Written by Odimegwu Onwumere

On August 17, 2008, Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, at the Thanksgiving Service, at the New Covenant Anglican Church, Oro-Abali, Port Harcourt, in honour of Mrs. Bright Hayford, wife of Mr. Lawson Hayford, who’s the State Chairman of the Federated Correspondents Chapel of the NUJ, was happy that Hayford was healed of Cancer, after what was termed a successful surgery. Three years after the Thanksgiving Service, on 4th of February, 2012, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), through the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO), made the 2012 World Cancer Day an elaboration.

What made the 2012 cancer day memorable is the joyous moment to note that the Nigeria’s first comprehensive Cancer Centre that will cost N10bn (about $63 million) is to be built in Nigeria, Port Harcourt precisely, by some affably Nigerians whom the issue of the scourge has touched passionately so much. The Centre is said to be for cancer prevention, treatment, research and training of medical workers. The irony of it was not only that the Cancer Centre is to be built in the City of Port Harcourt, but the authorization that it will be launched on March 31, 2012, in what was characterized as “with a presidential banquet.”

Cancer, as we all know, is a dangerous ailment that has pummeled a lot of  people to the soil in this part of the world without a severe fight to stem the ugly disease by the Nigerian authorities, unlike in the developed climes where there are up-to-date medical equipments that help in the dictation and treatment of this hydra headed monster called cancer before the victim goes to bite the dust. This is hinged on the lackadaisical approach the authorities had handled the case of cancer. Cancer had had an added advantage due to the porosity in the Nigeria’s medical system and it affects about 100,000 Nigerians annually, out of which 80,000 die.

While the number of patients affected by cancer increases in Nigeria, some countries in Europe and Asia smile to the banks with the money of the affected Nigerians who go to those countries for treatment. These Nigerians who could afford traveling to abroad for medical brief are considered lucky compared to the outrageous number of victims who languish in pains in Nigeria, incapable to afford the huge cost of attending to cancer treatment.

However, it is indeed commendable of O. B. Lulu-Briggs and wife, Seinye, the promoters of the comprehensive Cancer Centre  initiative in Port Harcourt, to mobilize holders and partners and sponsors in the countries of the world for this task. But the authorities should know that it is not about the voluptuous 50 hectares of land that will make the cancer centre a formidable one but the sophisticated approach in the nomenclature to enact human resources into play. It is not about the name: “Port Harcourt Cancer (Comprehensive Care) Centre or PHCC”, but about the number of people Nigerians and indeed the world would see that are treated in this centre when it finally berths. Let this not go the way of the Nigeria’s education system where there are numerous universities, yet Nigerians travel overseas looking for qualitative education.

It is imperative that Amaechi does not allow this project to fail, even though that some goons might be thinking towards this direction for their self-aggrandizement. He could help in making sure that the centre is not situated on the 50 hectares of land, close to the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), but in some other local government area that needs the presence of a big infrastructure as this to speed up development in the chosen area. On another note, since cancer is not infectious, would it not be good the cancer medical equipments are brought in and are used at an existing infrastructure such as the UPTH, since cancer is not something people encounter everyday like malaria or pregnancy?

Comparatively, accident kills in Nigeria than cancer, yet there is no special medical centre for accident victims. Even HIV/AIDS victims have no special medical centre in Nigeria. It is nice that over 10,000 volunteer advocates from all walks of life have already shown interest in this nobly project and have been registered, while about 5,000 individual and corporate donor partners have been selected to provide financial backing for the initiative. Amaechi-led government of Rivers State should see beyond the idea of building a Special cancer centre in Port Harcourt, but on sustainability and the consummation of lands that will be useful for other projects that are yet to be known.

Odimegwu Onwumere, Poet/Author, Media/Writing Consultant and Motivator, is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes In Rivers State (CONIRIV); and Founder, Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State. Mobile: +2348032552855. Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com

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