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How misdiagnosis killed Dora


How misdiagnosis killed Dora

After surviving several rumours of her death,
a former Minister of Information and
Communication and erstwhile Director General
of the National Agency for Food and Drug
Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Professor
Dora Nkem Akunyili, bowed to ovarian cancer
early yesterday.
Meanwhile, her death was blamed on
misdiagnosis by some doctors in the United
States (US). The doctors were said to have
claimed she did not have cancer after her
Nigerian doctor’s diagnosis to the effect she
had the sickness.
News of her death was officially announced by
a former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi,
on the Anambra Broadcasting Service, ABS.
Obi said Akunyili died after a protracted
battle with cancer.
Obi, in the statement, said: “On behalf of the
Akunyili family, I wish to officially confirm the
death of Prof. (Mrs.) Dora Nkem Akunyili, OFR,
in a Specialist Cancer Hospital in India today at
10 am, Nigerian time, after a two-year battle
with cancer. In spite her illness, Prof. Akunyili
was unwavering in her belief in a better
Nigeria. That was why she defied her condition
and was part of Anambra State Handover
Committee and the National Conference.”
The statement continued: “The last time I
visited her in India, even when she needed all
the prayers herself, she was full of concern for
the abducted Chibok girls, security and other
challenges facing the country and told me that
she remained prayerful for the release of those
girls and for God to help President Goodluck
Jonathan to overcome all the challenges facing
the nation.
“She therefore urged all Nigerians to remain
prayerful and committed to building a better
society for our children. We all prayed
together and I promised to be visiting her
every month. “We thank all those who remain
fervent in prayers for her recovery and urge
them to remain prayerful for the peaceful
repose of her soul.”
Concern about Akunyili, who had been on
admission in hospital for an undisclosed
ailment, had made the rounds in recent times.
For several weeks, rumours of her battle with
ovarian cancer dominated the social media.
Although family sources debunked the stories,
the rumours got stronger.
Prof. Dora Akunyi
Her public appearance at the National
Conference heightened anxiety about her well-
being as she looked frail and a shadow of her
old self.
Sunday Vanguard findings showed that the
former Minister’s ill health first came to the
fore a couple of years ago while on a trip
abroad. A medical check up showed she had
The Cable, an online medium quoting a family
source, yesterday, blamed misdiagnosis for
Akunyili’s death.
According to the source, when in 1998, the
former Minister was the Zonal Secretary
(South-east) of the Petroleum (Special) Trust
Fund, Nigerian doctors gave her what many of
her family members considered to be a health
scare. They said she had a growth and needed
The source narrated: “Akunyili, then 44,
decided to travel to the United States, first to
get a second opinion and then undergo the
prescribed surgery. The bill for the medical
trip was $17,000, including $12,000 for the
surgery. During pre-surgery check-up in the
US, the doctors told her the Nigerian doctors
had made a wrong diagnosis and that she did
not need any surgery.
“It was said to be a minor issue that
medication would solve. She thanked the
doctors and, to their surprise, said she was
going to return the money meant for the
surgery to PTF. That was strange. Nigerian
government officials had devised a way of
making sure such monies were not returned to
the treasury.
“The hospital informed the PTF, under the
leadership of Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari,
about one honest Nigerian they had found.
Buhari, himself a straightforward person, was
very impressed. He wrote a letter to Akunyili
commending her honesty. NAFDAC Then came
2001. President Olusegun Obasanjo wanted to
appoint a director-general for the National
Agency for Drug and Food Administration and
Control (NAFDAC) and asked for the
recommendation of an honest Nigerian
pharmacist. Akunyili’s name promptly came up.
“Someone who had heard about her PTF record
recommended her. There was a little problem,
a Nigerian problem. Objections were raised
that the minister of health, Prof. ABC Nwosu,
was an Igbo from Anambra State and NAFDAC,
being a powerful agency under the ministry,
should not be headed by another Igbo from
Anambra. It was also argued that the market
for fake and substandard products were
controlled by the Igbo, with Onitsha – also in
Anambra State – a major centre for the illicit
business. She was going to protect “her
people”, the antagonists said.
“Obasanjo, stubborn to the cause, ignored the
observations and appointed her. She went on
to do a credible job and ended up as one of
the most outstanding public officers in
Nigeria’s history, celebrated locally and
globally. She had lost a sister to fake drugs,
and that was perhaps the impetus she needed
to go on the offensive. Misdiagnosis
Meanwhile, Akunyili always went abroad for
check-ups and she was always given an all-
clear. She continued to look robust and
energetic, and took up another government job
as minister of information and
“But on July 13, 2013, something strange
happened to her. She was preparing to travel
to the United States to receive an award. The
following day was her birthday. Her 59th,
precisely. Then she fell ill. She was physically
weak and having pains. She decided to go
ahead with her trip and attend to her health in
the United States. It was while she was there
that new checks were carried out.
“Alas, she had cancer. The original diagnosis in
1998 was right. But the diagnosis at the point
of surgery was wrong. She became seriously ill
and there were fears she could lose her life.
She was in the hospital for months and only
returned to Nigeria this year when the doctors
said she was improving. Her last public
appearance was at the National Conference in
Abuja, where she was a delegate. Pictures of a
frail-looking Akumyili soon went viral on the
In a tribute, the Chief Medical Director, Lagos
University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Professor
Akin Osibogun, described the news as
“It is indeed sad. I am just hearing the news
from you now. Professor Dora Akunyili was a
personal friend apart from working together
during her days at NAFDAC.
The National President, Association of
Community Pharmacists of Nigeria, Pharm
Femi Adebayo, stated: “My eyes were filled
with tears when I heard about the death of a
faithful and brave Nigerian,
Pharmacist par excellence. Dora rode where
men trembled, especially her fight against fake
counterfeit and adulterated drugs”.
Dora Akunyili, a distinguished citizen and
patriot – President Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan has described late
Dora Akunyili as a distinguished Nigerian and
Patriotic citizen who would be sorely missed
by all those who came in contact with her.
In a statement yesterday, the Special Adviser to
the President on Media and Publicity, Dr
Reuben Abati quoted the President as saying
he ‘ received with shock and sadness, news of
the sudden and untimely death of Professor
Dora Akunyili, former Minister of Information
and Communications.
“The President believes that Professor Akunyili
will live long in the memories of those who
were privileged to know her as a diligent
professional, a public-spirited and forthright
public officer, and as a person of great
The First Lady, Dame Patience Faka Jonathan,
described Akunyili as a “titan,” who left an
indelible mark with the passion and conviction
with which she served the nation. Dame
Jonathan described the late Akunyili’s
departure as “a great loss to the nation and
the womenfolk.”
Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State
expressed profound shock and sadness over
the death of f Professor Akunyili, describing it
as a serious blow to the nation. Chime in a
reaction signed by his Chief Press Secretary,
Chukwudi Achife, said her death has robbed
the nation of one of her finest breed of
Director General of the National Agency for
Food and Drug Administration and Control
(NAFDAC), Paul Orhii, described late Dora
Akunyili as a patriot and a woman of great
According to Orhii: “It is with great shock but
with total submission to the will of God that I
received the sad news of the death of Prof.
Dora Akunyili. She was a woman who loved
Nigeria deeply and dedicated her entire life up
till the very last minute to the service of this
great nation”.
National Chairman of All Progressive Grand
Alliance, APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, said the
death of Professor Akunyili was very
saddening, adding that it was a huge loss to
Nigeria and the womenfolk.
Aka Ikenga also mourned this lady of substance
for among other things, she was a titanic
Amazon, according to Chief Goddy Uwazurike,
the President of Aka Ikenga.
Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle
Amosun, in his own reaction, described the
late former Information Minister, as an
In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant
on media, Mrs Olufunmilayo Wakama, Amosun,
who expressed shock and disbelief at the news
of the demise of the one time Director General
of the National Agency for Food and Drug
Administration and Control (NAFDAC), at the
age of 59, said she deserves Special mention
among nation builders in Nigeria.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu
expressed grief and shock over the death of
He said her death was not just a colossal loss
to the entire country but also an exit of an
uncommon role model.
Ekweremadu, in a statement through his
Special Adviser, Media, Uche Anichukwu,
described the late Pharmacist as a “woman of
substance, unequaled character, and courage
who brought respect and glory to the nation.”
The Campaign for Democracy, CD, described
her as strong and brave woman fought her
last battle with cancer which she has just lost
at the age of 59.
She will always be remembered for her
doggedness,tenacity and courageous pursuit of
ideals both as Director General of NAFDAC and
Minister of Information
Also reacting to the death of Prof. Akunyili,
Chairman, Senate Committee on Independent
National Electoral Commission, INEC, Senator
Andy Uba, said that the late Prof. Akunyili
dedicated her life to the service of her
fatherland and waged great war against fake
and counterfeit drugs in the country.
Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel
Imoke, has described as shocking, painful and
saddening, the death of former Information
and Communication Minister, Professor (Mrs.)
Dora Akunyili,  lamenting that Nigeria has once
again lost one of her gems.
Governor Imoke in a statement signed by his
Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Christian Ita, said: “I
received with a heavy heart, news of the death
of our dear Dora Akunyili, who was one of the
few Amazons of our time.”
Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger state has
described the death of Akunyili as a big blow
to the country whose intellectual competence
and patriotic citizenship cannot be equaled.
He also described her as a fountain of
knowledge, professional expert who exuded
servant leadership during her national service.
According to Joseph Evah, national
coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group, IMG,
Nigerians will miss Prof. Dora Akunyili. She was
the first person to risk her life for President
Goodluck Jonathan during the period the late
President Musa Yar’Adua became sick before
he died. Then, the Yar’Adua cabal, was
determined to deny Jonathan his constitutional
right as Vice-President to succeed the late
President. The people of Niger Delta are
grateful to her and are mourning her passing.
‘Adorable Dora’ (1954 – 2014)
Prof. Dora Akunyili, a recipient of the Order of
the Federal Republic, OFR, resigned her
appointment as Minister of Information on
December 16, 2010, after two years of service
to pursue her political ambition of
representing Anambra Central in the National
Assembly as a senator.
Fondly known as “Adorable Dora”, the
internationally renowned pharmacist,
pharmacologist, erudite scholar, administrator,
and visionary leader, would, perhaps, be best
remembered as the no-nonsense
Director General of the National Agency for
Foods, Drugs and Administration and Control,
Born in Makurdi, Benue State, on July 14,
1954, the deceased hailed from Nanka,
Anambra State. The deceased always had a
knack to be marked for distinction.
A post-doctorate Fellow of University of
London and a Fellow of the West African Post
Graduate College of Pharmacists, it was
NAFDAC, Director General that Akunyili proved
her mettle as a leader and visionary.
She took on the hydra-headed problem of fake,
spurious, unwholesome and substandard drugs,
turning fortunes around for the nation’s
lopsided drug distribution system and quickly
gaining international recognition as a true
advocate for public health and human rights
A multiple award- winner for her work in
pharmacology, public health and human rights,
Akunyili was an embodiment of excellence
academically – passing the First School Leaving
Certificate Examination with distinction at St.
Patrick’s Primary School, Isuofia, Anambra
State, in 1966.
To prove her prowess, she went on to emerge
with Grade I Distinction in the West African
School Certificate Examination of 1973 from
Queen of the Rosary Secondary School,
This superlative performance earned her the
Eastern Nigerian Government Post-Primary
Scholarship and the Federal Government of
Nigeria Undergraduate Scholarship. In 1978,
Akunyili bagged her first
degree in pharmacy, and her Ph.D in 1985
from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Among her outstanding awards were the Time
Magazine Award 2006 ( One of the 18 Heroes
of our Time) – Time Magazine Inc.; Person of
the Year 2005 Award by Silverbird
Communications Ltd; Award of Excellence by
Integrated World Services (IWS), Dec. 2005;
Award of Excellence –
Advocacy for Democracy Dividends
International, Lagos; Meritorious Award
2005;   An Icon of Excellence Award by the
African Cultural Institute and Zenith Bank
Plc; 2005 Grassroots Human Rights
Campaigner Award London Based Human
Rights Defense Organization, 2005; Most
Innovative Director Award Federal Government
College, Ijanikin, Lagos, 2005 and Integrity
Award 2003 winner given by Transparency

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3 Comments on "How misdiagnosis killed Dora"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
chiboy okere

Wow no be small thing oh

Victor Ndah

Ehya the woman has tried sha..

Lilyberth chinwe
Lilyberth chinwe

Sad,,,God rest yur soul ma


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