Woman's Own

June 14, 2024

The Ides of June: Remembering Kadirat, Dora as Democracy Day swings by

The Ides of June: Remembering Kadirat, Dora as Democracy Day swings by

By Morenike Taire, Woman Editor

A child born on June 4, 1996 will be no 

younger than 28 years, yet they live in a 

different world than those who came before them. It is difficult for most of the young persons who had organized themselves into a movement later known as ENDSARS circa September 2020, to imagine a world where they are leaders’ aka military dictators held forth. They do not know what it means to have leaders who were not voted in, or at least pretended to be voted in. They know nothing about heads of states whose word is law with no checks or balances of any sort.

Such was the kind dictatorship that Alhaja Kudirat Olayinka Abiola, one of the wives of M.K.O Abiola who is ascertained to have won the June 12, 1993 presidential elections, had to face headlong. She never lived to tell the story.

As second wife to the presidential aspirant believed to have won the 1993 presidential elections under the defunct SDP, Kudirat had not taken lightly her role of campaigning for her husband and was in fact believed to have secured for him the North West votes, having been raised in the region herself. When Abiola’s mandate was denied and he was eventually jailed, Kudirat wasted no time jumping into the fray. Squarely facing General Sani Abacha’s war tanks, sometimes literally, it would have appeared the last thing Kudirat was considering were her seven young children and her secured, luxurious lifestyle. She had the nation on her mind.

Sold out by her own, her foes finally felled her in the morning of June 4,  1996 as she set off on her daily business. The brutal assassination of Kudirat sent shock waves across the world. Two days later on the 6th  of June, the UK Parliament tabled a motion signed by 54 members, protesting the killing. The text read:

“That this House expresses its horror at the murder of Mrs Kudirat Abiola, wife of Chief Abiola, the winner of the 1993 Presidential Election in Nigeria; extends its sympathies to the Abiola family, and notes the family’s belief that this was the action of the Nigerian Military Government and its henchmen; deplores this murder of an innocent woman who was simply campaigning for democracy and for the release of her husband; and requests Her Majesty’s Government to call for an independent international inquiry into this extra-judicial murder”.

The local and international backlash that was to follow culminated in the restoration of civil rule in Nigeria, in May 1999.


Five years after the brutal assassination of Kudirat, a new activist arose, this time from the east, in the person of Dora Nkem Akunyili. In 2001, she was hired to be the Director General of the NAFDAC under the Obasanjo administration. The country had no idea the hurricane that was about to hit it.

The fake drug cartels that have once again populated the landscape in today’s declining economy did not see Hurricane Dora coming. Little known before this time, Akunyili in her private life was a small, soft spoken mother of six and devoted catholic wife to her academician husband whose good looks could be distracting and her smile disarming. There was absolutely nothing in her mien to suggest she would shake the underworld to its very roots.

Her rise from obscurity meant a rise to instant fame of NAFDAC itself, which now had the reputation of being a no-nonsense regulator. It was anything but business as usual in that institution, and it was just collateral damage that billions of dollars were set up in flames as toxic material under Akunyili’s axe. Incorrigible and incorruptible, it was no surprise that Akunyili made a myriad of very powerful and influential enemies along her seven-year sojourn in running NAFDAC.

Her likeability factor saw a boost as Minister of Communications, but her passion bubbled over, unwaned. With uncommon enthusiasm, she sought to rebrand Nigeria, rolling out an international campaign with the eggheads in the brands industry.    it addresses a fundamental issue of how Nigeria is perceived as a country and how Nigerians are perceived as a people.  Akunyili’s rebranding Nigeria project was criticized with as much passion as it was lauded. What you could not do, was ignore it.

“It addresses a fundamental issue of how Nigeria is perceived as a country and how Nigerians are perceived as a people”, she told everyone who cared to listen.    Her foray into politics proved a lot less fruitful and fraught with controversy. When she lost to Chris Ngige in her bid to secure the Anambra Central Senatorial seat, she vehemently denied a governorship ambition or being an APGA spy.

Her last few years were more quiet, but so strong was her patriotism, so great was devotion that she insisted on contributing to the constitutional conference convened by Goodluck Jonathan in March 2014.

Completely ravaged by cancer and 100 pounds down in weight, Akunyili shocked the world when she appeared at the conference. Fittingly, it was to be her last public appearance. Dora succumbed to death just a month shy of her 60th  birthday on June 7, 2014.

Her children will probably not be activists.

The children

Bemoaning events of his mother’s dark last days, her son Edozie, in an X discussion, recently said: “Exactly. Nobody has sacrificed more for Nigeria than our family and yet we constantly ask ourselves if it was worth it?

“We would give anything to have our parents with us but Naija moves on with corruption and impunity from the top down; seen as normalcy.

“Sadly, she died because she was so engrossed in her work for NAFDAC that she delayed her fibroid hysterectomy for years, which later was found to be cancerous.

“When I see all the lies, corruption and dirty politics, it pains me that we lost our mother for nothing! Was it worth it?”

  “Everyone talks about my father”, says Hafsat, Kudirat’s first daughter who was a Harvard undergraduate when her mother was killed, leaving her with the responsibility for her six younger siblings. “They talk about how great and enterprising he was, how brave and generous. They do not talk about my mother because she was a woman, but my mother was all of those things and more”.

She started a nonprofit in her mother’s honour to capture her essence, the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy but as Nigeria celebrates June 12 as Democracy Day, which of the stakeholders is celebrating Kudirat?

Vanguard News