Dora Nkem Akunyili

Dora Nkem Akunyili was the Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) of Nigeria in 2001.

Early Life: She was born in Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria on the 14th of July 1954 to Chief & Mrs Paul Young Edemobi. She attended St. Patrick’s Primary School, Isuofia, Anambra State in 1966 and Queen of the Rosary Secondary School Nsukka, where she made a Grade 1 distinction in the West African School Certificate (WASC) in 1973. This earned her a scholarship to the university from the Federal Government of Nigeria. She got her first degree in Pharmacy (B.Pharm Hons) in 1978 and her PhD in 1985 from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.  Professor Akunyili was a Post-Doctorate Fellow of the University of London and a Fellow of the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists. In preparation for managerial positions, she was trained in Computer Education Programme sponsored by WHO/UNDP/World Bank in1994 and Senior Management skills Course in RIPA, London, in 1998.

Achievements: In 2001, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed her the Director-General, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). In 2008, she assumed the position of Minister of Information and Communication. As Minister, she got to be associated with the effort to rebrand Nigeria through media campaigns to promote the Nigeria’s flagging reputation with the well-known slogan “Good Nation, Good people” and kicked off the ReBrand campaign. In 2012, the award-winning pharmacist’s book, The War Against Counterfeit Medicine: My Story was published. As a Scientist and a Scholar, she presented over 20 research papers in various local and International Scientific Conferences, and published a book and 18 journal articles. She supervised PhD and Masters candidates in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka and U.N.N. respectively, both in Nigeria. Even as the Director General of NAFDAC, Dr. Akunyili found time to supervise six postgraduate students in the College of Medicine UNN. She was also Chief Examiner in Pharmacology for the 3rd M.B.B.S College of Medicine, Abia State University Uturu, Nigeria.

Death and Legacy: Akunyili died in 2014 from cancer. She had six children and three grandchildren. With her dedication, the fake drug market saw a decline of 90%. So impactful was her service that by 2004, two assassination attempts had been made on her life. She won several awards for her work in pharmacology, public health and human rights. Although she eventually left in 2008 to take up the position of Nigeria’s Honourable Minister of Information and Communications, her legacy lives on remarkably not only in Nigeria’s (and West Africa’s) drug market, but also in the empowerment of women, particularly in Africa. “Women should always work extra hard to be accorded their recognition and to debunk the general feeling by skeptics that some jobs could not be done by women because we are neither strong nor serious minded enough”.

Prof. Akunyili will be remembered as an internationally renowned Pharmacist, Pharmacologist, Erudite Scholar, Seasoned Administrator, and a visionary leader.

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