That cancer is very destructive cannot be over emphasized. The scourge and its ravaging effects have long been a recurring decimal and several Nigerian socialites have had to fall victim to this terminal disease. Arguably, the second leading cause of death in the world after cardiovascular diseases, early detection seems to be the only solution as no tangible cure for it has been found. There are several types of cancer but the major ones which has claimed so many lives includes; breast cancer, cervical cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, ovarian cancer, cancer of the blood and prostate cancer. In this piece, Life &Times x rays a few notable socialites who have had to exit this world as a result of the deadly disease.
Oronto Douglas was the special adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Research, Documentation and Strategy and was one of the team of lawyers who represented Ken Saro Wiwa during his trial under the Gen. Sani Abacha regime. For being an astute human rights lawyer, he was imprisoned many times by various dictators. Oronto who was also an author, an environmentalist and a philanthropist who had remained committed to his job as a senior special adviser up until his death. Prior to his death, he was away from the public sphere, in America precisely, for months on treatment and only came back to Nigeria to put his house in order having been told the exact time he would breath his last. He was said to be devastated when President Goodluck Jonathan lost his re election bid and many have said that were Oronto not so ill, the president may have probably not lost the election. Such was his commitment and his ability to make things happen when he was hale and hearty. The former commissioner of Information in Bayelsa State was 49 at the time of his death. He died of stomach cancer.
High society was jolted last year when the news of the death of handsome Henry Abebe was announced. This is because Henry who was one of the siblings of the former late first lady of Nigeria, Stella Obasanjo, was a personable socialite who was always there for his friends. The former executive director of Cabotage and Maritime Labour Services of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), died of cirrhosis, a chronic disease of the liver, at an Abuja hospital leaving behind his wife, Beatrice, three children, three siblings and his aged parents.
The irrepressible Abdul-Ganiyu “Gani” Oyesola Fawehinmi was sent to an early grave after battling with lung cancer for two years . The author, publisher, philanthropist, social critic, human and civil rights lawyer, politician and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, was a prominent social activist who dedicated his life to the defence of human rights and the criticism of government’s insensitivity. The founder and presidential aspirant of the National Conscience Party in 2003, had earlier had a wrong diagnosis of his illness at a Lagos hospital before he got a proper diagnosis of lung cancer at a UK hopsital.
She was the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Minister of Information and Communications between 2008 to 2010. Dora Akunyili, a former professor of pharmacy, died of complications arising from cancer of the uterus. Ironically, she was completely healthy until she decided to go into politics when she lost the Anambra senatorial election in 2011 to Senator Chris Ngige. At the end of the legal tussle over the election, the former minister visited America in 2013 to undergo what she thought would be a routine medical check-up. Her doctor in America did a hysterectomy, a surgical removal of the uterus and found out that she had a malignant endometrial cancer. It was the tumor that eventually took her life last year, in a hospital in the Indian city of Bangalore after she had struggled with the disease for two years. Before her death, Akunyili maintained an optimistic spirit throughout her illness. She never believed she would succumb to the disease, she was determined to fight the disease and to prove so, accepted her nomination as a delegate at the National Confab which took place in Abuja. However, some family members believe that she may not have died had she not been given a wrong diagnosis of cancer while she served as the Zonal Secretary (Southeast) of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). She had travelled to the UK then for treatment and doctors discovered that she was suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which necessitated her to pay back the money she had given her for treatment. to the PTF. This was until last year when her US doctor found that she had malignant endometrial cancer.
His name would always ring a bell whenever and wherever Nigeria’s political history is in public discourse. The late lawmaker and nationalist was different things to many people depending on the circumstances of his interaction in both national and private capacities. The former Chairman, Senate Committee on Education who died at the age of 75, died of lung cancer. A former Minister of information, until his death, he was elected a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in April 2003, representing Abia North Senatorial District.
Not too many Nigerians will forget Maryam Babangida so soon. If not for her role in nation building, it will definitely be for some controversy around her. She was the chairperson of the Better Life for Rural Women during her husband, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s years in office, from 1985 to 1993. Maryam who it was glamorised the office of the first lady, died of ovarian cancer at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey in 2009.
Only a few close friends were aware of one of Nigeria’s finest fashion designer, Oluremi Osholake’s medical condition until her situation become critical. Fondly referred to as Remi Lagos, Osholake passed on at 51 at Harley Street Clinic in London from cancer of the womb. Even when she was diagnosed, she continued to put up a brave fight against the disease, receiving chemotherapy treatment. Her demise was as a result of complications that arose after undergoing surgery for the ailment.
The very gorgeous late socialite and consummate art lover, Angela Onyeador died of the dreaded cancer disease in 2012. She was in her 50s.Angela whose sister, Stella, was the wife of the late Biafra Warlord, EmekaOdumegwu Ojukwu, was also an aunty to Amarachi Kanu, wife to ex footballer Kanu Nwankwo. Angela during her active years on the social scene was the yardstick for measuring the sophistication of other female socialites. She was the envy of all and most women aspired to be like her. She bestrode the social space like a colossus and every other person had to follow her tempo. She was laid to rest at the Ikoyi Vaults and Gardens amidst a very solemn gathering.
Naana De Souza
Originally from Ghana, the former popular TV/Radio personality, who used to be married to socialite, Magnus De Souza died after a six year battle with cancer in her native home town in Ghana. Naana in her prime worked as a colunmist for Punch, City People and several other newspapers and magazines. She also worked with Silverbird TV where she helped organize many MBGN pageants. She can be described as one of the best voices in the broadcasting industry in Nigeria.
Second Republic Senate Leader, Dr. Olusola Saraki, known as the Kingmaker of Kwara politics. Fondly referred to as the Waziri of the Ilorin Emirate or Baba Oloye, the late Saraki who was a philanthropist died in Lagos on 14th November 2012 at his Ikoyi home at the age of 79, loosing a five year battle against cancer.
He was a pioneer radio and television broadcaster and sports journalist extraordinaire with over 40 years of experience. He died from a protracted cancer of the blood which had kept him bed-ridden for months. His travails with the disease was highly publicized which resulted in a passionate response by prominent individuals, groups and corporate entities offering to contribute to Yinka’s huge medical bills and did so. The Ogun and Lagos State Governments in particular were among the most generous contributors to the Yinka Craig fund, with the Lagos State Government donating as much as N15 million. Other prominent donors included the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’adu Abubakar III. The fund rose about N38 million. This enabled him to be flown to America for a Stem Cell transplant, a medical procedure that became necessary as a result of cancer of the bone marrow. He lost a two-year battle with cancer of the lymphatic systems at Mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in the United States of America on September 23, aged 60.
Sonny Okosun, one of the great musicians of his time but the music stopped playing when he died on May 24, 2008 of colon cancer at the age of 61 in the United States after a prolonged battle with it. He had gone to seek medical advice on his deteriorating health only to be told he had cancer.
He was the Group Managing Director of Guarantee Trust Bank from 2002 to the point of his death in 2011, a bank which he co-founded in 1990 alongside his good friend, Fola Adeola and served as Deputy Managing Director for 12 years between 1990 and 2002.A very unassuming bank chief, Tayo had called some friends about a year earlier to his death to inform them of his diagnosis around August of 2010. One of such friends informed him of an experimental immunotherapy treatment in Germany where he was taken to, to receive treatment. His condition improved for a while to the extent that he felt the worst was over. However, his health deteriorated in early 2011 drastically and had to be flown to the UK for treatment. He passed on mid 2011 of lung cancer. He was aged 56.
Admiral Augustus Aikhomu
An Admiral of the Nigerian Navy, he served as Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of General Staff and later, as Vice president to General Ibrahim Babangida. He fought a nine year battle to save his life from the ravages of prostate cancer until he eventually lost the battle in August 2011.
She was the wife of the former boss of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Chairman, Timi Alaibe and the boss of top Cosmetics Store Pretty Woman, on Toyin Street Ikeja. However she was best known and highly praised for her charitable deeds as the founder of award winning NGO, Family Re-orientation Education and Empowerment (FREE), an NGO designed to help the women of the Niger Delta region become literate and empowered. The woman with a beautiful heart died in a UK hospital after being diagnosed in 2008 of renal cell carcinoma, a kind of cancer that is unusual but very dangerous. She was aged 45
Nneyin Allison Attah
She was the wife of the ex-governor of Akwa Ibom Obong Victor Attah and was originally from Barbados. A qualified librarian, Nneyin had a passion for child care and was chairperson, Child Development Trust (CDT), a non-governmental organisation that sought to change the lives of under-privileged rural children in Akwa Ibom through the provision of free health care services. She died from a prolonged battle with kidney cancer at the age of 72 at a Lagos hospital.
She was the wife and of Edo state governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. The former first lady, was initially receiving treatment abroad and quickly returned to Nigeria for her daughter’s wedding but unfortunately lost her battle with breast cancer a week to the wedding at an Abuja Clinic. She was the initiator of the Health Foundation for Maternal and Child Care, a pet project which was aimed at providing quality healthcare for pregnant women and the girl-child.