When the news hit the wire that Nigeria’s first lady will lead the team representing Nigeria at the recently concluded IAEA Conference in Vienna, I joined others in condemning this seemingly senseless decision. Turai Yar’Adua? What does she know about nuclear energy? Who the hell made the decision? The questions and the accompanying condemnation kept pouring in.
However, after watching the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) Special on the visit, I realized that it was indeed a good decision to have the first lady lead the team to Vienna, and also noted that it was actually the first lady’s media people that failed woefully in their job of explaining to Nigerians, why the first lady was leading the delegation. Not that I think the first lady cares about what anyone, including myself, has to say to her, but I believe a good job of informing Nigerians about why she was going to Vienna would have, at least, provided the information that the NTA Special eventually provided.
As we all know, nuclear medicine has proven to be very useful in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and the first lady’s mission in Vienna was to lobby the IAEA to assist the proposed International Cancer Center (ICC) in Abuja, in the areas of human and technology assistance, and I believe she succeeded in getting the message across to the top brass at IAEA. She met with the Assistant DG of IAEA, the DG of IAEA, and the even the DG designate, in that order. She even signed an MOU between ICC and the IAEA covering areas earlier highlighted.
Folks, I sincerely believe that for whatever it is worth, the first lady deserves kudos for taking on the fight against cancer, which has remained a silent killer in Nigeria for ages. Listening to Princess Nikky Onyeri of the Breast Cancer Foundation in Nigeria, talk about the level of ignorance of this killer disease that disproportionately affect women in Nigeria and in Africa, as a whole, brought tears to my eyes. I guess I reckoned that the next victim might be my mother, cousin, niece, sister in law, or even myself! This lady was not even diagnosed with cancer. She was misdiagnosed by a doctor in Nigeria! But, she has taken up the gauntlet against cancer. This is why despite my complete disdain for this administration and everything it represents, I believe without any iota of doubt that anyone that contributes to putting up the infrastructure to fight cancer, or at least, raises awareness about this killer disease, by lending their voice deserves a big THANK YOU, and I say THANK YOU to the first lady.
Despite all of the praise that I have heaped on the first lady, I will like to point out a number of things that I believe, makes a mockery of the first lady’s effort, no matter how noble it looks. Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t, for one second, believe the first lady and her husband gives a damn about whatever anyone has to say, but say, I will.
During the visit to Vienna, the first lady signed an MOU between the ICC and IAEA, with the Health Minister, Prof. Osotimehin, smiling by her side. Just as a point of information, the proposed International Cancer Center (ICC) is the brainchild of the first lady’s NGO. So, my question is this. Who is better placed to sign an MOU with the IAEA? Is it an NGO or the Ministry of Health? My sincere belief is that the Minister of Health should be the one signing an MOU with the IAEA, in order to provide the necessary institutional support to effectively fight the cancer scourge. This was the thrust of the US President’s message to Africans, when he declared in Ghana, that African countries must start building strong institutions, rather than strong Men and Women.
Madam first lady, you are going to be out of office in 6 years, except you and your husband have an hidden agenda that only the two of you know about. There is a very high possibility that your NGO will go with you, and most likely the ICC becomes a mere dream, but the Ministry of Health is going to be there, no matter who is the minister.
My other question is this. What is Kase Lawal doing on your entourage to Vienna to discuss cancer? Is Kase Lawal, the Nigerian-born, Houston-based oil tycoon now an oncologist or nuclear medicine expert? Wait a minute. I know why he was part of your entourage. In the same piece done by NTA, it was reported that the first lady and her team also visited the OPEC HQ, Could it be that this was the real reason why the first lady went to Vienna, and the IAEA part was just a cover?
Here is what I will say to you first lady. Cancer is real for the thousands of Nigerians that have been afflicted, and it would be real for the thousands, if not millions, that will be afflicted in the future. So, if you decide to use fighting cancer as a cover for personal gain, always remember that it is a matter of life and death for the afflicted. Not that I think you and your husband care anyway.
Note: ‘Shegun Olapojoye is the Director, Nigeria Policy Forum. A non-profit public policy organization dedicated to continuously exploring the Nigerian Question, by establishing strategic partnerships for nation building