THE NOISE ABOUT DORA AKUNYILI
We particularly don't have much regard for the rebranding mantra of Professor Dora Akunyili and on some occasions this column had clearly told her so. Our reason is simple. Dora believes that Nigeria is being labeled wrongly and that those who call her names are wrong. We disagreed and insisted that she is not facing the reality on ground, preferring to pretend that all is well. We advised that we should call a spade by its name and in the process, appreciate our pitfalls as a nation and consequently feel challenged to motivate us to show some seriousness that building a great nation requires.
Rather than quarrel over what we are called or how we are seen as Dora believes, Nigeria should begin to worry about how to be good, do things well, say it well and then allow the world to say who we are. Naturally, night will follow the day. If this is not so, we warned, no decree or propaganda no matter how clever will make people see us differently from whom we are. Two years after the campaign started, have we changed our style? Has our attitude changed? Are we seen differently by others? The answer is capital no. We are simply not a good people and behold, we are not a good nation. This explanation is necessary to clear doubts in the mind of Dora or those who have accused us of bias against her. We only want the best for the good name, Dora, our role model in patriotism and nation building.
Yes , we disagreed with her but we know her name. Nigerians of all classes know Dora Akunyili. Our aged mothers and children know her. Pharmacists know her. Enemies and friends of Nigeria know her. Senator Kanti Bello, now Deputy Director General of the IBB Campaign Organization could not ignore her. The devil has heard her name but God has a place for her. This is Dora of the great NAFDAC fame. Last Thursday while accusations and counter accusations were rented the air following the unfortunate October 1, 2010 twin car explosions that nearly marred Nigeria's golden jubilee celebrations, Nigerians gathered to pay homage to this great woman, Dora.
Dora has authored two books on the campaign against adulterated medicines and her story. We have not seen any of the books but we believe that Dora would do well any day. Many Nigerians were there in Abuja to grace the event but the presence of Wole Soyinka as presenter added colour to the launching. On that note, it will not be right to say that Dora is arrogant or had packaged the VIPs to be 'noisy' as many have alleged, but the truth is that her crowd cuts across socio-political, ethnic and religious divides. Those the nation respects had kind words for Dora. However, let us not worry much about the books. That will be for the future.
Is Dora a noisy and publicity seeking person? Yes, and so what? We told a friend who asked while watching the event on television. Is that why Nigeria has not moved fast as a nation? Yes, she smiles always and attracts a good measure of attention at any occasion but there is something great about Dora that is very important and makes Nigerians like her. She is the president we need. She is a role model in patriotism. She has a cast-iron will power and guts. For this purpose, we do not want to mix her role now as Information and Communications Minister with her great days at NAFDAC. Nigerians would rather remember those with relish.
Pointing to Dora as a model, we believe that Nigeria has the right caliber of persons to do things right. There are eminent and credible Nigerians all over the world who can galvanize their energies and resources to propel the nation to great heights. Many of them are willing and able, but they fall by the way side, because those who seek public good and promote selflessness are lonely in Nigeria. What has befallen our country is inept leadership and the proclivity to put self above the common good with brazen impunity. Those who want things done well are the microscopic minority and as days roll by, they thin into insignificance. That is why we feel sad that the human asset of this great nation is wasting and under-deployed. The downward drift is rapid and there is the growing fear that many of us in our forties may not see the better Nigeria of our dream.
Even the devil is tired of discussing former President Olusegun Obasanjo and although he may be seen as a bad omen for Nigeria by many observers and commentators, certain things have stood out for him. He demonstrated courage through the appointment of some of his aides. Prof Dora Akunyili, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, Nuhu Ribadu, Prof Chukwuma Soludo and Nasir El-Rufai were some of his frontrunners that did Obasanjo, and indeed the nation proud. There may have been human failings in the way some of them did their jobs but the bottom line is that we moved forward in areas they touched. Ordinarily a nation builds on its existing capacity, strength and advantage but what we have had since Yar'Adua is that the country is on auto reverse.
Since El Rufai left as FCT Minister, the city and all that it stood for in terms of beauty, law and order, hygiene and cleanliness has disappeared. Abuja today, is in a sorry state and there are genuine fears that the present minister who is busy with politicking may be worse than Modibbo and Aliero put together. In a state of malady where the citizenry has been weakened by successive bad government, corruption and electoral fraud, the centre can no longer hold, and so who will control who? Again, this is a matter for another day.
We heard about Dora first when she was working for PTF in the east under General Mohammadu Buhari (rtd)and the testimony today is that PTF was effective even though the enemies of the nation think that Buhari should be pushed aside. She shares in that success story of a man we adore as an ideal leader that Nigeria needs. Dora got the NAFDAC job, because Obsasanjo learnt that Dora returned the unused part of the money given to her for foreign medical treatment to the government and since this was a very unusual gesture in Nigeria, Obasanjo was particularly impressed and appointed her NAFDAC Director General.
While at NAFDAC, she was a true Amazon and waged a vigorous battle against manufacturers and importers of counterfeit drugs, food, drink etc. Dora dared the devil, whipped the brave, chased the hawks, devoured the wolves and put her life on the line to purge Nigeria of fake products. She took the battle to the notorious Onitsha market and the evil men fled. She talked. She shouted, begged, persuaded and at last she won the battle. Since her exit, it looks like NAFDAC doesn't exist anymore in Nigeria as all the gains of the Dora era in NAFDAC have disappeared or waned so to speak.
However our contention is that Dora won a major battle in life and it is possible that Nigeria and Nigerians can also win the battle if we so choose. We can organize credible elections and shame those who have written us off. An incumbent president can ask EFCC to investigate his friend and not hesitate to prosecute him if he's culpable . The National Assembly can relate with Mr President without threatening him with impeachment if he doesn't release money. A minister can stand up in the name of Nigeria and tell his boss like Dora did that he had become very ill and incapable of discharging the functions of his office. A Christian can marry a Muslim and feel safe to live in any part of the country. A judge can sit on a matter and the litigants would be confident that justice will be done. The list of our worries is endless but in saluting the courage of Dora, let us remember that Nigeria can grow stronger or disintegrate if we so wish through our own actions and omissions.
Jonathan forgot Dappa Biriye, Agbani Darego
During the golden jubilee celebrations, President Jonathan honored fifty eminent Nigerians (some posthumously) for their outstanding contributions to nation building. As a proud Rivers son, I was ashamed that nobody from my sstate made the list. My reaction was that this could be an oversight on the part of those who compiled the list or perhaps we have not worked hard enough but I settled for the former. Another opportunity will come in 2014 as President Jonathan has said and I believe that those who will be in charge then should remember Chief Harold Dappa Biriye (HDB) for proper recognition. Let me also mention that Miss Agbani Darego, the first African to win the Miss World beauty pageant as far back as 2001 deserves to be honoreds.
For those who did not know, Chief Harold Dappa Biriye was a nationalist, who attended the Constitutional Conferences of 1957 and 1958 in England. His dogged campaign to protect the minorities of the Niger Delta resulted in the inauguration of the Willinks Commission of 1957 and indeed the creation of states as opposed to regionalism within a federal arrangement to cater for the interest of the various nationalities in Nigeria. The Willinks Commission Report on minority rights has remained the Niger Delta question that haunts Nigeria today. The political history of Nigeria therefore cannot be complete without HDB.
Agbani Darego who hails from Abonnema in Rivers State was crowned Miss World in 2001, making her the first black woman from an African country ever to win the pageant. According to reports, Agbani spent much of her Miss World years making public appearances around the globe and serving as an unofficial ambassador for her country, and even her continent. 'People think that Africa is a backward, poverty-stricken place, that everyone who lives there is suffering,' she told Lesley Garner of the Evening Standard, a London newspaper adding '…there are parts that are like that, but in Nigeria a lot of people are well-to-do.'
Mr President, this is not a laughing matter. Poverty is an orphan but success is a bastard. I beg you in the name of 2011, may this mistake never occur again. 2014 is around the corner. Remember Chief Harold Dappa Biriye and Agbani Darego.