Professor Dora Akunyili: Tribute to a great woman
The late Prof. (Mrs) Dora Akunyili was my student at the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (1977-1978) and, much later, my boss when I was appointed a consultant to NAFDAC (2003-2007) and member of the National Drug Safety Advisory Committee (NDSAC).
“Mummy”, as she was fondly addressed by those who worked under her, both those younger and those much older than she was (including myself), was a woman with a bundle of energy, an innate wisdom and an unstoppable courage. I am yet to know of a Nigerian chief executive officer/public servant who, within eight years (two tenures) in office, personally presented over 400 technical/professional papers at national and international gatherings; or who received over 540 local and international awards and recognitionsfrom different parts of the world, including the Transparency International Integrity Award, of which she was the first African woman recipient in May 2003.
These awards were in recognition of her fight against fake and counterfeit drugs, unwholesome food and other substandard regulated products in Nigeria and beyond. Her popular message on fake drugs became a globally quoted message in the fight against fake and counterfeit drugs: “The evil of fake drugs is worse than the combined scourge of malaria, HIV/AIDS and armed robbery put together, because malaria can be treated, HIV/AIDS can be avoided, and armed robbers may kill a few at a time, but fake drugs kill en masse.”
In extolling Dora’s qualities in his foreword to one of her books, “Selected Speeches” (in the fight against fake and counterfeit drugs in Nigeria), former Head of State of Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon, GCFR, aptly described Dora as “a rare gem, who saw evil and spoke forcefully against it, who saw wrong and used all available resources to fight it.”He finally applauded her for serving the nation “with such vivacity and courage.”
Dora may well be described as a meteor (shooting star), never to be easily forgotten in the contemporary health and drug safety history of Nigeria. She came, she saw, she conquered – and left her indelible footprints on the sands of time! Nigeria has lost a great patriot and woman of great virtue.
May the Almighty God comfort and strengthen her husband, Dr. Chike, children and other relations she has left behind. May her kind and gentle soul REST IN PEACE with the Lord, her Creator! AMEN.
Sir (Dr) & Lady Evans Chidomere, KSC, PhD, FPSN, FWAPCP