The saying: “Great leaders don’t set out to be a leader; they only set out to make a difference”, is apt in describing only few Nigerians like late Prof. Dora Nkem Akunyili (OFR), former Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). It is another June 7th marking the second year of your glorious departure from planet earth, thus the Association of Credible Leadership in Nigeria (ACLN) acknowledges her struggles and numerous achievements targeted at repositioning Nigeria.
Born in Makurdi, Benue State, Akunyili started her educational career with a distinction in her First School Leaving Certificate 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, Nigeria.
All through her career from school days up till the professional level, there have been traces of exceptional leadership characters, many of which were eventually seen by a larger population of Nigerians when she became the DG of NAFDAC in April 2001. For Dora Akunyili, everything she found herself doing was more than the ROLE, but about the GOAL to achieve.
She was Nigeria’s Honourable Minister of Information and Communications until December 16, 2010, when she resigned to further actualise her ambition of becoming the Senator representing Anambra Central in the National Assembly. She is an internationally renowned Pharmacist, Pharmacologist, Erudite Scholar, Seasoned Administrator, and a visionary leader. She has gained international recognition and won hundreds of awards for her work in pharmacology, public health and human rights.
That being said, one would have thought her brilliance and impressive leadership lifestyle would flicker with the pressure from workplace. Instead, Akunyili prepared herself for the administrative position at NAFDAC by her four years stretch 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).
Recall that while serving at PTF under President Muhammadu Buhari, she took ill and was given a scary diagnosis in a medical facility in Nigeria which necessitated her going to the United Kingdom for treatment. The PTF gave her the medical expenses, but upon arriving in the UK, she was told that she was misdiagnosed and that she would be all right without treatment. Her exceptional virtues were evidenced when she returned to Nigeria and refunded the medical expenses to the agency. Impressive! In the history of Nigeria, no political office holder has done such neither has anyone broken her record?
The late DG of NAFDAC did everything within her capacity for the good of Nigeria without strings attached. Before she became the Minister of Information and Communication, the world had a very negative perception of Nigeria. This poor image was dumbed upon Nigeria by the international community and further affirmed by the bad behaviour of our conventional politicians, political clergymen and clerics both within and outside the country. This disheartening perception about Nigeria had gone unchallenged for so long that it is beginning to stick in the consciousness of most people around the world that most Nigerians are criminals or fraudsters, yet no one could do anything to redeem the situation.
For this, when she became Minister in 2008, she lamented: “…At airports and other public places across the globe, whenever the green passport is sighted, we were asked to stand aside for special screening. We are not even given the benefit of the doubt. In the highly competitive world in which we live, Nigeria will have no choice than to present a compelling and coherent image to the world if she wants to be taken seriously.”
Thus, on March 17, 2009, she joined President Goodluck Jonathan to launch a national campaign and unveiling of the slogan and logo in Abuja. According to her, “this campaign is beyond logo and slogan which are meant to serve as drivers. Thus, our hope is that the slogan, Nigeria – Good People, Great Nation, will help to inspire patriotism in us all as we collectively tackle the challenges ahead.”
At this juncture, the ACLN can boldly describe Dora Akunyili as an outstanding Nigerian whose records of excellent public service will for long be remembered as against our current stomach infrastructure public office holders, whose entire public work has little credit for the good of the general public. Akunyili was never hunted by anti-graft agencies, neither was she accused by any segment of the country for being politically, religiously or even tribally biased. Her duties targeted the general wellness of Nigerians. She neither led a flambouyant lifestyle nor found rendering eye service. For Akunyili, it was always Nigeria first.
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. She saved lives and she instituted a system that is still saving lives. Akunyili is a leader per excellence.
On this day, June 7, the ACLN admonish young Nigerians to follow in the part of Akunyili for the high sense of responsibility and how she helped to save the lives of Nigerians fighting killer diseases like malaria and tuberculosis with little more than sugar syrup and chalk tablets, cynically packaged to look like the real thing. Dora Akunyili, we believe in the Nigeria you foresaw and will continue to hoist the flag of Nigeria in a positive light across the globe because we believe in selfless leaders like you. Live On Akunyili!
ACLN is a non-profit organization, headquartered in New Jersey; United States. The association was born out of the dearth of credible visionaries and selfless leaders in our dear nation, Nigeria.