By Victor Uwagor
In a grand display of his usual philanthropic gestures and show of concern for the needy, former Minister of State for Works, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Sir, Engr (Dr.) Chris Ogiemwonyi, FNSE, KSA, on the occasion of his 63rd birthday anniversary, 21st March, 2014, sponsored free breast and cervical cancer (for women between ages 18 – 65) and prostrate cancer screening exercises (for men above 40years), in conjunction with the Lagos-based Optimal Cancer Care Foundation, at the Urhokpota Hall, Benin City.
The 2-day event, which was well attended by indigenes and residents of the three senatorial districts of the state and beyond, who wanted to know their statuses and the preventive/curative medical steps required to checkmate the deadly ailments, in case they were diagnosed positive, was essentially supported by the Ogiemwonyi Foundation because according to the former minister, “we have discovered that early detection of the presence of the diseases could save a lot of lives and help curtail its spread in the body system. Breast and cervical cancer in women and prostrate cancer in men have recently become killer ailments around the world, but a quick detention of traces of these diseases could actually reduce their severity, make the diseases manageably impotent and save more of our peoples’ lives. This is why we have thought it necessary to bring this screening and free drug distribution to the doorsteps of our people so they could benefit. Those cases that cannot be immediately attended to, during this exercise, would, where necessary, be referred to specialists’ hospitals for further treatment and management.”
While flagging off the exercise, Engr. (Dr.) Sir Ogiemwonyi encouraged Edo people to take full advantage of the screening and treatment exercise, insisting that it was ignorance on the parts of the people that remedies to treat ailments abound, that have made some, otherwise, combatable diseases become readily terminal and deadly.
“Many of these diseases that lead to untimely deaths,” Ogiemwonyi noted, “could be easily treated when diagnosed on time. For me I only discovered this a few years ago; so we have decided to make this available for our people. These days, celebrating or marking birthdays have gone beyond the issues of sharing rice and drinks and dancing to music; true care for the people means taking care of their health challenges in whatever way one could; come to think of it, a healthy man or woman could easily fend for himself or herself. It is sickness and disease that weaken the ability of human beings to effectively be up and doing, to be alive and active. It is our prayers that diseases would be far away from us; but when they do sometimes come to our doorsteps, we pray that medical attentions would be available to help us take them out. That is essentially why we are doing this today.”
Some of the beneficiaries of the free screening and treatment exercise, in separate chats with The Navigator commended the initiative of Engr. Ogiemwonyi to make the opportunity available to Edo people, and enjoined other well-to-do indigenes of the state to emulate the kind gesture and make such exercises available to indigent residents and indigenes of the state.
In his remarks, shortly after participating in the exercise, Pa Igbe, who, however, tested negative of prostrate cancer screening, was full of praises for Engr. Ogiemwonyi for even helping to create the awareness and enlightenment about the possibility of curtailing the killer disease.
Said he, “First, I want to thank Engr. Ogiemwonyi for letting people know that this disease is curable when detected early enough. I didn’t know before that one could come for a test as simple as this. I have just been test. I tested negative. Now, for me, I would make it a regular exercise according to the advice of the medical personnel handling the exercise. It has not cost me anything. This is a very commendable development. I am very happy.”
Pa Igbe, therefore, called on Edo indigenes, particularly those within the age brackets specified for the female and male not to be inhibited by any thought or fears, “because it is better to know whether one is well or not. If one is silent about a worrisome ailment, and keeping it secret, one would die in silence. But this is an opportunity to come forward, free of charge as it is here, to find out one’s status and what could be done.”
In his own chat with The Navigator, another beneficiary of the free cancer screening exercise, Mr. Efosa Obasogie, said the development was a wake-up call on other wealthy Edo sons and daughters, to show concern for the well-being of humanity by investing an appreciable percentage of their wealth on philanthropic exercises, instead of amassing stupendous wealth selfishly for themselves and their generations yet unborn when millions were dying of preventable and curable diseases because they did not have the wherewithal to seek medical attention.
While commending the sponsor, Engr. Ogiemwonyi for the free screening, and for providing lunch during the 2-day exercise, Mr. Obasogie challenged government to appreciate the fact that there was poverty and disease in the land, and that only a committed drive, especially on the part of government, to provide essential services, such as education and health, free of charge to the populace, could help reduce the ugly trend.
A 43-year-old woman, Mrs. Elizabeth Ukpebo, in her chat with The Navigator was full of gratitude for Engr. Ogiemwonyi for the initiative, noting that kind-hearted people were hard to find, especially at this time when selfishness and greed had grown to frightening proportions in the country.
Said she in pidgin English, “God go bless the man. I nor know am, but I know say God go continue to bless am. Na me and two of my daughters come. Dem dey inside now; na only me don finish my own. The man do well; God go still look after im family too.”
Health personnel from the Optimal Cancer Care Foundation, Lagos and officers of the Chris Ogiemwonyi Foundation, who supervised the exercise and offered free drugs to participants at the exercise advised Edo people to regularly come out for tests to ascertain their statuses, insisting that early detection and regular screen-testing of cases of breast, cervical or prostrate cancer remains the safest antidote to effectively checkmating the deadliness of the ailment.