…Says, ‘Don’t eat uselessly and drink foolishly’
Over 2,000 people adorning blue, gold and pink T-shirts, depicting all forms of cancers: men, children and women cancers, respectively, took to the streets of Abuja in the morning of Saturday, February 3, to declare war on the deadly disease, cancer.
The event was an awareness walk, one of the activities marking this year’s World Cancer Day, observed globally on February 4. Skaters, cyclists and marathoners also added glamour to the programme with their colourful performances.
This year’s edition, packaged by Project Pink Blue, had veteran broadcaster, Sadiq Daba, who recently survived leukaemia and prostate cancer, as the poster boy.
Daba, a popular TV star in the 1980s’ “Cockcrow at Dawn” drama, kicked off the walk from Transcorp Hilton, Maitama, at 8am, before the train went through Shehu Shagari Way, Adetokunbo Ademola Road and terminated at the hotel.
The crowd consisted of mostly upwardly mobile youths and some celebritiesm and also had the wife of Kebbi State governor, Dr. Zainab Bagudu, in attendance. Notable faces like the immediate past director-general, Bureau of Public Service Reforms, Dr. Joe Abah, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, Chido Onumah, Nollywood actress; Rachael Okonkwo, popularly known as Nkoli Nwa Nsukka, and others also participated.
Daba was diagnosed with leukaemia and later prostate cancer in 2015. He was supported massively by Nigerians at home and abroad for his treatment.
The former Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) broadcaster spoke passionately about need for healthy living and lifestyles, urging the youth not to “eat uselessly and drink foolishly.”
“I had leukaemia and also prostate cancer, which I am still managing; yet people don’t know. But if we don’t have walks like this, to raise the consciousness of people, we are all dead. I give kudos to the organisers. They have done well,” Daba said.
On the connection between cancer and lifestyles, he said, “You can’t run away from that. Growing up, you indulge in so many things; you don’t care, you eat uselessly, drink foolishly and all these things have their repercussions. So, what I’ve learnt is that you must guard yourself against what you eat, what you drink; and simply, shun over indulgence. It’s not how large the food is but how qualitative the food is.
“So, if you are aware of how to eat, how to rest, how to take care of yourself, make sure you do your medical check-ups,.I am not God but am sure you’ll get some extra time.”
Looking back, the ace broadcaster-cum-actor, whose illness drew national attention, said it was a stupid habit for him to have indulged in smoking.
According to him, “Where somebody dances and gets paid, someone else will dance and get the beating of his life. Smoking is not good. Drink, they say, in moderation, but, if I were of the choice, stop it. There is no drink that I’ve not take; there’s no cigarette that I’ve not taken. If I tell you stop, stop!
“I smoked for quite sometime but it’s not a question of when you become a chain smoker, you continue to smoke until you smoke your life out. That’s stupid. For now, I can afford to say it’s a stupid habit.”
Daba also urged the government to make serious commitments to tackling cancer, while calling for aggressive awareness on the issue.
He expressed gratitude to Nigerians for the quantum of love shown him through their donations and prayers, adding that everything possible must be done to combat the deadly disease.
“I want to use this amazing opportunity to thank Nigerians who donated towards my cancer treatment; today, I am alive because of your donations. Please, let’s not close our eyes to millions of Nigerians passing through a battle with cancer. We need to improve cancer care in Nigeria and make treatment available,” Daba said.
In an interview with Daily Sun, the Kebbi State governor’s wife said the first and most important aspect of combating the disease was awareness, just as she noted that many more Nigerians were getting informed about cancer.
While harping on early detection, she called for proper statistics on cancer in the country, saying this could be achieved by registering every identified case.
She also disclosed that her organisation, Medicaid Cancer Foundation, was focusing on developing data on cancer cases in the country.
On her part, Okei-Odumakin, like Daba, warned Nigerians to watch what they consumed so that they do not end up being consumed by what they consumed.
The president of Women Arise, whose commendable roles in raising funds for cancer patients, including Daba, were legendary, described cancer as the second leading cause of death globally.
Citing reports, she said that over 80,000 Nigerians die of cancer annually, and “they die when we need them most.”
“More people are dying in their prime. We must all give cancer care and treatment a priority. It is only healthy people that can build a more robust economy, a secured nation, a powerful country and the giant of Africa that we all desire. If we allow cancer to continue to take away our mentors, fathers, mothers and children, then we are preparing ourselves for failure,” she said.
More advocates, survivors say cancer not death sentence
Adenike Oyetunde, a lawyer and NigeriaInfo on-air personality, who lost one of her feet to cancer treatment after being diagnosed of osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer) in 2016, urged government to declare a state of emergency on cancer, establish treatment centres and make them sustainable to reduce cancer deaths in Nigeria.
The cancer survivor was diagnosed of the disease at 20. She was lucky to get treatment abroad and today is doing well. She wondered how many Nigerians would have her kind of opportunity.
Another cancer survivor, Ms Ade, who recuperated about 11 years ago, said her experience was very traumatic.
She called for greater education on cancer, while stating that more people were becoming aware of the disease: “This day is so unique, an awareness day, but it should not be for today only. It should always be a continuous thing because people have cancer and are dying of the disease every day. It should not be annual paparazzi like this. I was here last year. But we are actually making progress; the awareness is gaining ground.”
In his remarks, executive director of Project Pink Blue, Runcie Chidebe, disclosed that over 100,000 people were recently diagnosed of the disease in Nigeria alone and “many of them could not afford their cancer care and treatment.”
He used the occasion to call for financial support for three women, Kauna Monday, Beatrice Aghaho and Nkem Chibuzor, suffering from cancer, who needed N2.8m, N3m and N1m, respectively for treatment.
As part of the walk, there was free breast, cervical and prostate cancer screening for many people, while those diagnosed with abnormalities or symptoms of cancer were referred for treatment and would also be supported.
Chido Onumah explained why the crowd was mainly young.
He said: “The focus should really be on prevention; so, I think if there is need for lifestyle changes, it is important that you talk to the youth for that to happen. But there are also a lot of older people here, people who may be living with cancer, they may need to know about treatment. I think the focus should be on young people. Like they say, in every other thing, prevention is better than cure. I think that explains why you have a lot of young people.”
Nonetheless, president of Abuja Breast Cancer Support Group (ABC-SG), Gloria Orji, a seven-year breast cancer survivor, told Daily Sun that there are over 100 types of cancer, affecting diversified human parts, meaning that anybody can be affected by the disease.
Her message to all Nigerians: “learn about cancer and prevent cancer.”