WHAT WOULD WE REMEMBER YOU FOR?
There are houses in Lagos called Jakande houses. There are even Jakande estates. Long after Lateef Kayode Jakande is gone, those houses will still be here. There is an education programme and model called 6-3-3-4 put in place by late Babs Fafunwa, a programme we have thoroughly messed up and are about to cancel but Fafunwa will be remembered for it all the same. We will also be remembered for cancelling it.
There is a tourist destination called Obudu Ranch and Resorts. It was once a quiet cattle ranch before a man called Donald Duke came and turned it into a holiday resort you need to book in October to go to in December. The place even has our own answer to America's Camp David. It is a beautiful place. Duke will always be remembered for it. There is a place in Lagos called Journalists Estate, the brain child and wonderful heritage of Funke Fadugba-led executive of the Lagos Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists. When Fadugba and her exco started the idea, a plot in the estate sold for about N250,000.
Today, you'd be lucky to get a plot for N4m.
These are my definitions of legacy, what you would be remembered for long after you are gone, dead or both. Legacy. Do office holders still leave anything behind? Do they care if we mention their names and mutter curses under our breath? There are former political office holders who Nigerians curse openly today. The people don't care who's listening to their swear words and the ex-celebrated men also know better than to attempt to use public utilities without bodyguards. A public office holder whose achievements can't be remembered or pointed out is like a snake who leaves no trace on a rock. His name is written in fine dust. A little wind obliterates every letter in the blink of an eye.
Before Dora Akunyili was appointed Director-General of NAFDAC in April 2001, most Nigerians didn't know we have laws regulating the foods and drugs we consume. Today, even the least educated person knows there is something called NAFDAC Number. Pre-2001, the agency was cash-strapped. It had qualified but poorly trained staff. What it called the corporate office was a rented run down building of six flats in Abuja. The 24 offices and four under-equipped laboratories imply were no places for scientists to function. So, the drug criminals were having fun we paid for with human blood. Tins of baby milk were filled with cassava flour which had high cyanide content, killing babies. We had toothpastes without or insufficient fluoride. So we brushed our teeth and still suffered tooth decay. The drug barons brought into Nigeria products labelled 'For Exports Only', syringes with blunt needlea, condoms with poor tensile strength (leading to accidental discharges), beer without 'Best Before' dates and Paracetamol packaged as Fansidar.
We were in deep trouble. The counterfeiters and importers smiled to the bank while we buried our dead. Then Akunyili came and not only upset the apple cart, she threw both the apple cart and its owner into jail. The drug demons held all kinds of meetings to stop her. She stood her ground. They reported her to the elders. She convinced the elders. As the demons lost steam, she gathered momentum because Nigerians were being killed and maimed by these get-rich-or die- trying goons. She was determined to exterminate the vampires.
As she shut down markets from Kano to Onitsha, the national enemies manufactured killer Chloroquine, Multivite and cough syrups and labelled them Made in Lagos. As Akunyili publicly destroyed 104 truckloads of counterfeit and expired drugs worth over N6.5bn, the evil men brought in two 20ft containers of fake Panadol Extra which they declared as automobile spare parts.
Even when the drug lords went for Akunyili's jugular, shooting clean through her headgear on December 26, 2003, they couldn't stop her. She caught 'their' jumbo-sized bags of substandard Aldomet, Halfan and Ampiclox tablets concealed in duvets and Visine eye drops concealed in football boots. Imagine eye drops inside boots!
Going through The War Against Counterfeit Medicine: My Story by Dora Nkem Akunyili, suppressed some of the anger I'd carried around in my heart for weeks. May be all's not lost. May be there are still a few leader who'll look out for us even when bullets are flying through their hats. Just may be, there are still a few men and women who care about that little all-important thing called legacy.
What would we remember you by?