President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday led members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to pay tributes to a former Minister of Information, Prof Dora Akunyili, who died in an Indian Specialist Cancer Hospital on June 7, at the age of 59
FEC members recalled the life and times of the Amazon – as Akunyili was fondly called, who shot into limelight, locally and internationally when she became the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and fought tooth and nail to rid the nation of substandard and counterfeit drugs.
They noted that the late Akunyili served her country to the best of her ability right from her times at the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) to NAFDAC and the Ministry of Information and Communication.
The late minister, the FEC members said, served the country till the end of her life, as she was a delegate at the National Conference till her condition deteriorated and she had to be flown to India for treatment.
President Goodluck Jonathan said the late Mrs Akunyili was a “virtuous woman”, by Holy Bible’s standard.
He said: “I first met her when I was deputy governor in Bayelsa. She was a very upright and courageous woman; a role model per excellence. She made her mark clearly. I believe so many young ladies would emulate her.
“Her impact was much more at NAFDAC than as Minister of Information. But she came up with rebranding Nigeria. Her passion was unique.
“This is how God wants it: God saved her life from the deadly bullets of evil men. He could still have saved her life from cancer, if He had so willed”, the president added.
In his tributes, Vice President Namadi Sambo described Mrs Akunyili’s death as a great loss to the country.
He said: “Dora has left an indelible mark in this country. Despite many attempts on her life, she continued to persist. She was a patriotic and dedicated Nigerian. NAFDAC is a sanitised institution because of her”.
The Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said: “It is a sad time for us as we remember her. She was a woman of strength and conviction, who fought hard to ensure drug counterfeiting becomes a thing of the past. NAFDAC was consistently voted as the best agency of government during her time”.
The Minister of Mines and Steel Mohammed Sada said: “Her demise is a great loss. She was a patriot from whom one always wanted to learn. Even at the expense of her life, she didn’t look back at what she believed in. She lived for Nigerians. She was an extremely intelligent person”.
Minister of Power, Prof Chinebu Nebo, who recalled that the late Akunyili became a professor during his time as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), said she was courageous enough to speak up at challenging moments of Nigeria’s history.
Nebo said: “A religious and prayerful woman, the cold hands of death has taken away a woman who was very hopeful in all situations. She was very conversational. As a country, we have lost a gem. We pray God to give us such a woman of honour and respect”.
Health Minister, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu noted that drug counterfeiting in the country reduced from 60 per cent to 16 per cent during Akunyili’s tenure at NAFDAC.
According to him, the late minister was one of the most iconic figures in the 100 years of Nigeria’s history.
Within her leadership role in NAFDAC, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation Aji Bukar Goni said, NAFDAC became number one among top 10 agencies in Nigeria rendering world-class service.
Interior Minister Abba Moro said: “Her death is a dark moment in the life of this country. She demonstrated competence and patriotism. She represented hope for an average Nigerian”.
Moving the motion on the late Mrs Akunyili yesterday, Information Minister Labaran Maku said: “I move a motion for special and deep condolences to Mr President. So, we condole with you, Mr. President, and the women of Nigeria, for the loss.
“Also, to Nigerian fashion industry for promoting a national dress code, and to Nigerians for the loss of a mother in public service; to the Igbo nation and to her family”.
Maku added: “An outstanding public servant, she put her life on the line. She took the world to Anambra to battle producers and importers of fake drugs because she wanted the best for her nation.
“…She was a warm and friendly person; exceedingly beautiful woman, disciplined.
“She served Nigeria till death. Nigeria has lost one of the African brilliant women”.
A minute silence was observed in her honour at the end of the special session.
Information Nigeria earlier reported that the remains of the late Prof. Dora Akunyili arrived the country yesterday aboard a private aircraft from India and has been deposited at the National Hospital mortuary in Abuja.