In this post we’ll be bringing the profile of the newly elected national women leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Professor Stella Ajah Effah-Attoe
When I arrived in the Bendi Technical College as a timid village boy to begin my secondary school education over three decades ago, the first event of lasting memory that occurred was the visit to that village school of the then Cross River State Commissioner for Education, whom we welcomed with a number of social activities that had been rehearsed with anxiety for several weeks.
I still recall vividly our excitement when a very young lady, in fact the youngest person among the august visitors, was introduced and presented to us as the Honourable Commissioner for Education.
I had no inkling on that day that I was being introduced to a woman who would years after be one of my favourite lecturers in the Department of History and International Studies at the University of Calabar, a woman who would later be my colleague, a woman who thirty-three years after, on the 30th day of October, 2021 will be elected unopposed as the National Women Leader of Nigeria’s darling political party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party.
If for nothing else, my intimate knowledge of Professor Stella Ajah Effah-Attoe’s intellectual sagacity and moral capital places me in a vantage position to say a few things about her that may be useful to people that have not followed her growth and maturation as a scholar and public intellectual over the years.
Professor Stella Effah-Attoe, distinguished Nigerian public intellectual, courageous and visionary politician, lover of her country and by the grace of God Almighty, the first Cross Riverian and first Professor to be elected as National Women Leader of a formidable Nigerian political party, was born in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State several decades ago.
She had her primary education in three different primary schools, beginning at Saint Louise Nursery School, Bompai, Kano; Our Lady Girls’ School, Tiko, Cameroon and our Lady of Lourdes Primary School, Lagos where she obtained her First School Leaving Certificate with Distinction in 1971.
She did her secondary school studies at Edgerley Memorial Girls’ Secondary School, Calabar, from 1972 to 1976, where she graduated with Division 1 in the West African School Certificate Examination.
In 1976, she proceeded to the University of Calabar where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts, Second Class Honours, Upper Division, in History in 1980. She did her graduate studies in the University of Calabar from 1981 to 1985, obtaining a doctorate degree in African History at the age of 26.
Professor Stella Effah-Attoe began her work experience as a lecturer at the then Cross River State School of Basic Studies, Akamkpa (now Cross River College of Education, Akamkpa in 1981).
She left the job in February 1986 to take up appointment as Lecturer II in the History Department of the University of Calabar, where she has taught for the last 35 years. Prof Stella Effah-Attoe grew through the ranks and was promoted Professor in 2010.
As a University lecturer, Professor Stella Effah-Attoe has taught virtually all courses offered in the Department of History and International Studies at the University of Calabar to several generations of students, some of whom are now established scholars and professionals in their own right. In her eventful career as an academic, she has supervised over a hundred Undergraduate Long Essays, 25 M.A. theses and 15 Ph.D. dissertations.
Apart from this, she had at various times served as Graduate School Representative in the defense of Ph.D. and Masters Theses in other departments in the University of Calabar. She had also served as External Examiner to the University of Uyo and Benue State University for their M.A./Ph.D. programmes She has also assessed candidates for promotion to the ranks of Associate Professor and Professor for several Nigerian universities.
Apart from teaching, research and supervision, Professor Stella Effah-Attoe has served the University of Calabar at several other capacities including Chairperson, Department of History Graduate Committee (1995 – 1997); Member, Faculty of Arts Examination Malpractice Committee (1996 – 1997); Member, Graduate School and Staff Development Sub-committee of the Strategic Planning Committee (1995 – 1997); Member of Senate, University of Calabar (2002 – 2003; 2010 to 2021); Member, Curriculum Committee, Faculty of Arts (1998 – 2000); Head, Department of History and International Studies (2002 – 2003); Member, University of Calabar Contact Committee (2005 – 2010); Chairman, Local Organizing Committee, Department of History and International Studies’ Conferences (2016 – 2020), member, Faculty of Arts Investment Committee and the Intellectual Property Policy Committee (IPPC) of the University, Dean of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Calabar, a position she left to champion the mobilization of Nigerian women for political participation and national development.
In addition to her academic career at the University of Calabar, she has served her state, Cross River, and country, Nigeria meritoriously in many positions. She had served as a member of the Cross River State Executive Council in the capacity of Commissioner for Education and later Commissioner for Information and Culture from October 1987 to June 1990. In 1997, Professor Effah-Attoe contested and won elections into the Cross River State House of Assembly representing Biase constituency. Unfortunately, the election was annulled following the death of General Sani Abacha. She was a highly resourceful member of the Committee on Restructuring and Reforms of the Local Government system in Cross River State, which was inaugurated by His Excellency, Governor Donald Duke on July 4, 2003. At the national level, she was member, Governing Council of the National Health Insurance Scheme (2000 – 2003); Member, Board of Directors, Federal Housing Authority Board (2005 – 2006); Chairman, Board of Directors of the Voice of Nigeria (2009 – 2010); Member, Governing Board of the National Youth Service Corps (2013 – 2015), Member, National Population Census Monitoring Team (1991). She had previously served in 1989 as member of the Committee for the Implementation of the nine years Compulsory Education Programme for Nigeria.
The recommendations of this Committee are now being implemented in the New National Policy on Education in Nigeria, whereby a child has to go through nine years of Compulsory Schooling, starting from Primary one to six (six years), and from Junior Secondary School – one to three (three years). Her outstanding resourcefulness explains why she has been called to serve the nation in these and many other critical areas.
Prof. Stella Effah-Attoe is an acclaimed, respected and often quoted humanistic scholar especially in African History and Gender Studies.
Author of several books and book chapters, journal articles in local and international journals and conference papers, she has been at the cutting edge of scholarship. Some of the books she has authored are: A Federation of the Biase People: Origin and Development of Biase Ethnicity, 1750 – 1950 (1990); Margaret Ekpo: Lioness in Nigerian Politics, (co-authored with S. O. Jaja) (1993); Women Empowerment and Nation Building in Nigeria (2004); Nigerian and African History (co-authored with O. T. Abia) (2001). She co-edited Okon Uya at 70: Issues in Historiography, Nation Building and the African Diaspora (2016) with David Imbua, C. B. N. Ogbogbo and Yakubu Ochefu.
She was the 79th inaugural lecturer of the University of Calabar. Her very insightful lecture on “Gender Mainstreamism in Nigeria’s Political Development: From Hindsight to Foresight” which was well researched, ably written and masterly delivered has remained a reference material on gender studies in Nigeria.
A widely traveled scholar, prof. Stella Effah-Attoe has attended conferences and other engagements in almost all the states of Nigeria and in many other cities outside the country, including several countries in Africa (Cameroon, South Africa, Uganda, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, etc.), Europe (United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, Netherlands, etc.), Asia (Hong Kong, Japan, etc.), the Middle East (Israel, United Arab Emirate, Qatar, etc.) and North America (United States of America, Canada, etc). Prof. Stella Effah-Attoe has all along committed her outstanding intellect, courage, industry and altruistic disposition to the welfare and wellbeing of humanity, especially women, children and youths.
Among her other numerous activities in this regard are the following: the mobilization of women to exercise their voting rights during elections, empowerment of women and youths through grants for business start-ups, enhancement of the girl-child education through scholarships and educational grants in Biase, provision of mentorship and counselling sessions for women and youths, provision of mentorship, guidance and counselling to undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Calabar, etc.
Specific mention should be made of the role of her NGO – Center for Gender Empowerment, in the sensitization and mobilization of women in Cross River State in particular and Nigeria in general for nation building and development.
Professor Stella Effah-Attoe is a woman highly recognized and decorated for her scholarship and achievements in various spheres of life.
She is a Fellow of the Institute of Administrative Management of Nigeria (FIAMN), Qualified and Incorporated Administrative Manager (QIAM), 21st Century Trust Fellow, London, Senator of the United Nations International Parliament for Peace and Safety, Woman of Excellence Award, Woman Achiever Award, a recipient of the Woman of Distinction Award, Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Cross River State Chapter, Public Service Award in recognition of impactful contribution to public service, academics and inspiration to NAWOJ, NYSC’s Award of Honour in recognition of outstanding and inestimable contributions to humanity, to mention but a few.
What can anyone say in a synopsis that will capture the phenomenal life of Professor Stella Effah-Attoe? By every consideration, Prof. Stella Effah-Attoe is a heroine, a legend and a core humanist, who has blessed the fortunes of a great company of men and women in several communities, institutions and organizations.
Because of my intimate knowledge of her life and times, there is no doubt in my mind that the PDP has brought onboard a woman of great capacity and foresight that will reposition Nigerian women as critical agents of nation building and development.
I am optimistic that she will convert her rich knowledge of the enormous contributions that women actors have made to the processes, actions and movements that have enhanced the building of the Nigerian state since the pre-colonial era into doses of inspiration and challenge for Nigerian women in confronting the challenges of the 21st century.