RARE COMBINATION OF BEAUTY, PATRIOTISM, INTELLIGENCE AND COURAGE
Prof Dora Akunyili’s 14-year-old son came home from school on vacation. He called her and said,
“Mummy, do you know you are burning people’s money?”
She was shocked. The boy warned,
‘Mummy, these people will not like you and they can go to any extent to fight back. I don’t like this your job, Mummy.’
I told him not to worry. I gave him Psalm 127 to read and meditate on. “Except the Lord builds a house, the labourers labour in vain…”
Dora Akunyili’s was too determined to stop fake drug in Nigeria and not even genuine concern from her biological child could discourage her from stopping those selling chalk in place of antibiotics, powder in place of antimalarial drugs or unsterilized water in place of adrenaline. Dora got her courage boosted whenever she remembered her own sister, Vivian, also died after taking fake drug.
So as the Director General of Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) Dora Akunyili started to set ablaze fake drugs worth million dollars monthly.
On the 26 December 2003, a bullet from drug counterfeiters shattered the rear windscreen of her vehicle pierced her headscarf, burnt her scarf like hot water and gone through the front screen.
“Within a split second, there was a painful bang on my head, which made my scalp hurt badly.” She recalled. It was a really close shave with death!
“Thousands of Nigerians die from fake drugs every year. Is my life worth more than their lives? I will keep on fighting” she declared.
Drug counterfeiters dared not bribe her because her honesty and patriotism were legendary. When she was the Zonal Secretary (South-east) of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), she had cause to go abroad for medical attention. The bill was $17,000, including $12,000 for surgery. But after pre-surgery check-up, it was discovered that she didn’t need any surgery again. She promptly requested that the $12,000 be refunded to PTF. The doctor was shocked. He was used to seeing Nigerians coming around with fictitious ailments.
When she got back to Nigeria, the (then) chairman of PTF, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, wrote her a letter of commendation. When Obasanjo wanted to appoint a DG for NAFDAC in 2001, somebody who knew this story told President Obasanjo about Dora Akunyili. The President asked for her phone number and called her, but when she answered the call and the caller introduced himself as President Olusegun Obasanjo, Dora Akunyili dismissed the call as handiwork of fraudster because she never in her widest imagination thought President Obasanjo could have her number or call her. Dora Akunyili was interviewed and appointed as DG of NAFDAC by “presidential call.”
This patriotic lady who combined intelligence, beauty and courage sent drug counterfeiters out of Nigeria saving millions Nigerians from “medical mass murder”.
She took on big companies in the process of enforcing regulations.
Akunyili died in India on June 7, 2014 after a long battle with cancer.
Please let’s celebrate another hero who put her life and her family’s safety on the line for the good of her country.