Friday, June 3, 2011

Weep not for Akunyili

SINCE Professor Dora Akunyili, the former Minister of Information and Communications lost her senatorial bid to the former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chris Ngige, there have been a litany of reactions.

Many came from Nigerians who genuinely showed concern over the Professor’s political future while some opinions on the matter were either warped or mischievous. A few of the reactions were even libellous yet the former DG of NAFDAC refused to join issues with anybody.

I have, however, decided without seeking her approval to respond to the reportage in a section of the media that Professor Akunyili was humiliated at the Presidential Villa. The story was that she had gone to Aso Rock to congratulate Dr. Good luck Jonathan on his victory at the presidential polls only to be turned back at the Villa. As far as her critics were concerned, it was an embarrassment that would cause incalculable damage to her hard earned reputation and her political career.

If such treatment was ever meted to her, then it is most unfortunate for several reasons. Prof. Akunyili was the undisputed author of Jonathan’s acting presidency. I remember with nostalgia the thought – provoking memo she wrote to the Federal Executive Council on February 3, 2010 urging her then colleagues to back the clamour for Jonathan to be Acting President in the absence of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who was away to Saudi Arabia for Medical treatment.

‘‘The Federal Executive Council is called upon to now act in the best interest of our President and our dear nation, by passing a resolution requesting Mr. President to sign a letter for the Vice President to act on his behalf until he is well enough to take over,’’ Akunyili wrote.

In a cabinet of over 46 tested Nigerians, only Akunyili could look straight into the eyes of the dreaded cabal to drop the bomb shell without blinking. Few days after her power-packed memo, the National Assembly evolved the Doctrine of Necessity that not only made Jonathan Acting President but gave legitimacy to his elevation. This development was as it were to fast-track Jonathan’s election on April 16, 2011.

Many Nigerians would agree with me that the remote cause of the Doctrine of Necessity was Akunyili’s uncommon courage at a period when sycophancy had been dignified as a national way of life.

What was the role of the overzealous security operatives in the meteoric rise of Jonathan? Who must have given them the instruction? Where were those VIPs they ushered in to celebrate in the Villa when the then Vice President was nearly sent to political Siberia? Prof. Akunyili must have gone to Aso Rock to felicitate with the President as a member of the family and one of the very few Nigerians who stood by him in one of his most trying moments. What did she do wrong to deserve what the papers reported?

It is true that Akunyili contested for the Senate on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, but the party was in alliance with Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. In any case, political parties are vehicles for ascending to offices. Once elections are over, what pre-occupies statesmen is how to move the nation forward.

It is against this background that opposition politicians or Jonathan’s opponents in the presidential election congratulated the President. So if Akunyili was turned back, she was not humiliated, rather those security men have done a disservice to good conscience and loyalty! They have returned evil for good and they should bury their heads in shame. Akunyili in this context is like the proverbial house wife who spends her time and money to till the soil to cultivate yam tubers. She harvested the yam tubers. She prepared food with the yam but was prevented from eating the food.  What a country!

Akunyili is not to be pitied but to be commended for her selfless service to fatherland. In all the offices she had held, she proved to Nigerians that she is a change agent. But one unique salient trait of change agents is that they hardly remain in office for a long time or better put, occupy offices in perpetuity. Unfortunately, the average Nigerian measures the success of a public office holder on the number of years he or she holds on to power. It shouldn’t be so.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest change agent ever in world history spent 33 years on earth. Out of these, he used just three years for his public ministry to ingrain Christianity on the sands of time. Akunyili, one of the change agents of our time spent eight years in NAFDAC to safeguard public health, a feat that was insurmountable in two decades. Before her exploits in NAFDAC, she had shown sincerity of purpose as Secretary of Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, in charge of South East zone by returning 12,000 pounds to public coffers being unspent government funds given to her for medical treatment abroad.

Her deed at NAFDAC attracted her to the late Yar’Adua who appointed her Minister of Information and Communications. In less than two years, she repositioned the ministry. Under her, files were treated expeditiously, the national portal was revived and all parastatals / agencies in the ministry ran functional websites. These were meant to reduce red-tapism as well as enhance transparency of government business. She also waged war against the exploitation of Nigerians by the telecoms companies so much so that today Nigerians enjoy reduction in telecommunication tariffs and improved service delivery.

When it was obvious that the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, fell short of best practice in the selling of the 2.3 GHZ spectrum licenses, Prof. Akunyili ensured that it was cancelled and a fresh process commenced. And above all, she repositioned the image of Nigeria and its citizens through the National Re-branding Campaign. Today, our country has a brand name: Nigeria, Good People, Great Nation. Nigerians and the international community rewarded Prof. Akunyili for her service to humanity with over 500 awards

After achieving much within a very short time, she willingly resigned from where she described as a ‘‘comfort zone’’ to a dicey zone. Few hours after her resignation, she threw her ring into the senatorial ring to serve the people of Anambra Central in another capacity.  She stood for APGA primary and won. Prof. Akunyili traversed all the nooks and crannies of her zone to solicit for the peoples vote. She anchored her campaign on issues and never terrorised the populace with thugs as others do. She was civil and polite to her opponents.

The election has produced a victor and vanquished. Prof. Akunyili has put everything in the hands of God so why can’t people who pooh-pooh change agents for their selfish ends allow her to rest?

The former minister has since her loss devoted much of her time to her family as she makes a retroactive assessment of the past with a view to projecting into the future! So why weep for her?

FRANCIS AGBO , a journalist, was a media aide to the former minster.

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