When Akunyili reeled the nation
The Minister of Information and Communications, Professor Dora Akunyili is not someone that anyone will hear her words and actions without having a deep thought over the splendour in a percentage of humanity as a whole and woman folk in particular. Those who have known this woman in Nigerian politics will believe with the writer that she has been so consistent in her efforts to affect a positive change in the system. One thing in her method of tackling issues is the mixture of stringency, bluntness in serious national issues and humanity even in the midst of opposition.
So, that in a cabinet predominated by physically powerful men, a woman was the only person who could stand up boldly to say the bitter truth that the nation has unduly suffered from the long absence of the President has become an added advantage to female politicians in Nigeria and to the female folk in African and the world.
A professor in pharmacy and former boss of NAFDAC where her performance was acclaimed nationally and globally, Akunyili has been inscribed in the list of Nigerians who believe that the nation can change for better but only when sycophancy, hatred and inhumanity are defeated in governance. To her, governance in Nigeria should be for the profound-minded patriots who believe firstly in themselves as real citizens and secondly in the nation that a change is possible with collective efforts.
She did her NAFDAC job with awesome competence and won respect in that process. That earned her the entry into the federal executive as a minister. And since then, no one who does not harbour partiality in the mind will score her low. She has been doing her best and Nigeria definitely needs more of her to affect the expected positive change in the system.
Her singular action, though replayed in many ways in the past when she headed NAFDAC, engendered criticism from several quarters. Some columnists described her as sensational. Some said she was an opportunist. Others claimed she was merely playing to the gallery in order to secure a fatter position if Jonathan becomes the president. There was another group which regarded her memo as a diversion in confusion, even as few others demanded for her resignation since she has failed to rebrand the nation. I recall that a critic claimed that she was rather rebranding herself instead of Nigeria.
Immediate former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice called Akunyili's memo as a personal view. There was word-trade and tongue-lashings between the supporters of the two parties. Akunyili even threatened to take legal action against libelous publication on her. Since this episode began, Nigerian news outfits have been awash with the intrigues and inherent circumstances.
Although a lot has been said about the memo, let us read some important parts of the memo: “…that I am a 100 percent loyalist of President Yar'Adua. ..President Yar'Adua is very dear to me just as he is to all of you…as it is today (then), the Vice President cannot take any document to National Assembly.”
“Just recently, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, MEND, has opted out of the amnesty and resumed hostility. They argued that they have been kept in limbo since the President took ill and they appeared to have been abandoned since nobody could talk to them or keep the promise made to them. Our economy is once more being threatened…The past Chief Justice of the Federation swore in his successor for the first time in the history of our nation. The power vacuum at that level has also compounded our 'poor image' at the international level because of our failure to rise to international expectations, commitments and engagements that require the presence of our President.”
“The looming crisis in the system is over boiling. Our hard earned democracy is being threatened by the day…We love our President but we should remember that he is not infallible. Mr. President is ill and did not choose to be sick. But while we continue to pray for his recovery, we should try to right the wrong…We are all in a better position to know that the polity is overheated to a frightening level. Posterity will judge us harshly if we do not positively intervene to resolve this logjam…We also need to save ourselves from shame because our stand is becoming very embarrassing.”
“We need to do what is morally right and constitutional for the President to officially hand over to the Vice President to function as Acting President. If he does not, we can evoke whichever aspect of the constitution that should make the Vice President an Acting President…I am not saying that President Yar'Adua should resign or condemn him for being sick. He did not choose to be sick. The name of our President and all his achievements are being rubbished by this unfortunate debacle…If we fail to act now, history will not forgive us.”
What seems surprising is the assumption of some Nigerians that if she feels she is incapacitated to defend the government, she should resign. Does this imply that she has no constitutional right to express her mind? First, the memo was not intended for immediate public consumption. It was to the Federal Executive Council which she belongs and which in all cases deliberates over issues before speaking to the press for the public to be told later.
Secondly, who in Nigeria disbelieves the fact that fighting the government from outside is a futile venture? This does not in any way imply that Akunyili is fighting the government. Rather, she is fighting for Nigerians that the right thing should be done. Even as a Minister of Information, should she blindly defend the government against Nigerians and the nation? Is the government constitutionally greater than the people? Something is really wrong with the ways some of us think. Don't we talk of change and the way government is being run? Is it the jinn that will transform to humans and change our condition?
Up till now, our struggles to change the fortunes of this country are merely on papers and the oratory of our politicians. They stay in their air-conditioned offices, houses and cars and articulate on sheet of papers how Nigeria should be. They use the press to convince the mass that things will change very soon. One bleeds in the heart to recall all that Nigerians have been openly promised on education, power, transportation, employment, and life and food security, name them. Fifty years after our presumed independence from colonialism, it is hard to reckon one thing we can be proud to have advanced in.
Although we should sincerely pray for guidance, good health and protection for our leaders, we should be bold enough to challenge them, within the provisions of the constitution, if they attempt to derail from the noble course of good governance and humanity. And in this case, since there is no ascertained time for the recovery of our president, is it proper for the affairs of one hundred and fifty million Nigerians to be suspended till whenever the president recovers and returns?
Fellow Nigerians, it's time we desist from deceiving ourselves if truly we desire development, unity and peace. Akunyili is the woman of t our time. Definitely, no human is a saint. She may have her shortcomings but since she joined the leadership in this country, she has tried her best and we expect that more Nigerians – those who really believe in one Nigeria, its peace and prosperity – would change for our collective change.
Ajah, a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance writes from FCT, Abuja([email protected])