By Denrele Animasaun
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon
I often wake up, morning after the night before and wonder how I miss a day or how the day did miss me. That is how I feel on every October the 1st. Nigerian Independence Day is often an underwhelming affair. You sometimes wish it will pass already. No fanfare, no ceremony and definitely no announcements and I am usually left with a sinking feeling that another year older and yet same old problems. What is there to celebrate? When I was growing up, we eagerly looked forward to October 1st.
This was many moons ago, as a school girl, our teachers would choose those who would represent the school in the march past at the stadium on Independence Day and it was an honour to be chosen. It was hard work as you are drilled, marching time and time again under the glaring sun, we would march and salute to the imaginary representative until we get our march perfect. On the day itself, with uniform starched to the inch of its life and socks pulled to the regulated length, we make our way to the stadium. At the stadium, you check out the competition and you are determined to make your school proud.
So roll on the years. Nigeria at 55. Are we there yet? Can someone tell me if we have arrived at 55 to a destination worthy of the travel or have we missed our turning and that we are completely lost, without a navigator? These are serious times and we can ill afford to keep our heads perpetually buried in the sand. To be honest, I am tired of hearing the well-worn phrase “It is well”, No. it is not. Look around you, it is not well and by whose definition, is it well? It is a delusional and lazy affront to think by saying it is well that it then, it will become well. People want wealth without struggle and we have a misplaced a sense of collective responsibility with a generous lashing of selfish determination to get rich quick and by all means.
We are lost because we took our eyes off the road and we had better get back to basics. The question every Nigerian should ask themselves is: what have you done to make Nigeria well or proud? Enough of the same lame excuses and for those who are doom rakers, they will never get it. How can you get dividend when you did not make the effort to sow! Nigeria does not owe anybody anything, instead Nigerians owe Nigeria so much. It is home. So why can we not make it habitable, governable, peaceful and workable? The bottom line is: it costs nothing except to work together to make it so.
I remember, when Andrew was pleading with Nigerians, leaving its shores, not to check out. Since then, thousands of Nigerians have done exactly that. They do so for survival and a chance of better way of life. Abroad, Nigerians are making strides, most are at the top of their professions and are amongst the most educated in the diaspora. The call of home would be sweeter if only the corrupt structure and attitudes changes. If the country is conducive to real change, this will encourage the best of the best to come home and those at home are given the opportunity to develop and compete with the best in the world. It is the corrupt and vindictive practices that stop the progress of many and no one wants to do business with people who are always on the make. There is no doubt, the present situation has led to a brain drain of talented Nigerians and of many Nigerians whose contributions could help rebuild the nation if not for these avaricious collectives.
Frankly speaking, we should at 55, have much more to celebrate and looking back it should be with fond memories and not regrets.Instead, we look back and then all we see is we lacked enough milestones to be proud of. The independence celebration is muted because of lack of progress. Having read President Buhari’s address to the nation and his determination not to roll out the carpet of this year’s independence, I feel that this should be applauded. He has set the right tone for the country and the reality is that the money for the celebration could be put to use where it can make a significant difference. This should be a time of quiet contemplation. President Buhari’s address was conciliatory, honest, frank and inclusive; change is needed from within the people, the institutions, and change in the structure of governance. Every Nigerian doing his part in transforming the country.
He was very clear the direction of travel that would mark his government: “Change does not just happen. You and I and all of us must appreciate that we all have our part to play if we want to bring about change. We must change our lawless habits, our attitude to public office and public trust.
We must change our unruly behaviour in schools, hospitals, market places, motor parks, on the roads, in homes and offices. To bring about change, we must change ourselves by being law-abiding citizens. Happy Independence celebrations. Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” Reality bites but truth is a bitter pill to swallow.
So, I have in the last four years, determined not to celebrate the independence day but to mark the day, celebrating the achievements of remarkable Nigerians This year will be no different. Last year, I wrote on Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (FRK), a Nigerian feminist who fought for suffrage and equal rights for her country’s women long before it became fashionable. Known as the Lioness of Lisabi or Mother Africa, she was instrumental in the struggle for Nigerian independence.
The year before that, it was the author, Buchi Emecheta, born to Igbo parents in Lagos on 21 July 1944. Dr.Buchi Emecheta is a prolific novelist who has published over 20 books, plays and shorts, including Second-Class Citizen, The Bride price, the Slave Girl and The Joy of Motherhood. And the year before that, I wrote about Ken Saro-Wiwa, the writer, artist, journalist, and television producer, President of the Association of Nigerian Authors. He devoted his later years entirely to the non-violent struggles of his fellow Ogoni people. He was truly a man of the people.
So this year, the recognition goes to an unsung heroine, whom many Nigerians owe their lives to. Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh was born in Lagos in October 1956. She comes from a long line of patriotic and heroic pedigree; her father was Babatunde Adadevoh, a professor of chemical pathology and, between 1978 and 1980, the vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos. 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, spending the last 21 years working at the First Consultant Hospital in Obalende on Lagos Island. Adadevoh was credited for her quick thinking, professional, selfless and courageous effort in placing the primary Ebola patient, Patrick Sawyer in quarantine, despite the patient’s strenuous protestations and in the physical struggle to contain the highly contagious patient, she became infected with the perilous virus. And on the 4th of August, she was tested positive for Ebola and succumbed to the virus on the 19th of August, 2014. She was one of 19 victims linked to Sawyer’s infection. She, no doubt, prevented a large scale epidemic on Nigerian soil and is praised for preventing the Nigerian index case from leaving the hospital at the time of diagnosis.
Without her professionalism, selflessness and astute moral judgement, the number of Ebola cases would have being in thousands and in a populous nation as Nigeria, the human toll would have been disastrous. So for October 2015 Independence Day, I salute Dr Stella Ameyo Advadevoh. A selfless, patriotic and courageous Nigerian.
“The questions that we must ask ourselves, and that our historians and our children will ask of us, are these: How will what we create compare with what we inherited? Will we add to our tradition or will we subtract from it? Will we enrich it or will we deplete it?” — Leon Wieseltier