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Farooq Oreagba On Battle With Cancer, Ojude Oba Festival: I’ve Been Crowned ‘King Of Steeze,’ I’m Not About To Go Anytime Soon

“Being diagnosed with cancer was the best thing to ever happen to me,” says ‘King of Steeze’ Farooq Oreagba.

Investment banker and Managing Director of NG Clearing Limited, Farooq Oreagba, has opened up about his battle with cancer, and how the unfortunate diagnosis changed his life for the better as it caused him to change his perspective on life.

Oreagba said this in an interview with ARISE NEWS on Sunday, where he also discussed the Ojude Oba Festival – an Ijebu festival that is held annually – and how the festival, as well as other festivals around the country, could help the Nigerian economy if things are done right.

Speaking on his struggle with cancer, he said, “From the moment I was diagnosed with cancer in February 2014 – it’s an incurable form of cancer, so, your priorities change. You don’t know how much time you’ve got, you line up your list of priorities. For me, family first because I don’t know how long I’m going to be around, but by God’s Grace, I’m 10 years and counting, and I’m not about to – since I’ve been crowned King of Steeze – I’m not about to just go like that anytime soon.”

Further reflecting, he said, “I was a senior executive at the Exchange back in early 2000s, and prior to that, let’s say I had five million friends, right? When I left the Exchange in 2010, my five million friends went down to one million, you know how it is. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, my one million went down to a hundred. 

“So, it’s very important, that’s a very important lesson. So it’s important that what you take from that – you hold your friends close, keep your feet, you know ten toes down all the time, be yourself, as long as I don’t hurt anybody.”

As a cancer counselor, Oreagba found fulfillment in supporting other patients, as he shared, “I counsel cancer patients, I’ve been counselling cancer patients for a while. I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma which is cancer of the bone in 2014 February. I had a bone marrow transplant in August 2014, been in remission since. 

“I did chemotherapy everyday, 21 days a month for 8 years. And I don’t do chemotherapy anymore, I’ve put on a bit of weight, I’m living my best life, I’m back working because it was difficult to take a full time job when I was doing all that, and that gives me a lot of fulfilment.

“The first thing they ask me is why are you so happy? I’m alive, and as long as you’re in the game, you can win the game. Everyday is a blessing, like I showed you, I live each day like it’s my last. I’m very passionate about my work in financial services, I’m very passionate about getting the cancer message across. Some of you may know I run marathons to raise money for cancer charities, just to give people hope, because I know how much it meant to me when I was really feeling the pain and one or two people just gave me that hope,” he said.

“I’m 58 and I say to you now, if I could live another 20 years, I would say being diagnosed with cancer was the best thing to ever happen to me. It changed my perspective on life. I don’t sweat the small stuff, what I’m there for, I’m there for it. Counselling cancer patients, trying to improve access to better healthcare, I’ll do that all day long.”

Oreagba then addressed the Ojude Oba Festival saying, “Ojude Oba has evolved over the years, I’ve been doing it for 15 years. Within my family, the Oreagba family, my grandfather, may his soul rest in peace, was the main rider going back to the early 1960s. He died in ’67, so we only had one rider. My uncle took over and he was the main rider from ’67-’84, then my uncle joined him too, and it’s only in the 90s and then in the 2000s that we started to. It’s big, it’s a family affair, it’s not about one individual, and it’s a very expensive venture. You’ve got to get the horses, the attires, everything. So, it also brings families together.”

Explaining the curated aspects of the festival for his family, he said, “The entrance, we have – I and one of my grandfather’s oldest grandchildren, and if you look closely, there are one or two light skinned guys as well, but I look exactly like him. So, when we leave the palace, we go around town, and it’s actually a great feeling when older people see me, they don’t know who I am, but by looking at me, they just know I’m an Oreagba.

“I tend to be in the front, somewhere near the front. My cousins and my nephews want to throw horses up and down, I’m too old for that, I’d fall off. Also because my cancer is bone cancer, I break a bone, It will never set properly as you can see.”

Speaking on what the festival means to him, he said, “For me, it’s just an expression of who I am. I didn’t choose the clothes, the family chose the clothes, they’ve started arranging clothes now for what we’re going to wear next year.”

Oreagba was admirably dubbed “King of Steeze” by Nigerians after images and videos of him during the Ojude Oba Festival circulated around various social media platforms as he was decked out in his traditional attire, showcasing a fusion of his cultural heritage and his sense of self as he donned his traditional clothes which showcased his tattoo sleeves on both arms, holding a cigar in his mouth.

“People talk about my tats, I’ve had tats for years. I’m very particular about it, I try and make sure I don’t have a tat on my face, my sleeves, I cover them when I’m on corporate mode.

“I’ve got tattoos everywhere, just to assure you. If you can read that one, it says ‘I live each day as if it were my last, so don’t judge me, Carpe Diem’, that says ‘Only God can judge me’. I’ve got my kids up here, I got another son up here. I mentioned when I had so many friends, I’ve got ‘Ride or Die’, you can see it there,” he said concerning his tattoos.

He then addressed how the Ojude Oba Festival, as well as other festivals around the country, could be use to boost tourism and the economy, but the government will have to put in work to ensure that it works well

He said, “If we’re going to reap the benefits of such festivals, it puts a lot of pressure on the government. Because if you’re going to have people coming in- I hear 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 or you want more people coming to Ijebu for this festival, someone’s going to have to fix the infrastructure.

“The roads will need to be fixed, because you’re not going to invite people from across the world and then they’re going to come off the expressway and start – someone’s going to have to fix that. The roads within Ijebu would need to be fixed or improved. Accommodation – we’re going to have to have places for these people to say.

“So, it’s a double sided coin. On one hand, we can reap the benefits as an opportunity, but this opportunity will be lost of the people responsible don’t put certain things in place. But it is a great opportunity which can grow.”

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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