A tribute to the Amazon Dora Akunyili – a light in our darkest hour

Last week, the world lost a great woman. Indeed, this planet
lost one of the most talented and multi-faceted women of our
We are shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Dr. Dora
Akunyili, Nigeria’s former Director-General, National Agency
for Drug and Food Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
Death comes, and it comes to each family and each person. It’s
part of life cycle. We know that one day our time will come.
However, it takes faith to accept it when death comes
Dora as she was fondly called, assumed the leadership of
NAFDAC when Nigeria’s multibillion dollar counterfeit drug
industry was not only surviving but flourishing. Ours is a
country where healthcare is lacking and the cost of
pharmaceutical drugs are prohibitive and out of reach for the
poor. The cheaper alternative for the people is counterfeit
Courageous and daring, Dora did not hesitate or fearful in the
face of actual or possible danger to disrupt and dismantle the
manufacture, supply and purchase of counterfeit drugs.
The unprecedented infestation of counterfeit drugs in Nigeria
reads like a diary of disaster. Metaphorically, Nigerians are
experiencing total darkness in the counterfeit drug industry. It
was a time when the life of sick Nigerians – the poor and the
vulnerable, the frail and the infirm – were filled with shadow.
Dora was the light and the sunshine.
She was passionate about protecting and preserving the health
and life of Nigerians especially the poor who could not afford
pharmaceutical drugs. Obviously, the powerful counterfeit drug
barons did not welcome Dora with ceremony and reception.
Neither did they comply without a fight.
Her character was smeared and her motives questioned. In
fact, one or two assassination attempts were made on her life.
Providentially, the assassins missed the vital organs.
Nonetheless, Dora remained dogged and steadfast in her
commitment to rid Nigeria of fake drugs.
Her goal was to elevate NAFDAC to the enviable status of
America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To put in place
the necessary reforms, Dora became the drug czar.
In the true sense of the word, Dora was a no-nonsense drug
czar. She destabilized the industry by enforcing stringent
measures and control. She stemmed the flow and funnel of
counterfeit drugs. The cartel criminals paid instantly and
dearly for their crimes.
She policed the manufacturing, distribution, and sale of the
counterfeit drug trade. She initiated quality control standards
for the industry with bar code and seal of NAFDAC approval on
labels of drugs and processed foods made in Nigeria.
Dora was to Nigeria public office as light is to stained glass.
She was intelligent, strong, unrelenting, and a fearless
advocate in her pursuit of justice. She was a surrogate for
hard work and persistence.
Her reassignment to the useless, needless, and irrelevant
ministry of information stunned Nigerians. Nigerians seem to
be asking: how could such a high performer and effective
NAFDAC chief be sent to Siberia?
Her departure from NAFDAC was mourned as if a life had
been snuffed out. Dora took the teeth and jaw of NAFDAC
with her when she left for the information ministry. That was
the last time NAFDAC would inflict any serious dent or damage
on traffickers and profiteers of counterfeit drugs.
With her passing, she has lived her calling. She packed a whole
lot of living into the years she spent among mortals. Though
she was taken much too soon, she is connected in our passion,
our humanity, and our empathy. Dora, we truly love you!
Remarkable women fuel our lives. Dora was one of them. She
inspired us, she taught us, and she nourished us. We’re so
grateful for the amazing work she did for our nation and we’ll
never forget her cause.
“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us,” remarks
Albert Pike, “what we have done for others and the world
remains and is immortal.” Dora exemplified the best in our
public service.
Dora as a public servant activist and advocate was on call 24/7.
She was the frontline between the victims of counterfeit drugs
and the profiteers. She was a public servant with a heart and
a conscience.
Death is a topic that makes us uncomfortable. It brings us face
to face with our own mortality. It causes us to pause and think
of what we do with our lives especially those people who are
appointed over the affairs of their fellow beings.
As Helen Keller reminds us, “Death is no more than passing
from one room into another. But there is a difference for me,
you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.”
Similarly, there is a difference for Dora and in that other
room she will be able to rest in peace.

good bye and goodnight!


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