We have just had another dark period in our history. This time around the dark period is not caused by the usual problems of inefficiency or corruption of persons in places of authority, but by the going home of one who has proved to be a true leader of her people. Dora Akunyili is dead.
This is a short tribute to a woman who lived her dream to the fullest. It is a tribute to a woman most pretty in external appearance but equally marvelously beautiful in the heart. Nigeria has lost a woman dedicated to the cause of growth and right. One who stood her ground for the good of the people while several merchants of death with their moneybags peddled fake drugs. This is a woman who, when the entire government of late Yar’Adua had Nigeria under the cloak of darkness as to the situation of the president, came out against the wish of so many powerful ones to declare the truth. She has always stood by the truth.
A practical simple example comes to my mind. At a time when the erstwhile warlord of Ibadan and Amala* kingmaker was ruling with fiery and fury in Oyo State even though he was neither the governor nor part of the government of the state, Mrs. Akinyuli in her authority as the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration (NAFDAC) had a brush with this human but morbid symbol of violence. Her problem? She had ordered some phony companies who manufactured fake drugs in Oyo state closed. These merchants of death made recourse to the Amala kingmaker just as several who fermented violence and problems in the state have always found refuge in him. In spite of all the threats against Mrs. Akunyili and even though aware of the abysmal level of criminality of this man, our Dora was not shaken. That is the sort of woman Nigeria has lost.
On such a day that we mourn her loss, there is much more to do than weeping. And if we know Dora well, then we should know that she would wish for these extra steps more than the weeping. There is the necessity of recognizing her large heartedness by a rising-up of many other women of character who would step forward to help our country grow. The mourning we need today is the call that her death makes to men and women of Nigeria, to rise up and be dedicated to unflinching excellence in their diverse positions. The sorrows we have had in these countries arise from a schizophrenic division which is often made between our moral/religious lives and our public witness/work. Dora was a testimony to the importance of living out internal values in external forum. She was indeed a woman of substance.
Another call her death makes to us today, much more than the weeping, is the need to step up actions in advancing our health infrastructures in the country. Dora died in India just like several thousands of Nigerians in years past. Give or take, about one in three of our foremost politicians die abroad, just like a number of Nigerians who can afford the financial costs of being flown and medically treated abroad. Millions back home do not have this possibility. However, whether those who have the opportunity or those who do not, the fact is that millions of Nigeria are undergoing daily the scourge of inadequate health services. May the call for a revamp of this sector not get the usual cold shoulders it has always had. May we get a health minister and a capable President who has the sort of mind that Mrs. Akunyili displayed, and do everything to turn around the ill of the health sector in Nigeria. Mrs. Dora Akunyili turned around NAFDAC which had been trailed by incompetence and corruption by a solid will and moral rectitude. Would some women and men stand up with same rectitude to save our health and several other ailing sectors?
Dear Mrs. Dora Akunyili, you have made your impact. Not only on the field of Nigerian public administration and politics but also on several thousand young Nigerians who know things are wrong and cannot go on like this. May your sacrifice spring these thousands to action to engender a change. May your example be an encouragement to many to realize that it takes a singular person to make a change. Precisely because an addition of singular persons of goodwill makes for a vibrant, growing society. Adieu the doyen. Adieu a woman we have always loved and respected. Thank you for your contribution to the fatherland.
* A type of food predominantly eaten by the Yorubas of Nigeria