Remembering our heroes

Late Prof. Dora Akunyili


The world in ancient times was divided into empires and kingdoms, while the concept of nations took hold from mid-18th century. In today’s world (late 18th century till date), these empires/kingdoms were replaced by nations which are large groups of people with strong bonds of identity, distinct from one another and are self-organised on the political stage. Nations are built by men and women with vision and determination. President John F. Kennedy, the United States’ 35th President, said: “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honuors, the men it remembers…”  These men, who were honoured, are ordinary men, in extraordinary circumstance; they performed beyond all doubt, deeds that set them well above others. 

These honuors aid promoting the values of courage, sacrifice, selfless service and patriotism; a good example was when Ben Carson, America’s foremost and legendary surgeon, in 1987 performed the first ever successful separation of conjoined-twins joined at the head (medically referred to as Occipital-Craniopagus twins) and both children survived. Today they are adults.Neurosurgeons, in earlier attempts sacrificed one conjoined twin life for the other due to complicity of the surgery. The entire globe stood still for Carson as the world celebrated a rare medical feat defying myths of impossibility. To crown it all was the presidential honour given to him by then President George W. Bush at the White House, making him a fulfilled man. This is a common trend in advance countries!

Nigeria like every underdeveloped country fails to give recognition to many deserving people who have contributed to the growth & development of their country. We dishonourably play politics with those whose credentials are so deserving of immortalisation and are gradually forgetting our hero, both dead and living: we sacrifice integrity and nationalism on the altar of politico-financial expediency and corruption. Some unsung heroes include; the philanthropist, nationalist, sports financier late Chief MKO Abiola, and Professor (Mrs.) Dora Akunyili, renowned pharmacist, pharmacologist, who as NAFDAC boss did all she could to stop fake and substandard drugs sold in Nigeria which before her appointment was without any form of regulations killing Nigerians. Others are Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, an educator and activist. She was one of the first generation of Nigerian educated women, and for women’s right to vote.

The return of history to the curricula of both primary and secondary schools in the country is a step in the right direction. This will give the Nigerian child a self-identity on who he really is and give pupils opportunity to pick genuine role-models, so that fraudulent money-bags may no longer be celebrated in our society.

Some recollection here: The Zaire-strain type is the deadliest of the 5 classes of Ebola, with mortality of 50%. Medical researches reveal that infected patients who succumb to the disease die between 6 to 16 days after the onset of the disease from multiple organ failure and shock caused by dehydration. The virus replicates really fast, entering the blood cells, destroying them and using those same blood cells to aggressively invade other organs. Ideally, the body’s immune system should respond by producing antibodies to fight the virus. If the person is strong enough, for the immune system to kill off the viruses, the patient is likely to survive. If the virus replicates faster than the antibodies can handle, further damage is done to the organs. Research reveals that Ebola survivor cannot be re-infected due to immunity conferred on survivors.

A lead Physician/consultant, Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh was in a pensive mood when Liberian diplomat, Patrick Sawyer was not responding to malaria treatment, as the vomiting and diarrhea persisted, and the fever escalated from 38oc to 40oc. To further confirm her suspicion of Ebola, results for HIV and hepatitis screening came out negative. Dr. Adadevoh then quarantined Patrick Sawyer and instructed that he should not be allowed out, despite pressure from the Liberian government. Dr. Adadevoh immediately started calling laboratories to find out where the test for Ebola could be carried out and made calls to Lagos Commissioner for health. Her action prompted government to put protective measures in place to curtail the virus. She is credited with having curbed a wider spread of the Ebola viral disease in Nigeria, which unfortunately killed the Ebola victim and all who had primary contact with him in the hospital including Dr. Adadevoh herself!

Our fatherland’s foremost innovative and inventive Professor of Engineering in his life time used his immense talent to press for social change and justice in Nigeria. Ayodele Oluwatunminu Awojobi shunned lucrative offers across the globe after his post-doctoral degree. He chose to remain at the local university where he lectured – a rare display of patriotism. For decades, several disappointments were experienced by the members of Awojobi Foundation before Governor Raji Babatunde Fashola unveiled a nine-foot bronze monument of the late Professor at a round-about leading to the university, and the park was named after Awojobi.

This was done to encourage students to aspire to greater heights. However, the late Professor’s name was conspicuously missing from the list of distinguished academics the 2014 Centenary national awards! Similarly, the nation lost a soccer midfielder a Sam Okwaraji, on the field of play decades ago. He fell down in the 77th minute of a world cup qualifier against Angola for Italia 90 World Cup tournament and gave up the ghost. The mid-fielder gave his all, including his life in the service of his country. The autopsy report later revealed he died of cognitive heart failure. Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi the man who designed Nigeria’s flag is still alive but his present living condition is that of a forgotten hero.

Ironically, the most solemn part of our National Anthem is “the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain,” which shows the premium that our country places on the labour of our heroes.However, we should do more than pay lip-service to our deserving heroes. With an enabling environment, many of our professionals in various fields seeking greener pastures outside the country may have a re-thinks that they are valued at home, and their productivity in Nigeria, will greatly improve our economy.

In this article:
Dora AkunyiliMKO Abiola


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