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Chimezie Anajama: The Dora I Saw

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Dora-AkunyiliIn my early teen years, each time I came back from school in the evening, I quickly rushed to grab the remote of the television set. The normal station was NTA. The annoying station that doesn’t show cartoons and musicals. They piled up documentaries and edutainment shows in their list of their programmes. Popular among them were Panorama, One on One, and NAFDAC and you. I was very vexed with this setting, thus I tuned to AIT in a bid to manage the inadequacies of NTA.

One day, out of annoyance, I put tuned in to the channel and left the parlor to attend some chores. When I returned, NAFDAC AND YOU was on, and with the presenter was Dora Akunyili, the former director general of the agency. Maybe it was her aura, the conviction glinting in her eyes, or the way her words sounded with facts and zeal embellished in them, or even the fact that she represented what I wished to be in the nearest future; I was quickly drawn to her.

That was the first I sat down, showed interest and listened. The topic of the day was her ordeal with the construction company Julius Berger. She went to war with them because their clinic was operated with discriminatory dualism. One part was for the expatriates that had no single fake drugs, the other was for the Nigerians that worked with them, filled with fake drugs. In her words, “I wept when I saw how they treated us, so many expired drugs, so many pharmaceutical injustices. I didn’t know that such things can happen in Nigeria, with Julius Berger”.

I wept after the programme ended. I wept for my country, how foreigners feed us with crap in my country – while we sat helplessly, watching without reacting. But, I was consoled that this woman with bulging eyeballs was reacting. I was consoled that this woman was putting on a fight for unknowns, like me. I felt proud that I can confidently take a pill from a counter of a Nigerian drug seller, without checking if it is expired or not. You know why? Because that NAFDAC woman was watching on.

From then on, my interest with that program skyrocketed. I somehow became addicted to it. NAFDAC and YOU educated me so much. I became conscious of the term, “Potassium Bromide”. I wasn’t a science student, but I knew that it was cancerous – used by bakers to get a softening effect in their bread. I began to lookout for potassium-bromated bread each time I was sent to fetch bread from a nearby store. You know that look a trader will give you before asking you, “You wan buy bread abi you wan look the bread?” Yea, that was how exasperating my witch-hunting of badly made bread got.  I was enlightened.

Next was “Quinine” – used in production of creams. I didn’t know how quinine looked like, the compounds, the harms etc, but since NAFDAC said it was dangerous, I figured it was dangerous. That woman  can’t lie. So I began another lookout. My hunt increased. I made sure I stuck with my innocent Vaseline. For my others, I began to go through the ingredients of their creams. No quinine in the house. Not even a trace, while I was around. I became an unpaid supervising officer. A firm soldier of NAFDAC. Oh my Aunties! They all heard it. I began to strike questions like “Have you heard of Quinine? Do you use Quinine’d cream? Your body can do better than Quinine, or do you want me to inform that big Ogas at NAFDAC? They became tired of me, but I passed the information.
On another episode,’skin reaction’ was the topic. “Drugs like Chloroquine don’t sit well in some person’s body, therefore so much scratching effect, burning may accompany it after usage”. Another knowledge was tipped to me. Another adventure for drug hunt. I began a new round of preaching in the house. Chloroquine is dangerous. Don’t buy it. Dora said it is not good. It causes skin reaction in the body. Those were my marching words. My malaria drugs made a u-turn from Chloroquine to Amalar and Malareich.

Then, came the era of NAFDAC registration number, I began with the sachet water that was being hawked. Oh! I scrutinized so much. I began to distance myself from ones without the numbers. I also began to look out for those that were not neatly sealed. Haggardly sealed also represented home produced. That was the era of buying sealing machine and mass producing pure water. That period was momentarily. The kiosk owners became conscious of the number, the provision sellers too were not left out, the pharmacists and druggists even helped me to locate the number before I pay. That number instilled a kind of confidence in ordinary citizens, it equated our collective trust, and it made us to be health conscious. It was our local stamp and seal of safety. It vouchsafed the content of the product. Even the unconscious became safety conscious. All thanks to this woman called Dora.

Then one night during the NTA network news I heard that Dora’s car had been shot at. She was attacked by unknown gunmen. The car had big bullet holes, that pierced through the body without mercy. They went to shut her up permanently. What was her offence? She put in zeal in the cause of her carrying out her duty. She wasn’t like them.

I went to my room immediately, knelt down, stretched my hand in the sky. You know that picture you see in some Christian articles, that was how it was for me. I prayed like never before. That was the day I realized that I’ve fallen head over heels with Dora. That day made me realize that this woman has a meaning in my life, not a just a meaning but a deep meaning, like what Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Adichie meant to writers. I don’t know how far my prayers went, but I was happy she was unhurt and happier when I saw a newspaper article calling for assignment of security personnel to her.

After that incident, her vigor didn’t wane, like Benzair Bhutto of Middle East, she came with fire to save her people. It was as if fuel was poured in a raving fire. Kai! I liked her the more. From south-east, I was seeing the effect. Upper Iweka became troubled; Aba shook with a high Richter measured scale. The chalk-turned-drug makers knew that cleansing was upon the land. They all began to scamper. With their red apron, emboldened with the white ink of NAFDAC, her army matched to South-West, to Lagos, to continue the cleansing. From Alaba to Tejuosho, Marina to FESTAC, things began to unfold. Havoc unwrecked. Yes! My hero was at work. Even when NAFDAC lab caught fire, she wasn’t deterred.

I would’ve wished she continued with NAFDAC, but it wasn’t possible. Was it? Her next stop after her departure from the agency was Ministry of Information and Communication. She also gave a fair account of herself, considering the rocky tenure of late Yar’adua. From it, she hopped onto the bus of politics. Personally, that decision didn’t go well with me, but it wasn’t for me to decide.

Her last service to the nation was her presence in the ongoing National Confab at Abuja. She made sure her voice was heard.

Dora had flaws that made her a human, but it will be very unaccountable and murdersome of anyone to just define her with them alone. She was not a saint, but she was definitely not in the category of political thieves and sinners we have in this country. She was patriotic, exemplified in her service to the nation, and this is how I wish to see her.
Laa n’udo Agbara Nwanyi.

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Chimezie Anajama finds fulfillment in writing. With work ranging from fiction to non-fiction, Chimezie derives inspiration from daily interactions with people. Find out more at www.nwuliafrica.blogspot.com. Follow on Twitter @anajamachimezie.

Chimezie Anajama is a Development worker, Sociologist and a Writer. Her development work with street children and teens inspired the “Street Rules”. She is currently co-campaigning for #iMatterToo Uyo Street Children Project to give alternative education to 30 street children/teens. Tweet her @ChimezieAnajama

34 Comments

  1. EMMA

    June 17, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Thanks for this write up.

    Shed some tears

    Sun Re o, Prof Dora!

  2. Fumesflakes.blogspot.com

    June 17, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Wow! beautiful piece am sure this would have made her proud, knowing there are people out there who truly “saw her”. May her soul rest in peace

  3. naana

    June 17, 2014 at 11:52 am

    just made me fall inlove with this woman.
    love her zeal.

  4. cleo

    June 17, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Well written. It made the hair at the back of my neck stand up.

  5. Maro

    June 17, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    I can totally relate!!! I remember 11-year old me looking on with admiration as she spoke about how she beat the odds and rose to the top. I was in JSS2 at QC, during our annual speech & prize-giving day. When it got to my turn to receive a handshake from her, I felt proud and honored to literally shake hands with Greatness. Before she left she instructed the principal to ensure a NAFDAC Club be started up immediately. I was honored to be a pioneer member! We read a lot of their articles, went on so many competitions, and were actively involved in scrutinizing every drug, cream and packaged water/food that came our way. We felt empowered! She empowered us.
    I could go on about this Great woman!

    #RIP Dora. You indeed lived a fulfilled life! Now you get to rest in the presence of your Creator!

  6. Ada Nnewi

    June 17, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Now this is a woman that made Nigeria proud, Let anyone that mentions her name in the same breathe with Allison Madueke, Stella Oduah and all the other thieving heartless females in power be struck down by Amadioha!

    • jcsgrl

      June 17, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      Lol Ada Nnewi…easy o.
      Aunty D, rest on in the hands of your maker. You fought a good fight and ran a gallant race. We shall continue your legacy of fearlessness, integrity and justice. God bless and keep your family in Jesus name

  7. http://xplorenollywood.blogspot.com

    June 17, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Nice one, just as you rightly mentioned, the various projects championed by her and her team, made us fully aware of the various evils perpetuated by individuals to get rich quick in Nigeria. There are very few people in fact, none really that stand their ground like she did but we thank God for her. The hope she brought will forever go a long way…

  8. Praise

    June 17, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Chimezie, thanks for this write up. She will forever be remembered
    Auntie Dora, RIP,

  9. chica

    June 17, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    well said,u jst took d words right out of my mouth……

  10. x-factor

    June 17, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Wow!

  11. Ayo

    June 17, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Excellent tribute to Dora. One of only a handful of Nigerian women who ever did anything worthwhile with power.

  12. newbie

    June 17, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Beautiful and straight from the heart, I can tell. I’m actually having to blink back tears. I must say that I probably didn’t pay her much mind over the years, maybe because she was doing well and as you know it’s the ones that are making a mess that we tend to hear in the news. I must say as well though, that I doffed my hat to her one day when I picked up a pack of Kellogs corn flakes from a supermarket aisle here in London and saw a NAFDAC number on it! I was impressed. This is one woman who clearly held foreign firms to account and would not be bullied by them. Nigeria needs more of such people, not the sellouts we seem to always be saddled with who will sell us down the river in a heartbeat and collect change.
    Rest in peace, madam.

    • Wakka Pass

      June 17, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      Me too! Picked a pack of kellogs at Waitrose in Wales and saw NAFDAC number!!!
      Was surprised beyond words.

    • Akpoghiran Erhuvwu

      July 3, 2014 at 4:39 pm

      nawa for you ohhh. Are you sure is NAFDAC number you saw

  13. nwanyi na aga aga

    June 17, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    What A tribute!!! This exactly defines the Dora I know, the quinine and the bromide was me too. I wanted to be like Dora, I wanted to be fearless and sure when I talked, I prayed when I heard she was sick. I told a Facebook contact that we will testify against him and others that feel Dora deserves to die cos she went for national Conference. I remember NAFDAC club in Federal those days. Like a fleeting shadow you quickly leave our midst, Adieu Dora!! Jee Nke oma Nwanyi dike!!!!

  14. me

    June 17, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    hey babe its hydroxyquinone dat bleaches not quinine. quinine is an antimalarial that is still been used in the treatment of malaria nice words well said she is an inspiration to many of us

    • eetua

      July 17, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      Its actually hydroquinone thats used in bleaching creams …Hydroxyquinone is a different compound

  15. tunmi

    June 17, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    What a tribute. Thank you

  16. WWN

    June 17, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Chimezie, what a beautiful and heartfelt tribute! I got teary eyed just reading it. Thank you for sharing it and for communicating what perhaps, is in the hearts and tongues of many nigerians.
    To me, she was such an excellent icon who spoke her inner truth bravely, lived her passions with conviction, pursued her dreams, had a sense of clarity about her purpose, she found fulfilment from service, prospered from within and defined her own sense of worth.
    Ultimately, in simply being herself, she found her unique path AND dared to leave her bold footprints behind for us to emulate. Tomorrow, I do not know whose name would have a ‘RIP’ prefix before it. It may be anyone of us and yet what Aunty Dora has eloquently showed us is that regardless of how challenging our environment may be, it IS possible to do right, to change, to transform. She taught us that work is worship and our greatest ministry is not merely in the words we utter, rather, in our ACTIONS and behaviour, i.e. in WHO we are choosing to BE.
    Apologies for the very long post. This phenomenal woman simply inspires me beyond words…. <3 Juliet, Whole Woman Network

  17. Adaeze

    June 17, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    she was truthful and JUST! go in peace Dora…a female leader like no other…eternal rest grant her o! Lord and may the perpetual light shine on her..amen.

  18. BB

    June 17, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    I feel this woman deserves ALOT! No woman can stand not just herself but her family being threatened but she did. That’s beyond commendable. People will always be people and one of the was they show they are full of flaws is by blindly criticizing others when they themselves have done absolutely nothing for nation building besides sitting behind their computer screens (if at all it is theirs) and critiquing other just because of foolish sentiments. Mind you as far as politiking and ministerial appointments are concerned, this woman was a saint!

  19. xoxo

    June 17, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Thanks for correcting the author. I kept saying to myself “isn’t it hydroquinone and not quinine?”, ‘cos quinine is still very much in use, especially for resistant or cerebral malaria.
    All in all, the writer did a good job, continue to rest in the bosom of our Lord, Aunty Dora.

  20. XteriAyaoba

    June 18, 2014 at 6:47 am

    Madam Dora may your soul rest in peace. You where indeed a great woman.

  21. Metche

    June 18, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Chimezie I really appreciate you for this wonderful tribute to a great woman. Just like you took the words out of my mouth. Dora will be forever be remembered. She is one in a million. May she continue to rest in the bosom of our Lord.

  22. adelegirl

    June 18, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    Very very apt description of Prof Dora Akunyili. She evoked similar admiration in me. Her work at NAFDAC to me, will always remain the stuff of legends. NAFDAC became so powerful and so feared by the fake drug merchants and those producing substandard food products. As information minister she championed the Nigeria re-branding campaign. Remember the slogan- “good people, good nation”? Like most people, I was filled with awe and admiration at her influence the first time I saw favorite upmarket cereal brand – Kellogg’s – with NAFDAC number in UK supermarkets. I had initially thought the ones with NAFDAC numbers were solely for the Nigerian market and possibly hurriedly stamped on upon arrival into Nigeria. Was pleasantly surprised this was not the case. She was a true amazon- she made a brand as well established as Kellogs modify their packaging to comply with Nigerian laws. I mean, how awesome can one single person get? You have deserved your rest Ma’am, you fought the good fight and were truly valiant. Go well…

  23. Frances Okoro

    June 18, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    Awww,this captured her role in Nigeria quite well.
    Extraordinary woman.may she riP

  24. Miss Mo

    June 19, 2014 at 2:57 am

    Nice written.

    May your sould RIP ma. You fought the good fight.

  25. JohnUwangue.blogspot.com

    June 19, 2014 at 7:50 am

    How many of us here can arrest and jail our brothers and sisters for integrity sake? but she fought her fellow ibos so that you and I will be safe and they hated her for it.
    she is still my hero and I will miss her

  26. fineboy

    June 20, 2014 at 12:51 am

    Omg!! You said it all…she will forever be remembered by Nigerians. Sleep well maa

  27. ijey

    June 22, 2014 at 12:13 am

    thumbs up, u had me spellbound till the very end, amazing piece n justified. I will indeed miss u dearly, see u on d other side ma

  28. yeancah

    June 23, 2014 at 4:41 am

    you couldn’t have said it better… growing up when my parents send me on errands the only thing being hammered to my ears are ”check the expiry date oo” and that was all i normally looked out for.. then came the era of Dora, i became aware of the importance of NAFDAC number on most edibles and meds… she indeed made an impact.. now mine is so bad that today if i go to the stores… i don’t only check expiry date and Nafdac number, once an item has more than 6 ingredients or i can’t pronounce any of the ingredients i just dump it back on the aisle… a normal 20 min shopping becomes 1 hr after scrutinzing and replacement of items.. i end up leaving the store feeling satisfied…. Dora did a good job in her own little way.. Sleep on Well Beloved.. You would be fondly remembered by Nigerians

  29. kkay

    May 4, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Dora, the Great Amazon! Sleep on in the bosom of our Lord,Jesus Christ.
    Your have fought the good fight, you have finished your race. Your work lives on.

    Chimezie, God bless you for this awesome tribute.

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