This Cry About Dora Akunyili As Information Minister


Segun Imohiosen



I read in one of the online journals and this writer of with the piece titled “Professor Aluko and Nigeria: JACK OF ALL TRADE AND MASTERS OF NONE” was satirizing some of our very learned professors, centring on Professor Aluko before zeroing on others, and he has this to say:


“It will be nice for Nigerians for once to do well on what they are trained for. It is only in Nigeria that somebody who did religious studies will be working at NNPC as a manager for technology or you will find somebody in Nigeria who read theater arts will be a Director of Banking or a person who is a trained as a pharmacist will be made a minister for information as in the case for Dora Akunyili.”


The observation of this writer is not in any way ambiguous, the point delineated is not an illusion neither is it misleading. What he is driving at is real considering the happenings that have rampantly pervaded the system and polity over the years. However, we cannot run away from certain realities regardless of how tough it may be for us to accept them. The truth remains that life in itself becomes more interesting when some of these realities dawn on us in such a way that we cannot help them from happening. Sometimes it is like the gods imposed them on us and we don’t have a say in it. In the same vein, these gods are sometimes just mere men among us that have become so powerful and deified that we cannot do otherwise once they decree, or agreed on how they want it to be, and so be it. Some call them the “A fo’ba jes” (the King Makers) while some others call them the “Power Brokers”.


Still on the new appointment of the Minister of Information and Communications Professor Dora Akunyili, it has drawn a lot of oppositions in writings, even outright denouncement by some political commentators, analysts and other interest groups expressing their dissatisfaction with this appointment. The issue at stake that has been going round ever since the appointment came to the fore is on the basis of having ‘round pegs in round holes and not square pegs in round holes’. Without any gainsaying, the right persons with the right qualifications should be given the opportunity to occupy positions where they can best fit in and bring the desired results that can better the image of the nation as it is. I am not in any way adverse to this thought pattern and thought line of those who totally subscribe to having men and women of a particular profession take over the reins of  specific offices. One very salient issue to consider is that in a situation when what is expected is not done, then this school of thought is therefore jaundiced; it is then not an excuse for the business of the day not to go on.


In one of the recent reports I read on the erstwhile Minister of Information and the incumbent titled “Between Odey and Akunyili”, it was discovered that the author gave a copious but compendium features of these personalities in terms of what was done in office and what is expected of the incumbent as it were to reflect into-to in order to give a befitting face to the country as a whole. However, with regards to the appointment of the Minister of Information today, there is no doubt that considering her managerial potential and capability that the Professor will deliver. There are always some nonpareil situations that you have to overlook considering their sensitivity to give the benefit of the doubt and to await what to happen. In a matter where the indefatigableness of Dora as the apex person in NAFDAC has revealed the élan with which she worked, the managerial skill that is most needful to handle the office and not just her profession as a Pharmacist has been displayed without any equivocation. As a minister, it is believed that tactically the expectation of such office holders is to take decision and take a very right one for that matter. The ability to deliver is very germane. Congruously this invaluable prerequisite is hand-in-glove for the new minister. 


Akunyili, one can boastfully say has worked assiduously to the point that she has risked her life in order to serve her father land. It is then not surprising that she has the good will of so many people including the media due to the transparency exhibited in carrying out her responsibilities over the years in NAFDAC within and outside the country. It is possible to assume that the dexterity exemplified and displayed over the years could be responsible for this appointment. While I was watching the MONEY SHOW on AIT recently, Biodun Ajiboye the publisher of Telecom Weekly posited in a very calculative and distinctive manner some of the things that spoke for the former President Olusegun Obasanjo while in office. Such as the reputation built over the years as the former military head of states in Nigeria who handed over to a democratically elected civilian president in the history of Nigeria, it was in his tenure as the head of state when the Festival of Art and Culture, popularly called FESTAC 77 that drew the whole world to Nigeria took place. And he later became a democratically elected president of Nigeria for two terms.


But before his assumption as the two term president, he has built a repertory of friends and admirers in and outside the country some former Presidents, Kings, members of the Diplomatic Corps and a host of other strong international figures and very important personalities. It is not quixotic to suggest however that these were certain pointers that made his tenure and governance receive such acclamation world over. And that the arguments is that with or without a very powerful or highly knowledgeable Minister of Information in his tenure, that he would still have done well, the good will and international acceptance paved way for him. The world wide acceptance due to his equilibrium and poise opened doors for him. He was on his own without much ado a Minister of Information. And in spite of all the hullabaloos generated while he was in office and the contrary feelings of some other people then, it is generally believed, regardless of those who think otherwise that he succeeded.


Rather than emphasise the issue of the minister not fitting for this particular appointment, I think it would be advisable that we look beyond this and concentrate more on the strength of this woman who has character, finesse, poise and the charisma to do the job. The advice here is simple that we all should look beyond the profession of who is involved but consider the capacity to deliver. Although this is not to shy away from the reality exemplified by the author of “Between Odey and Akunyili” that the information ministry has never been blessed with a minister who is an information and communication oriented person but if this person has had a track record of successes in other capacities, it could be taken for granted that she would perform. Akunyili’s international reputation and acceptance cannot be down played. The assiduity and equanimity by which she carried out her responsibility in NAFDAC and the breaking of the drug cartel without minding whose horse was gored spoke volumes. It then could be assumed that the forces that were present with her at the other time and supported her to succeed cannot dump her now that is saddled with a more sensitive and tougher responsibility.  


It is important that the minister embarks on the ‘bend down’ principle or theory espoused in some of the teachings of Dr. David Oyedepo of the Covenant University which simply translates going to study and research into areas unknown in order to be adequate and remain relevant. Another very critical substance that will translate to success for the minister is to appreciate the Directors and Heads of Departments who are good in their different areas that they are wholly integrated in the system so that the best can be realised not just for the ministry but for the nation as a whole. The areas of information and communications that could best be handled by those who have both the adequate knowledge and the technical know-how should be allowed to do it. The glory will come to both the ministry and the nation. Sometimes to have the training as an information person may not be total in itself but one very relevant qualification for that office will be some measure of boldness and carriage to challenge inimical authorities that do not have the love of the nation at heart. One of such example is her recent outing to challenge the telecommunications industries in terms of reviewing their tariffs in Nigeria. Don’t forget that Nigeria has become a cash-cow to these organisations most of whom are foreigners. My take here is that consequentially, it is not really an error to have Akunyili at this point in time as the Information Minister taking cognizance of her pragmatic approach to issues.


One particular area of concern that I consider to be the pulsation for all in the whole of this is in repositioning and re-branding of Nigeria in other to redecorate the battered image created by the adverse and negative reportage of some of the international media. And I am very confident of the fact that with the achievements of the person in question, her clout within and in the international scene, her personality will in no doubt inject some measure of good fortune for Nigeria.


Segun Imohiosen writes from Abuja.