Wednesday, 18 June 2014 06:10

Dora Nkem Akunyili (July 14, 1954 - June 7, 2014) : An Unadulterated Woman of Valour

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Prof. Dora Nkem Akunyili, OFR, former Director General of NAFDAC, ex-Minister of Information, one of the most adored public servants, a woman of courage, who waged a successful war against counterfeit and fake drugs in Nigeria, became a terror to fake drugs cartels; regardless whose business was involved, she followed the NAFDAC policies to the core; is gone to rest peacefully with the Lord. Dora would be missed, most especially at this point in time in Nigeria history when the country's reputation is at its lowest ebb again; she succumbed to complications arising from uterine cancer at the tender age of 59 years. She ought to have been 60 July 11, 2014.

She might have had fibroid surgery sometimes in March 2013.

My last communication with her before flown to India from Nigeria for more medical attention was: "Prof. Just checking on you. I hope you are doing well. My family wish you well. God bless. Femi". As usual, she instantly responded, "Thanks Femi, my brother, I am fine. God is in control. Greet your beautiful wife for me."

At her condition then, she appeared at the National Conference in a very high spirit, as one of the Anambra Delegates. She was resolute in her belief in a better Nigeria. She refused to be enslaved within the confines of her home, by appearing at the National Conference, as another demonstration for who Dora was. She was not embarrassed about her condition; she disregarded conference members' reactions to her look; found time to chat with delegates; and addressed the Conference in her usual tone; without hidden from the public. What a courageous 'Woman of Valour'.

A conference member who sat next to her, looked at her with some disgusting body language, as she warmly asked him if he did not recognize her; while some were very sympathetic of her situation. My wife shed tears at the glance of her picture then.

Dora last public appearance at the National Conference, Abuja, 2014

She believed that Nigeria is an easy country to govern "…once you do not compromise your principles and ideals, people have a way of conforming to whatever is the laid down standard." We hope most of the public officials would borrow from that statement in their public services. She also believed that, "When people understand the job, when people have a passion for the job, when people have a drive, when people have an inner motivation, the job becomes easy even with the difficulties around it."

Dora was known for her positive 'heavy tongue'which she would lash at you if and when you made an attempt to lure her away from her principles especially working in the Nigeria public office.

Displaying Her positive 'heavy tongue'

As the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigeria, (April 2001-2008), Dora transformed the chaotic food and drug regulation in Nigeria. She brought into that Institution, NAFDAC, a new culture of excellence and honesty and to an extent to the entire Nigerian public service; while some scholars have written-off any good thing coming out of the Nigerian public sector, as currently (June 2014) demonstrated on the abducted Chibok Girls.

Despite several threats and attempts on her life, even with juju tortoise in her office at a point in NAFDAC, she captained NAFDAC ship successfully. The American Visa lottery, she won, protected her siblings from the dangers of the fake drug barons by moving them to the United States of America.

She recalled on a fateful day criminals came to her house, while the assigned Police security did not come to work that night; as done in Chief Bola Ige case; a sitting Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice who was killed right in his bedroom after his police orderlies left their post to eat.

According to Dora, "Oh, those criminals, they did a lot. There was a time they went to my house at Abuja and looked for me. Fortunately, I had left for Lagos. I had an emergency in Lagos and I left from the office. They came to my house that same night beat my cook almost to pulp, repeatedly asking him: where is she? They ransacked everywhere. If I had slept in that house that night, only God knows what would have happened."

God saw her through successfully at NAFDAC until her illness took her away when her experiences and services were most needed in Nigeria, rebuilding the country image at the hands of the terrorist group.

Dora, as the information Minister, stood out of the National Executive Council on the truth about Yar'Adua's ill-health, concealed from the public. Her memo to the Federal Executive Council, February 3, 2011 requested the council to transmit a letter to the National Assembly for a smooth transition, to the reality of the ailing Yar'Adua's predicament, shocked hell out of the federal cabinet.

Dora provided the momentum for the National Assembly to recognize Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, then Vice President, to assume duties as Acting President. Her memo added more enemies, in addition to those created with fake drugs agents as DG, NAFDAC; nevertheless, it endeared her to majority of Nigerians who saw her as an embodiment of courage.

That was part of her crusade to revert the negative image of Nigeria across the world with the slogan 'Nigeria: Good People, Great Nation'.

Dora was never intimidated; always bold, and to the point. In one of my TV/Internet programs, 'Nigeria This Week',she almost took over the interview. She was emphatically and respectively blunt, 'Like what?' , with her serious look; for you to restate your question so as to give you the accurate answer without mincing words.

What an intelligent brilliant well cultured Amazon.

Dora as the Zonal Secretary coordinating all PTF projects in the south east in 1999, returned 12, 000 pounds to PTF, for her diagnosed pancreatic problem surgery, which turned out to be 'irritable bowel syndrome' in a London Hospital. PTF raised the money for the surgery; under General Buhari, as the Head of PTF then. Buhari wrote behind her commendation letter that: "I did not know that there are still some Nigerians with integrity."We hope most of Nigeria public officials would emulate that principle.

The photo (above) shows Akunyili standing, arms akimbo and smiling in between two grim-looking Police officers seated on black-colored single leather sofas with rifles on their hands in an office walled with award plaques.

When I visited her office in 2007, after she appeared on my Internet TV Talk Show, 'Nigeria This Week', Atlanta, I was amazed and stunned; by the number of over 700 National and International Awards, excluding church organizations, displayed on a full length of her office wall. Prof. Akunyili was an internationally renowned Pharmacist, Pharmacologist, Erudite Scholar, Seasoned Administrator, and a visionary leader.

As a renown Scientist and a Scholar, who had presented over 600 papers, delivered in various Local and International Conferences; published four books and written scientific articles published in 37 local and international journals; her attempt on an elective political office did not materialize.

In one of her interviews, explaining 'a professional in politics…not a professional politician,' she clarified that "Professional politicians are people that cannot do any other thing. It's their job. For me, {Dora} I can do too many other things. For professional politicians, it is their first and last job. It is what they have regarded as 'this is my job for life.' Politics is their job, A to Z. On the other hand, a professional in politics is like somebody like me who is a pharmacist. I can go into practice; I can go into consultancy, I can teach, I can go in to the laboratory anywhere in the world."

Definitely, counterfeit Nigerian politicians would continue to lead Nigeria into a bottomless pit, while professionals, intellects, or technocrats, as we widely called them, would be finding it difficult to penetrate the dirty filthy Nigerian politicians and the political process.

Dora demonstrated the best suited place for an average Nigerian Professional in handling Nigeria economy, or growth, heading most of the Government agencies where they could display their creativity, without being political about their services to humanity.

As of today, (June 2014), the country is wading off the needed professionals in active politics as they consider them (Professionals) as 'STRANGERS' in their motherland. When it comes to partisan politics, the professionals have the Iron Gate that could not be broken, preventing their performance, as they would be dancing to the political music against the ethics of their profession.

An average Nigerian today (2014) believe in NAFDAC, in establishing an Institution. An average Nigerian believes that any consumable that do not have NAFDAC label on it, is not real and should not be purchased or guzzle.

How many Nigerian public officials could stand out to be counted in doing their public services without playing politics, or favor in fairness to humanity like Dora?

Dora was a jewel in Obasanjo's administration'; very patriotic, an unbiased umpire, a dedicated public officer, an uncommon Nigerian. She was an embodiment of courage.

Joining the entire universe, my family commiserate with the family of Dora, Edemobi and Akunyili, the country in general, and Anambra State in particular.

Dora Nkem, may God grant her soul, eternal rest, and give the family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.

Dora is an immortalized Amazon.

Life is not how long, but how well!

Sleep on Dora! Sleep on Nkem!

Sleep on! Sleep on!! Sleep on!!!

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Femi  Ajayi Ph.D

Femi Ajayi was born in Obboland, Ekiti Local Government, Kwara State, Nigeria. After his Elementary Education he moved to Ilorin where he attended Bishop Smith Memorial Teacher's College, and College of Education. He spent his adult life, attending Schools and Teaching in Ilorin before moving to the United States of America.

He is an Executive Director, Office of Secretary of State, Atlanta, Georgia. Prior to that he worked with the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, Atlanta, Georgia as a Legislative Consultant. During his tenure with the GLBC, he successfully co-developed three major projects for the GLBC: Peach State Black Tourism Association; Institute of Technology Transfer; and Minority Economic Development. These three projects created opportunities for minorities, especially African Americans, to economically empower themselves in the State of Georgia. Dr. Ajayi is also a consultant, on leadership, for the National Conference of Black Mayors, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia. The program, Leadership Institute for Mayors (LIM), is an annual one-week program designed to train newly elected Black Mayors on governance. The program entices officials from both private and public sectors, providing information on available sources of Grants and other information that could help them accomplish their goals as public officials.

He has to his background teaching experience at Clark Atlanta University; Served as Chairman, Social Science Department, Ebon International Preparatory Academy, Forsyth, Georgia. He taught at Government Secondary School Bama, old Borno State, during his National Youth Service Corps, Government secondary School, Afon, Kwara State, and at Ijan Otun Anglican Elementary School, Ijan-Otun, Kwara State.

He is the Chairman Advisory Board, African Quest Newspaper, Atlanta, Georgia; Advisory Board Chair, Nigerian Youth Alliance, Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Femi Ajayi was elected to the Southside Healthcare Board of Directors, Atlanta, Georgia, from 1992 - 2000: Board Secretary in 1994 and Board Chair from 1995 -1999. It has an annual budget of over $14 million. Dr. Ajayi also served in the Student Senate (1981-1984) and Vice President, Nigerian Students Union, 1983 -1984, at the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, Oklahoma. Under his leadership, Southside witnessed tremendous improvement in quality community health services.

Dr. Femi Ajayi has received many honors, including an Outstanding Georgia Citizen, Secretary of State, Atlanta, Georgia, a Community Service Award, from the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, Atlanta, Georgia; All American Scholar Award, United States Achievement Academy.

His public appearance includes Radio and Television interviews on Nigerian issues. Dr. Ajayi belongs to numerous non-profit Associations, Board member of other four Health Care Associations in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Femi Ajayi received his Ph.D. degree in Political Science from Clark Atlanta University, Georgia, with concentration in American Government, International Relations, African Politics, and Public Administration. His M. A. is in International Relations with concentration in Global Conflict Resolution and B.A. in Public Service from the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, Oklahoma. He obtained his National Certificate in Education with concentration in West African History, Geography, Philosophy and Psychology, he is happily married with four children.