GSK, Charles Oben : A tragic Marriage – Face of Agulu

Friday, 17 September, 2021

GSK, Charles Oben : A tragic Marriage

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By Joseph Edgar…

Charles I have never met, but his beautiful wife had for the last One year been a source of support and inspiration to me as I meandered around a thankless job. So when he asked for a meeting I quickly agreed not realizing the impact this meeting would be having in my life. As I sat at the swimming pool lounge of the Ikoyi club surprisingly on the same chair Joan had interviewed me for the forgotten job, I could not help but wonder just how sweet life was. children jumping in and out of the pool, the mothers refusing to swim for fear of exposing flabby bodies that had been destroyed by childbirth and middle age and the men watching a lackluster Nigerian Soccer Match in which in my own estimation Sunday Oliseh showed us very clearly the misery ahead for us. This was life, if only I knew what was contained in the Lap Top Charles was bringing towards me.

He walked in slow and deliberate. In a casual shirt, you could see his good looks struggle to still show. He must have been quite a handsome man. I could see very clearly why Joan was smitten. He carried around him the aura of one used to authority; of course he was Head of Human Resources at the behemoth called UBA Plc. He was used to the good life. I asked him what he wanted to drink and he asked for two shots of Hennessy, of course what else would he ask for? An internationally exposed professional who had sold his very unique skills to as many multinational companies as could afford his services. From the way he downed his drink, you could see the finesse of one who was at home with the finest things in life, Joan would have demanded for no less.

With all the protocols over, he went straight into the reason for this meeting. He opened his Laptop and with the press of the button, he destroyed my appetite; threw me into the darkest pits of despair and forcefully bringing out tears from my eyes. What I saw was unimaginable horror, a compilation of hiroshimaic pictures of wondrous monstrosity. This could not be the same person sitting beside me.. I shifted away less he still had the contagious germs still lurking around his fine face. With hands covering my mouth and a continuous fight to stop the imminent evacuation of my bowels, I jumped and ran to the nearest toilet where on my knees I threw up and cried like I had just lost my father all over again. What was this, how can, was this from the Ebola ravaged fields of Liberia, was this the devil reincarnated and come at me In Ikoyi club to take revenge for all my amorous sins, I cried and pleaded for help, God please help me, help your son, who is this Charles, had he come to kill me.

No, this was an innocent Charles who for the cost of N1,300 brought this upon himself. He calmly told me his story. He had been posted to Burkina Faso by UBA and, in his usual meticulous self, visited a Cardiologist for a routine check. They found out that his urea level was high and the drug Zyloric was reportedly prescribed. He dutifully took the drugs and in less than 36 hours his life was turned into a living hell. He transformed into a monster no Hollywood Horror movie could match in all their creative imaginations. He turned the sights of the Ebola Victims into a mere picture drawn by nursery school children. His life ended. Blisters, skin peel, eyes destroyed, bleeding from everywhere, bed sores and everything imaginable became his plight.

Joan flew in, saw her husband and melted. His children came in and ran away. Mirrors were kept away from him. For less than N2,000 he had bought the dreaded Stephen Johnson Syndrome, sickness with a massively efficient mortality rate. His world came crashing and there was nothing anybody could do, fate and a multi-national drug company had prescribed this on his soul.

He was eventually evacuated to the UK with the private efforts of Joan and his family and there he received succor but with lasting side effects. He has had two cornea replacement surgeries and much more devastating is the fact that he cannot shed a tear for the rest of his natural life. He has been confined to the use of artificial tear inducing drugs which he buys from America at the cost of $200 monthly. His sex life, he didn’t say, but if I guess, would be very far from what I am sure would have been the case and in the process lost his lucrative job with life just floating by.

GSK that huge Drug Firm, is the purveyor of this ‘wonder’ drug. GSK I hear manufactures and sells this drug from their UK base and distributes it all over the world while using its Nigerian Office as the headquarters for this operation of horror in the whole of west Africa. Charles says he is in court with them and has won the first round. But as expected, the merchants of horror have appealed and the hearing, he says, is coming up February 2016.
I will be in that court premises, with my placard cursing and abusing their mothers and wishing death to their children and grandchildren.

Charles sensing my discomfort, challenged me to enter any chemist in Lagos and ask for that drug and I will get it. I took up the challenge and went into Obalende and voila I saw the drug for N900. I screamed and ran away. Where is NAFDAC in all these, where are the authorities, why are our doctors and Pharmacists still prescribing this drug? My people, the instructions on the drug are written in FRENCH. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!! french, how will we read and know the side effects? In the UK it is clearly stated in the pack that this could lead to death, but because in Nigeria we pay little attention to details, we keep ingesting and dying and attributing the painful death to curses from our ancestors or witches.

Charles’ battle is my battle. Charles’ cry for retribution should be our collective war cry. GSK cannot use all the legalese in this world to escape reparations. Charles and all the other victims must be compensated. The compensation will not bring back the tears in his eyes but at least it will give him a sense of justice and judgment in his favour would save other lives. That is his major worry.

As I left him that night, my mind went back to the Amazon he married. Where would he be today without her, where would the world be today if he had died? We would not have known the evil that is GSK and their wonder drug. We await the Appeal Court Judgment even as we plot the next step in this comedy of errors.
What a marriage.

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