Farooq Oreagba, an investment banker who stood out for his striking appearance at the just-concluded Ojude Oba festival in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, has opened up about how his bone cancer diagnosis changed his life priorities.

The Managing Director and CEO of NG Clearing Limited captured Nigerians’ attention with his grand entrance at the festival, which honoured Awujale, the king of Ijebu-Ode. They celebrated the rich traditions of the Ijebu people.

Mr Oreagba’s pictures and videos on social media resonated with the local vocabulary of ‘steeze and composure’.

He arrived on horseback and wore a green and lemon ‘Agbada and Sokoto’ outfit, complemented by a matching cap, red coral beads, and a gold crossbody chain.

During an interview on Sunday on Arise TV’s ‘Morning Show’, the 58-year-old disclosed that his appearance at the Ojude Oba festival expressed his personality.

This expression, the former member of the Derivatives Product Advisory Committee of the Nigerian Stock Exchange said, emerged after he was diagnosed with incurable cancer in February 2014.

He said: “I was diagnosed with cancer in February 2014. It’s an incurable form of cancer, so my priorities changed. I don’t know how much time I have left to live, so I prioritise my list. Family comes first because I don’t know how long I will be around. By God’s grace, I’m ten years and counting, and I’m not about to go anytime soon, especially since I’ve been crowned King of Steeze. Ojude Oba has evolved over the years. I’ve been involved for over 15 years within my Oreagba family. My grandfather, may he rest in peace, was the leading rider in the early 1960s.

“He died in 1967, so we only had one rider. Then, my uncle took over and was the main rider from 1967 to 1984. In the 2000s, we began to expand. It’s a big family affair, not centred around one individual, and a costly venture. We have to acquire horses, attire, and everything else. It also brings families together because we have cousins who want to ride but can’t afford a horse, so we all wear the same outfit. You cannot do it alone; you must consider and support others.”

The Oxford University alumnus said he was diagnosed with cancer after leaving the exchange company in 2000 as a senior executive.

According to him, his five million friends dropped to one million after he left the exchange company and then decreased to 100 after his diagnosis.

He urged people to prioritise their well-being and be themselves.

Speaking on his cancer battle, the master’s degree holder from the University of East London and Coventry University noted that he had a bone marrow transplant in August 2014.

He added that he underwent chemotherapy every twenty-one days for eight years.

Mr Oreagba, who said he no longer did chemotherapy, stated that he was living his best life and was back to work because it had been challenging to take a full-time job while undergoing chemotherapy.

“I now counsel cancer patients. I’ve been counselling cancer patients for a while, and that gives me a lot of fulfilment because people call me and say their brother, sister, or uncle has cancer. It messes with your mind because I see it all the time. I bounce in, and it’s always the same question: ‘Do I have cancer?’ I tell them yes, multiple myeloma. Then I ask them what type they have, whether it’s breast cancer or prostate cancer.

“I told them that compared to what I have, it’s like the Champions League, while theirs is like playing in division two. They first ask why I am so happy, and I tell them it’s because I’m alive. So, as long as you’re in the game, you can win. Every day is a blessing. I live each day like it’s my last. I’m very passionate about my work in financial services,” he stated.

He revealed his passion for spreading awareness about cancer and running marathons to raise money for cancer charities.

He said he ran the marathon to give people hope and understood its significance when he was in pain.

He noted that he received hope from unexpected places while battling cancer.

“So I said this to people: I’m 58, and if I could live another 20 years, I would say being diagnosed with cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me. It changed my perspective on life. I’m there for it, counselling cancer patients and trying to improve access to better healthcare. I’ll do that all day long. Just, I’m there. I’m glad I can. I’m back working.”

Mr Oreagba stated that he had beaten cancer because he was in remission, but he acknowledged, “Chances are it will come back. When it comes back, I’ll deal with it. Until then, I’ll live my life. You have to be determined about anything in life.”

He urged everyone going through an ailment to overcome it with determination, saying, “As long as you’ve got that frame of mind, anything is possible.”

“So if I read this week that they found a cure for cancer. So, I still have a fighting chance. No matter how bad it is for you, there’s always somebody who’s in a worse situation. So grab what you have with both hands, make the most of it, and leave the rest to the Almighty.”

Reminiscing about how he became aware of his bone cancer, he said: “My ex-wife is a wonderful person. I get emotional. She’s a wonderful person. She’s a doctor. Maybe I was a bit of a rascal, but she always looked out for me. I wasn’t feeling ill. I flew to England for her birthday and remarried by then, but I’m single now. I went for her birthday, and she told me to come for a quick checkup before I jumped on the plane. I was flying back to Lagos that day. A week later, she called me crying and said, ‘I’ve got the results of your test, and they indicate a high possibility of malignant activity.’

“I asked, ‘What’s that?’ She said, ‘You’ve got cancer.’ That’s how it started. I was lucky I was in stage one. I could have gone on for another two or three years, and by the time I found out, it would have been too late, a different matter. So that’s a bit about it. I had friends, may their souls rest in peace, who said to me, ‘Farooq, this chemotherapy is too painful. I’m not doing it.’ They’re not here. So I’m saying that if you want something enough, you will walk over hot coals to get it. And anything is possible if you have that frame of mind.”

Mr Oreagba further stated that the Ojude Oba festival and others nationwide boost the local economy.

He urged the government to recognise the significant opportunities that could grow from these festivals.

He said, “The Ojude Oba Festival, and there are lots of festivals, lots of Durbas in the North, in Ilorin, all over the place. These festivals showcase a lot of our history and culture to our kids. So, if we’re going to reap the benefits of such festivals, it puts a lot of pressure on the government. If you’re going to have people coming in, I’m hearing that UNESCO wants to make some of these festivals heritage.

“If you’re going to bring people — let me talk about Ijebu, for example. If you’re going to have people coming to Ijebu for this festival, someone’s got to fix the infrastructure. The roads must be fixed because you won’t invite people worldwide and then have them dodge potholes off the expressway. The roads within Ijebu need to be fixed or improved. We’re going to need places for these people to stay. So, it’s a double-sided coin.”

He said that if the government directed attention to festivals, it could have reaped the benefits. However, if it didn’t, the opportunity would be lost.

According to him, if Nigeria got it right, it would have changed the face of culture and cultural tourism.

“Now the pressure’s on. Even the pressure’s on for us in the families; the pressure’s on for Ijebu, Indigenous people, the state government, and any other state governments or groups that have similar festivals they want to promote. It’s not just about going on the internet and saying, ‘We’re going to do this.’ Now, you have to put things in place for the next one. Because if people come next year and have a bad experience, they won’t return.”

“They move on to the next. They go to Brazil, New Orleans, and so forth. So, it’s an opportunity—a great opportunity. Also, tourism is an opportunity. It’s a potential revenue generator for the Nigerian government. You have Olumo Rock, shrines, and all kinds of places that people can visit. So, it’s an opportunity for those in power to do the right thing. And if you align that with what we do at the stock exchange and in financial services, certain products can be created to help finance some of these.”

He added that if federal, state, and local governments did the right thing, they would create products to fund necessary infrastructure improvements.