Soyinka reacts to misleading information over his battle with cancer

NIGERIA’S first Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, has berated the media for presenting a warped narrative of an interview he granted the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC News Africa in 2015 over his battle against prostate cancer for which he was diagnosed in 2014.

The video shared on BBC News Africa  Twitter handle has been viewed by over 27,000 people with 940 retweets and over 1600 likes as at 7: 15 pm on Thursday.

Reacting to the misleading information being peddled by some media platforms, Soyinka said he has not been under any cancer-related condition in over five years because he revealed the information about his diagnosis after he completed treatment.

“The first – and most urgent – correction, of course, is to re-state that this is an ancient tale that is firmly situated in the past tense. In other words, I have not been under any cancer-related condition for over five years.

“Indeed, it was in order to avoid creating any such anxieties that I refrained from even revealing my own ordeal until I had fully and successfully concluded treatment,” he said.

Soyinka said he broke the news in solidarity with his friend, late Femi Williams, who was at the forefront of setting the Africa Cancer Centre in Nigeria in 2015.

“I made the original revelation in 2015, in support of the late Professor Femi Williams’ drive to set up an Africa Cancer Centre in Nigeria. It did not fail to strike an instructive chord that I had been a founding participant in that health initiative, little suspecting at the time that I was already a carrier of the enemy virus!” he said.

In the video, he said, “I don’t see why people have to go to Canada, Europe to receive treatment which is affordable in this nation, it is a shame.”



    But this statement has been misconstrued by some sections of the media, saying he criticised Nigerians for seeking medical treatment abroad.

    “Next, and more worrisome, is that some of the reportage suggests that I criticised Nigerians for seeking treatment outside the country. This is outright nonsense! Those who are able must seek health from wherever, including the outer planets, as long as a nation fails to provide even the most rudimentary but effective and sustainable health facilities for her own citizens,” he said.

    The Nobel laureate said the need to address the misconception in the video was to stem the tide of what he described as “the cancer of illiteracy.”

    “I have yet to see the programme, but perhaps I should start thinking of my next collaboration with the BBC or any other public awareness outreach, this time, around the urgent theme of a different form of cancerous affliction: the cancer of illiteracy!,” he said.

    Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.

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