In October 2015, I made the long trip from my house in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria, to Osun, another South Western State in the country. Three-and-a-half to four long hours in different vehicles on the bumpy roads replete with potholes, separated my house and my beloved alma mater, Redeemer’s University.
Sadly, I couldn’t accomplish what I went there for, and there was no pitying eye from any of the staff on duty, and after all said and done, I began my long journey back home the same day. This would be normal, if not that I began the journey late. As late as around 5:30 p.m. I guess.
In-between Osun Sate and my house lies the ancient city of Ibadan. When travelling from Osun, you need to go through Ibadan before you reach Ogun State, just as you need to go through Ibadan when going to Osun State from Ijebu Ode, Ogun State. That’s how the road network is.
By the time I reached the normal motor park in Ibadan, it was already quite late at night, and the last vehicle had moved to Ijebu Ode, leaving me stranded in Ibadan at night. At the advice of some of the men at the park, I stood at the roadside to get a taxi to transport me to another motor park far away, Amid the puffs of smoke issuing from exhaust of thousands of vehicles moving in all directions. Now, the busy road with thugs, beggars, pedestrians, spiritualists, et cetera, and a lot of noise was very unfriendly to me (I’m the countryside type), and the terrain was totally unfamiliar.
I managed to get a taxi for a fair price to drive me down several miles to the nearest motor park. We went past police officers, who demanded a bribe from the driver. The driver had no choice but to comply, lest they label him with an offence he knew nothing about. All my efforts in explaining to the driver that an innocent man has no need to fear policemen on duty, or pay them bribe, fell on deaf ears.
The park was even farther than I had imagined. Anyway, I got there in time to meet a vehicle headed for Ijebu Ode. I suspect that was the last for the night. I entered it and waited for it to get filled, while choking on the smoke of a ciogarette from some fellow smoking around. I had to endure till the vehicle moved, and even when the vehicle moved, some stuff from the vehicle which I don’t know, caused me eye pain till I got to Ijebu Ode.
However, the major highlight of the otherwise normal journey were the two guys seated next to me. The smaller one sat on the laps of the bigger one, so they will only occupy and pay for one seat, and cut costs. They could not even pay up their complete bus fare, and had to reach an understanding with the bus driver to accept what they paid–all they had (so they claimed).
Both boys were looking weary, discouraged, scared, and very starved. So starved that the bigger one asked me for some money to buy dinner for them both. I took pity on them and assured them that the moment the bus touched down, they will get food.
Then I got interested in their story. What were two young boys looking for in Ibadan of all places, in the dead of the night, without any chaperone watching over them? Worse still, they were still headed for Lagos that night, about another one-and-a-half hours after Ijebu Ode, if they were fortunate. Then they told me their pathetic story.
They happened to work for a “health” organisation that sells drugs and healthy supplements, and is affiliated with GNLD. Hmmm. GNLD. That got me interested. So what were the doing in Ibadan? They had taken the long trip all the way from Lagos to Ibadan to sell some of the drugs for their organisation. They had stayed there for a day, but were unable to sell even a pin. They had exhausted all the funds they had on them, and they could not make the return journey to Lagos. They told me with regret that their gamble to sell the products in order to realise a profit to eat and pay for their own transport back to their office, had failed.
Ibadan is the largest city in West Africa with a teeming population of people on its perennially busy roads. How surprised these boys were not to have sold a single drug. I was surprised as well, but I found myself believing their story after asking few other questions and they produced consistent answers which were consistent and not contradictory.
As a microbiologist, I became even more interested when drugs were involved. I asked to see the drugs, and they pulled out two samples which I carefully examined. One looked like an original GNLD product and it got me impressed. The other however, bore the GNLD logo, and few other related words, but I observed that the label was not original GNLD label, because its label was written in mixed Yoruba and English language and the quality of the label revealed that the printing was done in some backyard printing room.
I looked carefully at the label, absorbing all the information I could. I can’t remember all the diseases the drug fights against, but it’s a pretty long list. This surprised me a great deal. Never in my studies and practice as a microbiologist have I ever heard of such a cure-all drug I.
Diabetes, virus infections, pile, cleansing, ‘opa eyin’ (a local parlance for spinal cord, an indication that it reduces blood sugar; still pointing at high blood sugar), and a long list of other conditions in part-English, part-Yoruba language were outlined on the low quality label. I knew something was up.
“Why was the label changed?” I asked.
They explained to me that the original GNLD label needed to be changed so that the local illiterates will understand what was written better, when it was presented in a language they were more familiar with. That got me.
At that time, I was interested in any drug that will lower blood sugar and reduce weight, so I could take it home to my mother, so I quickly purchased it from them. However, I was still restless within me.
“Where’s the NAFDAC (National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control) registration number?” I saw it written boldly on the body. The drug was a greenish looking aqueous solution, and I was told the prescribed dosage was one or two covers morning and night.
“It works wonders. I use it myself. I swear to God!” The bigger one of them assured me. He was chubby and dark-skinned and did most of the speaking. All the while, we were still in the vehicle, on our way to Ijebu Ode.
Have you ever had that feeling that something is not right? I was curious. I spied the NAFDAC number suspiciously. Well, I concluded, if it’s a genuine drug, it must have been registered with NAFDAC, so I must check the NAFDAC registration number online.
I turned on my tablet, which was very low in battery power. Even if it was the last thing I could do with the battery, I was determined to find out if the drug was genuine. I punched the NAFDAC registration number into Google and waited for the response. If the drug were truly registered, the result should have come out, showing the drug name and the number, as a sign that it was duly registered.
To my utter amazement, I realised that the “drug” these guys were trying to sell to me was nothing but washing soap, repackaged as a drug and being sold to gullible people. On the NAFDAC website, I saw something like “Cosmetics and Detergents Category”. The soap itself was labelled by NAFDAC as a detergent.
“This is washing soap!” I queried, surprised.
“It’s a drug,” he defended.
“It is washing soap, look!” We saw the original cover of the drug, with the name written on the drug in the soap section. The boys could not believe me.
I opened the NAFDAC official website and searched for the same substance, using the registration number on the label. It was confirmed to be liquid washing soap.
The boys selling he drugs told me that they were just retailers, and they themselves believed that they were selling drugs and health supplements. The chubby one of them reaffirmed to me that he himself had been using it at home. I entered into a conversation with him to know what brought him into such dirty business, and he told me part of his life history. I won’t bother reporting that here. I made him promise never to work with his current boss.
He gave me his phone number, but regrettably, I’ve lost it. I would have loved to send him to a rehabilitation and skills acquisition home, specifically Habitation of Hope, run by the Redeemed Christian Church of God. There, he will learn valuable life skills to start a legitimate business and have a new chance at life.
I would also have loved it if the police could trace the company in Lagos and dump those controlling it behind bars for posing great danger to human lives. When we landed, I made good my promise to give them enough funds to get them both a meal that night.
Anyway, that night, that single search saved me from drinking washing soap, while thinking it was a cleansing drug. I learnt that night never to purchase non-prescription drugs.
This is a lesson to people who buy drugs from the roadside or from unverified sources. You just may be drinking soap (or worse!).