Dora Nkem Akunyili (14th July 1954-7th June 2014)
She was a Genius, Lecturer An educator, Pharmacist, Disciplinarian and a Politician.
She was a leader per excellence.
Dora Nkem Akunyili was the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Nigerian Minister of Information and Communications from 2008 to 2010
Born in Makurdi Benue state on July 14, 1954 to the family of Chief and Mrs Paul Young Edemobi who were natives of Anambra State, Dora Nkem Akunyili and raised in Nanka, her educational achievements began with her passing the First School Leaving Certificate with Distinction at St. Patrick’s Primary School, Isuofia, Anambra State in 1966, and the West African School Certificate (WASC) with Grade I Distinction in 1973 from Queen of the Rosary Secondary School, Nsukka, both in Nigeria.
These exceptional results in the First School Leaving Certificate and WASC earned her the Eastern Nigerian Government Post Primary Scholarship of the Federal Government of Nigeria Undergraduate Scholarship. She got her First Degree in Pharmacy B.Pharm (Hons) in 1978 and her PhD in 1985 from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN). Shen then proceeded to become a Post-Doctorate Fellow of the University of London and a Fellow of the West African Post-Graduate College of Pharmacists.
She started work as a Hospital Pharmacist from 1978 to 1981 in the University Of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu, after which she ventured into academics as a Graduate Assistant (Research Fellow) in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences UNN from 1982 to 1986.
She made steady progress in the academic environment and rose from Lecturer I in 1986 until she was made Senior Lecturer in 1990. She transferred to College of Medicine UNN in 1992, where she was made a Consultant Pharmacologist in 1996, a position she held until 12 April 2001.
Her consistent her love for teaching and mentoring led her to become a part-time lecturer of the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists Lagos from 1992–1995.
Her four years stint as Zonal Secretary of Petroleum Special Trust Fund (PTF), coordinating all projects in the five south-eastern states of Nigeria (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States) adequately prepared her for the position of Director General of the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
It is on record that when she took ill while serving at PTF under President Muhammadu Buhari, and was given a scary diagnosis in a medical facility in Nigeria which necessitated her going to the United Kingdom for treatment. The PTF covered the medical expenses, but upon arriving in the UK, she was told that she was misdiagnosed and that she would be all right without the surgery. She returned to Nigeria and refunded the medical expenses to the agency. In the history of Nigeria, no political office holder has shown such virtue, and neither has anyone broken her record.
She also served as a Supervisor for Agriculture and Member of the Caretaker Committee for her Local Government, Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State from 1994 to 1996. From 1992 to 1994, member of State’s Hospitals Management Board and State Advisory Council for Women Commission both in Anambra within the same period.
As a Scientist and a Scholar, she presented over 20 research papers in various local and International Scientific Conferences, published a book and 18 journal articles. She supervised PhD and Masters Candidates in Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka and the University of Nigeria Nsukka U.N.N. respectively. Even as the Director General of NAFDAC, Dr. Akunyili found time to supervise six postgraduate students in the College of Medicine UNN. She was also Chief Examiner in Pharmacology for 3rd M.B.B.S College of Medicine, Abia State University Uturu.
She was also a very active member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) where she served as:
PSN Education Committee as Secretary, 1994–2000.
Organizing Committee for Enugu State PSN Annual Conference as Secretary, 1995.
Nigerian Association of Academic Pharmacists as National Asst. Secretary, 1990–94.
Association of Lady Pharmacists as National Vice-President, 1992–95, National Ex Officio Member 1995–2000 and President of Enugu State branch, 1992–98.
She was a member of other learned societies among which are
Nigerian Society for Pharmacology
West African Society for Pharmacology
International Union of Pharmacology and
International Pharmaceutical Federation.
Akunyili held positions of responsibility in the Senate of the University of Nigeria Nsukka in the following capacities:
Senate Careers Board Committee – Member 1986–93
Board of Institute for Development Studies-Member, 1986–93
Senate Representative for Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences 1990–92
Staff Welfare Committee for Academic Staff Union of Universities Nigeria – Member, 1991–93
Investigation Committee on Alleged Examination Malpractice in Drama 202 Re: Ugwuja C., 86/49917 of Sub-Department Dramatic Arts, UNN – Secretary, 1991–92.
Akunyili’s high sense of responsibility led to her being made a member of the following Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences Committees in the University Of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) between 1986–92:
Medicinal Plant Committee
Continuing Education Committee
Publications and Colloquial Committee
Committee on Specialization Courses for Pharmacists
Consultancy Management Board.
Akunyili ran for election as Senator for Anambra Central for the APGA in April 2011 but was defeated by Chris Ngige of the ACN. She immediately sent a petition to the Independent National Electoral Commission disputing the result. But lost at the tribunal.
Following her appointment as the Director General of NAFDAC on 12th April 2001, Akunyili established as a top priority ‘the eradication of counterfeit drugs and unsafe food’, as at then; fake and substandard foods and drugs were sold in Nigeria without any checks or regulation.
She was extremely disheartened that …………………..
“so many of her countrymen and women were fighting killer diseases like malaria and tuberculosis with little more than sugar syrup and chalk tablets, cynically packaged to look like the real the thing’.
Although Akunyili faced considerable risk to her personal safety in her fight to combat the issue of fake drugs as she several attempts had been made to her life; she was at the same time receiving awards all over the world appearing with a smile of contentment and humility on her face.” She indeed a powerful woman who not only saved lives but by instituting a system that is still saving lives.
When she assumed office as Director General of NAFDAC, she brought in a new culture of excellence and honesty to the organization and the entire Nigerian public service. As a result, the level of fake and counterfeit drugs in circulation dropped to 16.7 percent with vast improvement in the food and other regulated sectors.
She is a revolutionary who has not only changed NAFDAC, but also the pharmaceutical industry in the country.
She became the Minister of Information and Communications of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from December 2008 – December 2010.
As the Honorable Minister, Prof. Akunyili anchored the Re-branding Nigeria Project driven by the slogan:
‘Nigeria Good People, Great Nation’.
Dora Akunyili contested for the Senatorial seat for Anambra central in Anambra State under the platform of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the April 2011 elections but was defeated by Chris Ngige of Action Congress of Nigeria. She thereafter sent a petition to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) disputing the result.
Her virtues as a leader are worthy of emulation for every public office holder in Nigeria, Africa and the entire world.
In some other parts of the world, People like her are put on stamps and on statues at different public places where the younger generations who were either too young to see her good works or the generation yet unborn as at that time, can visit to be encouraged to lead selfless lifestyles.
Dora Nkem Akunyili was a devout Catholic and was married to Dr J. C. Akunyili, of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu and they had six children together.
Some of the things that she loved doing were reading, writing, cooking and travelling
She died in an Indian hospital on 7 June 2014 after a prolonged battle with cancer. Her funeral, which took place on 27 and 28 August, was attended by many dignitaries from within Nigeria and beyond, including President Goodluck Jonathan and a former Nigerian military ruler General Yakubu Gowon and was laid to rest at Agulu in Anambra state.
Her awards include:
Time Magazine Award 2006 (One of the eighteen heroes of our time), Time Magazine Inc.
Person of the Year 2005 Award – Silverbird Communications Ltd, Lagos, 5 January 2006.
Award of Excellence – Integrated World Services (IWS), Decemb2005.
Award of Excellence – Advocacy for Democracy Dividends International, Lagos, 17 December 2005.
Meritorious Award 2005 – St. Michael’s Military Catholic Church, Apapa, Lagos, 4 December 2005.
African Virtuous and Entrepreneurial Women Merit Award 2005 – African Biographical Network, Dec. 2005.
Award for the Best Government Parastatal – National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) December 2005.
An Icon of Excellence Award – The African Cultural Institute and Zenith Bank Plc 8 December 2005.
2005 Grassroots Human Rights Campaigner Award London-based Human Rights Defense Organization, 8 December 2005.
Most Innovative Director Award Federal Government College, Ijanikin, Lagos, October 2005.
Integrity Award 2003 – Transparency International
Today marks the fourth year anniversary of her transition.
Rest on amazon.
You may be gone; but you shall remain forever in our hearts.