20 Oct 2021 Full Speech (Video and Text) from the OCI Foundation’s President at the One Day Seminar for NYSC delegates from Nigeria’s 36 states and the FCT (Chelsea Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria; October 19th, 2021)
Video: Speech from the OCI Foundation's President, Dr Chris Ifediora
Text: Speech from the OCI Foundation’s President, Dr Chris Ifediora
SPEECH BY ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR CHRIS IFEDIORA, THE FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF THE OCI FOUNDATION
AT THE SEMINAR AND ORIENTATION OF NYSC STAFF FROM NIGERIA’S 36 STATES (AND THE FCT) AHEAD OF THE NATIONAL FLAG-OFF OF THE ARM OUR YOUTHS (ArOY) HEALTH CAMPIGN
Held on Tuesday, the 19th day of October, 2021, at the Chelsea Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria.
Distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen, I crave your indulgence to stand on existing protocol. The OCI Foundation says a very warm “Welcome” to you all.
Please kindly accept my very deep apologies, for not attending this event in person. It hurts deeply to realise that, after waiting and working hard for 2 years for this day, the COVID-19 restrictions meant that I was not allowed to leave Australia. I did all I possibly could, and pushed till the very last minute. Though I am not here this time, I am consoled that, God-willing, I will be there for the big national launch in early 2022, and I look forward to hosting you all again, at that time, in person.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, the disappointment of missing out in person, is outshined by the joy of knowing that this Seminar, the first major step in making our anti-cancer partnership with the NYSC a reality, is finally happening. Guests, today, is an historic day. It is a day that brings us all close to realizing what we believe would be the most impactful healthcare intervention, by a non-governmental organization in Nigeria. Today, the ship of the Arm Our Youths Health Campaign (ArOY Campaign, sets sail, in what will be a life-saving, life-changing. and exciting voyage, not just for Nigerian youths, but for all Nigerians. The ArOY Health Campaign is an innovative way of stemming the scourge of breast and cervical cancers among Nigerians. So, witnessing this Seminar today, gives us the confidence that, as planned, the Batch A of the 2022 corps members will experience the Campaign all across their orientation camps in all the states of Nigeria and the FCT.
Please, ladies and gentlemen, kindly permit me to give honour, to whom honour is due. We would not be here today if not for the visionary leadership of the Director General of the NYSC, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim. Just over 2 years ago, in my last visit to Nigeria, and only 3 days after the Campaign was launched in another historic ceremony for all public senior secondary schools in Anambra State of Nigeria, the DG hosted my humble self, along with the OCI Foundation’s Legal Adviser, Barr Steve Ononye, in his office. It was our very first contact and meeting with him, but the events of that day will be etched in our memories forever. We were struck by his warm and affable nature. Though it was a brief meeting that lasted less than 15 minutes, those minutes will arguably pass for the most important 15 minutes of health care activities in Nigeria. The historic event of today, and our lofty and noble plans of tomorrow, are all direct results of that symbolic meeting. In that meeting, ladies and gentlemen, the DG had the foresight to quickly see through the importance of the message we brought, and approved it within the first 5 of those 15 minutes.
The DG Sir, we are thrilled to see that the passion and energy you displayed that very day, have remained unchanged 2 years on. They have survived the threats from the COVID-19 pandemic, personnel changes, and the natural threats that come with the passage of time. Sir, Nigerians owe you a lot, and history will forever remember you for this bold move that will save many lives in this country.
Distinguished guests, the ArOY Health Campaign, for which we are gathered here for, is NOVEL in its invention, COMPREHENSIVE in its packaging, ENGAGING in its delivery, and UNIQUE in its offering. As many here would know, the Campaign has endorsements and inputs from multiple institutions and professionals across at least 4 countries from 3 different continents. The Harvard Medical School in the USA (the North American Continent), the Griffith University in Australia (the Australasian Continent), the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Nigeria (the African Continent), and the Universities of British Columbia and Saskatchewan, both of which are in Canada (North American Continent), all have their experts making various levels of input to this Campaign.
The Campaign is a health promotion initiative of the OCI Foundation, which seeks to introduce anti-breast and anti-cervical cancer teachings into the regular activities of the NYSCs orientation camps across Nigeria. It also aims to include the preventive teachings into the academic curriculum of all senior secondary schools in all of Nigeria’s 36 states (and the FCT) before the end of 2025. To actualise the intervention in schools, we have reached out to the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, NERDC, which is the body saddled with curriculum changes at the national level. In fact, just 2 weeks ago, we met the NERDC’s amiable Executive Secretary, Professor Ismail Junaidu. From that meeting, we are hopeful of having the desired changes ready within the next 12 months.
We are also excited to state that we are working with the mothers of the nation, the Nigerian first ladies. So far, we have held meetings with their members under the aegis of the First Ladies Against Cancer (FLAC), and their presence at this event today, indicate how committed they are to this course. Her Excellencies, we say, “Welcome, and Thank You”. Nigerians are blessed to have your calibre of visionary first ladies at this point in time, as we take the fight to these cancers. Alongside FLAC, we have also written to the other first ladies in every state in Nigeria, and hope to have them all on board soon. The Nigerian Cancer Society, NCS, is also officially part of this project.
When fully implemented, the ArOY Health Campaign will offer a novel option that will complement existing anti-cancer measures for tackling both breast and cervical cancers, and will significantly contribute to the global eradication of cervical cancer. It is also well aligned with a number of items in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This, therefore, is a Campaign that we should all be part of. It is a Campaign that we should all support.
This novel campaign is designed to be wide-reaching, sustainable, and cost-effective. Since getting the NYSCs approval, the OCI foundation has worked hard to ensure that, apart from the initial implementation costs, which the Foundation is shouldering, the program can run with minimal financial requirements. In fact, we have a template that, even in the absence of the OCI Foundation, which we do not envisage, this program with the NYSC and the schools, will continue for generations.
To ensure the foregoing, ladies and gentlemen, we have created a virtual training platform, developed with the help of experts from some of the institutions mentioned earlier. The platform will ensure that the NYSC staff and teachers that will anchor this Campaign receive the best possible training. For the NYSC, these trainings will commence within weeks after this Seminar. These trainings are being offered for free to the trainees. Again, the OCI Foundation is covering almost all the required costs.
In addition to the Online training technology, the ArOY Health Campaign has additional technologies. First is the innovative “CERVIBREAST MOBILE PHONE APPLICATION”, which allows all Nigerians of age to have access to top-notch preventive information against these cancers at their fingertips. As far as we know, CerviBreast is the only App, anywhere in the world, that sends regular and customizable reminders to users regarding breast and cervical cancer screenings. With the help of the WHO Country Office in Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Health, we are also working on a plan to include a database in the App that will allow Nigerians to locate cancer service providers from anywhere in the Country. Ladies and gentlemen, this App is already functional, and is available FOR FREE in both ANDROID AND APPLE SMART PHONES. We urge you all to please, download it, and to share it among your networks.
The second technology-based component of the ArOY Campaign is the Gynocular Project, an OCI Foundation’s initiative that offers a highly-subsidized or free digital cervical cancer screening for Nigerians. We are already working with the FCT’s Primary Health Care Board on this. They are represented at this event, and we know that, with their help, this service will soon open up to Nigerians.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, we wish to state, for the records, THAT OUR COMMITMENT TO THIS COURSE IS BOLD AND FIRM, AND THAT OUR DESIRE TO REACH OUT TO EVERYONE, IS RESOLUTE AND UNWAVERING. In isolation, we may not have the financial or political wherewithal to complete the tasks. However, we, at the OCI Foundation, surely do not lack the courage, nor the dedication, nor the commitment, and neither do we lack the skills, to complete this task. We will not stop until we have armed every Nigerian youth against breast and cervical cancers. We urge you all to partner with us in getting this done. We promise to get it done, and so we will. At the OCI Foundation, we keep our promises. We do not just dream, . . . We make our dreams happen.
In rounding up this speech, ladies and gentlemen, may I remind our guests that the OCI Foundation was established in 2016 with the primary aim of bridging and breaking down barriers to the attainment of health and educational excellence among Nigerians. It is formally registered in both Nigeria and Australia to “Promote and Advance Health”, “Advance Education”, and “Advance Social and Public Welfare”. The ArOY Campaign is our signature health project. Our educational scholarships and social empowerment programs have benefitted hundreds across the Country.
Thank you all once again for attending this event: Our partners in this Campaign, particularly the NYSC, the Nigerian Cancer Society, the Sweet Home Africa Humanitarian Foundation, and the First Ladies Against Cancer; The media, and all other associates, and partners; And the OCI Foundation’s team members, staff, and volunteers. We appreciate all your roles in driving this whole dream through, and we say, “thank you” to you all. None of these would be happening without your inputs.
May I invite every Nigerian to join us, and become champions of this Campaign in their own little ways. By doing this, you would all be partnering with the OCI Foundation, as WE RISE, BY LIFTING OTHERS.
God bless you all.