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December 30, 2008
The mighty Lamidi Adedibu has been proved right.  In the height of his battle with Dr Dora Akunyili over his Mafia-like protection of contaminated seafood and other bad products dealers in Ibadan, Chief Adedibu said that Akunyili’s whining about his refusal to let the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) officials do their work and close down those dealers was a case of bad belle.   He pointed out that Akunyili knew how the system worked in Ibadan and had not raised any objections all these years.  He then revealed that her later day lamentations to the Press was because he had refused to put her name forward for a Ministerial post in May/June 2007 despite some heavy lobbying from Akunyili.


During Obasanjo’s eight locust years, Dr Akunyili was one of the few bright spots.  In my view, she was up there with the likes of Dr Ngozi Oknonjo-Eweala, Charles Soludo, Nuhu Ribadu and El-Rufai.  These people were no saints – no one is, certainly not in Nigeria; however, they did a very creditable job at their respective duty posts.  Akunyili was not different.  Sometimes, she did what she had to do; but she did her job exceeding well and was rightfully and widely acknowledged for it. 


But sure enough there were always whispers about some NAFDAC battles being media designed, media driven, and media won.  There were whispers about aggrandisement and excessive addiction to the accoutrement of high office.  For instance, long before the attempt on her life, her husband who was a Registrar at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital was turning up for work in a four vehicle Mobile Police entourage.  Also, Dr Akunyili was appointed to NAFDAC on 12 April 2001.  Before then, she was a Senior Lecturer and a Consultant Pharmacologist at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (Enugu Campus).  But now her name is prefixed with the title “Professor.”   But still these were not criminal offences.  The brilliant lady got the job done. 


However, whispers began to turn to open consternation when she began a surprising and highly visible romance with the Andy Uba governorship operation in Anambra State.  Dr Akunyili became an active member of that campaign.  She made all sorts of specious speeches about Uba being the best thing this side of a Toronto certificate.  She certainly was on his transition team.   I also remember seeing her in an interview where she said that if God wanted Obasanjo to go for a third term, there was nothing wrong in that. 


And now, just 24 hours after being shunted to the Information & Communications Ministry, Akunyili described her posting as “an act of God.”  She didn’t stop at that blasphemy; she went further to say that the Ministry “is the soul of the country!”  She then called on all Nigerians to come together in the task of giving the country a positive image, saying that is what the country needs to attract foreign investments and development.  See?  Not even two days on the job and the woman is already talking crazy. 


Let us be clear; Akunyili has been flogged-off to the Information Ministry.  The Communications addendum of that job was not the main consideration in assigning her that post.  That Information and Communication merger is a strange marriage anyway.  The main qualification for headship of the Information Ministry is that the person needs to be a Yes-man and a propagandist - and perhaps spot a miserable moustache.  Doers are not welcomed there.  In fact, there's nothing there to "do."  So, in real terms, Akunyili talked herself into, and accepted an insultive demotion.


Dr Akunyili lobbied hard for a Ministerial post (she'd been at it for a while) and the folks around Yar’Adua saw in her an opportunity to kill the two proverbial birds with one stone - handing her a poisoned goblet and hoping she would make their perfidious and rudderless administration look less so. I had hoped that she would go to the Health Ministry to at least resuscitate that place that had assumed a Yar’Aduaic paralysis.    Moreover, her work at NAFDAC where she successfully tackled the scourge of counterfeit drugs stands her in good stead to be able to administratively cut through the logjam in the Health Ministry.   If not that, then the Works Ministry.


I’m not even sure what real difference an Information Ministry make to a country. In fact, I think excessive emphasis and the pre-eminence of an Information Ministry is a sure sign of a failed or failing State and an indicator of an incompetent administration.  For all intent and purposes, Akunyili is now saddled with explaining the ineptitude and duplicity of Yar’Adua, Andoakaa, Farida Waziri, and the rest of the gang. And if she manages to put any old spin on Yar’Adua’s frightful incompetence, Andoakaa's manic devotion to scuttling Ibori's theft case in the UK and shielding the other corrupt ex-governors, would she then be adjudged to have succeeded in her duty?  It is pitiful to see this highly brilliant and energetic lady reduced to this.  She is now going to wear the disused robe of “success” discarded by one Joseph Goebbels of the Third Reich in Nazi Germany.  Either that or she picks up the one discarded by Chemical Ali of Saddam’s Iraq.  I am really surprised.  I did not know that a Ministerial appointment mattered this much to Dr Akunyili.

It is just so sad that Akunyili could cause her hard and well earned reputation to be heading for the tank like this.  Second-guessing of her work and revisionism has already begun.  Clearly this brave lady did a lot of impressive work at NAFDAC but she has taken the sledgehammer to all of that.  It is just too bad that it has come to this. 


Yar’Adua has demonstrated and put the message strongly out there that his administration is for the deeply corrupt and high sleaze.  Look at what is happening to Nuhu Ribadu these days.  I am sure also that NAFDAC is now going to go the way of the EFCC.  Surely Dr Akunyili has set herself up for a very hard fall.  She has talked and walked herself into a lose-lose job.  Yar’Adua’s sardonic and clueless administration is now going to attempt to use her hard earned good name and reputation to put a half decent face on their folly.  In short, they now have a very expensive handkerchief into which they will blow their nose, after which it will simply be tossed away.  What a great pity. 


When a person goes all out tooth and nail to get a Ministerial slot, that means such a person will do anything for high office.  This, unfortunately, is an ugly side of Dr Akunyili emerging.  And speaking of ugliness, that is what runs through Yar’Adua’s latest Ministerial cabinet.  For instance, Dr Lukman – yes the same old recycled Rilwan Lukman was appointed the Petroleum Minister.  With all due respect, Dr Lukman is one of the grand failures of our time.  For a very long time, he had being one of the main drivers of our oil/petroleum sector policy and look what we have!  We have made a steady and alarming backward march in that vital sector of our nation.  Today, despite being one of the world’s largest crude oil producing countries we are also now one of the largest importers of petroleum products in the entire world.  Juxtapose that please against Venezuela, Qatar, Algeria, Angola, and even war-soaked Sudan.   


But I guess being a proven failure is one of the criteria for being "it" in Nigeria.  Dr Shamsudeen Usman got moved to another Ministry instead of an outright sack.  Deziani Allison-Madueke who couldn't make a pothole of a difference in the Works Ministry was moved to Mines & Steel.  Sam Egwu was brought in to reprise his failures in Eboyin State. 


In fact Egwu's case should give all of us real concerns about Yar'Adua's method of madness:  In July 2007, the citizens of Eboyin State wrote to Yar’Adua and submitted a petition to the EFCC that detailed how Egwu stole a whopping N80 billion out of just over N150 billion that was allocated to that State between 1999 and 2007.  What happened?  First, Egwu was only an OBJ grey whisker away from becoming the Chairman of that den of thieves, the PDP; and now he has been settled with the Education Ministry.  I guess when Yar’Adua labelled himself the servant-leader, he wasn’t kidding at all. 


In January 2008, Lucky Igbinedion, the thieving ex-governor of Edo State was dragged to Court on a 191 count charge by Ribadu’s EFCC for stealing some N4.4 billion and $24 million.  Waziri’s EFCC reduced all that to just one single solitary count of corruption and just last week, Igbinedion was let off with only a N3.6 million fine.  A startling display of ‘rule of law.”  Sadly, this is the group for which Dr Akunyili is now the Spokesperson. 


What was that saying?  Be careful what you wish for, for you might get it……….


By Michael Egbejumi-David

[email protected]

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