I would have waited for their one year remembrance celebration, but unlike many Nigerians I choose this time to echo my thought. I was struck by the show of commitment and patriotism demonstrated by the Nigerian Trekker; walking kilometers just to prove a point- working the talk. As an individual I have reflected on this for past few weeks, finally arrived at writing this piece which somehow looks like a tribute to fallen heroes of 2014 but a reminder to the Nigerian state to immortalize her outstanding patriots.
Although I have heard it in comedies that no one wants to die for this country Nigeria. These jokes are sometimes spiced up with the verse, if you die just two months you are forgotten. It is not something that should been take seriously, so I have often taken it with a pinch of salt. Perhaps, anytime I hear it, I usually recite the verse of the National Anthem that the works of our heroes past shall never be in vain. And with the actions of a few Nigerians I become more convinced that there are citizens who are ready to die. But with each passing day and as events keep occurring, this appears to be a recurring decimal. The real issue to me became; are patriotic Nigerians remembered after death. If yes, how long.
To be emphatic, I will focus on two of these cases which eventually are women to drive home this point. I consider them as my heroes of 2014. For me, they deserve every honor this nation has to offer.
As Nigerians, we can easily recall since these are more recent issues in our nation. One of the few personalities that made the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration remarkable was Professor Dora Akunyili of blessed memory. Why it was so, was not because she occupied the most strategic or much-sought-after positions in the cabinet but perhaps she distinguished herself by her conduct in office and became renowned globally.
In 2001, Professor Dora Akunyili was appointed as Director-General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). Her dogged fight against fake and counterfeit drugs which reigned in the country before her coming to the helm of affairs at the agency, made NAFDAC to be widely recognized as an agency of government. The agency became sanitized and it performed its statutory duties.
Again, she was appointed by the government of President Umaru Musa YarAdua as Minister of Information and Communication, her visionary leadership qualities were put to good use as she transformed the entire system with her famous maxim ‘GOOD PEOPLE, GREAT NATION’.
However, after serving this great nation and its good people honorably and she passed away on June 7, 2014 while on a national assignment (CONFAB); sadly, Nigerians like this writer are yet to neither hear nor read about any attempt by the federal government to immortalize this patriot.
Then came the terrible health crisis which ravaged most West African states. This was caused by the Ebola epidemic which took Nigeria by surprised with the unsuspecting entrance of Liberian Patrick Sawyer who was infected with the disease. This situation which would have turned out to be an outbreak should Dr. Stella Adedevoh not prevented Sawyer from moving out of the First Consultant Hospital. Her courage and diligence saved the precious lives of over the 170 million Nigerians. This singular action saved the Nigerian government many resources they would have spent on establishing health facilities and treating citizens who would have been infected by the disease. Unfortunately for Nigeria and the world seriously lacking in models, Dr Stella Adadevoh and Nurse Justina died after contracting the dreaded disease they saved the rest of us from. After their death, there is still nothing on ground to honor these patriots. Can’t the government muscle out resources to build or establish a national monument in her name?
Concomitantly, President Jonathan by his conceding defeat is taunted as a hero at least for saving the lives of Nigerians from the taunted Great War. Meanwhile, the very reason they celebrate Dr. Goodluck Jonathan today as a hero Is because he is still alive. And perhaps, they have something to get from him.
Shame of a Nation, I write not to please or to comfort, but to expose us to some the little areas that matter, where we have constantly failed as a country.
Our search for committed and patriotic people may remain a fleeting illusion if we cannot learn to place culpability where it is and in like manner give honor to whom against all odds distinguish self in service of humanity even paying the ultimate price. Until heroism is celebrated, it will remain a dark decrepit path of near shame with lesser people taking it.
Jefia Dede, A social analyst is a columnist of Secrets Reporters