The news from Mr Peter Obi of the death of Professor Dora Akunyili on the 7th of June in far away India, was not cheering and was indeed too painful to absorb. Till her death, I have not come across Dora in all my life, but I have heard and read and seen much of the reforms she introduced everywhere she went. She was like a harbinger of good tidings, spreading goodness in every path her feet strode.
Since her death, Nigerians of all shades and ethnic colourations have united together in grief and forgotten the #BringBackOurGirls refrain to sing lullaby for Dora, pouring encomiums on this amazon from the east, telling us, like Dorcas in the Bible, of her good qualities. Even the Federal Executive Council (FEC) was not left out. It joined the chorus and held a night of tribute for Dora at the Presidential Lodge even when she was not a member of the council.
With the outpouring of grief and praise, it is indeed good to be good, to do good and stand for good. Dora was like any of us, but she was unlike many of us because she chose to do good and stand for the truth. When Jesus Christ stood before Pilate and talked about the Truth, Pilate asked with scorn: What is Truth? He could ask that because he did not know the truth and refused not to know the truth.
But Dora knew the Truth and spoke the truth and lived the truth. She fleshed this out not by preaching about it or inveighing against it as our Politicians and Pastors and Mallams and Civil Servants and Police Officers and NEPA officers and courts and majority of us are wont to do. She lived it and practised it and breathed it all her life.
This is a woman that was given $17,000 by her establishment to go for medical checkup abroad but returned it when it was confirmed by American doctors that her ailment didn’t need an operation. How many of us could do that now, even including the clergy? This is a woman that couldn’t stomach nonsense, and went ahead to expose the cabal that worked against the emergence of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as president on the demise of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua.
But many of our so called honourable men in the National Assembly knew the correct thing to do, which was(and is) to swear in the Vice President when the President dies or is incapacitated for any reason to perform his assignments. But they needed Dora to heckle and hector them and wake them up from their feigned slumber to the reality of the constitution.
How can we imbibe the virtues of Dora beyond mere sloganeering? How can we immortalise this dogged and brilliant fighter who, for the love of the fatherland, risked her life to see that Nigeria—the country of her birth—lived above parochialism, corruption and inefficiency? It is by standing for the truth and doing the needful. It is by standing for excellence and merit as against favouritism. It by showing love to the weak and weakening those that are strong through honesty and humility—rare attributes that Dora had aplenty.
Dora’s death would not be in vain for us as a nation if we could learn to live for what she stood for. She came to teach us that life should be lived in the service of humanity.