The chief medical officer of Tanzania, one Prof Abel Makubi, has characterised as idiotic the habit of waiting for official warnings about diseases when one can see they exist.
Apparently referring to public ambivalence regarding the Covid-19 pandemic among Tanzanians, the most senior government surgeon has said this past week that only fools will wait to be told what it is that is confronting them when they themselves can see it is a serpent.
Now, this is interesting. The good professor works for a government whose stance has been for almost a year that Covid-19 has been eradicated from this country through prayer and fasting, and those who have dared challenge this view have been given short shrift. It has become almost anti-Magufuli to say you have lost a relative to coronavirus.
Many Tanzanians of a certain age remember that Julius Nyerere taught us a proverb from his Wazanaki ethnic group, whose meaning is, roughly, he who hides an illness will be exposed by the wake. In this case, the chief medical officer and the rest of officialdom have been hiding Covid-19 related deaths, and now the funerals are exposing us.
The chief medical officer is the number 1 medical expert of the government, well ahead of the Health minister, well ahead of the president even. Unlike some of us who went school to read useless stories, he majored in the most vital of all the sciences, the science of the wellbeing of the human body and spirit. He is called upon to counsel all of us, and not go about telling us we are idiots because we listen to his idiocies.
In a poor country like ours, the meagre resources available for a proper education have been channelled into the training of cutting-edge experts in various disciplines, including in the medical fields, and this training must not be betrayed by those who want to practise career-preserving expediency and timeserving.
Primum non nocere, goes the Latin injunction to medics, first do no harm. I say they do harm to all of us who do not tell us we are being killed when they know we are.
Too often, the power of the crowned head inspires awe among those at the feet of the throne, and many choose to keep their counsel to themselves and live out their miserable little existences as timorous souls who dare not profess their metier.
The howling and prancing sangoma, dancing in the midst of his buffalo bones and ostrich feathers, becomes the scientist ahead of our PhD holders.
Indeed, there might be a reason why our people should be wary of such expensive miseducation.
A few years ago, someone in the Arusha area set up shop and sold a concoction he said cured everything. People flocked to him, and those who believed he had cured them abandoned their drugs and died in some numbers.
The government of the time facilitated that whole exercise, but once the whole rigmarole fizzed out, no one was left behind to tell us what the whole hoax was in aid of, and if indeed there might have been any wrongdoing.
We were ready for a new hoax, this time being told that we had prayed so much and fasted so much that the God of the Catholics (and of others too) had chosen us ahead of the Vatican for prayer-based salvation.
These matters will not be kept under wraps for too long. The whole of the eastern African region did not suffer what the Europeans and Americans suffered, though our different countries chose different paths to combat the disease.
Still, it is possible to state that after the initial scare around last March, we all did not witness the apocalyptic scenes people were fearing.
It was wrong for our governors to attribute the low levels of infections and deaths to prayers, because that is, simply, silly. Rather, could we have probed into our past and found out what had been given to us as children, such as the massive and widespread vaccinations for a number of ailments
This might help us calm the spirits who have recently found the voice to rile against anything they do not understand as an ‘imperialist’ ploy, even the now proposed vaccine, which some people have started saying they will not accept because it is another conspiracy.
But my answer to that is, how do you see yourself in the queue for a vaccine when you do not have Covid-19 in the first place?
If the potency of the prayers we offered last year has waned, maybe it is time for us to do repeat services to remind the Big Man, just in case he has forgotten, that we are still his people.
And while we are doing whatever else we might want to do in the enhancement of our obscurantism, maybe we should remind our medical experts to remain medical experts and to shun any temptation to play politics with their people’s lives.
If you are too scared to tell your bosses that you know what is killing your people, at least don’t tell your people they are idiots because they follow you.
Meantime, if anyone has a Covid-19 vaccine, please holler!
Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]