Professor Patrick Bassey Williams, an indigene of Etinan Local Government Area of Akwa IbomState, is a US-trained Professor of Public Health. He attended the Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois, the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida, and the University ofTennessee, in Knoxville, where he bagged a Doctoral Degree in Public Health, in 1978.
Prof. Williams had lectured both Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students in Columbus State University, Columbus, Georgia; the Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland; the Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi; the Chicago State University, Chicago, Illinois and the University of Uyo in Nigeria.
He has written and published books and research papers in many International Public Health Journals, the most recent of which is titled “Knowledge, Attitude, and Prostate Cancer-Screening Experience among African American Men in Southside Chicago: Intervention Strategy for Risk Reduction Activities.”
In this interview with The Political Editorial Crew of THE PROFILE NEWSPAPER www.theprofilenewspaper.com, the erudite Professor proffers solution to the silent – killer disease, Enlarged Prostate (BPH) and Prostate Cancer, as well as other areas of public health.
He also speaks, among others, on the leadership issue in the Akwa Ibom State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC. He opines that Sen. Godswill Akpabio is the Leader of the APC Party in the state.
Let’s meet you, Prof?
My name is Professor Patrick Bassey Williams. I hail from Ikot Nseyen, Iman in Etinan local government area of Akwa Ibom State. In the former Eastern Nigeria, I worked as a Civil Servant with the designation of a Public Health Inspector.
In 1971, I had a scholarship from the United States Government to proceed to the US to study Public Health. When I left Nigeria, my sole intention was just to get a Bachelor of Science Degree but when I got there, I saw that there were too many books to read and too many qualifications to attain. So I went up to the Doctorate Degree.After the Doctorate Degree in 1976, I taught in the Columbus State University, Georgia, for threeyears and then I decided to return to Nigeria under the auspices of the federal government. I was given a job first at the University of Calabar and thereafter, I transferred to the University of Uyowhere I worked till about 1996 when I went back to the United States.
So, why did you decide to return to the United States?
I went back because to me, I felt things in Nigeria were not the way it should be. That was duringthe Abacha regime where people, especially Professors, were arrested and incarcerated. So I had been in the US there till 2015 when I came back to Nigeria.But, unfortunately, when I came back things were even worse than what it was in days of Abacha in spite of the fact that we were under a democratic government.What I found out was that between the time I was in the University of Uyo and the time I returned to the United States, I would say the then PDP (People’s Democratic Party) governmentdidn’t perform well enough.
As an indigene of Akwa Ibom state; how would you assess the present administration compared to previous eras in terms of development?
Well, there was development in Akwa Ibom State during the administration of His Excellency, then Governor Godswill Obot Akpabio. Personally, I could feel his developmental strides in spite of the fact that people also had several bad things they said about him.
But, my conviction was that Godswill Akpabio is a man who loves Akwa Ibom State and therefore had in him the zeal to develop it. He is a man who loves good things and because of that he brought good development to the state. I will continue to see him as one of my heroes.
Why I admired and will ever continue to admire him is the fact that Governor Akpabio was able to build on the foundation laid by his predecessor, His Excellency, Obong Attah, and that led to the transformation of Uyo from a village state capital to a Major Admirable Metropolis.In fact, let me confess that some of us who came back to the state after Akpabio’s administration could not recognize the place anymore. The whole place was changed and those infrastructures are still there till today, including the famous Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo. Some time ago, a friend of mine who flew to Akwa Ibom from the States called me by phone that he could not go out because he wouldn’t know how to navigate through the city of Uyo. He said he didn’t understand the routes again. That is development.
Okay. Let’s look, Sir, at leadership at the national. What is your take on the performance of thepast administrations vis-à-vis the present Buhari-led government?
Buhari had been in the reigns of government before though it was fairly short. I can still remember as a young man then, he and his Second-In-Command, General Idiagbon, tried to change things around for the better.He started what was known as WAI (War Against Indiscipline) and we saw what he was trying to do and everybody was happy. But unfortunately, one man from nowhere, who called himself Babangida, came and overthrew that government.
After that, we’ve had administrations but today again, under the democratic leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, one can safely say that he has done a good job which merits him B+. Go to our international airports like the Port Harcourt International Airport; what about the Abuja International Airport? It meets any international standard. Even this new airport at Asaba, Delta state; he has transformed it.
What about the dead Nigerian Railway Corporation that was then? It died but the current President, Buhari, revamped it. For instance, for the first time after over 60 years of Nigeria’s independence that we have haulage through rail, happened recently under Buhari. That was the movement of huge NNPC pipes from Warri to Itakpe.So, there are so many things this man has done and I believe more will come.
By your submissions here, Prof, you seem to be of the APC extraction. What’s your assessment of the party and its future?
For now, the APC has shown that if given more time, it has the capacity to solve the problems of Nigeria. The PDP ruled this country for sixteen years when we had huge revenue from crude oil. We had so much money that would have been enough to turn around Nigeria in diverse positive ways. But unfortunately, much of that money ended up corruptly in people’s pockets.
But in less than six years, you see tremendous improvement in the provision of physical infrastructure and other sectors. Yes, there are still much to be done and am sure, we will get there.
So, the APC has a very bright future in the country. Thank God for President Buhari’s sincerity atthe national level. No one, not even his enemies can fault his honesty. There are also strong and vibrant political leaders in all the states. Like in Akwa Ibom state, we have His Excellency, Sen Godswill Akpabio as the leader of the party and he deserves it based on his track record of superlative performance.When Akpabio was governor of the state, he was dubbed ‘uncommon transformer’, and he really transformed Akwa Ibom state.
Now that he’s the Honourable Minister, Niger Delta Affairs Ministry, he is performing excellently well. By virtue of his position as the highest political office holder from the state at the national, he is automatically the leader of the party.
Akpabio has the natural followership due to his sterling performances at the state and federal levels. So, for the brighter future of the APC to materialize, everyone must queue behind Sen Akpabio for the benefit of all.
As a Professor of Public Health, Sir, what could be your take on health-related issues in Akwa Ibom state, so far?
What I can say is that things have gone worst in the state in terms of Public health than what it used to be. Take for instance the environmental sanitation; I hope you have been going to Urua Akpan Andem? Go there and you will see how the traders display their food wares like tomatoes,vegetables, and so on, on bare ground of the street for sale. Why wouldn’t people have so much of typhoid fever?
There is no sanitation. Even roast chicken and other edible foods are kept open just as solid wares. Yet people still buy them and eat and the next thing you hear is ‘I am suffering from typhoid fever’. Indeed, the majority of Akwa Ibomites do not know that Typhoid fever is a food-borne disease that can be transmitted easily to humans. The same goes for the water we drink.The other one is malaria; which is prevalent / endemic in the state and encouraged by the present State Government. How can government encourage open drains (gutters) along both sides of every street? The uninformed public continuously dump refuse into these drains and when rains
fall, they become blocked forming safe heavens for mosquitoes which eventually transfer Malaria to humans.
If you happen to travel overseas, you will find out that most of the drainages are underground. But here, when government awards contracts for building of roads, their agents would give specifications that would accommodate some kick-backs for them.
They will tell the contractors to do whatever they can provided their kick-backs are paid. That is the “Ugliness” of our governments, including the present one in Akwa Ibom State.
Is there any specific area of health-care services you would wish to advise the state government on?
When we consider health care delivery, we always talk about males and females. One of the most dangerous diseases that is confronting the middle age and aged men in this country is the disease called Prostate Cancer.
It has been the major thorn in the health of most men in Akwa Ibom state. In the University of Uyo alone, for instance, the school had lost more than 15 (fifteen) Professors to prostate cancer and related complications of BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia) or Enlarged Prostate, in the lastfour years. I am only aware of this being number of casualties because they were my colleagues. What about those in other professions/vocations and of course, the entire state?
Unfortunately, most of them died because they hide this disease while some of them died because they are not aware that the disease can be controlled and eventually cured. So one of the
major health challenges we have in the state today among the men folks is Prostate Enlargement which normally can results in Prostate Cancer. And statistics have shown that in Nigeria now, out of every one thousand males, about five percent have enlarged prostate. These are males between the ages of 35 and 70 years. Some of the symptoms are frequent urination, urine retention; at times one has inability to pass urine, urinary incontinence, inability to maintain penile erection, etc.
Mine was cured because I was aware of it even though I don’t know how it started and I didn’t know before now that it can be cured but I can tell anyone now that it can be cured. I can remember that I started developing prostate enlargement about nine years ago.
I was in the US then so I went and met my doctor and he told me ‘Prof Williams, your prostate isstill enlarged’.I told him that I have a drug I was taking daily. And he said ‘Prof, what we want to do for you is to make you throw away those drugs’. I was like amazed and I told him that I have been taking these drugs for the past five years and these drugs also had some adverse effects.It was then that he told me of the new Minimally Invasive Robotic Procedure, developed in the United States for treating Enlarged Prostate, once and for all.
So after due consultations with my family, I decided to undergo the surgery. The entire process took me about forty minutes. I left the hospital that same day. I went back after three days for checkup and everything went normal and till today, the Enlarged Prostate problem is gone and it’s gone forever.
Having been so convinced about the treatment, is there any way you could make our people to benefit from this?
Yes. That was one thing I asked the Surgeon before I left. I told him that we have a lot of people suffering from this ailment back home in Nigeria. I inquired whether it would be possible for them to have the treatment. He answered in affirmative but I think the best option as we discussed was to arrange for those medical professionals to be visiting Nigeria, especially, Akwa Ibom state, periodically.
Thank God we have a standard hospital now, the Ibom Specialist Hospital. All that the state government needs to do is to provide the environment and some other logistics that would enhance the US Surgeons coming periodically to perform the procedure, and where necessary, government can also subsidize the cost of the treatment.
I believe that no responsible government would want to see its citizen dying of avoidable causes.May be that is one of the ways I can assist the government in order to save our people in this direction. I am in constant touch with this surgeon who is under the aegis of the Johns Hopkins Specialist Medical Center /Chesapeake Urologist Associates in Bethesda, Maryland. I am convinced, they would be happy to come here and bring relief to our people if invited.
Apart from the area of health, which other areas would you advise the government to work on?
This state has a lot of areas to be developed and the current administration has not shown enoughcapacity and readiness to deliver. We have to develop our tourism potentials. This state has one of the finest natural beaches in the world. Why not develop our beaches into tourists’ sites and make good money for the state? Go to Ibeno, you will see a natural beach. We can build a
holiday resort there and before you know, investors would come in from all over the world to help develop it with high-rise hotels and other resort centers.
The present Eko Atlantic City in Lagos is a wonderful one. We can also emulate to build ‘Ibeno Resort’ and provide jobs to the poor and teaming population of Akwa Ibom.You can imagine in the whole Nigeria, we only have one beach in Lagos. If we develop Ibeno, it can compete favourably with beaches in Florida, New York City, New Jersey, California, and so on. These are places where government utilizes the natural endowments to make wealth for their people and since it appears the present government is not ready to it, may be a new government may do it.
Another area is: If you go out now you see everybody selling randomly, everywhere in Uyo. Why not build Malls of international standards where we can attract businessmen and women. You see some of them travelling out to Dubai, Europe, and so on, for shopping.
The question is, when you go there, do you buy on the streets? Of course, the answer is NO!!! You buy all the goods from big and beautifully decorated Malls. We should build Malls in Uyo to send traders way from the street selling.
It’s been nice sharing thoughts with you, Prof.
The pleasure is mine.