When moving around in Lagos, there are some things that you don’t pay attention to, you know, like it is none of your business so it flies past your eyes, past your head and you think nothing of it.
One of those things, which my mind has been forced to focus on is the hawking of drugs on Lagos roads. No, not Igbo, I mean normal regular drugs; you know, over the counter drugs.
How come and why are people hawking medicine as if it is Agege bread?
You see ‘pharmacists’ carrying drugs around in cases, plastic basins, or even trays, hawking or just standing by the roadside and calling out their wares.
The way they store the medicines is something else, most know nothing or care about keeping the medicines in places where the weather or natural elements won’t negatively affect them; so many times you see medicine packets that have become faded from the sun or are wet and peeling from the rain. Still, people who do not know any better buy these drugs.
These guys parade themselves as ‘doctors’ too. Last month, on my way to the office, I stopped to buy a pack of Nescafe along the road close to where those keke/okada park, one of the riders probably feeling ill went to meet one of these ‘doctors’ and told him his symptoms. ‘My body tire me, my body dey hot I no fit chop, and cold dey catch me.’
The ‘doctor’ took one look at him and proclaimed ‘Na malaria, plus this rain wey dey fall sef, dey carry sickness waka.’
So he opened his ‘pharmacy’ and started randomly cutting up capsules and tablets for this man. ‘Take this one once a day, this one morning and evening. If your body no free you after three days, come back.’
Again, I was in the market to buy food items during the week, while haggling with the butcher, a man came and casually gave the butcher some drugs and told him how he should take them.
The meat seller then said, ‘I don tire to take medicine, this malaria no wan go.’ The man selling beside him said, ‘e don tey o, you sure say you no go go hospital?’ The other man replied ‘where I see money go hospital now? I go that health center last week doctor no dey.’
I just shook my head. You won’t blame them too much, even huge branded pharmacies sell fake drugs in this country. They are a few we can trust, and they usually have trained pharmacists in their shops, but can everyone afford them? These roadside ‘pharmacists and doctors’ saw a need the government couldn’t meet and they jumped at it.
Health care is too expensive in this Lagos.
I remember falling frequently ill when I first moved to Lagos, thanks to my bosses who paid part of my hospital bills, paying would have left me stranded every time. Many do not have that opportunity so they go to these roadside ‘experts’. Some even buy herbs from sellers, only God knows how those things work.
We need affordable healthcare in this country so that anybody can walk into the hospital and e see a doctor. But while we are still dealing, can the government put a ban on roadside drug hawkers? Lagos state is not the centre of excellence for nothing, Lagos can definitely start this and let other states follow suit.
Can people be educated on the importance of proper health care? Should they not know that any Busayo or Ahmed cannot wake up one morning and decide to sell medicine? That medicine is not Agege bread? Is it too much to ask?
I tire for this government, if it is to do adverts from Radio, online, TV, newspapers congratulating themselves for installing boreholes now, they will buy up all the time on air and pages of newspapers. Important things they will not do.
I miss Madam Dora Akunyili.