Where is Dr Jeremiah Abalaka, the first Nigerian to have made a bold move at getting solution to HIV/AIDS pandemic, Tafa Balogun, the former IGP and Athur Nzeribe who once made news headlines? Writes ELEOJO IDACHABA.
Dr Jeremiah Abalaka
Whatever remains to be known about Dr Abalaka, as he is fondly called, is the manner Africa and Nigeria treats her professional innovators as against foreigners. Abalaka came to fame around 1999 when HIV/AIDS pandemic was highly dreaded in the country.
This Kogi state born surgeon came up with a discovery that can reduce the HIV viral load in the body but had a running battle with the powers that- be when he announced his discovery.
His case became even worse by the fact that the Ministry of Health under Dr Tim Menakaya which was supposed to give him all the needed supports became his worst critic.
Abalaka, while speaking with the press said, “The point must be made clear again and again that I do not claim and has never claimed to have discovered a cure or prevention for AIDS. I have only developed safe and effective vaccines for the prevention and treatment of HIV, the causative agents of AIDS”.
In the year 2000 however, the Obasanjo administration banned the use of every drug in the country which were being used as cure for HIV/AIDS until, according to them, proper verifications were carried out. Abalaka however contested the order and sued the federal government over the ban.
The court ruled in his favour. According to a Federal High court in Makurdi, “Since the government is not doing anything to help people with the case, it is only proper for persons so affected to have a right to decide for themselves whether to use Abalaka’s vaccine or not”.
Since then, even though Dr Abalaka has been practising his art with dexterity quietly, not much have been heard about him any longer. A pharmacist, Teidi Omede, however told Blueprint Weekend that nothing has changed about Abalaka.
“In fact, he now enjoys more patronage than before even though he is no more in the news. His hospital located in Gwagwalada is home to many people living with the condition”, he said.
He was the former Inspector General of Police (IGP) between 2002 and 2005 before he was forced to resign because of widespread allegations of corruption. Prior to that time, he was commissioner in Delta, Rivers and Abia states as well as Assistant Inspector General (AIG) in charge of Zone 1 Kano.
Shortly after his removal, the EFCC under Nuhu Ribadu arraigned him on 70 charges involving about N13 billion obtained through money laundering, theft and other sources.
He asked for plea bargains in exchange to return the money and some property, nevertheless, he got six months sentence, the greatest part of which was spent on sick bed at the National Hospital, Abuja.
His tenure as police IGP, according to analysts, has gone down in history as the worst for the image of the Force interns of financial mess.
While marking his 80th birthday, Obasanjo who appointed him disclosed that there was a particular day Nuhu Ribadu threatened to arrest Balogun in the villa over sundry reports of corruption both from DSS and EFCC.
“On a particular day, Balogun was in the villa to see me, Ribadu was also around and threatened to arrest him over those reports. I had a hunch that Nuhu may leak the report to the press as he was close to them. I immediately called Balogun to give his letter of resignation.
I told him if I don’t get it within 30 minutes, I would sack him”, Obasanjo disclosed. That incident appeared to have put a final lid on the career of Balogun and since then, has not been seen in any public outing.
Many Nigerians will not forget Authur Nzeribe in a hurry not because he was a former senator who once represented Orlu Senatorial District at various times or because he is one of the super rich king makers from South East but largely because of the ignoble role he played with his infamous Association for Better Nigeria (ABN), an association through which he wanted to derail the 1993 presidential election.
Nzeribe is someone synonymous with controversy, for example, while in the Senate between 1999 and 2003, he was suspended by the leadership of the upper chamber over allegation involving N22m fraud which he was accused of planning to use in effecting the impeachment process of the then Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim. After that, the Orlu Peoples Consultative Assembly stagged a one million march against him in 2006 in order to drum support for his recall from the Senate.
This dealt a serious blow on his career as he lost the primaries of his party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to Osita Izunaso in December 2006. Since then, rumour has it that the Oguta born business mogul now goes on wheel chair on account of stroke.
He however dispelled the rumour in a press interview when he said shortly, “I am not suffering from stroke and I cannot wish anyone to suffer stroke. But to those manufacturing and spreading this hateful speech against me, I wish them well.”
A newspaper quoting Gozie Odum, a native of Oguta while speaking about Nzeribe said, “We know very well that as a senator, Athur Nzeribe didn’t do anything for us, but we would have loved him to remain there for certain reasons that if anybody wants to make trouble with Oguta people, once the person remembers Athur Nzeribe and his capacity to do anything, the person will think twice”.