I remember the days when Dora Akunyili was the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). She was very well celebrated. She seemed to know what she was doing and she seemed to be doing it very well.
I recall there was a time she escaped a bomb attack; one thought to be orchestrated by those who did not like the fact that she was doing her job well. Nigeria had been flooded with fake drugs at the time, and those who benefited from this (at the dire expense of their fellow citizens) stood to gain so much money that they were not at all happy to have their lucrative source of income threatened by her. But she withstood all that resistance and restored a good level of decency to the food and drug industry within the country.
She was celebrated.
Later on, she was appointed Minister of Information and Communication under another administration. This time, it looked as though she was dragged into the position. It was not her expertise at all. She seemed to struggle with what to stand for. She even toyed with the idea of ‘re-branding’ Nigeria, admonishing its youth at one time to quit using the endearing term ‘naija’ to refer to the country, and a host of other rather impracticable ideas that inevitably failed.
It was hard for me to watch this. I often wondered what happened to the once celebrated hero who sanitized the food and drug industry. What was she doing now, struggling with the information and communication industry?
David Oyedepo, the bishop famous for establishing the Living Faith Church and Covenant University, has had his hands in a lot of other successful endeavors. However, he’s fond of saying, “put me in politics and see my weakness.”
I’m not surprised. Politics, more often than not, tends to bring out the worst in you anyway. But some people just seem to realize their calling, their areas of strength, and do well to stick to it more than others do. Down the road, they become experts as a result. They would have spent years in one particular field, honing their skills and becoming better equipped to serve people who need them.
People come to rely on experts and the more people you have relying on you – the more clients you serve, the more the reward you get in the areas of esteem and of course finance. Because you made everyone’s life a bit better with your expert services, yours is much better for it!
The problem sometimes is that when such experts, in one particular field, reach this desired level of esteem, they tend to think that they have suddenly attained expertise in many other fields. So you have American celebrities suddenly talking politics – telling people who to vote for in an election. You have Elon Musk postulating on how human beings came to be – that we are living in a simulation, trapped inside some space alien’s video game. You have Christian Barnard, who performed the first human heart transplant surgery, going on TV to give marital advice and then ironically proceeding to weather the storm of three divorces.
These otherwise serious-minded people tend to appear less so whenever they veer off their lanes – their areas of expertise. And this always has a ripple effect on everyone else, especially those who look up to them. Like indecisive drivers in Lagos traffic, their switching of lanes ends up slowing everyone else down. The world would be better off if everyone picked a field, grew in knowledge pertaining to that field, developed the skills necessary to operate there and then served the rest of the world with that expertise. Just like traffic would flow better – getting everyone home faster – if people would just pick one lane, the right lane for their upcoming turn, and stick to it all the way through.
I still admire Dora and her achievements. That admiration was what made it even harder to watch as she dabbled into politics; but, just like we’d do well to look at both the positives and negatives when learning from people’s lives, I think it’s really important to find your niche, establish yourself in it, and stay in your lane.