Flashback/Stella Ameyo Adadevoh: Selflessness Runs in Her Family


The late Dr Stella Adadevoh

By Ademola Adegbamigbe

Patrick Sawyer came to Nigeria like an epidemic-bearing demon from the pit of hell. However, he had more than a match in Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, the senior endocrinologist at the First Consultant Hospital, Obalende, Lagos. Patrick, a Liberian-American, left his country on 20 July 2014. Between Togo and Nigeria, he fell ill; his condition became worse and he was rushed to that hospital.

It was at this health institution that Adadevoh showed her solid self. She and her team tested Sawyer for HIV and malaria and he tested negative for both. Reports circulating on social media had it that when Dr. Adadevoh and her team asked whether Sawyer had any contact with any Ebola sufferer, he denied. That was notwithstanding the fact which emerged later that his sister, Princess, died of Ebola on 7 July 2014 at the Catholic Hospital, in Monrovia.

Sawyer kept insisting that his case was acute malaria, making him to ask the hospital to discharge him. Adadevoh insisted that he should stay for further tests; Sawyer blew his top, removing the tubes in him in the process. Apart from this, Adadevoh resisted pressure from an ECOWAS delegation, stating that the patient be discharged to enable him attend their convention in Calabar, Cross River State. Despite these, Adadevoh stood her ground that Sawyer must stay. In fact, she immediately contacted the Lagos State Ministry of Health, which, according to the commissioner, Jide Idris, “took over the case”.

Here are the reasons Adadevoh should be immortalised. First, had she not insisted that Sawyer should be subjected to further tests, only God knows the extent of damage he would have done to Nigerians. Other bad doctors would have discharged him after testing Sawyer further for typhoid or sepsis. If she had been a greedy physician, operating a conveyor belt kind of hospital (whereby patients come in and get discharged with monotonous frequency in order to make more money), the case would have been different. However, the woman had the presence of mind to test him for Ebola, among thousands of ailments that plague man.

Dr Adadevoh

Second, imagine the damage, if Sawyer had been let off. He would have infected Nigerians at the airport, on his local flight, in the hotel, the meeting venue and the people he met would have dispersed the disease like confetti among their own family members, co-workers and friends and those denizens would have spread the trouble further…

In addition, Adadevoh, as Idris put it, “led a team that attended to the index case. Her doggedness and commitment to duty saw her personally reviewing the case, even though the patient had earlier been examined by another doctor”.

Could it be a coincidence or does boldness, activism or altruism run in Adadevoh’s family? She came from a lineage of people who, at one time or the other, influenced their generation and changed the course of Nigeria’s history.

For example, one of her progenitors was Herbert Heelas Macaulay (1864 to 1946), a Nigerian nationalist, journalist and engineer, who was a thorn in the flesh of British colonialists. One of his broadsides against the imperialists who claimed to have true interests of the masses at heart was this: “The dimension of the true interests of the natives…is algebraically equal to the length, breadth and depth of the Whiteman’s pocket.” It was for this reason that the old man, in 1908, revealed how some white men mismanaged railway finances. Moreover, his activism at the Privy Council in London made the British to pay compensation for Lagos chiefs whose land they took.

On the political terrain, he formed the Nigerian National Democratic Party in 1923 and co-founded the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons with Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, a party that, with others, fought for Nigeria’s independence. It was when Macaulay was on one of his numerous political assignments outside Lagos, preparing for the 1946 Constitutional Conference, that he died in Kano the same year.

Macaulay was the son of Thomas Babington Macaulay, principal of the first secondary school in this part of the world, CMS Grammar School, Lagos. Babington was married to Abigail Crowther, daughter of Ajayi Crowther, first African Anglican Bishop. Crowther, born in Osogun, in present day Oyo State, was captured and sold as a slave circa 1809, to Portuguese merchants but due to a crusade launched by people like William Wilberforce, he and many others were rescued by a British Royal Navy Vessel and resettled in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where he was educated and converted to Christianity. Among his major contributions was, apart from helping with the development of the Yoruba alphabets, the translation of the English Bible into Yoruba.

If one could be permitted to use Biblical English, therefore, Crowther begat Abigail, who begat Macaulay who also begat Idowu (another Abigail) Adadevoh, nee Macaulay, who begat Professor Kwaku Adadevoh, one-time Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, who begat Dr. Stella Adadevoh, who gave her life to save others from Ebola…

On Adadevoh’s death, I have just two suggesting to make. While I credit the Federal and Lagos State governments for putting PDP and APC aside to deal with this Ebola threat from the outset, politics should not be allowed to rear its head now. This is because, while Lagos claimed that five new cases were identified, the Federal government countered it, saying the two remaining patients were in “stable condition”. Pray, which of the governments should know better – the state dealing directly with the matter or the federal, which is, in this case, far from the epicentre? Secondly, Dr. Adadevoh, given her selfless service, must be immortalised by the two governments. In fact, the condolence message to her family by the Federal Government is not enough; it must name a major health facility or institution after her and make money available in her name for medical research, through endowment of chairs in Nigerian universities.

First published in TheNEWS of 1 September 2014