University of Ilorin P.M.B. 1515, registrar@unilorin.edu.ng, +234810-848-3222

*publishes book on Guinea worm eradication

Nigerian academics have been implored to always ensure meaningful inter-disciplinary collaborations, efficient cross-fertilization of ideas and ceaseless cooperation among one another with a view to swiftly facilitating enduring solutions to human challen.ges.

This advice was given by a world renowned Medical Scientist, Prof. Luke Ekundayo Edungbola, last Tuesday (April 9, 2019), during an exclusive interview with Unilorin Bulletin.  

Prof. Edungbola, who is a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, stated that finding panacea to human challenges, particularly health problems, requires the synergetic efforts of every stakeholder. 

He stressed that without such concerted interactions, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate diseases and associated challenges hindering human development.

The foremost Medical and Public Health Parasitologist, who pioneered the multi-various efforts that eventually consigned Guinea-worm disease into the dustbin of history in tropical Africa, recalled that without the cooperation of major stakeholders the dreaded disease would have remained an enduring scourge to the Nigerian nation.

On what propelled him to initiate the war against Guinea-worm, Prof. Edungbola said, "I hate people suffering. I have seen so many cases and the day I was coming back from America, I saw a woman at Orile-Igbon Village near Ogbomoso, suffering from the disease, who told me that everybody in her community was afflicted by Guinea-worm".

He added that it was that pathetic situation that compelled him to initiate the struggle against the debilitating cankerworm that eventually attracted global attention through consistent advocacy and unimaginable support from those who mattered.

Prof. Edungbola, who was nick-named “Mr. Guinea-worm” by stakeholders and colleagues because of his apparent passion for the termination of the spread of the disease, said that so many factors accounted for its hitherto unchecked diffusion.

He stated that ignorance, taboos, insecurity, poor access to clean water and the remote locations of some human settlement, particularly in the North-Western part of the country, extensively aided the spread of the ailment before his intervention.

He explained that as at the time the war against the disease started, Nigeria was undoubtedly the most infested in Sub-Saharan Africa with about a million confirmed cases in several locations across all its regions.

 Prof. Edungbola said, "I want to thank the University of Ilorin for giving me the impetus, the encouragement, the support, the good will to pursue Guinea-worm to eradication status".

The multiple award-winning researcher recalled how a coverage by the defunct National Concord newspaper on the impact of the scourge at Kankan Village in the Asa Local Government Area of Kwara State, which he initiated, attracted the attention of the then Military Governor, Group Captain S. A. Latinwo, and eventually ignited governmental interests in the disease. He said that the development marked the beginning of the end of Guinea-worm in Nigeria.

Prof. Edungbola said that he was very happy that the disease, which had hitherto accounted for the loss of $20 million annually because of its negative effects on productivity, had been totally eradicated against the pessimism of some individuals and groups who thought that nothing of such could be done to safe mankind from the disease, particularly in Nigeria.

The distinguished academic enjoined his colleagues to always give every situation their best,  reminding University lecturers that their responsibilities go beyond classroom teaching but also involve translating and transforming their expertise to finding solutions to challenges.

He urged them to always be positive and undeterred in solving an identified problem, saying that the level of their commitment and resoluteness will determine the magnitude of their success.

To underscore the level of success attained in the eradication of Guinea-worm, Prof. Edungbola promised to reward handsomely anyone who comes across and can present any case of the disease in Nigeria to him or any accredited authority.

On his forthcoming book, Prof. Edungbola disclosed that he decided to author the book titled "The Eradication of Dracunculiasis (Guinea Worm) in Nigeria: An Eyewitness Account" so as to preserve his over two decades of stressful, fruitful and impactful experiences in the control of Guinea worm in Nigeria for posterity.

While stating that the formal public presentation of the 121 page well-researched book holds in November this year, the celebrated intellectual giant thanked the publisher, Elsevier, "for accepting to publish this book timely with great understanding, cooperation, and encouragement".