NIGERIA: The Herbal Psychiatrist Of Nasarawa

Image via The Guardian

Nigeria is rated as having a rich history and culture of local treatment and cure of people with serious mental problems often known as madness or insanity. Just like the traditional Chinese medicine, especially acupuncture, which predated Western medicine, so is herbal remedy and treatment of the insane in Nigeria.

Across the length and breadth of Nigeria are traditional herbal healers who have handled serious mental cases that have defied new age medical practice. But because of the crude manner and in some cases the inclusion of fetish practices in their operations, they are not accorded recognition in the nation’s mental health services.

It is against this backdrop that this newspaper takes special interest in the activities and claims of the management of Musabil Herbal Centre in Gauta community, Keffi Dan Yamusa of Keffi local government area in Nasarawa State where 47 mad people have been allegedly cured.

The centre also claimed that it is currently handling another 103 psychiatric patients, with 40 of them, all males kept in one room. The breakdown of the mentally-challenged persons showed that 70 of them are men and the rest, 33, women.

Among the impressive revelations, is that none of the patients is in chain, a usual practice in orthodox hospitals and other traditional homes where such cases are handled. Added to this is the harmonious relationship among the insane persons in the same room and their free interaction with members of their families and visitors to the herbal home.

The owners of the facility and visitors have attested to the fact that no violent cases have been recorded among the insane since the inception of the “hospital.” The owner of the centre, who bears the official title of director-general, “Dr” Kabiru Mohammed popularly known as “Dr. Naborgu” said that the centre was established 15 months ago.

This native of Fakachi in Kainji area, Borgu Local Government Area of Niger State, who relocated to the community to set up the home in Nasarawa, said that he learnt the trade from his father.

The statistics presented by the management of the home shows that the recovery rate of the patients in the home is high, as 47 persons have been treated and discharged in 15 months, out of which 20 of them are engaged in the centre as guards and ancillary workers. This figure translates to an average of two persons being discharged monthly. This is not a mean feat considering the long period such people stay in psychiatric hospitals.

At the herbal home there are wards for women and men; the structure and practice in the facility are mixed: consultants from various fields of mental health work with Mohammed in the diagnosis and treatment of the patients with only herbal drugs. Although the home may not be a perfect setting, its achievement so far ought to recommend it to Nasarawa State government.

We consider it curious that in spite of this the local government health authorities claim that they do not have any relationship with the herbal centre. That the lives of the people of the state and other Nigerians, who patronise the centre are at stake makes the indifference of the local authorities more worrisome.

It is our opinion that health officials in the state government owe themselves a duty to monitor the activities of the home, enforce standards especially on environmental issues, and assist in the upgrade of its facilities. For instance, the government can help in decongesting the wards, especially for the male psychiatric patients. A situation where 40 ill people are kept in one room is unhygienic to say the least.

The state government should resist the temptation of closing the centre no matter the pressure from any quarter, especially orthodox practitioners, whose interests may be threatened by the impressive performance of the herbal clinic. Instead, the claims of the owners should be investigated based on the number of cases so far handled.

The cheering news from the centre requires that we do away with the mentality that everything Nigerian is wrong and anything herbal is unregulated and fetish. We, therefore, canvass the adoption of the Chinese model where that Asian country combines modern and traditional medicine practice and export them to the world.

We are also compelled by the reality on ground at the herbal home to caution against calls to sanction any orthodox medicine practitioner who partners with a herbal doctor. Such punitive action would be counter-productive in this case as those in Musabil Herbal Centre play only advisory and counselling roles to the management and patients. Instead, the collaboration already on display at the home ought to be encouraged. One way of doing it is for the state government to help the home to develop its skills acquisition centre where recovered patients are trained and rehabilitated before they are allowed to go home.