By Chika Abanobi
The mini-biographical work, My Stella…One in a Million, by Dr. Sam-Loco Smith, formerly of Newswatch magazine but today a public/media relation management expert, is truly, one in a million. It is not every day that you find a man writing about his wife with such gusto, no matter the bond between them. But that is what Smith has done with this book.
In it, he shows why the subject matter, Dr. Stella Ifeanyi Smith, the quintessential medical scientific researcher and Director of Research, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, is worth celebrating. It is not because she is his wife. If there is a takeaway from the book, it is the fact that, even if the subject matter were not the author’s wife, she would still have been worthy of being celebrated for her towering stellar achievements on many fronts.
Stella’s Delta Igbo name, Ifeanyi, which loosely translates as “there’s nothing difficult with this one”, in its shortened and elliptical form, but “there’s nothing difficult for/with God” (Ifeanyichukwu) in its fuller sense, seemed to have played a strong role in modeling her into the kind of woman she eventually became.
Yes, there is nothing difficult for or with God! There is nothing difficult with this one. With time, the two seemingly different streams of philosophy found coalition and coalescence in Stella. And, what you have at the end of it all is a female star from Nigeria with a string of achievements: Director (Research). Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (MBBT), Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos; Head, Emergency Preparedness and Response Research Group (EPRG); Focal person for the World Bank project African Centre of Excellence in Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology (ACENTDEB), Co-PI of the prestigious DFG (Deutsche Forschungs Gemeinschaft, German Research Foundation); member of the African Microbicide Advocacy Group (AMAG); Third World Academy of Science (TWAS); Organisation for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD); World Academy of Young Scientists (WAYS); Productive Scientists on the ISI Web of Science (2007); one of the “10 Nigerian Women Pulling their Weight in the Sciences”, according to Leadership newspaper and, in the assessment of Silverbird TV, one of the “16 Prominent Nigerian Women That Have Excelled in Science and Research.”
Apart from testimonies given about the diligence, focus and self-discipline of Dr. Stella Smith by outstanding Nigerians like Prof. Akintoye Coker, her M.Sc and PhD supervisor; Dr. D.K. Olukoya, her former boss at MBBT and now General Overseer, Mountain of Miracle and Fire Ministries (MFM); Prof. Razaq Atata, who commended her for organising participants-enriching and friendly workshops; Prof. Babatunde Salako, Director General, NIMR, and Anthony Arigbabu, Professor of Surgery at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU, Ile-Ife), there were also testimonies in those regards, by non-Nigerians like Ms Corinne Ngnameko, a Cameroonian post-graduate student who did a six-month laboratory study in Nigeria under her; Francis Megraud, a Professor of Medicine, Bordeaux, France, who helped supervise her post-doctoral researches; Prof. Rainer Haas of Max von Pettenkoffer Institute, Munich, Germany under whose close supervision she once worked; Prof. Stephan Miehlke with whom she worked on the molecular epidemiology of Helicobacter pylori in Dresden, Germany and Prof. Barry Marshall, 2005 Nobel Prize Winner of Medicine.
Whether at the professional level where she showcased her scientific mettle, time and again, in research supervision and organising of workshops and conferences or at personal level when she had to wait for years after wedding before she could have her first and only child, Daniel, and her stewardship at MBBT when once, for a period of about five years, she was subjected to antagonism, intimidation, maltreatment and harassment on account of her firm principles, her resilience never failed to shine like the Northern Star. Undimmed! Throughout the period of her ordeals, she showed that she was truly Ifeanyi. “Stella may not enjoy the favour of man but she enjoys God’s favour,” the author wrote. “She may not be appreciated, acknowledged and rewarded appropriately but the fact is: Stella is a star. A star must shine against all odds.»
Judging from the glowing testimonies that Sam Smith gave concerning his wife in the book, there is no doubt that in Stella he was not only love-smitten, he also found a good wife.