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Between Dora Akunyili and Stella Adadevoh



Remembering the Amazons

Ameyo Stella Adadevoh

Bu Oluwole Sheriff Olusanya


A few days ago, as the world marked the International Women’s Day 2017, memories of two great heroines in Nigeria’s recent history, Ameyo Stella Adadevoh and Dora Akunyili flashed across my mind. They had indeed fought a good fight and deserve to be celebrated.

Last year, organizations and individuals around the world supported the #PledgeForParity campaign and committed to help women and girls achieve their ambitions; challenge conscious and unconscious bias; call for gender-balanced leadership; value women and men’s contributions equally; and create inclusive flexible cultures. From raising awareness to concrete action, organizations rallied their people to pledge support to help forge gender parity on International Women’s Day (IWD) and beyond. (Source:

Personally, I also published a write-up to commemorate the International Women’s day 2016 titled; “PLANET 50-50 BY 2030: STEP IT UP FOR GENDER PARITY (& DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN IN THE LABOUR MARKET).” ( where I pledged for parity in a number of ways but I unfortunately could not achieve many of my pledges.

Historically, the International Women’s Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day, is celebrated annually on the 8th of March. The focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women for their economic, political and social contributions and achievements. An effective Women’s Day was the 1975 Icelandic women’s strike which paved the way for the first female president in the world, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir.

In some regions, the day has lost its political flavour and has become an occasion for people to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. In other regions however, the political and human rights theme designated by the United Nations runs strong political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner. The International Women’s day is celebrated by wearing purple ribbons. (Source:

In consequence, I would use the opportunity the International Women’s day presents to motivate my readers by sharing the inspiring stories of two great Nigerian women who helped their country enormously with their selfless and patriotic service to the nation till their time of their death.

Prof. (Mrs.) Dora Akunyili

Prof. Dora Nkem Akunyili (OFR) was born in Makurdi, Benue State (Nigeria) on the 14th of July, 1954 to Chief & Mrs Paul Young Edemobi. She was a devout Catholic and was happily married to Dr. J.C. Akunyili, a Medical Practitioner and they were blessed with six children and three grandchildren.

Prof. Akunyili was an internationally renowned Pharmacist, Pharmacologist, Erudite Scholar, Seasoned Administrator, and a visionary leader. She served her country in numerous strategic positions including as Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Federal Minister of Information and Communication.

Prof. Dora Akunyili was appointed Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigeria from April 2001-2008 where she recorded outstanding success. Prior to her appointment, food and drug regulation in Nigeria was chaotic. All manner of adulterated, fake and substandard food and drugs were dumped into Nigeria resulting in over 60% of fake drugs in circulation. Unscrupulous individuals made fortunes from such unwholesome practices. When she assumed office, she brought in a new culture of excellence and honesty to NAFDAC and the entire Nigerian public service. As a result, the level of fake and counterfeit drugs in circulation dropped to 16.7% with vast improvement in the food and other regulated sectors.

From December 2008 – December 2010, she worked as the Honourable Minister of Information and Communications, Federal Republic of Nigeria. Prof. Akunyili anchored the Re-branding Nigeria Project driven by the slogan, Nigeria – Good People, Great Nation. The programme was conceived as an internal process to address Nigeria’s negative image both at home and abroad. The Late Dora proved her versatility in all areas of human endeavour as she also ventured into politics when she aspired to serve her own people in Anambra State as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. She died on June 7th, 2014 of Ovarian Cancer. She was aged 59.

Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh

Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh was the Nigerian doctor who oversaw the treatment of Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian born American national who brought the Ebola virus to Nigeria. She died of the virus on the 19th August, 2014. Without her dedication, it is quite possible that the World Health Organisation would not have declared Nigeria – the most populous country in Africa – Ebola-free few months after the virus made its way through the Muritala Muhammad International Airport, Lagos.

The significance of her actions, and those of her hospital colleagues, cannot be overstated.

According to an account by Dr. Ada Igonoh, a young doctor who also treated Sawyer – Adadevoh vehemently turned down a request by Sawyer’s employers to have him discharged so he could catch a flight to Calabar from Lagos, where he had been due to attend a conference (we can only imagine what would have happened if Sawyer been allowed to leave Lagos for Calabar).

Dr. Igonoh recalls that from the moment Adadevoh suspected Sawyer might have Ebola – she quarantined him, made contact with the authorities and ensured the provision of protective materials and Ebola educational material to hospital staff.

Stella Adadevoh was born in Lagos in October 1956. 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 where she was a senior consultant endocrinologist in Obalende on Lagos Island, where a statue of Macaulay still stands today.


The United Nations theme for the 2017 International Women’s Day is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030” which calls for a collective action towards ensuring that women are given adequate attention in the labour market and other spheres of their socio-economic life.

Lastly, I would like to encourage everyone reading this piece to make sure that we celebrate women who are trailblazers and have defied all odds to guarantee that the world is a better place by sharing our stories of inspiring women who have changed the course of history because they were bold enough to ask for positive change (like Dora and Stella’s cases illustrated above) with the dedicated hash tag – #BeBoldForChange.


Oluwole Sheriff Olusanya, an avid public affairs commentator is a relationship officer at Sterling Bank




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