Government of Ekiti State, Nigeria.

Olayinka: Sun Sets For Amazon

April 14, 2013

Late Mrs Funmi Olayinka

. Her life battle with cancer

The death last Saturday of the deputy governor of Ekiti State, Mrs Funmilayo Olayinka, has thrown the state into mourning just as dignitaries from all over the country besiege the state for their condolences.

Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital and hometown of the late deputy governor, has since Sunday become a Mecca of sorts for sympathizers and mourners who had continued to besiege her family house where her aged parents, Pa Festus and Mrs Adetutu Famuagun, reside and as well the Government House, to condole with Governor Kayode Fayemi.

All flags in the state have since then been flying at half mast just as all state official ceremonies have been rescheduled for the period of seven-day mourning declared by Governor Fayemi “in reflection of the mood of our state in this trying moment.”

This is as outpour of emotions have been the order of the day in the condolence registers opened in the Governor’s and Deputy Governor’s offices, Government House, the State House of Assembly, her residence and the Liaison offices in Lagos and Abuja.

When the Ekiti State Government, about a month ago, informed the public that Olayinka was on sick leave to attend to her medical needs and requested for the people to pray for her, some people had read politics into it.

While some, who said that the deputy governor had been travelling for medical attention even before assumption of office in 2010, suspected the government might be up to something else, others said it was merely in response to the query of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state on the whereabouts of the number two citizen of the state.

At least, rumour concerning the state of health and place of the deputy governor in the government was not new in the state.

In January, the rumour mill had it that Olayinka had resigned from office following her incapacitation as a result of her illness.

That time, it took her appearance in office and clarification by Fayemi to dispel the un-clarified information. The outburst by a member of her family that some Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) members in the state were already jostling for her position and pressuring the governor on replacement while on sick bed, had lent credence to the political dimension.

The family member was, however, quick to add that Fayemi was not disposed to the individuals’ ploy to replace the deputy governor as he quoted the governor to have said “Olayinka is not only my deputy but like a sister to me”.

Corroborating that disposition, the state government, through a statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Olayinka Oyebode, was prompt in debunking the insinuation that the governor was under pressure to replace the deputy.

However, when the news filtered into the state on Saturday night that the deputy had died, it was received with a mixture of belief and disbelief by the people.

This was especially as it took some time for the state government to confirm the news which was already trending on the social media and some electronic media, through the satellite.

The state government, through the Information Commissioner, Mr Tayo Ekundayo, later confirmed her passage, saying: “The Government of Ekiti State announces with sadness but with gratitude to God, the passing of the State Deputy Governor, Mrs Olufunmilayo Adunni Olayinka, aged 52, after a tough but courageous battle with cancer”.

The commissioner, in the statement, added: “Olayinka demonstrated exemplary courage and dedicated service to Ekiti people both during the struggle to retrieve the stolen mandate and in her position as deputy governor”.

The state government described her as an accomplished banker and corporate sector player, who worked in the financial industry for 21 years before heeding the call of service in her home state of Ekiti when she was selected to serve on the ACN governorship ticket in 2007.

Fayemi, in his statewide broadcast on Sunday, had said her late deputy battled gallantly in the course of her ailment and availed herself of the best medical services within and outside Nigeria, adding: “In all of these challenges, I was of the belief that because of her courage and determination to live, she would pull through her health challenges. But man proposes and God disposes. She lost the battle.”

The governor had said: “I am pained by the exit of our Deputy Governor who was my ready partner in our collective quest to develop our dear state.

As my dependable ally in the struggle to free Ekiti, she was a consistent bulwark of support, especially through the period of the judicial struggle to reclaim our mandate. “I was never in doubt of her unalloyed loyalty, competence and integrity.

I shall miss her greatly. In the course of our struggle, she also became my wife’s best friend. As my deputy, she was a hardworking, God-fearing, reliable and trustworthy companion,” the governor said.

Her meritorious responsibilities in office, which endeared her to the people in government and private circles, included overseeing key units of government such as the Ekiti State Economic Management Team; Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs; Ekiti State Tenders Board; the State Pilgrims Welfare Board; the Branding and Communications Strategy.

Olayinka, a former player in the banking world and corporate sector, according to the governor, would be “particularly remembered for overseeing the birthing of a new brand identity for the state; restoring the dignity and honour of our people and bequeathing brand identity icons that have become unifying forces among our people regardless of age, gender, or socio-political leanings.

“Her unique legacy is that active participation and high achievement in politics and governance should not exclude women; this is particularly instructive in our society today as we pursue inclusion in every sector of national life,” he added. Ekiti State Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Chairman, Chief Jide Awe, who said the late Olayinka’s travail with the ailment started to manifest in 2009, dismissed insinuation in some quarters that she was killed with the aid of some supernatural forces.

Awe said: “Her travail with the sickness started to manifest in 2009 even when we were in the trenches and ever since, she had been in and out of the country to seek medical check-up.

So, with total submission, we believe that it was the will of God”. The demise of the state’s number two citizen who lost the battle to breast cancer, however, has in the week, raised fresh concerns over the affliction which has claimed the lives of many Nigerians and as well posed new challenges to medical experts and researchers.

Medical experts, who said the cause of cancer remains unknown, however, traced it to many factors such as ultraviolet and ionizing radiation; chemical carcinogens, such as asbestos, components of tobacco smoke, food and drinking water contaminants as well as infections from certain viruses, bacteria or parasites.

According to them, alcohol use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, chronic infections from hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and some types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) could trigger the ailment.

The concern is heightened especially against the backdrop of different tpes of cancer afflicting prominent Nigerians including Mrs Maryam Babangida , Chief Gani Fawehinmi, (SAN), Mrs Clara Oshiomhole, Chief Olusola Saraki, Sunny Okosun and ace broadcaster, Yinka Craig, who eventually died.

The experts, however, renewed calls on the need for regular screenings to ensure early detection by those afflicted, saying Nigerians should always go for screening to ensure early detection and management to avoid early death.

A medical practitioner and the Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly, Dr Adewale Omirin, who said cancer had no known cure for now, said it was better that one did not have it at all.

Omirin said cancer transversed three stages before degeneration, saying it could attack any organ in the body, including lungs, liver, colon, cervix, nose, throat, breast and even the brain.

The medical expert, who said the carrier became inflicted as malignant cells grow into cancerous cells which produce poisonous fluid that kills body cells, culminating in death, explained: “Early death of any cancer patient depends on the stages.

“It has three stages; stages one, two and three; and the only way it could be treated if detected early is through drugs in a process called Chemotherapy and the other way it can be treated is through X-ray called Radiotherapy.

“For now, the cause and the cure is unknown as scientists are yet to get a cure for it, the best thing is for a person not to sustain the disease because the management is very expensive”.

Another expert, the Chief Medical Director of Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti, Dr Patrick Adegun, said examination under microscope by qualified pathologists remained the best way to detect the disease for better treatment.

Adegun said the symptoms varied and depended largely on where the lump was located in the body, saying: “Symptoms of cancer depend on where it is located. That of ovarian cancer is different from that of prostate and breast, so to all other part of the body.

“But it is always very imperative to detect the familiar cases, I mean the possibilities of detecting those growths that have the likelihood of growing into cancer in the body,” he said.

The CMD hinted that family history or hereditary factor, could also indicate the likelihood of a person to contact the ailment. Ondo State Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, also a medical practitioner, advised women to engage in regular medical check of their breasts in order to prevent breast cancer, saying early detection of cancer before its spread was the only guarantee for safety against the deadly disease The trend was, no doubt, the reason medical and health workers in Ekiti State called on governments to place high premium on researches targeted at exposing professionals in the health sector to new innovations.

The workers under the aegis of Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria in Ekiti State said the deaths of prominent Nigerians owing to curable and preventable diseases in recent time was a challenge to governments in the country to increase funding for the encouragement of research in the health sector.

Their chairman, Comrade Comrade Ade Adesanmi, said at a press conference in commemoration of the union’s week celebrations in Ado Ekiti that it was high time the governments changed their attitudes on funding of the health sector in the interest of saving lives.

Similarly, the Alliance of NGOs on Environment and Public Health (ANEPH) has urged the Ekiti State Government to set up a cancer screening centre in honour of its late deputy governor.

By Abiodun Nejo

This article was first published in the Sunday Mirror on April 14, 2013


Last modified: April 14, 2013

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