Aliyu Ejivade Giwa, a 95-year-old traditional medical practitioner from Adavi-Eba in Adavi Local Government Area of Kogi State was recently given a car and a house by the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, for his efforts in curing ailments with herbs. In this interview, he speaks on how he acquired his knowledge, among other issues. Excerpts:
Daily Trust: How did you get to learn traditional medicine?
Aliyu Ejivade Giwa: Whatever God Almighty bestows on his servant starts from childhood and in some cases, a child inherits the gift from a relation. In my case, I inherited the knowledge of traditional medicine from my late father (Giwa) who used herbs to cure many ailments when he was alive. Among all his children, I was the only one who picked interest in what he did with herbs. I was close to him and began to acquire the knowledge from him. I asked my father a lot of questions on handling and using herbs for the treatment of ailments. That was how I came about the knowledge of traditional medicine practice many years ago. My father exposed me to various types of herbs, how and where to get them and their usage whenever the need arises. Regrettably, at that time, western education was still far from people and such divine gifts were not documented, but I was able to retain many in my memory which I used to help myself, my family and people out there.
DT: Why did you choose to follow your father’s footsteps?
Giwa: When my father died, I decided not to follow him on traditional medicine but whenever I met herbal doctors for treatment of ailments, they charged me high and I quickly discovered the medicines they gave me. So, one day, I decided to fully go into what my father taught me before his demise. Even before his death, my father often said that one of his sons would inherit his herbal medical practice, so when I decided to pick up from where he stopped, elders in the family were not surprised and they gave me the needed support and encouragement.
DT: How long have you been in the practice?
Giwa: Honestly, I cannot remember, but I started as a teenager. On many occasions when people felt sick in my area, I would collect the needed herbs that could cure the ailments and gave to them and within a few days, they would regain their health. All these I did without charging fees. There was a time when a man had measles, he was so sick that his family lost hope in his survival because they took him round and there was no improvement. When I heard of the sickness, I quickly recalled the herbs my father used in treating measles. I gathered the herbs and gave the family to try it and behold, the sickness was cured and the man survived. I was below 20 years that time. There were countless instances I used herbs to cure people and that time I didn’t charge, I only did it to assist people.
DT: Is it just herbs you use or there are other aspects to it?
Giwa: I never joined any secret cult or secret society to acquire the knowledge. I inherited it from my father and I did not meet my father combining any spiritual powers to the herbs he used. It was a natural call and that is why for many years I have been practicing, I did not for one day encounter difficulties. It is only herbs I use. I don’t even know how to consult oracles. I don’t have a shrine and I don’t have any external powers or belong to any association because I only gather herbs to cure ailments.
DT: The minister in his last visit advised that you should pass the knowledge to younger ones. Are you willing to do that?
Giwa: The minister’s advice is highly acceptable and even before he gave the advice I had started impacting the knowledge to other people including one of my sons whom I am grooming to take over from me. Some of my students if I may use the word are performing better in the area of herbal medicine and I am impressed because the prayer of any reasonable father is for his children to be better than him. If my father had refused to pass the knowledge to me, I would not have reached this level where a minister would honour me with a house and a car and it is in my fervent prayer that those I have also passed the knowledge to should be greater than me in the nearest future.
DT: Do you now charge fees for treatment?
Giwa: It depends on the nature and type of sickness. Some ailments require a lot of things to be used to cure them. So my charges are moderate. I am using this medium to appeal to those in the field of herbal medicine to always avoid huge costs on patients as I believe this should be a service to humanity.
DT: How do you feel about the house and car gifts given to you by the minister?
Giwa: Up till now, it is still like a dream to me that there are still people in this country who can make a promise and within a year fulfill the promise. I am full of joy and thank God for preserving my life to witness the gesture. I also thank the minister in no small measure for keeping his promise. This gesture will spur me to do more for humanity. I am using this medium to once again appeal to people, especially the young ones in society, to be committed to whatever they are doing to earn a living because you can never know where or when the reward will come your way. This gift of a car will enable me to travel to some far locations to get my herbs for treating people.
DT: Where do you get your herbs from?
Giwa: Some of the herbs I use are sourced from within my locality here, but sometimes, I just have to travel long distances to get some. That was the reason the minister gave me a car so that whenever the need arises, instead of keeping the patient waiting for long I would quickly move and return on time to attend to them.
DT: How would you compare the effectiveness of herbal and orthodox medicine?
Giwa: To me, human beings including animals need both and they work hand in hand in some situations and as such, one cannot authoritatively say which is better. When you talk of surgical operation, it is orthodox medicine that can handle it and there are areas of health needs that traditional medicine handles effectively too. Sometimes, I go to hospital for treatment, but I hardly fall sick if not of recent, maybe because of old age.
DT: You are more than 90, and still look strong. Is the secret in herbs?
Giwa: It is God’s grace. There is no medicine or secret that can keep someone healthy. Some people live long to see their great grand children while some do not enjoy such. All is the handiwork of Almighty God who makes some people strong. Mine is by God’s grace and I give glory to Him, it is not by my power.
DT: How many wives and children do you have?
Giwa: I have three wives and I am blessed with 12 children. Right now, one of my children is following my footsteps in traditional medicine.