When Governor Dickson Pulled Nigeria to Toru-Orua

Posted by Stanley Nkwazema | 24 August 2019 | 1,077 times

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•Governor Dickson

Emotions sometimes fail men. No matter how strong they are, men always have a strong affinity and bond with their mothers. It becomes easily noticeable when men lose their mothers. The Governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson, who loves praising God with his tambourine, could not help but pause, before thanking guests, who had come from far and near, for honoring his invite to his mother’s memorial service at his country home in Toru Orua, Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. 

The guests included former head of state Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Also present were Senator Chris Ngige, a special representative of President Muhammadu Buhari; Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State; the Minority House Leader, Ndudim Godwin Elumelu; the PDP national Chairman, Chief Uche Secondus, among other distinguished personalities.

After a rendition of three songs in Ibo, Yoruba and Ijaw, which has become a kind of ritual in every church service whenever the Governor leads in praise and worship, he broke down, though not in tears, as he spoke glowingly about his late mum and her last ten years on earth and her battle with the deadly cancer disease. Indeed, he was very emotional as he spoke about his mum, her life, her battle with cancer and her last two requests – building a befitting church for the Anglican Communion and a market for the women of Toru-Orua in Sagbama Local Government.

At the launch venue were Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, former Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Mantu, and Alhaji Mohammed Abacha, who represented his mother (If you recall, Bayelsa State was created in 1996 by his late father Gen. Sani Abacha). They were seated at the marquee eagerly waiting for the unveiling of the Gold Coast Dickson Memorial Cancer Center and the Henry Seriake Dickson foundation.

My great grandparents were renowned rain-makers, but I may not be in a position to know if the people of Toru-Orua, the riverine community, are also bonafide rainmakers. After a heavy downpour that lasted till the early hours of the day before the programme, the sky stood still for the momentous occasion even in the season of heavy rains.

Dickson went beyond building the church and laying the foundation stone of an ultra-modern market for the women, he equally built a center for cancer awareness, detection and treatment in honour of the late Mama Goldcoast Dickson, named Goldcoast Dickson Memorial Cancer Centre. The late Goldcoast died of lung cancer on August 8, 2018 at the M.D Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston Texas, United States of America, seven months after being diagnosed with the illness. She died of lung cancer even though she was not a smoker. So it calls for concern and for scientists to explain the deaths of those who don’t smoke. He equally launched the Henry Seriake Dickson Foundation (HSDF), a legacy operational foundation established with a seed grant. Its focus is on actual investment in the talents and vibrancy in Bayelsa with the conviction that the region should be the center for healthcare, education, innovation and entrepreneurial drive in Nigeria.

It was carnival-like environment when, after the church service, Senator Ben Murray Bruce took up the challenge of directing the affairs of the foundation launch. Many indeed have lost their loved ones to cancer and could not hide it when called upon to donate to the cause. Almost all the 21 aspirants of the PDP gubernatorial primaries scheduled for September 3, turned the place into a mini campaign ground, apparently sensing the high number of friends that will throng the venue to honour the governor. Only a few stayed till the launch of the Foundation as they hurried out of the crowded church venue. 

Interestingly, Governor Dickson, who has never spared any occasion to discuss the fact that his mother was an integral part of his life journey, explained that the foundation would, among other things, carry out research aimed at early detection and treatment of cancer. He indicated that the foundation was part of his efforts towards continually contributing to the well-being of humanity, urging all to donate to the cause.

“It is a humble effort on my part to set up this cancer foundation because I thought I should have a vehicle through which I could do some public good for humanity. I therefore humbly call on public – spirited individuals and those who have resources to support this worthy cause to stop cancer from ravaging our population,” he said.

Although President Muhamadu Buhari could not personally grace the occasion, his representative, Dr. Chris Ngige the Labour and Productivity Minister said the center could be the nucleus of a major health institution to save millions of lives, while noting that the foundation should be given the much-needed support to excel.

Abdulsalami Abubakar, the former Head of State who handed over to Obasanjo in 1999, sat closely to him at the launch and reiterated the urgent need for a well-focused and coordinated action against cancer that has become a scourge ravaging Nigeria. Abubakar described the effort as laudable and a wonderful gesture that should be supported while appealing for generous donations to support the foundation.

Obasanjo, who was touched by Dickson’s effort towards honouring his late mother with the setting up of the cancer center, said only those who had come into close contact with victims and the trauma they go through would appreciate the pain, anguish and hopelessness being inflicted on the society.

According to Obasanjo, “Cancer can be managed if it is diagnosed early. The second thing you say your foundation will be doing is what I call institutional memory; one of the things we are very bad at in our country. Keep and maintain records and let it be accessible for those who want to do research. When you see what cancer does, particularly the excruciating pain the sufferer goes through, you would want to do everything and anything to comfort those who are victims, and that is exactly what you are doing.

“One of the most depressing sites is the national archives. When you go there, you would almost weep. We have to do something about that.”

Also lending his voice to the laudable venture, Jonathan, who also hails from Bayelsa State, pledged his support to the foundation. He agreed that cancer had become a big problem to the world and stressed the need for collaborative efforts to curb the disease.

Jonathan recalled how his Special Adviser (SA) on Strategy and Documentation and renowned environmentalist, Oronto Douglas who incidentally is also from Bayelsa State, succumbed to the dreaded disease.

The National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP), noted that when the center is completed, it would help in reducing capital flight on medical tourism.

“I want to join Governor Dickson in calling other leaders to take this good example and take the various areas in our Health sector so that we may reduce the number of deaths.”

The HSDF has five strategic objectives; – ensuring that state of the art healthcare is available and cost effective; support youth employability; vocational education and entrepreneurship; enhance STEM and early childhood education standards; support women economic empowerment and invest in preserving the environment.

Besides cancer, the foundation will “champion the campaign on environmental degradation in Bayelsa, Niger Delta and Nigeria and also effect paradigm shift, especially in the youths through the provision of educational scholarships, trainings, seminar, both locally and internationally at the HSDF institute.

“Promoting the arts, music, Izon culture, language and the archiving of historic artifacts would create platforms and enabling environment for young people to discover, develop and maximise their talents in sports through the HSD wrestling classics, Nanaye Dickson Wrestling competition and HSD football tournament and many others.” The foundation will be focusing on children between the ages of 2-13 years with shelter and sponsor of children’s homes and offering free education. It will also engage youths (15-35) by supporting scholarships, trainings, and skills acquisition programmes – creating platforms for sports development, creating environment for the arts, culture and heritage while creating opportunity for leadership training and mentorship.

For the female folk, the core areas will be sponsoring and supporting cancer awareness, counseling, care, diagnostics and treatments while providing affordable public healthcare and support small scale enterprises.

The foundation, as a legacy foundation, recognises that it cannot achieve the objective on its own with the underlying strategy to forge synergy and collaborations and partnerships with like-minded local and international actors and institutions based on shared values.

On tracking impact, the assessment of HSDF will be aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Source: News Express

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