She was my favourite woman politician, probably in the list of the 10 most courageous women in the world. Today we want to look at the life and secrets of success of Prof. Dora Akunyili
Prof. Dora Akunyili’s Early Life and Education
Prof. Dora Nkem Akunyili had her early elementary education at St. Patrick’s Primary School, Isuofia, Anambra in 1966 and then proceeded to Queen of Rosary Secondary School, Nsukka, Enugu State in 1973.
Her exceptional grades in the First School Leaving Certificate and West African School Certificate earned her the Eastern Government Post Primary Scholarship and the Federal Government of Nigeria Undergraduate scholarship.
Dora obtained her first degree in Pharmacology in 1978 and got her Ph.D in 1985 from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Dora Akunyili was a post graduate fellow of University of London and a fellow of the West African Post Graduate College of Pharmacists.
She was also a fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, member of the New York Academy of Science, International Narcotics Control Board, United States Pharmacopeia Expert Committee, Association of African Medicinal Plant Standards, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Medicines for Malaria Venture and International Council Control.
She served as director general of National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) from 2001-2008 where she recorded outstanding successes.
She brought in a new culture of excellence and honesty and as a result, the level of fake and counterfeit drugs in circulation dropped by a measurable degree.
Akunyili also worked as the Minister of Information and Communication between 2008- 2010 where she anchored the Re-branding Nigeria Project. Dora Akunyili, during her life time had the highest number of awards received by any Nigerian living or dead.
Prof. Dora Akunyili’s Career and Service to Nigeria
Following her appointment as the Director General of NAFDAC in April 2001, Akunyili established as a top priority the eradication of counterfeit drugs and unsafe food. Before her assumption of office in NAFDAC, fake and substandard foods and drugs were sold in Nigeria without any form of regulation. She was disheartened that “so many of (her) countrymen and women (were) fighting killer diseases like malaria and tuberculosis with little more than sugar syrup and chalk tablets, cynically packaged to look like the real thing.
Although Akunyili faced considerable risk to her personal safety in her fight to combat the issue of fake drugs, “She has been dancing with danger. And she [has been collecting] very visibly awards all over the world appearing with whomever has a smile to share.”
Professor (Mrs.) Dora Nkem Akunyili, who assumed office on 12 April 2001, as the Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), is a Pharmacist, Pharmacologist, Erudite Scholar, Seasoned Administrator, and a visionary leader. She was a Senior Lecturer and Consultant Pharmacologist in the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Enugu Campus, before she became the NAFDAC boss.
She was born in born in Makurdi, Benue State, but brought up in Nanka and was married in Agulu, both in Anambra State of Nigeria. Her educational career started with her passing the First School Leaving Certificate with Distinction 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, both in Nigeria.
These exceptional results in the First School Leaving Certificate and WASC earned her the Eastern Nigerian Government Post Primary Scholarship and the Federal Government of Nigeria Undergraduate Scholarship. She got her First Degree in Pharmacy B.Pharm (Hons) in 1978 and her PhD in 1985 from UNN. Professor Akunyili was a Post-Doctorate Fellow of the University of London and a Fellow of the West African Post-Graduate College of Pharmacists.
To prepare her for Managerial positions, she was trained on Computer Education Programme by WHO/UNDP/World Bank Sponsored and Senior Management skills Course in RIPA, London, in 1994 and 1998 respectively. Akunyili has enjoyed many academic awards and recognitions.
Akunyili started her working career as a Hospital Pharmacist from 1978 to 1981, in the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu, after which she ventured into academics as a Graduate Assistant (Research Fellow) in Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UNN from 1982 to 1986.
In the University system, she made a steady progress from Lecturer I in 1986 until she was made Senior Lecturer in 1990. She transferred to College of Medicine, UNN in 1992, where she was made a Consultant Pharmacologist in 1996, a position she held until 12 April 2001. Due to her love for teaching and nurturing young ones, she was also a part-time lecturer of the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists Lagos, Nigeria from 1992–1995.
Akunyili was also prepared for her administrative position at NAFDAC by her four years stint as Zonal Secretary of Petroleum Special Trust Fund (PTF), co-ordinating all projects in the five south-eastern states of Nigeria (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States).
She also served as a Supervisor for Agriculture and Member of the Caretaker Committee for her Local Government, Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State from 1994 to 1996. From 1992 to 1994, Akunyili served as a member of State’s Hospitals Management Board and State Advisory Council for Women Commission both in Anambra State of Nigeria.
As a Scientist and a Scholar, she presented over 20 research papers in various local and International Scientific Conferences, and published a book and 18 journal articles. She supervised PhD and Masters candidates in Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka and U.N.N. respectively both in Nigeria.
Even as the Director General of NAFDAC, Dr. Akunyili found time to supervise six postgraduate students in the College of Medicine UNN. She was also Chief Examiner in Pharmacology for 3rd M.B.B.S College of Medicine, Abia State University Uturu, Nigeria.
Akunyili was also a very active member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) where she served in the following capacities:
- PSN Education Committee as Secretary, 1994–2000
- Organizing Committee for Enugu State PSN Annual Conference as Secretary, 1995
- Nigerian Association of Academic Pharmacists as National Asst. Secretary, 1990–94
- Association of Lady Pharmacists as National Vice-President, 1992–95, National Ex Officio Member 1995–2000 and President of Enugu State branch, 1992–98.
She was also a member of other learned societies among which are Nigerian Society for Pharmacology, West African Society for Pharmacology, International Union of Pharmacology and International Pharmaceutical Federation.
Akunyili held positions of responsibility in University of Nigeria Nsukka Senate in the following capacities:
- Senate Careers Board Committee – Member 1986–93
- Board of Institute for Development Studies-Member, 1986–93
- Senate Representative for Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 1990–92
- Staff Welfare Committee for Academic Staff Union of Universities, Nigeria – Member, 1991–93
- Investigation Committee on Alleged Examination Malpractice in Drama 202 Re: Ugwuja C., 86/49917 of Sub-Department Dramatic Arts, UNN – Secretary, 1991–92.
Akunyili’s high sense of responsibility led to her being made a member of the following Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences Committees (UNN), 1986–92:
- Medicinal Plant Committee
- Examination Committee
- Continuing Education Committee
- Publications and Colloquial Committee
- Committee on Specialization Courses for Pharmacists
- Consultancy Management Board.
Akunyili was a devout Catholic and was married to Dr J. C. Akunyili, of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu till her death. They had six children together.
Her hobbies included reading and writing. Her funeral, which took place on 27 and 28 August, was attended by many dignitries from within Nigeria and beyond, including President Goodluck Jonathan and a former Nigerian military ruler General Yakubu Gowon.
Akunyili was laid to rest at Agulu in Anambra state.
Dora Akunyili’s Personal Life
Prof. Mrs Dora Akunyili survived by childrens and they are all doing well in there various field of expatriate. These are names of the late Dora Akunyili;
Dr. Ijeoma Akunyili is an Emergency Medicine doctor in Houston, Texas. She received her medical degree from University of Maryland School of medicine.
The first son of the Akunyilis is an Emergency Physician resident in New York.
SOMTO AKUNYILI A University of Chicago-trained medical doctor, she obtained her first degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
A world-class artist, she had her first degree at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore before proceeding to Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia for Post- Baccalaureate Certificate. She has an MFA from the Yale University School of Art, New Haven, Connecticut.
Chidiogo had her first degree from the University of Pennsylvania and has a master’s in Economics and InternationalRelations from John Hopkins University, Washington. She is proficient in languages, namely, Igbo, English, Italian, German, French and Chinese.
Obumneme graduated from the University of Maryland where he studied Psychology.
Prof. Dora’s Award and Recognition
For her commitment to the values of honesty, transparency and selfless service, Prof. Dora Akunyili has received over hundreds of Awards and Recognitions locally and internationally, notably among which are:
- Conferment with the National Order of the Federal Republic (OFR)
- Recognition as an Icon of Hope for Nigerians by President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo(2002)
- Person of the Year 2005 Award by Silverbird Communications (2006)
- Nigeria’s Five Greatest Living Legends Award by Silverbird Group and Vanguard Media (Dec. 2009)
- Recognition as Nigerian Woman of Distinction during the Nigeria @50 Independence Anniversary Celebration (Sept. 2010)
- in the year 2010 she was awarded. The Minister of the Year 2010 by Nigeria Royalty Award .
- Integrity Award by Transparency International in South Korea (2003)
- Honoured as one of the 18 heroes (Health) of our time by TIME Magazine, New York (2005)
- Grassroots Human Rights Campaigner Award by Human Rights Defence Organization (International Service) in British House of Commons (2005)
- Special Award for Combating Economic Crime by International Chamber of Commerce-Commercial Crime Services London (2004)
- Amazon of Integrity by National Council of Women Society (2004); Pharmacist of the Year Medal Award by International Pharmaceutical Federation, FIP (2005)
- Honourary Degree of Doctor of Laws by University of Bristol, London (2006)
- Honorary Georgia Citizen by The State of Georgia, USA (2006)
- Agribusiness, International Euro Market and Transbusiness Awards respectively for 2003, 2005 and 2006 by European Marketing Research Centre (EMRC), Brussels.
- Elected Honourary Member of The Royal Pharmaceutical Society Of Great Britain, London, by The Royal Pharmaceutical Society Of Great Britain, London (2008)
- Conferred with the prestigious Harmony Tribute Award by Planet Africa Television Canada (2010).
Her Service Till Death
Dora was nominated by President Goodluck Jonathan as a delegate to the ongoing National Conference holding in Abuja. In spite her illness, she was unwavering in her belief in a better Nigeria that was while she defied her condition and was part of Anambra State Handover Committee and the National Conference.
She died in a Specialist Cancer Hospital in Indian this morning, 07 June 2014, at 10 am, Nigerian Time, after a two-year battle with cancer.
Prof. Akunyili’s Misdiagnosis
Her death was blamed on misdiagnosis for Akunyili’s death. According to the source, when in 1998, the former Minister was the Zonal Secretary (South-east) of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund, Nigerian doctors gave her what many of her family members considered to be a health scare. They said she had a growth and needed surgery
The source narrated: “Akunyili, then 44, decided to travel to the United States, first to get a second opinion and then undergo the prescribed surgery. The bill for the medical trip was $17,000, including $12,000 for the surgery. During pre-surgery check-up in the US, the doctors told her the Nigerian doctors had made a wrong diagnosis and that she did not need any surgery
It was said to be a minor issue that medication would solve. She thanked the doctors and, to their surprise, said she was going to return the money meant for the surgery to PTF. That was strange. Nigerian government officials had devised a way of making sure such monies were not returned to the treasury.
Cause of Her Death
After surviving several rumours of her death, a former Minister of Information and Communication and erstwhile Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Professor Dora Nkem Akunyili, bowed to ovarian cancer early yesterday.
Meanwhile, her death was blamed on misdiagnosis by some doctors in the United States (US). The doctors were said to have claimed she did not have cancer after her Nigerian doctor’s diagnosis to the effect she had the sicknes. News of her death was officially announced by a former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi, on the Anambra Broadcasting Service, ABS. Obi said Akunyili died after a protracted battle with cancer.
Obi, in the statement, said: “On behalf of the Akunyili family, I wish to officially confirm the death of Prof. (Mrs.) Dora Nkem Akunyili, OFR, in a Specialist Cancer Hospital in India today at 10 am, Nigerian time, after a two-year battle with cancer. In spite her illness, Prof. Akunyili was unwavering in her belief in a better Nigeria. That was why she defied her condition and was part of Anambra State Handover Committee and the National Conference.”
The statement continued: “The last time I visited her in India, even when she needed all the prayers herself, she was full of concern for the abducted Chibok girls, security and other challenges facing the country and told me that she remained prayerful for the release of those girls and for God to help President Goodluck Jonathan to overcome all the challenges facing the nation.
“She therefore urged all Nigerians to remain prayerful and committed to building a better society for our children. We all prayed together and I promised to be visiting her every month. “We thank all those who remain fervent in prayers for her recovery and urge them to remain prayerful for the peaceful repose of her soul.”
Concern about Akunyili, who had been on admission in hospital for an undisclosed ailment, had made the rounds in recent times.
For several weeks, rumours of her battle with ovarian cancer dominated the social media. Although family sources debunked the stories, the rumours got stronger
Her public appearance at the National Conference heightened anxiety about her well-being as she looked frail and a shadow of her old self