Former Vice President, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, has expressed commitment to partner with the Henry Seriake Dickson Foundation on cancer advocacy and conduct research on the increase of the terminal disease in the country, especially in the Niger Delta.
Alhaji Atiku made the assertion in an interview with newsmen shortly after a condolence visit to the Bayelsa State Governor, Honourable Seriake Dickson in his country home in Toru-Orua on Wednesday.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Affairs, Daniel Alabrah, in a press release stated that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential aspirant described Governor Dickson’s initiative to establish a cancer centre as commendable, stressing that the foundation when fully launched would in no small measure help cancer patients since early detection is critical to its treatment.
“The cancer centre is an extremely commendable initiative. I assure the governor that I will also join him in this cancer centre development because at the same time that he lost his mother, I also lost my sister in-law to cancer. So you can see that cancer has become very common in Nigeria.
“We will definitely want to see that the cancer centre conducts research into why we have more cancer patients now than before and what we can do to prevent it. You know the best way to treat cancer is to see how we can prevent it by detecting it in time. And I want to be part of that initiative.”
Atiku also gave kudos to the governor for his development efforts in the state in the areas of project execution, which he said would transform Bayelsa into one of the modern states in the country using technology.
“I was recently in Yenagoa. I went round the projects executed and I publicly commended him for what he has done. If he continues, Bayelsa in a very short time is going to be one of the most developed states in the country. He is modernising the state by introducing technology, which is going to spur more developments than anything else,” Atiku said.
Responding, Governor Seriake Dickson drew the attention of the Federal Government to the looming health emergency in the Niger Delta arising from over five decades of crude oil exploitation by oil companies in the region.
Governor Dickson called for urgent measures to address the health challenge, noting that on the part of the state government, it had set up world class health facilities such as the diagnostic centre to cater for the health needs of the people.
According to the governor, the Dickson family decided to use the passing of his mother, Mrs. Goldcoast Dickson, as an avenue to champion the cancer advocacy through the establishment of the Henry Seriake Dickson Foundation and create awareness about early detection of cancer and reduce the number of deaths.
“The decades long environmental disaster in the Niger Delta has gone on unmitigated, unresolved, unaddressed and it is getting compounded by the day as a result of the negligence and wilful conduct of oil companies operating in the Niger Delta as well as activities by young misguided elements. All our waters are polluted. The air is full of black soot. So we have a major health emergency on our hands, which has to be attended to.
“Since the passing of my mother, my family has become campaigners against cancer. One of the decisions that we have taken as a family is to talk to well-meaning people like you and others to see how we can mobilise support for the establishment of a cancer centre in her name.
“We don’t want it to be government driven but any government can make donations to it. It will be affiliated to tertiary institutions and will be maintained by the Henry Seriake Foundation. The foundation, which has been registered, will be writing to all of you, especially our leader, because we know you are a good man who is committed to a lot of good causes.
“As unfortunate as this incident is, we want to use it as an avenue to continue to do some public good. We want to see if we can work together to enlighten our people about cancer, which is ravaging our people. We have more cases of cancer in the Niger Delta.”
The Bayelsa helmsman also expressed appreciation to Atiku and his delegation for personally visiting him in his hometown in view of their busy schedules, stating that their show of concern has strengthened the Dickson family a great deal.
The former Vice President was accompanied on the visit by the Director General of his presidential campaign organisation and former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Peter Obi, former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe among others.