‘At 59, I gave birth to a set of twins. I thought they said people that have cancer cannot give birth?’- Olori Olusola Adedoyin Alao Former City Express bank MD - NIGERIAN NEWSORBIT


Sunday, October 24, 2021

‘At 59, I gave birth to a set of twins. I thought they said people that have cancer cannot give birth?’- Olori Olusola Adedoyin Alao Former City Express bank MD

Olori Olusola Adedoyin Alao is a former Managing Director of the now defunct City Express Bank and wife of Oba Francis Olusola Alao, the Olugbon of Orile Igbon, Oyo State. In this interview with INNOCENT DURU, the daughter of billionaire businessman, Samuel Adedoyin,  among other issues, spoke of  how she survived breast cancer after medical doctors had told her that she had no more than four days left to live and asked her to name anything that could make her happy for the few days they believed she had left.  Excerpts:
What memories do you have of your time as the MD of City Express Bank?

My memorable experience is that we had the best of business development, and when people came and succeeded, we celebrated them. Those are my memorable experiences. There are so many people that we made billionaires. I am not a billionaire, but to the glory of God, the Lord has used us to build their businesses. They don’t know me today. They don’t even know that I am alive. But at times when I see people in the bank that I have worked with, they will say do you know so, so person that we did XYZ for? I would say thank God. I am happy and I feel comfortable at this level.

Do you miss the banking industry?

That is a difficult question for me. I miss not having a career. I miss my career being cut short.  But whether I miss the banking industry or not is another question, because I don’t know if I want to be part of what the Nigerian banking industry now is. When we were in the banking industry, we were concerned about profit because investors wanted profit. That is why they invested. But we were more concerned about development and building a nation than what banking has become now.

Banking in Nigeria is gradually becoming faceless and they don’t offer developmental support. If you have a startup, for instance, I don’t know if you can get support. The way we were then, if you brought a startup for us, we would work on you developing. We would look for financial solutions and help you to launch yourself and grow. I am not in the industry but I don’t think they give that kind of support.

Banking now seems to be more about profit generation which I don’t know would have defeated my own desire. Money is good, but it is not everything. It is only good for what you can do with it.  If you cannot better people’s lives with it, of what good is it? Actually, I don’t see the banks performing that role that I would have wanted or what we were.  City Express consequently had the best export desk. We were known for export. Our export desk was fantastic because we would start from the scratch to the finish and ensure the money turns back and it is turned around the year. I don’t know if the banks are still financing exports.

There are so many things I would have wanted them to do that I don’t see the banking industry doing. It is becoming faceless and too mechanical. It is only the savings aspect that I see getting to the grassroots. If I were in banking, I would be more interested in something like Peoples Bank or something that can touch the masses and not just about profit.  That’s not my interest. I don’t have that in my personality and I think I am born to serve.  Thank God I am always in a serving capacity. As an Olori, I am serving. In everything I do in my life I want to serve, I want to impact.

What is your experience dealing with cancer patients?

My experience is that we have intelligent doctors, skillful, knowledgeable but no equipment. The only way you can fight cancer is early detection, which is what I told you that abroad, they are investing heavily on prevention and detection. If we can do the same thing here, we will beat cancer. In Nigeria, people don’t even know till now that there is something called cancer and that it can affect them.

Pancreas and liver are very dangerous and very difficult cancer, and you cannot detect it until it starts to be painful. It is either you go through prevention or investigative medicine, which means going for a test all the time, and you need good machines to do the test. Colon cancer and jedi jedi (dysentery) have the same symptoms.

When people have colon cancer, they think it is jedi jedi and they are taking herbs which makes it worse because if it is not adequately measured can be damaging too. It could weaken the liver, weaken the kidney, and once those things are weak, the cells would spread very fast because your body is already weak. A lot of our parents abuse herbs.

 What prompted you to establish a foundation on cancer?

I am a cancer survivor. Between 2005 and 2006, I was diagnosed of breast cancer. After I went through the treatment, they now came out and said they were sorry, that what did I want for my life, and I said which life? They said you only have a few days left on the face of this earth and what do you want to do? They said there was an Angel Foundation that could arrange anything. They said do you want to meet with the Queen of England, the Prime Minister, see the president of America; whatever would give me joy for  the few days that were left.

You know white people honestly can be callous.  If they want to break such news to you here, they would call your grandfather, grandmother, your pastor, your alfa and everybody, that before she dies from shock, please be present. They would pray and fast. The whites don’t care about all that. I call it callousness because it is  not in my culture that you will just call me and say that I have just four days to live. What kind of madness was that?

They gave you four days to live? How many days have you lived since then?

I have stopped counting. I just gave birth to a set of twins. I thought they said people that have cancer cannot give birth.

Which of the happiness options they gave you did you choose?

I didn’t choose any. I just wanted to come back to Nigeria. Even if I was going to die, I didn’t want to die in a foreign land. I was even too confused and just wanted to come back to Nigeria, because it was a shock and I couldn’t digest it. But fortunately, my father in the lord, Pastor Adeboye, called me and said, “Sola, how is your health?’ I said Daddy, they told your daughter to go home and die. They said all treatment had failed.

The following day, he called and said that the Lord told me to come and lay hands and rebuke the cancer from the cells. He had a revival in Enugu that same day. He laid hands on me and two days later I went to the hospital and they didn’t see anything. When they didn’t see anything they said it had gone into remission. Something you don’t see, how do you know it has gone into remission? It is something you see you know where it is. They said it had gone into remission. I don’t know the meaning of that.  That means it is no longer functioning, abi?

When you were told you had four days to live, what was your immediate reaction?

Honestly, I went cold, almost dead, because I couldn’t think, I didn’t know where I was.  That day, I didn’t even process what they were saying. It was not until Pastor Adeboye called that it dawned on me the meaning of what they had said. I didn’t call or tell anybody. I was just numb. I didn’t even hear anything. I heard and understood, but I couldn’t process anything.

Have you been relating with the doctors that diagnosed you and what has been their reaction?

The statement my oncologist, I would never forget her name, Dr Margaret Spittles, made then, I was very fortunate. The head of the Oncology for European Union, now retired, was the one that treated me. He was a Jewish doctor. My family doctor then happened to be a Jew. He used his Jewish connection to get the best doctor for me in England. What they said was that you Africans are very strange. That was the first reaction. What did you eat? What did you drink? I was staring at them because I didn’t understand what they were saying.

They told me I had four days to live, and you didn’t see anything after that and you are asking me what I did. What could I have eaten? When you have chemotherapy, you can’t eat, you can’t drink, you are uncomfortable. What chemotherapy does is that it kills your good and bad cells together. You are uncomfortable and nothing goes right in your system because poison is being injected into you. So how can you be normal? People lose memory in the process of treating cancer.  Afterwards, it starts to come back gradually. They cannot access if it is everything you will get back. It is a very difficult and painful treatment.

I became a Guinea pig. I was going to the hospital usually every week. Then it became every other week, then every month, then every quarter and then every six months and every year. After five years they just told me to be coming for my yearly routine check.

Aside being an Olori and running a foundation, what else do you do?

I am a student.  I am a Ph.D student and also a master’s degree student in Maryland University in the US. I am also a financial consultant. I am a mother. I just gave birth to twins, one of the greatest joy of this year, even though I have had so many tragedies this year. I am going to be 59 in November.

You had children before now. Why did you decide to have more?

Did I decide to have more children? Interestingly I don’t know if that decision is my or God’s. It made me very happy because I had always wanted an equal number of boys and girls but it never happened. I had just one boy and three girls.  Now I have two boys and that makes it equal.  That is one thing that has been my greatest heart desire.  I now have all the boys on one side and all the girls on one side.  I had a medical challenge last year and we thought the cancer had come back. My stomach would just be hot. I was having pains internally.  We didn’t know what it was. One of my doctors said you use Zoladex meant to stop your hormonal production when I had cancer. I thought I would die but fortunately, I did not die. They thought maybe it was the effect of the medication. But the doctor said it should have gone since but since it is still happening, it may be a brain function or whatever. We are going to now put you on hormone treatment but anything can happen from there. Anything and everything happened.

What are the challenges in cancer management?

At the same time, they are very strong on preventive, i.e. they have developed machines that can easily pick the minutest cancer cells in the body. It can be picked up by pet scan and not MRI. But how many pet scan machines do we have in the world?  You can find it a lot in the UK. Even in London, you can’t find pet scan everywhere. You have to book, be on queue before you can get a pet scan done. In America, you can easily get a pet scan done within a week or two. But here, I don’t even think we have a single pet scan machine, because it is an extremely sensitive power consuming machine. In a place where they take light all the time, it will break down. When you talk about radiology machine, how many of them are functional in Nigeria? Very few. Because the problem is an extremely expensive to treat, a lot of foundations like mine, MariaSam Foundation, would not survive for too long. But because I am a survivor and I have personal interest, I keep evolving and keep holding on to ensure the foundation is alive despite the cost it takes to manage it. That is the greatest challenge of cancer.

The foundation came into existence in 2006, and to the glory of God we are still around. When I am buoyant enough, we will go and do free screening.  Nigerians don’t like to give except there is a show. I am not a very showy person. I am not a loud person. That contrast is there. My husband does not even like the idea of me soliciting for money.  So, what I have I give. I found it easier to help manage and coordinate treatment because the foundation has been around for a very long time.  We have a good doctor-network- doctors that we have worked with in the past, doctors that one way or the order we have organized a training for, so it is a bit easier for me to continue my networking with patients and doctors.

How much help did you get from corporate bodies and wealthy individuals in the treatment of cancer?

Yes, we had initially. You know when you start and you have assisted one person or the other that they know, they would be eager to assist you. First Bank had assisted us before. A few other corporate bodies too. And once they do it once, they don’t do a yearly thing. Two years ago, the Bank of Industry assisted us once. I spoke with one of the former MDs of First Bank and he said sick people don’t open accounts, so what benefit is there for them? Where they want to put their CSR is where they can be seen, heard or there would be returns. It is a bit challenging except you get another survival that shares common passion in assisting. Cancer is so expensive and after, even you survive, the trauma chemotherapy, because there might be certain organs or tissues that chemotherapy might destroy in the cause of the treatment. You still have to spend money.

Some people may have damaged thyroid gland. If their thyroid gland has been affected by chemotherapy, they need to keep taking medication, going to see the doctor, check up from time to time or most of the time. It depends on the level of the damage. They will keep spending. To now find somebody that instead of spending their money on their own survival now give it to you to run a foundation can be very difficult. That is why basically to get a sponsor for cancer is a bit difficult.

Is the government forthcoming in assisting cancer patients?

The government is not forthcoming in too many things. If the government is not forthcoming in feeding its people, which is an everyday essential, when government is not forthcoming on electricity, when government is not forthcoming on water that you need to survive, isn’t it a bit strange expecting them to be forthcoming when it comes to cancer treatment?  Every house in Nigeria is a factory. You are basically providing everything you need.  Why would you be expecting them to be forthcoming when it comes to medicals?

Talking about that, would you say our leadership has failed?

I would not say they have totally failed. Nigeria is still together as one. So, we should give them credit.  As failure, yes. But as in totally, that is 100 percent, then there won’t be Nigeria.

As a former bank MD, what do you think is the solution to the declining value of the Naira?

What did Ghana do?  Ghana woke up one day and decided their currency would be one to one. Did they devalue? Must we listen to the World Bank and all the IMFs of this world? You mean we cannot be innovative. Our brain cannot function unless there is a white face to it. Even when our forefathers were doing trade by batter, they were prospering. The Europe that we are following they have fantastic economy. Why are we not getting it right? Can’t we think that it is exploitation? They are still colonising us indirectly.

What is the interest rate in America? The maximum you can get in America is three to four per cent. What is the interest rate in Nigeria?  Call Godwin Emefiele today, I worked with him, he was my staff. Call him today; nobody has the correct inflation rate for Nigeria. Is it the risk rate that you want to mention?  Look at Carlifonia’s economy- how many trillions? Their economy is bigger than that of Nigeria as a whole because they are practising true federalism. The day Nigeria starts to practise true federalism, we will be the greatest nation alive, and that is what they are trying to prevent. Talking about the dollar rate, if I am the minister of finance today or the governor of CBN, I am telling you, within two years, Nigeria would be the wealthiest country in the world.

Could you share your idea with the CBN governor, being your ex-staff member?

He does not need my idea. If he needs it, he knows where I am. He does not need my idea. If a leader succeeds, what percentage of his decision makes him a success? Go and do that research.

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