A Nigerian scientist, Misitura Lawal-Arowona recently made a breakthrough in India with the creation of a drug at a university that combats Tuberculosis.
Mrs Lawal-Arowona recently sat with Journalists to discuss details of the metal anti-tuberculosis drug and how she made a breakthrough.
Below is an Excerpt of the Interview.
I am Misitura Lawal-Arowona. I am an indigene of Offa Kwara State. I was born and brought up in Kaduna, where I had my primary and secondary education respectively. I attended Clara Nursery and Primary School and Federal Government College, Malali. I gained admission to study Chemistry at the University of Ilorin and after my National Youth Service Corps, (NYSC) in Kebbi State I gained employment into the Kebbi State University of Science and Technology, Aliero, Kebbi State to become one of the pioneer academic staff of the great citadel of learning which has become a pride-institution in Nigeria. I returned to my Alma Mata for my Masters Degree programme and I later enrolled at the National Teachers’ Institute, (NTI) to study Post-Graduate Diploma in Education, (PGDE). While I am currently undergoing my PhD in UNILORIN, I am at the moment on DBT-TWAS (Department of Biotechnology, India and The world academy of sciences, Italy) Fellowship Programme at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, (MSU) India.
How did you go about the discovery of the drug?
As you know that research is all about trying and retrying on certain endeavours of life until you get to the root and virtually to a logical conclusion which can be beneficial to humanity. Through consistency and further studies as well as wider consultation, I was able to get to where I am at the moment on the discovery, although there is still more to be done. It will interest you to hear that I had earlier visited the Universiti Tecknologi Malaysia, (UTM) in Johor Bahru on TETFund Scholarship via Kebbi State University where I spent 6 months on the same research work. With the combination of Ligands (drugs) in line with the required guidelines and procedures.
You had the breakthrough in far away India, while not in Nigeria?
I had my breakthrough in India because the instruments required for my research were readily available at my doorsteps but already, I had a proposal on “Tuberculosis and Antituberculosis Drugs” designed by me and my able supervisor Prof. Joshua Ayoola Obaleye of the Department of Chemistry, University of Ilorin where I had registered for my PhD programme. It is in partial fulfilment of my PhD programme that I travelled to foreign universities to carry out extensive research and laboratory analysis work in order to ensure dynamism and quality outcome in the programme. While in Malaysia in 2018, I participated in several international seminars and conferences and now in India, I have also attended some conferences and First DBT-TWAS Fellows Conclave held in Chennai, where I emerged 3rd position in Poster Presentation. All these experiences added together made the research a success.
Is it that we don’t have facilities for such research in Nigeria?
Well, most of the instruments required for my own research work were not available in Nigeria but I can’t say of other research fellows. Although, the few available are very expensive and this factor has over the years made research very difficult in Nigeria coupled with other factors such as lack of constant electricity supply among others.
What challenges did you face in making the discovery?
There were lots of challenges but the adage that says “Two heads are better than one” was what assisted me and I never gave up hope. So, glory be to God almighty.
Apart from Tuberculosis, what other ailments are you planning to research on for solution?
Maybe in the nearest future, I may research on another disease but presently. I want to focus my research on Tuberculosis and see how this disease can be totally eradicated in Nigeria, African and Indian with the support of my supervisor Prof. Joshua Ayoola Obaleye of University of Ilorin, Nigeria and Prof. Rajendrasinh Jadeja of Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Gujarat, India.
Did you get support from Unilorin and government of Nigeria or any other body for the research?
I got the fellowship from an Italy based fellowships called TWAS- DBT (The World Academy of Sciences and Department of Biotechnology, India with the guidance of my supervisor Prof. Joshua Ayoola Obaleye. But UNILORIN is the bedrock of my knowledge and research capacity because I had my Bachelor of Science and Master Degrees in Chemistry from UNILORIN and now I am in the process of completing my PhD in the same university. Most importantly, I got the best of assistance (Moral Support) which is so germane to me from my husband, Mallam Abdulazeez Arowona, my children, Modibbo and Sultan, and beloved mother and late father for bearing with me through the period of my research sojourn.
What are your future projections?
My future plan is to extend my sensitization on Tuberculosis as an infectious disease through the help of my NGO, Foundation for Advocacy and Sensitization on Tuberculosis, (FAST) to the rural areas where little or no knowledge about the contagious disease is. We have another type of bacteria called Mycobacterium bovis. People are most commonly infected with M. bovis by eating or drinking contaminated, unpasteurized dairy products e.g. Cattle milk and meat. Both bacteria’s can be spread directly from person to person when people with the disease in their lungs cough or sneeze. But with proper sensitization and handling, the disease will be totally cut down. “Prevention is better than cure”
How can your discovery contribute to Nigeria development?
Nigeria being a developing country is facing serious challenges especially in the areas of consistency and government programmes and actions and this has further translated into a lack of quality orientations especially to our youth. Majority of Nigeria citizens find it very difficult to meet up with drug prescriptions when diagnosed of ailments in hospitals because some of the drugs are either expensive or not readily available in the Pharmaceutical stores. This has led to untimely deaths of many innocent and promising Nigerians. But with this ongoing discovery when finally completed, there would be alternative for the poor and effectiveness will also be guaranteed.
Your advice for other PhD students on research
My advice for other PhD students is to search for Fellowships Grants outside the country for better exposure and knowledge. They should spend more time in the laboratory, library and do wider consultations into literature. It is quite unfortunate that despite huge sum of money earmarked by the government to fund the education sector as we always hear during the budget presentation, Nigerian universities are still mere structures and fast becoming museums where you only find things that are no longer useful to the present generations. Our laboratories are not befitting, no modern equipment and the environments are not enabling enough for research work. Imagine that you are in a laboratory with no 10 hours guaranteed power supply! Therefore, there is need for the Federal Government to provide more funds for the advancement of research and scholarship and adopt the policy of “Life of every Nigerian matter’.