On that faithful second Saturday of October, 2020, I started limping following a mild but painful sensation in my leg. I hurriedly got an ointment called ‘aboniki’. Before the following morning, the whole of my right leg, from the hip joint down to the feet was swollen and I could not move because of excruciating pain.
I reached out to few friends who offered divergent opinion about my deteriorating condition. While some suggested hospital, others were skeptical about going to the hospital because of the dramatic spread of the ailment. Yet, some suggest, we go for lab test. A lab scientist was called, who took my blood sample for investigation. But before the result was ready the following morning, the strange ailment has also spread to my left leg.
My phone rang and it was the lab scientist. Congratulations, he said, nothing is medically wrong with you. It was then the reality of what was facing me became clear. With my second leg also affected and couldn’t move, I was almost paralysed. I could do my usual stories and publish but motionless.
I once heard Pastor Paul Enenche say, “those who surround you determines what you can survive.” This statement found expression in life. I refused to relate the severity of my health condition to my two sisters, Hannah Thomas and Mercy Abdul. Anxious about my health condition, they threatened my younger nephew, Yunusa Paul, who revealed to them that my condition was deteriorating.
Dan Attah Ibrahim was the ‘Angel’ God sent to me. Worried about the turn of events, Ibrahim practically ‘packaged’ me in his car and straight we move. Upon arrival at the Herbalist, Omenyi’s compound, before I was brought out of the car, he asked, “have you taken injection”? My emphatic no! Gladdened his heart. He noticed I was frightened. To calm me, he asked, “when do want to go back and resume your work”? Despite my condition, I was irritated and angry. When I am thinking of how to regain my health…
Familiar with the style of traditional healers, I expected Omenyi to demand for cock, he goat, mother hen or bringing some black water, cloth or throw somethings on the ground. Alas! He disappointed my expectations. He simply called a boy of about 15 years, who brought out a four litre container of cream liquid stuff. He gave a shot. He quickly followed it up with another shot. He then ordered the same boy to proceed to a nearby bush in company of his friend to harvest two types of herbs, which I still know but will not mention for the sake of his franchise.
Not impressed with his style of treatment, I whispered to Attah Ibrahim, my ‘Angel’ that I don’t think we are in the right place. Sensing I was complaining about his style, he beckoned on me and pointed at a three bedrooms fully built but not roofed house, “that house was built for me by a man, who never thought he was ever going recover. Yours cannot be different, he said”.
Soon I slept off! Before I woke up, smoking herbs in ‘okpokpo’ pot was ready. After tormenting my legs up to my hips with herbs, I fell asleep again. By the time I woke up, I limped out of his compound to where I was going to stay. By exactly two weeks after commencment of treatment, I started walking around Iyale community. I watched life returned to me again. At exactly three weeks, Omenyi said, “God has helped you, you are good to go!”
On my departure day, I had requested him to give me some herbs to go with for caution. He refused and assured me, “you are fully fit”.
Omenyi’s style of treatment neutrilised my long-held belief that all native healers are fetish, hence magicians. I should mention briefly that, when I requested from Omenyi that I want to know who or what is behind my ailment, his response marveled me, “which one do you want? knowing who is behind your predicament or getting your health back?” He concluded, “if you want that one, go to another place, we don’t cause fight here!”
At the mention of “Herbalist”, most of us catch cold. The phobia is to the extent that, we have moderated the word ‘herbalist’ to ‘habalist.’ The fear of herbalists is not paranoid as some have been found to have committed heinous crimes in the name of practicing herbal medicine.
However, my experience with Omenyi, an Iyale, Dekina LGA, Kogi state based Herbalist has redefined my classification of alternative medicine practitioners. Perhaps, this re-enforces the differences between herbs based herbalists and ‘haba lists’, who performs magic.
There is veritable need to emphasis the positive desirability of alternative medicine as it served as a potent curative and preventive medicine throughout ages. This is to the extent that, in those days, when men and women lacked no reserve of dried herbs around their huts. Men/women lived longer and healthier to the extent that a 70 year-old can still go for a virgin to wife.
But overtimes, skepticism over herbalists kept swelling because of little foxes among them. But true once like Omenyi still exists.
Omonu Gowon-Nelson is an Abuja based journalist