By Zahra’u Abubakar Wali
When Nigerian delegates gather this year at the World Cancer Congress in Geneva, topmost on the agenda will be the canvassing for support and the building of alliances for the selection of one of their own as the President of Union for International Cancer Control UICC. The UICC is the largest and oldest international cancer-fighting organization founded by advocates in 1933. The candidate for the topmost position from Nigeria and Africa will be Dr Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu, first lady of Kebbi State and founder of Medicaid Cancer Foundation. Most importantly, she will be vying for the top job with the endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari, the President declared his support for her aspiration. President Buhari, in a letter to the candidate, “pledged that the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs will ensure her success in the forthcoming election of the Union.” With this endorsement, indeed victory looms closer by the for her.
Behind the veil of humility and gentle mien of Dr. Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu, the First Lady of Kebbi State, is dogged and hard-working woman. First, she is a Consultant Paediatrician and a strong advocate for women’s health, with a bias for cancer. It is the latter that she has invested resources, time and energy, most importantly building alliances across the world to bring succor to those suffering from the debilitating effects of cancer. The pain that comes from suffering from cancer and the penury that it propels patients into is something that is to much to bear not only for the patients but for their entire family.
Let us back track a bit, Dr. Bagudu obtained her MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine) from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University Zaria after years of studious energy exertion, and earning her academic laurels, she went ahead to specialize in Paediatrics and Neonatology in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, she also bagged a Masters in Paediatrics, garnished it with a Diploma in Tropical Child Health and ensured that she became a member of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. With this she became eminently qualified to face the future and ensure that she contributed her quota to the specialization of ensuring that Cancer treatment was accessible to all and sundry, especially for those who found it difficult to pay out of pocket for the treatment.
Eventually, due to the excess of number of requests coming from all over the country, even beyond her geographic region she ensured that she came up with a strategy, that strategy culminated in the establishment of an NGO, that is how the pathway for the setting up of the Medicaid Cancer Foundation (MCF). At the beginning MCF created awareness and advocacy son health matters, trains health workers, and funds the diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients in Nigeria. Over the last four years, the foundation has raised over 100 million naira for the treatment and support of cancer patients.
Other leadership positions
Dr. Bagudu has served on many technical committees including the steering committee for the National Cancer Control plan, and a Ministerial committee to build world-class diagnostic centres in six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.
As First Lady of Kebbi State, Dr. Bagudu is a passionate and active advocate for women, children and youth in Nigeria. Her programs cut across various aspects of development such as health, education and women empowerment.
She is a gifted orator and writes frequently on topical issues. This has made her a mentor to many young people nationally. Dr Bagudu is not new to Global advocacies, as she has been a Board Member at the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). Other roles she has propelled are Chairperson of the First Ladies against Cancer Initiative, member of the National Cancer Control Steering Committee and Cancer Health Fund, publication and implementation of the Kebbi State Strategic Plan for Cancer Control, whilst also spending the last seventeen (17) years advocating for cancer control. However, it is most impactful the utilisation of her experience as a paediatrician since becoming the First Lady of Kebbi State as the chief health advocate of the state, to increase the fortunes of Kebbi State most significantly is the increase in immunisation coverage from 17% in 2015 to 85% today. Indeed, Dr Bagudu is ready to take over the baton of leadership and run with it to greater heights and therefore needs the support of Nigerians, Africans and the global health community, it is time to localize the global cancer advocacy agenda in order to bring succour to millions of Africans. The time is now.
Hon Zahra’u Abubakar Wali is the former Special Adviser to the Governor of Kebbi State on Women Affairs and Social Development