave from here, went to Nigeria to strengthen science and technology in Nigeria like how Prof Siddiqui (student of Einstein) did in the 40s and 50s. All he found was a political class not curious nor erudite at all, so he came back here and Nigeria continues to fall behind, far behind Indonesia or Singapore, which they were way ahead of about 30 to 40 years ago.  Instead they keep jumping over their own scientists and doctors, going overseas and splashing their money in other countries just to look good. Nigerian doctors abroad always complain of this, day in or day but the political class has all the power. 

You cannot image the small 4 bedroom apartment clinics in Mainz, Germany where all the Nigerian ministers and presidents call hospital and are dying to get there. The average German citizen has access to bigger and better hospitals than these so called African public servants. When I was given a tour of one of these facilities a few years back, I could not even lift up my head to answer the numerous piercing questions that came my way after that tour. Recall that Obasanjo other wife died in a small Marabella, Spain Clinic (Molding Clinic, not hospital) undergoing liposuction a few years back.

Here is what a Nigerian journalist wrote back then:

...Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, the late Nigerian First Lady, was said to have died from complications from surgery in Spain. May her soul rest in peace. Mrs. Obasanjo was said to have flown out hail and hearty for ordinary cosmetic surgery because Obasanjo and his government wanted the best for her. Mrs. Obasanjo went overseas because Obasanjo and his government did not have any trust and confidence in the medical facilities in Nigeria. Or else why did Mrs. Obasanjo had to go to Spain and not to Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital in Zaria or Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos or University of Nigeria Nssuka Teaching Hospital or University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan? University College Ibadan (later University of Ibadan) was established in 1948. It is note worthy that the first sets of medical students graduated from UCH Ibadan in 1960. Tragically that was the year Nigeria had her flag independence. Yet, our politicians from all levels of government; in military uniforms or mufti (agbada or babariga) will still have to go to overseas for all medical check ups and treatments. This is not only the shame but also the tragedy of a nation……..

South Africa is now free. Hello!.  Instead of sitting and pondering, with all its vast resources and manpower Nigeria can request use of or collaborate with  the South African Research Council’s facilities at Wits, Cape Town, Stollenbosch, or Nelson Mandela Medical School , etc, send its guys especially those ingenuous (but research facility and research dollar –starved) folks at University of Nigeria,Nsukka and begin and expand on the hybridoma processes that produce these monoclonals and more, since they have even enough sera from affected and suspected cases right now.

Facilities in South Africa:

Translation knowledge for Ebola:

Or they can go to their old friends in Hungary that allowed them access to their Nuclear Research Facilities at Bem Ter ( I interacted with many of them back  as I had to get radiolabelled ligands for some of our own research work bacl because my old lab was not far from their place of work {}  ; the WHO Center of Gynecological Excellence in Debrecen, etc  when most of the world said no to them back then.

Near Bem Ter, there is now a new center of Molecular Medicine which deals precisely with generating monoclonal antibodies and more. Some of their old students can be found and the link quickly reestablished. That new center is reputable because of the world class research and therapeutics originating from there. Craig Venter, the maverick American molecular geneticist and founder of Celera Genomics was the first to receive that Institute's award in Molecular Medicine in 2003.

Let them give the money to the right people right there and in less than 2 months, Nigeria will have its own of stockpiles. In the meantime, I am sure they can activate local and regional networks to be ever prepared take this smoldering menace head on.

Very good and insightful article . Keep up the good work.
Budu at 11:55AM, 2014/08/11.
Thomas Mieh
Thanks for giving such an informative view of the issue facing the black man. Is it possible for medical doctors in Africa to come together and organize a supporting body? They would share problems and research results. Can the doctors become independent of politicians? Remember in school, you were smarter than the politicians. I don't think they have changed.
We had a biomedical research near Firestone before the civil war. I think it was not part of the Liberian Health Ministry. It was private.
Thomas Mieh at 05:34PM, 2014/08/11.
So much common sense, but alas, this too is Africa, where common sense is not so common at 03:44AM, 2014/08/13.

Post your comment

You can use following HTML tags: <a><br><strong><b><em><i><blockquote><pre><code><img><ul><ol><li><del>

Confirmation code:

Comments script

© 2014 by The Perspective
To Submit article for publication, go to the following URL: