According a report from Sunday Vanguard, findings showed that the former Minister’s ill health first came to the fore a couple of years ago while on a trip abroad. A medical check up showed she had cancer.
The Cable, an online medium quoting a family source, yesterday, blamed misdiagnosis for Akunyili’s death.
According to the source, when in 1998, the former Minister was the Zonal Secretary (South-east) of the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund, Nigerian doctors gave her what many of her family members considered to be a health scare. They said she had a growth and needed surgery.
The source narrated: “Akunyili, then 44, decided to travel to the United States, first to get a second opinion and then undergo the prescribed surgery. The bill for the medical trip was $17,000, including $12,000 for the surgery. During pre-surgery check-up in the US, the doctors told her the Nigerian doctors had made a wrong diagnosis and that she did not need any surgery.
“It was said to be a minor issue that medication would solve. She thanked the doctors and, to their surprise, said she was going to return the money meant for the surgery to PTF. That was strange. Nigerian government officials had devised a way of making sure such monies were not returned to the treasury.
“The hospital informed the PTF, under the leadership of Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, about one honest Nigerian they had found. Buhari, himself a straightforward person, was very impressed. He wrote a letter to Akunyili commending her honesty. NAFDAC Then came 2001. President Olusegun Obasanjo wanted to appoint a director-general for the National Agency for Drug and Food Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and asked for the recommendation of an honest Nigerian pharmacist. Akunyili’s name promptly came up.
“Someone who had heard about her PTF record recommended her. There was a little problem, a Nigerian problem. Objections were raised that the minister of health, Prof. ABC Nwosu, was an Igbo from Anambra State and NAFDAC, being a powerful agency under the ministry, should not be headed by another Igbo from Anambra. It was also argued that the market for fake and substandard products were controlled by the Igbo, with Onitsha – also in Anambra State – a major centre for the illicit business. She was going to protect “her people”, the antagonists said.
“Obasanjo, stubborn to the cause, ignored the observations and appointed her. She went on to do a credible job and ended up as one of the most outstanding public officers in Nigeria’s history, celebrated locally and globally. She had lost a sister to fake drugs, and that was perhaps the impetus she needed to go on the offensive. Misdiagnosis Meanwhile, Akunyili always went abroad for check-ups and she was always given an all-clear. She continued to look robust and energetic, and took up another government job as minister of information and communications.
“But on July 13, 2013, something strange happened to her. She was preparing to travel to the United States to receive an award. The following day was her birthday. Her 59th, precisely. Then she fell ill. She was physically weak and having pains. She decided to go ahead with her trip and attend to her health in the United States. It was while she was there that new checks were carried out.
“Alas, she had cancer. The original diagnosis in 1998 was right. But the diagnosis at the point of surgery was wrong. She became seriously ill and there were fears she could lose her life. She was in the hospital for months and only returned to Nigeria this year when the doctors said she was improving. Her last public appearance was at the National Conference in Abuja, where she was a delegate. Pictures of a frail-looking Akumyili soon went viral on the internet”.
In a tribute, the Chief Medical Director, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Professor Akin Osibogun, described the news as shocking.
“It is indeed sad. I am just hearing the news from you now. Professor Dora Akunyili was a personal friend apart from working together during her days at NAFDAC.
The National President, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria, Pharm Femi Adebayo, stated: “My eyes were filled with tears when I heard about the death of a faithful and brave Nigerian,
Pharmacist par excellence. Dora rode where men trembled, especially her fight against fake counterfeit and adulterated drugs”.
Dora Akunyili, a distinguished citizen and patriot – President Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan has described late Dora Akunyili as a distinguished Nigerian and Patriotic citizen who would be sorely missed by all those who came in contact with her.
In a statement yesterday, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati quoted the President as saying he ‘ received with shock and sadness, news of the sudden and untimely death of Professor Dora Akunyili, former Minister of Information and Communications.
“The President believes that Professor Akunyili will live long in the memories of those who were privileged to know her as a diligent professional, a public-spirited and forthright public officer, and as a person of great convictions.
The First Lady, Dame Patience Faka Jonathan, described Akunyili as a “titan,” who left an indelible mark with the passion and conviction with which she served the nation. Dame Jonathan described the late Akunyili’s departure as “a great loss to the nation and the womenfolk.”
Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State expressed profound shock and sadness over the death of f Professor Akunyili, describing it as a serious blow to the nation. Chime in a reaction signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Chukwudi Achife, said her death has robbed the nation of one of her finest breed of patriots.
Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Paul Orhii, described late Dora Akunyili as a patriot and a woman of great virtue.
According to Orhii: “It is with great shock but with total submission to the will of God that I received the sad news of the death of Prof. Dora Akunyili. She was a woman who loved Nigeria deeply and dedicated her entire life up till the very last minute to the service of this great nation”.
National Chairman of All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, said the death of Professor Akunyili was very saddening, adding that it was a huge loss to Nigeria and the womenfolk.
Aka Ikenga also mourned this lady of substance for among other things, she was a titanic Amazon, according to Chief Goddy Uwazurike, the President of Aka Ikenga.
Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, in his own reaction, described the late former Information Minister, as an amazon.
In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on media, Mrs Olufunmilayo Wakama, Amosun, who expressed shock and disbelief at the news of the demise of the one time Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), at the age of 59, said she deserves Special mention among nation builders in Nigeria.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu expressed grief and shock over the death of Akunyili.
He said her death was not just a colossal loss to the entire country but also an exit of an uncommon role model.
Ekweremadu, in a statement through his Special Adviser, Media, Uche Anichukwu, described the late Pharmacist as a “woman of substance, unequaled character, and courage who brought respect and glory to the nation.”
The Campaign for Democracy, CD, described her as strong and brave woman fought her last battle with cancer which she has just lost at the age of 59.
She will always be remembered for her doggedness,tenacity and courageous pursuit of ideals both as Director General of NAFDAC and Minister of Information
Also reacting to the death of Prof. Akunyili, Chairman, Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Senator Andy Uba, said that the late Prof. Akunyili dedicated her life to the service of her fatherland and waged great war against fake and counterfeit drugs in the country.
Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, has described as shocking, painful and saddening, the death of former Information and Communication Minister, Professor (Mrs.) Dora Akunyili, lamenting that Nigeria has once again lost one of her gems.
Governor Imoke in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Christian Ita, said: “I received with a heavy heart, news of the death of our dear Dora Akunyili, who was one of the few Amazons of our time.”
Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger state has described the death of Akunyili as a big blow to the country whose intellectual competence and patriotic citizenship cannot be equaled.
He also described her as a fountain of knowledge, professional expert who exuded servant leadership during her national service.
According to Joseph Evah, national coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group, IMG, Nigerians will miss Prof. Dora Akunyili. She was the first person to risk her life for President Goodluck Jonathan during the period the late President Musa Yar’Adua became sick before he died. Then, the Yar’Adua cabal, was determined to deny Jonathan his constitutional right as Vice-President to succeed the late President. The people of Niger Delta are grateful to her and are mourning her passing.