“Men love their country, not because it is great, but because it is their own.”

Lagos state, ‘born’ on May 27th 1967, is a bustling coastal metropolis of over 20 million people. A cultural melting pot for the region and an economic powerhouse in Africa, and it is currently winding down celebrations of its 50th year of existence.

The celebrations commenced on May 27th 2016; a year-long festival studded by a slew of artistic performances, modern cinematic release screenings and lecture series. The final weeks of the official programme do not disappoint with the planned theatre displays and a big bash planned for the finale on May 27th 2017, coinciding with Children’s Day. The ‘icons’ for the festivity have been selected from achievers in the state and country, spanning diverse specialties and personages from the business sector, the arts and politics.

Lagos is often painted as a land of long history and culture, where hard work triumphs, economic opportunities are aplenty and with a great interest in the arts and entertainment industry. Therefore ‘Lagos at 50’ seems to be a celebration of the “good” things in Lagos, glossing over the less savoury parts of its history and painting its present and future as without shadow despite the continued uncontrollable population growth, enduring difficulty in securing efficient waste management and ongoing security concerns in differing areas, among other troubles.

At present; the state government, the organisers of the event and the celebration itself court the risk of being known for a lack of depth. Lagos apparently celebrates its money-makers, attention-grabbers and its politicos, but forgets its teachers… and its life-savers.

Just three years ago, Lagos was suddenly host to a deathly infection which was ravaging Nigeria’s West African neighbours. Unprepared for the possibility of a hemorrhagic virus outbreak in such a crowded city, there was understandable panic.

I live in Lagos, and was present during the Ebola scare in 2014, watching people nervously shield their faces when their neighbour sniffled in the piteously cramped public transport they endured on their daily work trip. Everyone forgot that frantic hand sanitiser application would only go so far when surrounded by others of questionable hygiene and diet practices.

Lagos, and Nigeria at large, successfully managed to prevent an outbreak, keeping the fatalities to less than five persons; despite not being known for excellently funded health facilities or skilled and willing health personnel. But funding and tools is not the only route to epidemic control; human organisation and sacrifice are the real tickets to keeping the health of a nation in order. In other words, people keep a nation healthy.

How did Lagos achieve this public health miracle? It had dedicated people. People like Dr Stella A. Adadevoh and her exclusion from the ‘Lagos at 50’ icons list is a glaring faux pas on Lagos’ part; either by benign omission or deliberate avoidance, it indicates an ignorantly blissful view of the state at best or outright disrespect of her sacrifice at worst. That the very state where this momentous, timely act occurred- and served as a bottleneck for the insidious spread of a fatal illness- conveniently forgets about their sacrifice in the pursuit of good publicity and attracting investors is a travesty.

Lagos today would remain a health risk; a city this highly populated would have found it a herculean task to declare itself free from the scourge of the Ebola virus. All that would be needed to regress is one carrier; one person avoiding hospital bills, self-medicating, or fully aware and illogical with fear; and we would be back on the alert.

One would imagine that a half-century celebration of all that makes Lagos the best and brightest would surely not omit one of the most recent additions to its roster of exceptional, gone-too-soon actors. Lagos owes its continued ability to host crowd-capacity events such as this 50th-anniversary festival and more without fear of fatal illness transmission to Dr Adadevoh. That she, a born and bred Lagosian of character, should be so sidelined is a mockery of responsibility in one’s craft. A city-state that can celebrate its artists and politicians should not forget its doctors; we are an astute, creative people, but we are also well endowed with sound medical professionals, which is a key point to make in a nation well known for elitist medical tourism.

A professional of impeccable lineage, Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh was born on 27th October 1956 and first trained at the University of Lagos, College of Medicine; she further specialised in Endocrinology at the Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College in London. Descended from a line of paramount Nigerian leaders, including the first African bishop Ajayi Crowther and the premier of Nigerian nationalism Herbert Macaulay; her name should now be a household meme for ‘efficient.’

Her two decades of service at First Consultants Medical Centre, Obalende established her medical expertise, notably being the first to diagnose swine flu (H1N1) and alerting the Ministry of Health in 2012; culminating in her identification of the index Ebola patient Patrick Sawyer upon his arrival in Lagos in July 2014. Despite a pending diagnosis, mounting diplomatic pressure, the patient’s lack of cooperation and inadequate facilities for the appropriate handling of the case, Dr Adadevoh detained Sawyer and had isolation wards prepared in the dangerous event that Ebola had penetrated her country.

Upon confirmation of the diagnosis, Dr Adadevoh and her team ensured the accurate tracing of all twenty of Sawyer’s contacts who had possibly contracted the disease. Four persons eventually lost their lives to the haemorrhagic virus, including Dr Adadevoh. Her actions ensured the containment and effective tracking of all infected, preventing the nationwide spread of Ebola and possibly a continental pandemic. Lagos is Nigeria’s premier city; and West Africa’s economic jewel. A mega city of this magnitude, given the levels of human traffic, dodgy health security and relaxed atmosphere in the nation prior to Patrick Sawyer’s arrival, it could have gone terribly wrong.

At great personal risk, Dr Adadevoh did her duty; with the full understanding that should she stand aside, the country would sink to depths from which we might not have recovered.

The posthumous awards flowed in, and the movie “93 Days” served to remind Nigeria of the bullet she took for all. Despite all this, serious efforts towards the immortalisation of her name have yet to be embarked on. A Google search on her will, at best, yield results dated from 2016. At present, there have been no national or state remembrance day nor monuments in her name to keep her sacrifice fresh in Nigeria’s national conscience have been made. Especially to encourage upcoming medical professionals and the nation’s labour force at large to pursue their individual crafts with the aim to provide service that goes beyond the pursuit of a salary.

The beneficiary of a sacrifice should not have to be reminded to give tribute. Selling the state as a “fun capital” is in no way a poor decision, but no nation-state that truly desires growth will forget its heroes.That Nigeria could contain Ebola, notwithstanding our handicaps should be an envious selling point for Lagos during these festivities.

A short time remains before the celebrations end on May 27th, 2017; there is still time for Lagos to do the right thing; by her, by her colleagues, by all Nigerians who perform above and beyond the call of their duty, usually to their detriment.

We, as a people, have become inured to responsibility, especially when we are at personal risk. Immortalising those who have paid the ultimate price in the course of fulfilling their duty is a large step in the right direction for Lagos, and Nigeria at large. It would behove Lagos to strive also for an image of integrity and effective service in the face of incredible odds, not just economic might or fleeting fame and fun in the entertainment sectors.

As a trendsetter, Lagos must set the tone for the rest of the country to emulate. Never let it be said of Nigeria that dying to prevent your nation’s downfall is a thankless act.

Additional reporting by Ovigwe Eguegu.


Elsewhere on Ventures

Triangle arrow