I feel I would be failing the entire Community of Physicians of Nigerian and indeed African origin world wide if I fail to speak up on the omission of Sir Samuel Manuwa from the list of persons honored for their contributions to various fields of endeavor in Nigeria's first 100 years.
First of all, let me congratulate President Goodluck Jonathan on seeing Nigeria to the 100 years anniversary of Nigeria's amalgamation as one Country. Regarding the Awards, I don't know what the criteria were that were used to select people for the list, but looking at the sub-list headed by Mr. Sapara Williams, whose name had been immortalized by my late father by insisting that the street we lived on in the new development known as Victoria Island in 1966 be named Sapara Williams Close to honor the pioneering spirit and work of the Sapara Williams brothers in Nigeria's History as Physician and Lawyer. That category was headlined as Pioneering Professionals, and included Fredrick Rotimi Williams, Akintola Williams Esq. as well as a few other Pioneering Professionals rightly. I was surprised I did not see Sir Samuel Manuwa's name on the final list. As to why I believe his inclusion is very appropriate for this Centenary Celebration, I will proceed to explain the reason to all of us Nigerians both at home and abroad.
He was the 1st Surgeon in Africa of Native African Origin .He rose from humble roots as the son of a Clergyman from Itebu Waterside in present day Ondo State. Born in 1903, after a brilliant scholastic career through the Church Missionary School and Kings College Lagos, he proceeded to the University of Edinburgh Medical School where he qualified as a Doctor in 1926.
At The time, the fashion was to get a basic professional qualification in whatever field you studied and return back home. Later he trained in the Art of Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Postgraduate training in Medicine overseas is no easy task, even to his day, especially for a man of Color. It involves keeping your focus amidst racial bias, as a trainee apprentice, keeping your ability to smile in the face of unpleasant racial jokes and oftentimes insults, It is an experience you can appropriately describe with the words "You Stoop to Conquer", you name it, Specialists from Africa and Blacks have to endure it, from being given the sickest patients deliberately to make you fail so they can justify terminating your training, to being given Very Sick Deaf and Dumb Patients at your final oral examination, who cannot communicate except in sign Language. It is an experience to quote my American Trained Medical School Lecturer who I ran to after my 1st month in New York, with my experiences. He chuckled as he said to me...".... Nothing fully prepares you for the experience of Post graduate Medical training....".
In 1934 he sat, passed and was called to join the Royal College of Surgeons as a Certified Surgeon and Fellow. With the full authority to carry the letters FRCS (Ed) after his name. He returned home to Nigeria and re- joined the Government Health Department of West Africa as a Surgeon in the proper sense of the word. Being African it was a feat that was unprecedented in the history of colonial Africa. He was sent to work all over Nigeria, East, West and North saving lives and inspiring many young High School students into the Medical Profession. He even designed a special Surgical Knife to improve and advance the frontiers of his Profession for treating dreaded Tropical Ulcers. Indeed his professional excellence set a standard for Medical care that made it possible for Africans in Nigeria and indeed West Africa's to enjoy medical care at the frontiers of Medicine as practiced internationally. He operated on 10's of 1000's of people in the span of his 18-year career as a pioneering surgeon. After 18 years practicing Surgery, he could no longer resist Administrative responsibilities. He was appointed the Deputy Director of Medical Services. Later, he rose to become the 1st Nigerian Director of Medical Services for West Africa and later became the 1st Chief Medical Adviser to the Government of Nigeria. He added too many improvements for the welfare of his fellow Nigerians and Africans for me to mention all in this discussion especially providing Healthcare to rural communities. Among other things, in 1952 he saw to it that the entire African Hospital (General Hospital) floors in Lagos were properly redone in Italian terrazzo just as the Colonialists had done in their European Hospital (later named Creek Hospital now Military Hospital Onikan). Prior to that you were lucky if you didn't catch hookworms from the floor if you didn't wear shoes as an inpatient, especially in the patient bathrooms. When a young Government College Ibadan Student he had met at Ibadan joined him in the Govt service as the 1st African Board Certified Physician/Internal Medicine. He saw to it that all resources were made available to fight Tuberculosis, which was, then an African Epidemic neglected by the Colonialists. TB was no respecter of person irrespective of their position in the Nigerian Society. Films were made that showed how to prevent and identify Tuberculosis in Africans that cinema goers were shown in all Cinema theaters in Nigeria before the feature Films. Sir Samuel's support and leadership won Nigeria the fight against Tuberculosis in the 50's and early 60's.As the leader in the Medical Community of West Africa, he ensured that meritocracy and excellence became the #1 yardstick for every thing that had to do with the Medical Practice and Profession. It is safe to say that People respected him and held him in very high esteem. So much so that her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II honored him with a knighthood in 1956 for his Professional Excellence and Services to West Africa in the Field of Medicine. Among his accomplishments were the closing down of the Old Yaba Medical College and the setting up of the Ibadan University College Medical School and The University College Hospital Ibadan. UCH was his brainchild and its realization was his handwork.
After a distinguished tenure as a Medical Administrator, he handed the baton of leadership to capable associates. Seeing that the nation still needed his wealth of unique experience, the Colonial Government appointed him as the 1st Nigerian Commissioner on The Federal Civil Service. He later humbly served as the Deputy Chief under Alhaji Sule Katagum after Nigeria became Independent, despite being the 1st Nigerian Commissioner on the Commission.
He served as the Pro Chancellor and Chairman of the University Council of the University of Ibadan for very many years and was a guiding hand in developing UCH to the center of excellence it became from its inception to what I will refer to as the "Golden era of Nigerian Medicine" in the 60's and 70's when members of the Saudi Royal Family came to seek regular specialist care at the University College Hospital on Queen Elizabeth Road.
In July 1975,Nigeria went through a transition as a sudden change of Government was effected among the Military hierarchy. General Yakubu Gowon was removed and General Murtala Mohammed became Nigeria's 3rd Military head of State. At the time,Sir Samuel Manuwa was living in his official residence on Alexander Avenue in Old Ikoyi,a place he had lived since the 1950's at least, with his devoted wife Lady Bella Manuwa. As the Government announced sweeping reforms in the Federal Civil service, “he was retired with immediate effect" this signaled the beginning of a massive retirement exercise. To worsen the humiliation, he was ordered to vacate his Government residence "with immediate effect”. All pleas not to treat this Distinguished Nigerian this way fell on deaf ears. For such a distinguished man, the shocking ill treatment was unprecedented and undeserved, but he complied and moved to a place in Surulere.
He fell sick soon after and died of Coronary Artery disease not unrelated to his humiliating treatment. This was a Pioneering Professional who was never involved in any Financial malfeasance or Impropriety of any kind what so ever. He was just serving his Country in the Federal Civil Service Commission, after a distinguished Medical and Medical Administrative Career.
His death instilled a sense of insecurity among the Medical Community working in the Government and University Hospitals, which exists to this day.
Rumors started flying around as to the cause of his death. It was with great reluctance that his Personal Physician of many years approached Lady Bella Manuwa seeking her permission for an official Autopsy to quell the rumors about his demise, after no less a person than Nigeria's Pioneer Cardiovascular Surgeon Prof Udekwu called from Enugu and asked, "What happened to Sir Samuel, I was told he shot himself".............He was Honored with a burial attended by many of our Centenary Honorees.
After Sir Samuels tragic death, his grieving wife on the Board of Cadbury Nigeria (Ltd), as part of her duties, accompanied other Board Members who were on tour of the companies facilities in the Northern part of Nigeria. The Official Range Rover in which she was being chauffeured somersaulted and crashed. Lady Bella Manuwa died, serving her country and the Industrial Community. It was barely 6 months after Sir Samuels’s equally tragic death.
A further sense of sadness came over most of the Nigerian Medical Community who felt insecure after the way Sir Samuel was treated. Tragically, Sir Samuel Manuwa's demise made way for the Physician lobbyists, the self seekers, the "asskissers" and the manipulators of the Medical Profession to curry and obtain undeserved favors and positions from highly placed Military Officers and Very Senior Government officials, traditional rulers etc. in a most reckless and shameless manner. We saw the excellence fade and "the Golden era of Nigerian Medicine" began to disappear under the cloak of mediocrity that could never have happened under Sir Samuel Manuwa's watch. By the mid 1980's,The Profession he nurtured and built had become a shade of itself; “the Golden era of Nigerian Medicine " was no more.
It is just befitting that Sir Samuel Manuwa be honored at this time of Nigeria's Centenary Celebration. We saw lists that had his name on line, only to find his name was not on the official list to the utter surprise of many people in the Nigerian Medical Community including myself. If a special award is given to him, it will be most welcome and it will be on record that a grave injustice done in 1975/76 is being corrected. It will not be the 1st time for such an occasion, after all Akintola Williams Esq. the doyen of the Accounting Profession was Knighted for his services as a Pioneering Accountant and Philanthropist responsible for the Establishment of the MUSON Center Onikan Lagos by Queen Elizabeth II. It was only after his International Honor as the only Nigerian Knighted by the Queen since 1963,that the Federal Government bestowed on him the appropriate National Honor after he had refused to accept a lesser Honor from the same Federal Government. Prof Wole Soyinka was on the "security watch list/pay no mind list" of the Military authorities when he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Military quickly bestowed a National Honor on "KONGI" at a special ceremony, "KONGI" shed tears during the ceremony presided over by President Babangida at the same Dodan Barracks where orders were given for his arrest. Sir Samuel Manuwa deserves no less. If both Sir Akintola Williams and "KONGI" Prof Wole Soyinka were honored to correct oversight and "deliberate omission”, Sir Samuel Manuwa needs to be honored as part of he Centenary Celebrations. If his Family refuses like Felas family, that is for them to decide. For us Physicians in the Nigerian Medical Community worldwide, he remains the "primus inter pares of Nigerian Medical Doctors”. His accomplishments will never be approached let alone equaled. He brought us to something we need back "the Golden era of Nigerian Medicine".
I feel I have done what is right, just and appropriate by standing up to be counted as a Vocal Voice to ensure excellence in deed and service is recognized and appropriately rewarded.
John Mabayoje jr M.D.