I remember as a teen just fresh out of secondary school, I converted my half-filled year book into a scrap book featuring great men and women of our time. Then, the Sun Newspapers used to dedicate a page daily to perceived Nigerian icons and I would gratefully cut out those of interest to me and add to my collection. On page 3 was Prof. Dora Akunyili looking resplendent in an unusual black suit with golden brown lapel as the then DG of NAFDAC. Her academic prowess was outstanding right from childhood but that was nothing compared to the over 340 awards she received while presiding over NAFDAC affairs. I was moved to fill Pharmacy as first choice in my JAMB exams after my poor technical drawing skills sold my architecture dream. Today, as I read the Daily Sun’s editorial on this rare gem, I am proud to have passed through the same school and discipline of pharmacy as Dora.
Her honesty got her that NAFDAC job and I recall PANS motto; Dedication and Honesty. She personified these qualities as pharmacists ought to. I was on the FIP (International Pharmaceutical Federation) website lately and discovered that this year’s theme for the September 25 World Pharmacist’s day is Access to pharmacists is access to health. According to the site, “In 2012, a study quantified that 500 billion USD could be saved every year if responsible use of medicines was achieved and pharmacists have been identified as a strong and under-utilized asset to achieve responsible use of medicines. 13% of the visits at community pharmacies are concluded with advice only and without sales of any product, highlighting that pharmacists are the most accessible and trusted healthcare professionals in many countries throughout the world”. That is just by the way.
I got a hint that this MDDC idea PCN is pushing now, albeit without vigor was once suggested by Dora at a PSN conference when she was at NAFDAC as a way of curtailing the patent medicine dealers and open market traders. Our older colleagues shunned the idea for God knows why and blighted the hope of any sanity being restored to drug distribution system in Nigeria. This could have been easily achieved when she was at NAFDAC just the way she gave UNIZIK pharmacy school a facelift before one could say jack. Our older colleagues have a way of throwing away opportunities just the way they are keeping mute on Dora’s death. I have not heard any good public statement from either PSN or PCN concerning her demise. I hope we will have a good representation at the burial ceremony. Things like this matter a lot.
The name Dora was a household name and one couldn’t easily dissociate her from NAFDAC even while she was minister for information. On a Silverbird TV popularity poll years back, I remember even the tomatoes sellers saying Dora for president. Yes, she could have tackled the menace in the health sector the same way she did at NAFDAC but our doctors, ever selfish as they were would rather die rather than see a non-doctor head the ministry as if it were their birthright. This is the same way they are afraid of other health professionals becoming consultants. They say it will bring confusion in patient management and I ask just how? Topic for another day!
Who says Nigeria lacks heroes? I already found mine. Adieu my professional model. As a super lioness, you conquered. As a pharmacist, you gave hope to us. You will be immortalized in our hearts.