18 Jan Full Speech (Video and Text): OCI Foundation President at the flag-off ceremony of the Arm Our Youths Health Campaign, Anambra State, Nigeria
SPEECH BY DR. CHRIS IFEDIORA, THE FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF THE OCI FOUNDATION, AT THE FLAG-OFF CEREMONY OF THE ARM OUR YOUTHS HEALTH CAMPAIGN
Tuesday, 10/09/2019; Nnamdi Azikiwe University Main Auditorium, Awka, Anambra State, Nigeria.
THE FULL TEXT
[All Protocol observed]
Distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen, “Welcome”!
We feel very privileged to have you as guests and witnesses to this historic event, which is the official commencement of the Arm Our Youths Health Campaign (ArOY Campaign). This is a day that will not only go down in the history books, but is also a day that, in the years to come, Ndi Anambra and Nigerians will be proud to remember.
Briefly, the ArOY Campaign is the flagship health initiative of the OCI Foundation designed to be a wide-reaching, sustainable and cost-effective way of spreading anti-breast and anti-cervical cancer messages to millions of at-risk Nigerian women in a way that is timely, efficient and culturally-acceptable. Primarily, the Campaign targets students across all senior secondary schools in Nigeria by introducing the relevant teachings into their regular academic curriculum, along with assessment/examination systems. Through the CERVIBREAST mobile phone application (now on the Android’s Google Play Store), this Campaign will potentially be within reach of every single Nigerian.
This ArOY Campaign is novel in its invention, comprehensive in its packaging, engaging in its delivery, and unique in its offering.
It is unique because, to the best of our knowledge, it is the very first Campaign anywhere in the world to target young women in their mid to late teens, while in formal academic settings;
It is unique because it is the first to have teachings that will be repeated multiple times, over a number of years, for the same cohort of students. Along with its in-built assessment and examination systems, this feature improves “engagement” from the participants, and will guarantee long-term sustainability of the lessons they gain. These have been the major weaknesses of existing campaigns;
It is unique because the ideas behind it were developed with significant input from the prestigious Harvard Medical School (Boston, USA), and has a formal endorsement from that great institution;
It is unique because the scientific evidence that underlies the initiative, were scrutinized by multiple experts around the world, and published across 5 different peer-reviewed journals of international reach and reputation;
It is unique because the current program that is being rolled out today were fine-tuned through the input of a 28-man working committee. This Committee, made up of representatives of all major stakeholders and religious faiths in Anambra State and Nigeria, ensured that the program on offer is culturally, religiously, professionally and technically acceptable to all concerned;
It is unique because the program has an evaluation (research) component, which is being overseen by the Griffith University School of Medicine, Australia. The research team has in its fold, 5 seasoned academics, drawn from 4 different universities, across 2 countries and 2 continents. This team boasts of at least one University Professor, an Associate Professor, a Senior Lecturer and Lecturer in its fold;
It is also unique because it is a nationwide activity. By 2025, it will benefit all the schools, across all the communities, and all the local government areas in all the states and geo-political regions of the Nigerian nation. Anambra State is only the first to benefit, and has this privilege because the Foundation’s activities commenced here 2 to 3 years ago, and have therefore garnered lots of support, goodwill and the necessary buy-in needed to excel.
The program is unique because its combines a rare mix of teachings that promote high moral values, with educative and life-saving tips. So, if you value morals, support it. If you value education, support it. If you value health, just simply get on board with us.
We can spend all day listing the uniqueness of the Arm Our Youths Campaign. But we will not do this, as our task today goes much beyond that. Our task also goes beyond just celebrating the successful commencement of the Campaign in Anambra State. Our major task today, ladies and gentlemen, is to inform the rest of Nigerians that the OCI Foundation has them firmly in its sights, and that the program will surely reach them.
This promise should come as no surprise to those that have been with the OCI Foundation since it was established in 2016. It has been in our nature to carry every one along, and, with such a life-changing innovation and initiative, we have pledged to do all in our powers to ensure that every single Nigerian, benefits. Remember, we did not just keep this gospel to the students in the Otuocha Educational Zone of Anambra State, where we started. We have no intention of limiting this gospel to students in Anambra State alone. Who knows, we may even go beyond Nigeria with this message and mission. After all, this Campaign is the first of its kind in the world, and the impact is expected to benefit all other developing countries in Africa and around the globe.
Our commitment to this course is bold and firm. Our desire to reach out to everyone is resolute and unwavering. Even though we may not have the financial or political wherewithal to complete the tasks by ourselves alone, we, at the OCI Foundation, surely do not lack the courage, the dedication, the commitment, and the skills to complete this task.
Ladies and gentlemen, at the OCI Foundation, we do not just dream. We work hard to make our dreams happen. Simply put, we live our dreams, and we know exactly where our dreams will take us to. As such, we know where we and Nigerians are heading with the ArOY Campaign. Please permit me to invite you all to a 20-year journey into the future of this Campaign.
In about 20 years from now, we will have an Anambra State where the ArOY Campaign would have been in operation for about 2 decades, and a Nigeria where the Campaign would have existed for at least 15 years. In 20 years’ time, the senior school students of today, who are mostly in their mid-teens, would be in their mid to late thirties. Majority of them would be parents, have their own families, and some will be involved with either the policy making or policy implementations all around Nigeria. In 20 years’ time, there will be tens of millions of under-40 year-old Nigerians, who will be well versed on the preventive strategies, early symptoms and risk factors of breast and cervical cancers. These Nigerians, and those associated with them in any way, will be well armed to know when to seek for help, without waiting till it is too late.
Hopefully, in 20 years’ time from now, cervical cancer vaccinations, along with the relevant screenings for both it and breast cancer, will be freely available in Nigeria. The beauty of the ArOY Campaign is that, should this ever be the case, the campaign’s beneficiaries would we already well prepared and ready to, not only embrace these changes when they come, but to actively seek for the interventions. Simply put, this Campaign will complement any future intervention.
It even gets more interesting if we move from 20 to 50 years ahead of time. Some of us here today may not be around then, but surely, some of the students we are arming today would be there as governors, ministers, lawmakers, company CEOs, and so on. Can we please pause for second and imagine the kind of healthcare programs these future leaders will put in place when they eventual take over the reins of leadership in this country. So, we are not only creating enlightened youths, we are also grooming future healthcare leaders.
The foregoing discourse is the future that the OCI Foundation dreams about. It represents the dream that has been encapsulated and presented in the ArOY Campaign. This is why we want to arm our students young. This is why we want to arm them now. And this is why we want to arm them all. This is why we have spent so much, and worked so hard, to make this day possible. And this is why we will never relent.
To us, this Campaign is among the most important healthcare innovations and strategies in Nigeria and the developing world in recent memory. Therefore, I enjoin all ordinary Nigerians to embrace it, and I enjoin our governments to support it. The OCI Foundation is willing to work with anyone, and with any group, and with all interested governmental or non-governmental bodies, to actualize a nationwide implementation of this project. Open your doors and ears to us. Let us all do this together. This is a project for everyone. This project, is a win for everyone: Women, Men, fathers, mothers, employers, and the society at large, because everyone has something to do with a woman, either as a child, sibling, parent, employee, friend, or work colleague.
According to the WHO, of the roughly 14,000 Nigerian women diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, just over 8,000, will die. This leaves families, husbands, children, and a whole lot of others, devastated. We can either continue to accept this unfortunate trend, or perhaps, just pray over it, or worse still, ignore it, and hope that it goes away. Alternatively, we can stand, and fight. Well, at the OCI Foundation we have chosen to do just that.
Current health promotion campaigns can only reach a few hundred individuals at a time, and comes at huge financial costs, with no guaranteed sustainability of the lessons passed on. The ArOY Campaign corrects all this. It has the potential to reach millions at time, and, apart from the initial set up costs, has minimal financial implications. It is also well aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In rounding up this speech, ladies and gentlemen, may I remind our guests that the OCI Foundation was established 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”. Our scholarships and educational activities have benefitted dozens of brilliant but less privileged students and pupils, across junior secondary, senior secondary, and tertiary institutions. Some of them, we are proud to say, are here today.
Thank you everyone once again for attending this event. Thank you to all our staff and volunteers, our Champions and Sponsor, and our partners. Thank you to our Nollywood friends, the media, and all who have worked behind the scenes to make this day a success. I invite us all to be champions of this Campaign in our own little ways. Inform your family and friends. Invite them to download the OCI CerviBreast App and to share it with all their friends and contacts at work places, schools, churches, mosques, and social media. By doing this, you would have already partnered with the OCI Foundation, as WE RISE, BY LIFTING OTHERS.
God bless you all.