By Saheed Alawode
Heroes don’t fall from the heavens like morning dew, or picked like cherry from the supermarket. They are rare; come once in a blue moon. Their life might be short but their legacies will echo for a thousand years.
One of such heroes who lived an exemplary life, fought drug abuse to its standstill, became a role model to millions of girls all over the world and bowed out when the ovation was loudest is the former Minister of Information and Director General exemplary of NAFDAC, late Professor Dora Akunyili.
Who is Dora?
The late Dora Akunyili was born in Makurdi, Benue State to Chief and Mrs. Paul Young Edemobi in 1954. She started her life in Makurdi but swiftly moved to Enugu with her parents, where she completed her secondary education.
The young Dora had her WAEC in Queen of Rosary Secondary School in Enugu, where she graduated with grade 1 distinction. She won the Eastern Nigerian Government Post Primary Scholarship and the Federal Government of Nigeria Undergraduate Scholarship.
She proceeded to the University of Nigeria Nsukka, where she studied Pharmacy, and once again graduated with flying colours.
Fight against Fake Drug
Fake drugs and contaminated products are one of the basic problems facing the country, and when her sister Vivian died after taking fake insulin injection in 1988, Dora decided to dedicate her life into fighting fake and counterfeits drugs in the country.
Her activism was recognized by the Federal Government and she was made the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in 2001 and left the position in 2008.
Her reign as the NAFDAC DG was a turning point in the history of the country. She was not an office DG but a field operative, who took the fight straight to the offenders. She was dreaded by the criminals, hated by fake drug syndicates and adored by millions of Nigerians, who once again believed in the capacity of the government.
Minister of Information and Communication
After a gallant and illustrious career at NAFDAC, the Federal Government elevated her and made her the Minister of Information and Communication in 2008, under late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
As Minister, she started the ‘Great Nigeria’ initiative. She toured the length and breadth of the country to promote unity, tolerance and togetherness. She promoted the green flag and wore the crest wherever she went and tried her best to promote the image of the country, within and outside the country.
She ventured into politics, took interest in the Anambra Central Senatorial seat under the umbrella of APGA, but lost to Chris Ngige in the 2011 general election.
Akunyili was a recipient of the Time Magazine Award; the Silverbird award; award of excellence by Integrated Services; Best Government Parastatal Award by NANS, an Icon Award by Zenith bank, Grassroots Award by UK-based Rights Defense Organisation; Integrity Award by Transparency International among other awards and honours.
Dora Akunyili died in an Indian Hospital on June 7, 2014, after a running battle with uterine cancer. She was blessed with six children and three grandchildren. Five years on, many Nigerians still celebrate her – a rare Nigerian whose indelible mark on the sands of time resonates across the world.