Nigeria’s “First Ladyism”: Update on Turai Yar Adua’s Cancer Center for which she raised billions – Tola Adenle

March 15, 2017


Abandoned Cancer Center which was touted to be “first of its kind in Nigeria and indeed West Africa”, overgrown with weeds and many vehicles rotting away. [Credit:]



In May 2009, President Yar Adua was already a very sick man when I wrote “Alhaja Yar Adua’s ‘First Ladyism’” for one of my weekly essays for The Nation on Sunday. The essay was posted on this blog in February 2012. To save you time, here are excerpts:


Now, two recent events have gotten me wondering again. In far-away Los Angeles in April, an “African First Ladies Summit” took place in swanky Beverly Hills Hotel. I was intrigued by a group picture that showed Adelcia Pires of Cape Verde; Hadija Landja from Niger; the flamboyant Chantal Biya of Cameroon; Ana Samos from Angola and a representative from the Harem of Swaziland’s King, “Queen Kiza” AND Nigeria’s Alhaja Turai Yar Adua. Intriguingly, Dr. Osotimehin, the Health Minister, appeared in one group photograph.

First, here’s a little info about “The African First Ladies Health Summit” a.k.a. “first ever Summit For Leadership” from the web after my first information from the BBC news and The Nation. “LEADERSHIP FOR HEALTH African First Ladies Health Summit” is supposedly “the vision of ‘US Doctors for Africa (with an acronym, USDAF, that I first mistook for a US government agency) and African Synergy”. “African Synergy [is] an NGO of 22 First Ladies from Africa”. The two bodies “hope for a broader partnership amongst the wide range of partners attending the summit … to make real and lasting change in Africa”. Gracing the occasion were proud-of-her-African-roots model, Naomi Campbell; famous-for-being-famous Paris Hilton (who’s known to charge thousands of dollars to attend events) and a few B-listers from Hollywood. Maria Shriver, California’s First Lady also attended. The occasion saw the first ladies “introduce their domestic and region-wide efforts across Africa, engage in dialogues with other leaders from the field of global health …”

The group slapped the collective face of long-suffering Africans: The consensus amongst the First Ladies was that what was lacking in Africa was the will of the people. Of course these women conveniently forget that the problems of Africa are rooted in their husbands’ mis-governance and mis-management of the continent’s wealth and human resources.

If most African countries belong to the African Union, why couldn’t their first ladies all be in this NGO? Or was there a hurry to get it going that others could not be contacted? While one occasion can be used to harness several goals, it seems strange that an “NGO of 22 First Ladies …” would also be “honoring the philanthropic efforts of the First Ladies of Africa”, i.e. themselves at their first gathering. It’s also rather strange that a 1st “First Ladies’ Summit” would not start in Africa but in far-away America despite heavy hitters like Chevron, ExxonMobil and Pfizer that seemed on board because of Nigeria.

How’s this NGO structured and where is its registered office? What happens if a member’s husband is ousted and Madam/Madame refuses to release funds in her keep? How will funds raised be shared among the countries? While “expected attendees” were to be 22 and only those in the photograph (twelve) seemed to have attended, why are others, including Ghana, South Africa, Egypt, etcetera NOT members? Pardon me, was this a summit of ‘The Wretched of the Earth” (Fanon) of First Ladies?

More questions: why was Osotimehin present at the “Summit”? Were other Health Ministers present but excluded from photographs? His presence got me wondering about the second event: Alhaja Yar Adua’s new project, an “International Cancer Center in Abuja”. Here are some of Alhaji Aliero, Chairman of Implementation Committee’s words at a press conference. The Alhaji, who wears several hats, is FCT minister and, I believe, soon to be another son-in-law of the Yar Aduas.

“It is now time to tackle the menace of cancer by taking the bull by the horn, thanks to our inimitable First Lady, whose brainchild it is to seek solution to the scourge … the first of its kind in Nigeria and indeed West Africa. … has been conceptualised by the First Lady after a study …and visit along with some Nigerian cancer specialists to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Centre … “worried by the increase in reported cases of people with cancer in Nigeria, … has concluded plans to seek solution to the scourge … a terminal disease … made worse by the fact that most Nigerian hospitals … lack diagnostic capacity …”

Nigerians need to know more about the funds since Alhaja Yar Adua is supposedly doing it on behalf of – and in the name of the country. How much has been collected – from here and overseas, so far, and WHO the contributors are. Is Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas financially involved? Is the Alhaja going to hold public presentations at which state governments, federal agencies, the private sector will be asked to donate? What is/what would be the Federal Government’s financial contribution to this project?
I have a huge problem with such a vast amount not being channeled into existing institutions like the University College Hospital, Ibadan, ABU-TH, Nsukka Teaching Hospital and other established medical centers “that lack diagnostic capacity” according to Aliero, where the huge amounts being bandied can be quickly utilized to strengthen existing programs. Some years ago, I wrote here about a young Nigerian lady, a UCH alumnae and Ekiti indigene, Professor Funmi Olopade (nee Falusi), head of one of the cancer units at the prestigious University of Chicago who won half a million dollars from the McArthur Foundation. It was for her ground-breaking work on a female-related cancer.

 I’m not being a naysayer – as newspaper commentators who do not support the government wholesale are viewed – but I do not see this project succeeding as a first lady’s project. Now, it is possible we are looking at something like the Cancer Center at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Muslim Saudi Arabia where the royal family AND Saudi Government are one.

And with that, we arrive at my final question: what is the name of this cancer center and who will own it? Nigerians need answers.

The Nation on Sunday, May 2009.

[Update: Professor Osotimehin did move up to head Nigeria’s “juicy” Health Ministry and now, as Nigerian government appointee, is at an international organization. TOLA, February 22, 2012.]


The whole commentary can be read on this blog at:



With the following news report from Premium Times [Nigeria], questions raised in my 2009 essay confirm that Nigeria’s financial problems, arising from mis-governance and corruption were not misplaced.

Despite the sad demise of Alhaji Yar Adua, would it be out of place to have a former first lady return to the public sphere to render accounts for the billions collected in the name of Nigeria?

More importantly, is it not about time that the idea of “first ladyism” which retired General Buhari The Candidate promised to scrap but Buhari The President has given more than a nod and wink to – be scrapped?


Eight years after raising billions, Turai Yar’Adua’s Cancer Centre remains abandoned, overtaken by weeds Olawande & Idris Ibrahim


Despite securing a partnership agreement with a key organ of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, about eight years ago, and raising billions of naira in cash and materials from public and private donors, the International Cancer Centre Abuja, ICCA, a pet project of a former Nigerian First Lady, Turai Yar’Adua, is in a state of abandonment overtaken by weeds.

At the sprawling centre built on 7.3 hectares of choice land donated by the Federal Government of Nigeria, rotting equipment, including about 200 donated mini-buses, scream a sad story of unfathomable waste at passers-by.


Read the rest of this sad incredible but typical story that is not out of place in Nigeria:


WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15, 2017. 2:45 p.m. [GMT]


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