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Re: Letter to Dora Akunyili

IT takes the courage of one man to change the course of history

The tragedy of this nation is that some men (and women) of no discernible pedigree or proven leadership qualities find themselves in positions of leadership, albeit temporarily.

This tragedy is made more gruesome when such pretenders-to-leadership shamelessly and narrow-mindedly use the elevated podium of such undeserved leadership status to cause untold damage to themselves, their pseudo-leadership status and the august body they belong, in an attempt to seek crass relevance.

Professor Dora Akunyili we all know. By every stretch of the imagination, this brilliant professor of Pharmacy, former imparter of knowledge to brilliant and budding minds at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and a woman who has helped save millions of Nigerians from unwarranted health complications and undeserved death at the hands of fake drug barons, and the current image-maker for the nation, needs no introduction, either here or in any part of the world.

Not only has this ever-smiling amazon and proud daughter of Africa made her mark in every sphere of human endeavour where she has found herself, she has also displayed, along the way, a character extremely rich in commendable courage, dogged determination, principled purposefulness, fixated focus and leading-light leadership. Unfortunately, these are virtues painfully lacking in most of those who seek to lead us these days.

Long before she displayed, once again, her known fearlessness, love of country, hatred for deception, and courage in the face of daunting opposition and possible risk to her life, vide the now popular memo to her Federal Executive Council colleagues,   she had been celebrated and rewarded with accolades here and in almost every clime around the world; and was just recently, quite deservedly, recognised by all and sundry as one of the true legends of our time.

Now, pray, who is Hon. Chinedu Okoye, the writer of “A Letter to Dora Akunyili”, published in the Vanguard of February 16, 2010? What are his antecedents, his pedigree? In what field of human endeavour have you distinguished yourself, sir? But for the fact that you addressed yourself as an Honourable, and referred, rather ignorantly, to the ‘superiority’ of honourable members over ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which gives the impression you belong in the hallowed chambers of the House of Representatives, one would ordinarily have dismissed your tirades against the person of the Honorable Minister as the ranting of a faceless nonentity.

Still, your diatribe and shallow-minded attempt at personal warfare on the person of Prof. Akunyili, more than anything else, calls into question your qualification to membership of such an august and respectable body. How sensible (or senseless and against all decorum) is it for a Federal lawmaker to write an ostensibly private letter to a member of the Federal cabinet in the same administration, casting aspersions on her integrity, and then cause such letter to be published in a national newspaper?

But for our mercenary politics and the failure of our electoral process which gives rather pyrrhic victories to totally undeserving nonentities across the land, why on earth would you even want to stand on the same podium with someone of Prof. Akunyili’s status, or have your name mentioned in the same breath as hers? Going by her precedents and track performance alone, you certainly would not be considered worthy enough to tie  her ‘gele’.

It is apparent from  your attack that you suffer a very bad, chronic and hopeless case of primeval envy of resonant and consistent successes, and your intents are hardly honourable, sacrosanct,  pristine or pious; for, if they were indeed honourable and not irreverent and self-seeking, Honourable, you would rather have quietly dropped the letter at her office or personally handed it over to her, as I am pretty certain, as members of the same party and in the same administration, you would have had more than enough opportunities to do just that.

So your ox is gored because she called a stakeholders meeting on Anambra, and you asked by what authority? You expose your shallow understanding of nation-building, honourable sir. How, in all fairness, can you question her right and authority to call a stakeholders meeting to resolve issues concerning her state, and by extension, her constituency, as a Federal cabinet member?

So you think the Anambra election is yet to be concluded, almost two weeks after the results have been announced and most competitors, including Prof. Soludo and the PDP which you apparently belong, have publicly accepted its outcome? Prof. Soludo, according to you, is still flying the party’s flag after all these? You amaze us, Honourable sir, with your obvious penchant for a do-or-die election stand.

By now you would have realised that leadership qualities are innate and not acquired. You were either born with it or you simply don’t have it. If you did, you would have thought of calling such a stakeholders’ meeting before someone who had the brains and the brawn, did.

In the mean time, please dump this recurrent penchant for a pecking order; we are just sick and tired of it. Because, in truth, it is of no relevance in a lot of our political processes; members of the House make constant reference to this pecking order as if they suffer a severe case of inferiority complex.  Your contribution to nation building, rather than your position in the pecking order, is what matters, your  Honourable.

Personally, I think your published letter smacks so rottenly of an attempt to seek putrid and mouldy relevance. You are afraid, I dare say, that once your time is up at the Federal House, you will return to the nothingness you were before. Could this be the driving force behind your unmitigated disaster of a market-place rant, your honourable -  the fear of an irrelevant and anonymous tomorrow?

But you could have found a better and more honourable way of becoming relevant when tomorrow comes; like truly standing up for the constituents you represent and letting their wishes and expectations override your primordial needs; like speaking up to get some real, effective and life-changing Bills passed in the House, one that would leave your name etched in gold.

You could also have seized by the horns the opportunity presented by the recent political and leadership vacuum occasioned by President Yar’Adua’s failure to transmit a letter of medical vacation, to make a difference. The whole world, including your constituents, yearned and called for a solution to the problem that threatened to drive us to the edge of the precipice; you kept a safe and deafening silence, your honourable.

Perhaps, afraid to upset the powers-that (used to)-be, sir? You totally forgot Prof. Wole Soyinka’s admonition, passed down some four decades ago, that “the man dies in him who keeps silent in the face of tyranny”. Our country’s situation was tethering on the brink of tyranny by a hitherto-powerful but now-brought-to-size small click of self-serving cabal, and you kept quiet, your honourable.

But Dora didn’t keep quiet. She spoke up and be damned. It takes the courage of one man ( a woman, in this instance) to change the course of history. Whether anyone accepts it or not, what the Professor did, and the revelation that she had some fellow Ministers who shared her view (but too timid to speak up?) served as a necessary catalyst for the National Assembly’s face-saving action a couple of days later, and effectively changed the course of our nation’s history.

Such courageous patriots deserve to be canonised and not insulted by anyone, least of all you of neither a discerning quality nor relevant quantity.

Great Britain once had a Margaret Thatcher, Germany has Angela Merkel, and Liberia has Ellen Sirleaf Johnson. Very soon, we will have our own Dora Akunyili join that impressive list, in spite of people like you. This woman combines brilliance, a track record of performance, courage, fearlessness, love of country, finest education, and a disarming personality – qualities sorely lacking in a lot of pseudo-leaders and leadership pretenders in our country today, but which every sincere Nigerian knows we badly need to take this country from a wasted and almost-failing nation and place her among the comity of developed, successful, feared and respected nations.

Someday, pretty soon, Nigerians will wake up to the reality of a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoner and courageous Professor Dora Akunyili as Nigeria’s first female President.

Mr. Ebimomi, a social activist, writes from Lagos.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.