There are indeed many talented chaps in Nigeria; these people are not only creative, some of them are intelligent too and have the ability to invent things that are remarkable and useful to those in the society and outside it.
Samuel Achilefu is a Nigerian who was born in the mid-60s, during the period when the First Nigerian civil war was on. His father as at that time was working with hospitals and clinics before the war started. It was in the war broke out.
The Biafran war affected thousands of Nigerians who had to relocate and move away from the heat of the war. Achilefu and his family members were forced to leave the north and relocate to the east.
This made them lose all they had as they could not leave with all their things. He, along with everyone else, lived with his uncle who took them in for about year before his father built a house and they all settled in.
For people who are used to having everything they want, it was a pretty difficult phase as they had to learn to live with other people and share things with them. The war indeed scarred many people and this till date, affected lots of them.
Achilefu however, did not let this stop him or mar his future. His father tried doing everything he can to push his family forward by making them learn some morals from the incidence. He made inscriptions on the wall of the new house and laid emphasis on a true life fact. You can lose your wealth but never lose a good name.
This inscription changed Achilefu’s life and molded him into the man he has become. The young boy whose childhood memories are filled with disturbing scenes from the Biafra war and the loss of wealth has made a name for himself in the eradication of cancer all over the world.
And to think that such tremendous work came from a Nigerian is truly amazing. Achilefu had his primary and secondary education in some local schools in Nigeria.
However, he was lucky enough to have been one of the five students who won a French government scholarship and this made him attend a graduate school in France where he received a PhD in molecular and materials chemistry at the University of Nancy.
Achilefu made his family and Nigeria proud with his activities outside the country. He got to St. Louis and became the first full-time staff member of the discovery research department at Mallinckrodt Medical Inc.
The Nigerian genius was able to achieve what he has because of his educational background. This made him hold the belief that Nigerian children can change the world if they have the opportunity to do so.
He stated that he had the opportunity to meet some smart Nigerian children in the village school he attended during the war. These kids, according to him, never had the opportunity to move forward and change the world.
As a result of this, he has it in mind to create an institute that will help reach out to and train the smart kids in the low-resource areas of the world. To accomplish this, a certain number of children will be identifies yearly for comprehensive training and support through college.
While talking on the greatest breakthrough in the battle against cancer, the Nigerian genius said “We are working in the dark, so that we can see the light…therefore, there is no darkeness unless you cannot see the light.”
At the moment, he is the chief of Optical Radiology Laboratory and a professor of radiology at the Washington University School of Medicine. He has designed high tech goggles that will help surgeons see and identify cancer cells which are pretty difficult to see during surgery.
With the use of the invented goggles, the cancerous cells glow blue; this will help doctors ensure that there is no tumor cell left during and after the operation.
Due to this brilliant invention; Achilefu in January 2015 got the St.Louis award which is always doled out every year since 1932. The award is to recognize area residents whose hard-work and achievements has made positive impacts in the community.
Achilefu who got married to his wife twenty-one years ago was also recognized for leading the team that developed the high-tech goggles that will help surgeons see cancer.
The father of two is not stopping at this as he has the intention of inventing a light-based cancer therapy that can help in reaching tumors in deep tissue.
“I want to play a role in eradicating cancer or making it a manageable disease. Toward this goal, we have developed a new approach to kill cancer cells, independent of the cancer type.
“There is a method of killing cancer with light – photodynamic therapy. People use it to treat superficial cancers, such as skin cancer, because the cancer has to be reachable by light to activate a light-sensitive drug. Or you can use an endoscope to introduce light to activate and kill cancer cells inside the body.
“We’ve discovered a new approach of using existing radiopharmaceuticals to create a light source within the tumor cells. We have tested this concept with success in animal models of cancer and plan to move into human studies in future.”
With this, it is justifiable for one to say there are so many talented Nigerians in diaspora. Note that Dr. Mustapha Abubakar was also recognized as one of the hundred people called Arewa legends for the role he has played in cancer research.
Abubakar continues in his search to find the treatment and cure for cancer.
Credit: Temitope Popoola