“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela
If Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, the lead physician and endocrinologist at First Consultant Medical Centre, Obalende, Lagos, who prevented the spread of Ebola in Nigeria – and paid with her life – was still alive, she would have been 60 years old last October. Adadevoh oversaw the treatment of Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian national who brought the Ebola virus to Nigeria. She succumbed to the ravages of the virus on August 19, 2014, one of eight fatalities out of 20 cases, each linked to Sawyer. The monumental significance of her actions, and those of her hospital colleagues, cannot be overstated. When we left the cinema hall at the Silverbird Galleria in Abuja some days ago, after watching the epic movie – 93 Days – based on the true-life story of the 2014 Ebola crisis in Nigeria, we did so with heavy hearts and teary eyes. The denouement of the movie could not have left us in a better emotional state. Although some viewers still had the courage to break into applause as the movie ended, the general mood was one of pain and loss. The movie brought to our consciousness the sacrifices of every day heroes in Nigeria, men and women, who put their lives on the line so that their fellow citizens can live.
93 Days is dedicated to Dr. Adadevoh who played a key role in the containment of the Ebola virus. It celebrates bravery, courage, sacrifice and blood. It shows us that there are still many good Nigerians who can die for their country, in spite of the persistent failure of the country’s leadership. It reminds us of what we can achieve as a people if we unite around common values, and put behind us the pathologies of politics, ethnicity and religion and the bitter cleavages in our national life. In a society where many Nigerians denigrate their country and dismiss its chances of going anywhere, 93 Days proves that men and women of valour, courage, dedication, loyalty, love and sacrifice still exist in our land, and that challenges only serve to prove the depth of their unshakeable faith in their fatherland.
Speaking about Dr. Adadevoh, the editorial of The Guardian Newspaper of October 30, 2014 said: “She saved Nigeria with her own life.” After watching 93 Days, I have never stopped asking: What would have happened if Dr. Adadevoh was not there on the day that Mr Sawyer was brought into First Consultant hospital? What if First Consultant did not put the interest of the country first? We are left to imagine what would have happened. Dr. Adadevoh was born in Lagos in October 1956. She comes from a family of patriotic Nigerian nationalists. Her father Babatunde Adadevoh, a professor of chemical pathology was the vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos between 1978 and 1980. Her great-grandfather was the Nigerian nationalist Herbert Macaulay (himself the grandson of Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the first African Anglican bishop). She lived most of her life in Lagos and spent 21 years working at First Consultant Medical Centre, Obalende.
Two years after that great act of selfless service and sacrifice, the nation still does not know that it owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Adadevoh who, through her bravery as well as selflessness, saved our country from an impending tragedy of monumental proportions. In his monograph, The Trouble with Nigeria, the renowned Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe asks and answers a very important question: “Who is a patriot? He is a person who loves his country. He is not a person who says he loves his country. He is not even a person who shouts or swears or recites or sings his love for his country. He is one who cares deeply about the happiness and well being of his country and all her people. Patriotism is an emotion of love directed by a critical intelligence. A true patriot will always demand the highest standards of his country and accept nothing but the best for and from his people.”
This was what Dr. Adadevoh did. She carried patriotism to the point of heroic sacrifice. In acting responsibly in line with the ethics of her medical profession, in a society where many public officials are not used to the idea of doing their jobs, as they should, Adadevoh reminds us that heroism can be attained in every day work clothes, without noise and attention-seeking. For those who have chosen professions that are consequential for the collective health and wellbeing of society, it is clear that the work they do matters. They help to improve the quality of life. Their job is more than a paycheque. They are people not interested in becoming rich, but making meaningful contributions to the society. They seek out meaning over profit and they know that in choosing to serve the public, they have been offered a daily opportunity to make their community a better place. Our country exists today because of the many professionals who have risked their lives and fortunes, putting the interests of their country ahead of their own.
Today’s public servants must share this same need to promote the public good. By doing so, they fulfil their sense of calling and they address their own deep need for significance. Those who have chosen this life of service need to realize that it is not just their fellow citizens but also themselves who are the true beneficiaries of the service they render. Once speaking to his countrymen and women, former American President Woodrow Wilson, said: “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand.” No doubt it is never too late to honour Dr. Adadevoh. However, the biggest tribute Nigeria could ever give would be to institute a culture of efficiency in public service, in which devotion and dedication to one’s vocation is habitual.