Mrs. Sola Segun [not her real name] is based in Akure, Ondo State. She had been married for over 30years without a child. Two years ago at 56, her body chemistry changed. She complained of fever and dizziness; her legs got swollen and she began to exhibit symptoms akin to that of an expectant mother. She was advised to go to hospital for pregnancy test. She decided to. The result of the test turned positive: she was indeed pregnant!
The doctor told her that at her advanced age, there was no way she could deliver the pregnancy unaided because age was no longer on her side. She was advised to get prepared for a Caesarean operation which would cost her some ransom. Her response to that was “I reject it in Jesus name.’’ Immediately, she stopped going to the hospital for pre-natal care and headed for an herbal and maternity home where she was periodically given a cocktail of herbs. In the ninth month, she was delivered of a baby girl. With her face beaming with joy she said, “I am hoping to have another one again and would not go to the hospital.’’
Mrs. Segun is a level 14 officer in the Ministry of Education, and a headmistress in one of the primary schools in Akure.
Asked why she shunned the hospital to deliver her baby, she said “I am afraid of surgery and I am not sure what would happen after.” She said she is at home with herbs than subject herself to a doctor’s scalpel.
Madam Stella James [not her real name] is a devoted Christian. She married late and at 45 she conceived but was advised not to go to the hospital or else she would be opened up for caesarean operation. She did not need much persuasion to shun the hospital because according to her, “When I was looking for the fruit of the womb I visited several hospitals many times but got no positive result until I came to this Christ Apostolic Church where God answered my prayer. It is holy water and anointing oil that I used. I was told that my problem was more spiritual and that was why I delivered my baby here too and God has been kind to me. I don’t care what people would say, this is where I had my two children and I have not gone to the hospital since.”
The stories of Mrs James and Segun are typical of many today. Many expectant mothers prefer to visit herbal maternity homes or churches to have their babies irrespective of the hygienic condition of the environment.
A visit to some of the labour rooms in these churches and herbal homes show how indecent and unhygienic they are for newly born babies.
Growing patronage of herbal homes
At Aanuolapo Trado Medical Centre and Maternity Home, Abule – Iroko, Ogun State, which is run by ‘Dr’ Rasaq Ibrahim, the scent of herbs wafted through the air. Placed on wooden shelves are bottles and plastic jars filled with both liquid and powdery substances and concoctions. Local clay pots were on fire steaming, cooking some of the herbs. Pointing at each bottle on the shelve in his consulting room, Ibrahim explained the functions of each ‘drug’ to the curious reporter.
Pointing to one of the containers he said, “This one is blood tonic, the other one is for pain relief while the next to this one is an antidote for body itching. We use all these for expectant mothers and it also depends on their complaints, He was beaming with satisfaction and confidence.
Inside the consultation room is a bed where he examines his clients , “In fact, I can read and interpret the result or what the scan says, ’’ he said and to authenticate his words he brought out a scan result of one of the patients, glanced at it and said “This scan is normal, the baby’s head is upside down, all these are important when a baby is about seven months old in the mother’s belly,” he lectured the reporter.
Aanuolapo Trado Medical Centre, which he heads, is a traditional maternity and healing home where the sick and expectant mothers attend and are delivered of their babies. According to him, “I will listen to their complaints and if there is need to give them herbs I will and if it is powdery concoctions [agunmu] I will also do so. I don’t give injection at all.” As is the practise in orthodox hospitals, before any client is attended to he/she must purchase a card. He boasts, “I started doing this job over 25 years ago and since then I have no cause to regret because my clients deliver with ease and without any problem.’’
He added, “We don’t operate on pregnant women. When the baby is not in normal position we know the herbs or powdery herbal substance to give the mother for the baby to make it turn to the right way but if it is the orthodox (doctors) they will quickly bring out their scalpel and open up the patient. We have different types for example, if it is to swallow, or liquid form or again local soap for bathing depending on the condition of the client.’’
He claimed that he is a trained herbal medicine practitioner, “I have my licence to practise. The Lagos State government used to train us and we attend workshops, seminars and other related courses in order to upgrade ourselves. I am a certified trado-medical practitioner. ’’
He, however, admitted that there could be complicated cases of which he would not hesitate to refer such a client from his herbal homes to orthodox medical doctor or hospitals. “But the fact is that we use traditional way to deliver babies but if we observe that the case is far from being ordinary and we cannot handle, we would then refer them to the hospitals.” He said the work is symbiotic as some orthodox doctors do refer some complicated cases to them because as he called it “to guard their loins against principalities.’’
He argued that it is not only the poor that need his services because “the rich ones also patronise herbal homes very well irrespective of their financial or social status. In fact, those who cannot come in the day would come at night in their big cars!’’
At Mama Meta Traditional Clinic and Maternity Home, Iyana – Ipaja, wooden framed certificates decorate the wall evidencing the job the woman is doing. Pregnant women were being attended to by the MD (‘medical director’) of the clinic, Chief (Mrs.) Temilade Fayemi, who is the chief consultant. According to her, there seems to be high number of expectant mothers patronising herbal healing homes and this is due, according to her, to the efficacy of traditional medicine. She said, “I have spent 38 years on this job and I have never encountered any problem. I inherited the practice from my late father who practised as a midwife then while I also underwent training both from the Lagos State government and the World Health Organisation. In fact, I cannot count the number of patients I attend to in a week. Nigerians now appreciate and believe in the power of traditional healing homes unlike before when the case was the opposite.”
Asked whether she delivered her own children in herbal homes, she declared, “I had my first set of triplets in the hospital while I had the rest four in my herbal home,. In fact, my apprentices acted as my midwives when I had all my children in this my clinic.’’
Among those who delivered in Mama Meta’s clinic is Madam Elasoro Rebecca. According to her, “My father in-law was a practitioner too. All his children were delivered here.” For Mrs Alade Oluwasola [in her 40s], when she married she had delay in having children until she got to Mama Meta’s clinic. Her story about orthodox medicine is the same, that she took many drugs without any result until she turned to herbal treatment.
For Madam Oluwasogo Agbesuyi [aka Mama Ibeji], she had her five children in the herbal home and boasted that she prefers it to any other. But for Jamiu Olawale and his wife, Moriamo who live in Abule-Iroko, Sango in Ogun State, they confessed that they patronise herbal homes because of lack of money. According to Jamiu, “We are very poor and have nobody to assist or support us so we have no choice than to go to herbal homes for medical care. You can see that I am partially blind and my wife is blind too.” Their two children were delivered in traditional herbal homes.
….And to churches with holy water
Churches and spiritual homes are not left out,. For instance, the Christ Apostolic Church [CAC] believe in what they call ‘miracle water’. At Christ Apostolic Church, Ibudo Iyanu, Abule-Egba headquarters is where Evangelist [Mrs] Celena Bose Agbaje practises as a midwife to the church.
According to the pastor in charge, Israel Afolabi, “God is performing wonders here through our midwives, ask Madam Agbaje”, he said with total conviction and full satisfaction.
Corroborating Israel’s words, Agbaje who has spent 15years practising as a midwife in God’s Vineyard said she is spending her sixth year in Ibudo Iyanu. To convince the reporter she took him round the labour rooms where there are several rows of beds. She said, to become a midwife is not just anyhow but by calling. “It is like a pastor’s calling. When you are called you have to go to Faith Home in Ede in Osun State where you undergo spiritual training for two years and would then be qualified as a midwife, while there you are taught spiritual and medical training on how to handle cases of childbirth.’’
According to Agbaje , “Many expectant mothers prefer going to churches to deliver their babies because of spiritual warfare the world is facing. Many are pregnant for three to five years. Some after delivery would give birth to monsters and it is through the powerful prayer here that we are able to deliver them. While evil forces reign in some women’s lives. A woman once delivered an imp. After delivery it was a still birth and she left it somewhere where she was organising to bury it but suddenly it transformed into an imp holding a mat while according to her , her head began to swell until the imp disappeared. This type of war can only be faced with spiritual warfare. If such a person had gone to the hospital she would have died!”
According to her, the CAC believes in their powerful spiritual water called miracle water [Omi Iyanu]. The well from which the water is drawn is located by the labour rooms. She pointed at the well and declared with strong warning: “A woman must not go near the water or take from it, only men are allowed to fetch it for us. You can see kegs of water here these were brought by members and non- members of the church. We don’t go to hospital here for we believe fervently in prayers and God has been doing it for us. Last year we delivered about 93 babies. If a baby dies we pray and it will come back to life. We also use anointing oil by asking the pregnant woman to use it on her private part.”
Asked what happens if it gets to a point where an operation is needed, she responded, “We hardly experience such here. But in a case where a woman bleeds excessively we would quickly refer her to the hospital but this is very rare! We use prayer and holy water to do whatever we are doing here. There was a time the government sent spies or detectives here to know whether we are using medical treatment but when they discovered that we did not they left us alone. There is nothing God cannot do. Those who come here are sure they will meet God here. We use faith to do anything here ’’.
Evangelist Agbaje explained that they don’t discountenance orthodox medicine but advise their patients to go to the hospital and do scan, “If the baby is in traverse we will pray for the mother and the baby will come to the normal position. It is miracle and that is why people prefer coming to churches. When the doctor request for caesarean operation we would turn it down and pray while they would be given holy water to drink and that is all , the baby would be delivered . It is happening here.’’
He, however, expressed displeasure at the manner churches are being treated, saying “if a woman accidentally dies in the church the police usually arrest as if we are at fault but if it happened in the hospital and from doctor’s mistake, it is buried !” He considered this unfair.
At the Mountain of God Miracle Apata Igbala ,[ Cherubim and Seraphim] Guinness , Ikeja, a pregnant woman sleeping on a mat was pointed at as a woman who conducted the reporter round the premises said, “If you come here on Sunday you will see miracles. We deliver babies here. Our headquarter at Agege has a hospital but we believe more in miracles. What we do is legitimate and it is God who assists us. We deliver babies here and it is through the work of God.’’
In the church compound are signs showing “Ward A’’, “Ward B’’, “Doctor’s Ward’’ etc.
The common thread running through all the places visited show that most of these so-called herbal homes and faith clinics are dirty, while they have poor management which often result to the deaths of many of their patients as they are handled by half-baked medical practitioners.
Investigations revealed that some of these churches and trado medical centres employ auxiliary nurses. Layi Owolabi, a medical doctor with over 30 years of working experience, agreed that there is an increase in the number of pregnant mothers turning to herbal and spiritual homes.
He linked this to “poverty in the land as these people cannot afford to pay both the government and private hospitals fees.” Owolabi blamed the surge to herbal and spiritual homes on the fact that the two are allowed unrestricted access to the media to advertise their products while orthodox practitioners are barred from doing same.
According to Owolabi, “I am not saying there is no miracle but our people are so gullible that when a patient is advised not to eat at certain time it is then that you will see these so-called chronic believers bringing in anointing oil from their pastors and forced it into the patient’s throat thus ignoring the doctor’s instructions. They are hoodwinked by men with sugar -coated tongues. There should be law guiding all these and it is very unfortunate that the government itself is not helping matter. To deliver a baby in the hospital you have to pay through your nose while to perform caesarean operation one needs money. And most of these clients cannot afford it so they go for the cheaper one at the risks of their lives. The state and federal government should practise the National Health Insurance Scheme[NHIS], and make medical bill affordable to all. Without this, our people will be dying in the hands of these so-called trado medical doctors and churches who cheat the gullible ones among us.’’
WHO on traditional medicine
Traditional medicine (TM) refers to the knowledge, skills and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures, used in the maintenance of health and in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness. Traditional medicine covers a wide variety of therapies and practices which vary from country to country and region to region. In some countries, it is referred to as “alternative” or “complementary” medicine (CAM).
Traditional medicine has been used for thousands of years with great contributions made by practitioners to human health, particularly as primary health care providers at the community level. TM/CAM has maintained its popularity worldwide. Since the 1990s its use has surged in many developed and developing countries.