Soyinka, others seek action on graft, cancer

soyinkaHow I stopped smoking, by Nobel laureate

FOR Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka, corruption in the country is like a cancerous tumour that must be rooted out for the nation and its citizens to enjoy wholesome living.

And for Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, if the Federal Government prudently uses its resources, it would be able to provide the N13 billion needed for a cancer centre in Lagos State.

As the guest speaker at the opening session of the Cancer Awareness Week 2012 in Lagos yesterday, Soyinka stressed that he had discovered that some people would rather submit to a potentially cancer-inducing lifestyle than to submit to dogmatic dos and don’ts.

According to Soyinka, rather that dissipating much energy on anti-smoking campaigns, which are increasingly becoming ineffective, the focus should be on those in authorities who are responsible for the collapse of electricity in the country. “These people should be dragged to court. They should be charged with manslaughter, murder, attempted murder and genocide,” he said.

The event, under the auspices of the African Cancer Centre (ACC), was expected to attract the presence of President Goodluck Jonathan as guest of honour and Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu. But both of them were absent.

Those at the event included former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; representative of former Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu, Dr. Leke Pitan, a former Commissioner for Health in the state; incumbent Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris; Chairman of the occasion, Prof. Olu Akinkugbe; Prof. Ade Elebute; and Prof. Josbert Duncan.

Other personalities included Chief Chris Ogunbanjo; Bashorun J.K. Randle; Mr. and Prof.  Adekunle Olumide; ACC initiator, Prof. Femi Williams and members of ACC Board of Directors.

The Chief Medical Officer, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Prof. Akin Oshibogun, who represented the Presidency, however, admitted that the Federal Government “cannot do it alone, but in conjunction with the civil society.” He stressed that the Federal Government was planning to update 10 cancer centres across the country, adding that the Ministry of Health was ready to collaborate.

According to Soyinka, there are many issues that are “cancerous in our society today, apart from racism that held sway in apartheid South Africa.”  He stressed that the African continent was a victim of dictatorship, which he described as a serious cancerous attack affecting all parts of the continent.

He said corruption was a hydra-headed monster, affecting all aspects of life, penetrating across generations, gender, age-groups, businesses, practices, doctrine, religion and rendering the society prostrate. “It is the silent killer. Like cancer that we have identified, it requires aggressive treatment,” he said.                        Recalling how he stopped smoking, Soyinka said he did not give up the habit as a result of any anti-smoke campaign, but rather to protest against his incarceration in jail.

He said that while he was detained, instead of getting more important items like books and pens, he was being given food probably to make him fat.

“I discovered that the purpose of the cigarette was to make me dependent on my jailers, so I decided to reduce my intake from a pack to 10, then to five, then three and finally I quit. It was more of kicking against dependency and not fear of cancer,” he said.

Fashola, who was the chief host, tasked the Federal Government to take the issue of funding of the cancer centre seriously. “Judging from revelations from our national budget, this amount, N13 billion, is so insignificant in our budget. The Federal Government should lead this charge,” he said.

Recalling how he lost his grandmother and two cousins to cancer, Fashola stressed that the primary responsibility of any government was the protection of life and property of the citizen. He said there were many steps that could be taken to prolong the life of a citizen.

On the Lagos State government part, the governor said the state was completing the kidney and liver centre at the General Hospital, Gbagada. “The next phase is to build a cancer centre into the facilities.”

Beyond this, the state government is dedicating lands in a strategic location within the state as a medical village, where “we can encourage those who have been successful in their callings to invest in the life-saving projects.”


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