Professor Dora Akunyili; mover and shaker of the Nigerian drugs control industry, NAFDAC’s heroic and groundbreaking chief, and initiator of the ‘Good people Great nation’ slogan promoted in her ministerial bid to rebrand Nigeria. She was fearless, bold, dutiful, vibrant, yet calm, cheerful, humble and very peace-loving.
Professor Dora Akunyili; like water frozen at the cavity of a tap, denying the waiting bucket its fetch; like a burning lamp snuffed out in the middle of the night, denying the traveler its glow; like a disappearing cloud which had darkened the skies with the promise of more rain… She’s gone, leaving a legacy of integrity, steadfastness and loyalty to her nation.
Today, Rainbow Book Club remembers this icon with innumerable awards, a rare epitome of stewardship, a unique blend of tenderness and tenacity, a true professional, a worthy example of patriotism.
One may wonder why a book club has bothered to eulogize a woman who seemingly had little to do with the education sector but friends of the Rainbow Book Club will remember that the late Prof. Dora Akunyili had once been a Guest of Honour at our ‘Leaders Read’ project of the ‘Get Nigeria Reading Again!’ campaign.
Prof. Akunyili and Mrs Kalango (RBC) at the UN House, April 2009
The ‘Leaders Read’ initiative of the Rainbow Book Club was launched in 2008 and involved getting leaders to read to children as is the practice in several parts of the world. Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth Secretary-General set the ball rolling by reading to children to mark the 2008 World Book and Copyright Day. Other Guests of Honour over the years have included Governor Amaechi of Rivers State, Governor Fashola of Lagos State, and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka among others.
On Tuesday 28 April 2009, at a ‘Get Nigeria Reading Again!’ campaign titled ‘Reading for a Change’, Prof. Akunyili, then Nigerian Minister for Information and Culture, read to pupils from primary schools across the Federal Capital Territory. She read from Wole Soyinka’s Aké- the Years of Childhood, which incidentally, is the Port Harcourt World Book Capital Book-of-the-Month for July 2014.
The reading was to commemorate the 2014 United Nations World Book and Copyright Day (April 23), and held at the UN House, Abuja. Prof. Dora Akunyili also interacted with the excited school children who were thrilled to have the honorable minister hold a forum with them.
Today, we doff our hats as we salute a true ambassador of change, a great leader, a gem not lost but transformed into higher glory. Rest in Peace Professor Dora Nkem Akunyili. The Rainbow Book Club says ‘adieu’.
Prof. Akunyili, Mrs. Koko Kalango and a pupil during the interactive session at the UN House, Abuja, April 2009.