By Ambassador Lilian Onoh
In 2014, Dr. Stella Ameyo Ameyo Adedevoh, Great-granddaughter of Herbert Macaulay, Grand-niece of Nnamdi Azikiwe and Great-great-great granddaughter of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther – all Founding Fathers of Nigeria – stood between an Ebola-carrying Liberian, Dr. Sawyer and the 200 million inhabitants of Nigeria in an incredible act of sacrifice after she diagnosed him as carrying Ebola and quarantined him. Dr. Sawyer was patient Zero. The Liberian Embassy tried to bully her into releasing him and she refused. It is said that she had to create a make-shift quarantine area in her hospital and source protective gear for her staff.
Her actions saved Nigerians from a carnage very few can imagine. Because whilst Covid had a less than 1% mortality rate vis-à-vis infections (Source: statista.com), Ebola had up to a 90% death rate.
The seven people that had immediate contact with Dr. Sawyer, including a protocol officer from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also lost their lives. If I recall correctly, only one person of those who had initial contact with Dr. Sawyer – a nurse – survived.
She made the supreme sacrifice to protect Nigerians.
She has been posthumously honoured by all and sundry. Even Google devoted one day to her.
And now, after 8 years, the Federal Government of Nigeria finally decided to “honour” her and gave her the greatest dishonour imaginable – an OON. For those who are not familiar with the order of the awards, OON is on the lower spectrum of the scale, being 7th out of 8 possible honours to be awarded.
And I have to ask – WHY?
Did nobody on that Committee that decided the rankings of the Awards to recipients really assess Dr. Adedevoh’s profile?
Did nobody realise that if she had bowed to pressure from both Dr. Sawyer and the Liberian Embassy and let Dr. Sawyer enter a plane to Calabar to attend the Conference he was hell-bent on attending, at a time Nigerian Doctors were on strike, we might now be a country of only 20 million instead of 200 million; and they may not have lived through an Ebola epidemic in Nigeria to dishonour her memory as they just did.
Did they consider the fact that her family were not even allowed to bury her and she was cremated? And did they consider that if she hadn’t done what she did, they too would have been cremated or possibly left for dogs and vultures to devour if everybody was too sick to cremate or bury the dead?
I don’t know about anybody else but I believe that Dr. Adedevoh deserves the GCFR – the Honour reserved for Presidents and Heads of State, no matter how well or badly they perform.
President Shehu Shagari set the precedent of awarding it to Awolowo who was never a President and this President awarded it to Moshood Abiola in 2018, even though he was never sworn in as Nigeria’s President.
I don’t think any Nigerian President or Head of State can claim that they stood between Death and 200 million Nigerians. Not one. Without Dr. Adedevoh’s supreme sacrifice, all other mitigating actions would have been akin to bolting the stable after the horse had bolted. But by her actions, the Health Minister, Dr. Onyebuchi Chukwu’s extraordinary Containment Strategy could succeed.
As I previously wrote, my late Father, Chief C.C. Onoh rejected both his OON and CON because he did not want to be on the same list with the corrupt officials on the list. He said accepting it would be a National Dishonour.
I think that I can use his description to state that the “honour” given to Dr. Adedevoh was a Dishonour to her – a slap to her sacrifice, to her legacy and to the 200 Million Nigerians who owe her an incalculable debt.
There should be a National Holiday either on the day of her birth or the day of her death. And that GCFR should be given in a special ceremony just for her.
And after that, a special ceremony for Leah Sharibu, the 14 year old kept by terrorists because she would not renounce her faith in Jesus Christ and all the Chibok Girls and the Dapchi School girls. This Government’s failure to secure her release and those of the all the Chibok Girls that have been with their rapists for over 8 years is appalling. The schoolgirls kept by terrorists in Zamfara and those in official custody in Enugu remain a source of trauma to our national psyche. They have endured horrors no single leader in Nigeria has ever endured, not for anything they did, but because of the failure of our leaders to perform that most basic duty of leadership – guaranteeing our safety.
This National Honours Awards speaks to us, the electorate. It exposed the value system of those who gave it. Whereas it is supposed to be inspiration for upcoming generations and cause citizens to applaud those whose lives have contributed to our National Development, it has generated a feeling of National Despair at the brazen reward of some of the most dishonourable people in the country. Those who have been rightly honoured have also been besmirched by being in the same list as those known to have contributed to bringing Nigeria to its knees.
How can you inspire the upcoming generation to do anything other than to excel in corruption when we see the worst of the worst honoured?
In my Ministry, an Ambassador who confessed to Visa Racketeering and Visa fraud against the USA, Jamaica, Belize, Haiti, Dominican Republic and most of the Caribbean Countries was given an OON – the same award given to Dr. Adedevoh who forfeited her life to protect Nigerians.
So on one hand, an Ambassador, whose actions were so odious that our diplomats and their families had their American Visas cancelled, is honoured with an OON for this most egregious dishonourable violation of the Vienna Conventions Diplomatic privileges, which has brought unquantifiable disgrace to Nigeria’s image and hardship to Nigerians seeking visas for overseas travel. And on the other hand, Dr. Adedevoh, who gave her life to protect 200 million Nigerians is dishonoured with this same OON.
So, what possible value can the Government expect us to place on the OON – “Honour” or “Dishonour”?©
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