Dora Akunyili’s Biography

Prof Dora Nkem Akunyili, popularly known as Mama NAFDAC and Mama Rebrand Nigeria was a pharmacist and governmental administrator who gained international recognition and won a deluge of awards for her work in pharmacology, public health and human rights. She is reputed to be the person with the greatest number of awards—dead or alive—in Nigeria.

Born in Markurdi, Benue State on July 14, 1954, to Chief and Mrs. Paul Young Edemobi, Dora Akunyili hails from Nanka in Orumba South Local Government Area, Anambra state.

She began her Primary School education at St. Patrick’s Primary School, Isuofia, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State where she obtained her First School Leaving Certificate. Accordingly, in 1973, Prof. Dora Akunyili obtained her West African School Certificate (W.A.S.C.) with Grade I Distinction from Queen of the Rosary Secondary School, Nsukka, Enugu State.

She also won the Eastern Nigerian Government Post Primary Scholarship and the Federal Government of Nigeria Undergraduate Scholarship.

Her scintillating performance in WASC made her receive an undergraduate bursary from both the Eastern Nigerian Goverment and the Federal government of Nigeria, which led to her gaining her First Degree in Pharmacy, B.Pharm (Hons) in 1978 and her PhD in 1985 from The University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Prof. Dora Akunyili was a woman of outstanding achievements and ebullient strides who evidently had a very wide knowledge about what constitutes public service. She was a paradigm of a leader who led by serving and by serving very passionately.

She recorded so many achievements not limited to:

A Post Graduate Fellow of University of London, a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Member of the New York Academy of Science, International Narcotics Control Board, United States Pharmacopeia Expert committee, all amongst a few of the many international organizations she belonged to.

She spent four years as Zonal Secretary of Petroleum Special Trust Fund (PTF), coordinating and supervising all projects in the five south-eastern states of Nigeria (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States).

She served as Director General of National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) from 2001-2008 where she recorded outstanding successes. She brought in a new culture of excellence thus setting an indelible legacy. Consequently, the level of fake and counterfeit drugs in circulation dropped considerably in the country.

Prof. Akunyili also worked as the Minister of Information and Communication between 2008- 2010 where she anchored the Re-branding Nigeria Project, an initiative conceived by her to rebuild the image of Nigeria amongst the comity of nations.

She was among a crop of very few politicians of exceptional virtue and integrity. After going for a medical trip to the U.K. and returning back to Nigeria, she remitted the medical expenses been given her by the PTF(special trust fund) for the medical trip back to the accounts of the PTF, a virtue very few leaders possess.

She was married to Dr. J.C Akunyili, and together they had six children.

Unfortunately, she had a 17-year battle with uterine cancer. She became seriously ill afterwards. Her last public appearance was in 2014 when a dishevelled-looking Akunyili was seen at the National Conference in Abuja.

This remarkable woman passed away on June 7, 2014. She was laid to rest at Agulu, her husband’s hometown in Anambra State.

Before her death on June 7, 2014, she received a total of 930 awards. And according to Historyville, over 100 more were later discovered, stashed away in two boxes by her son, James Louis, two years after her death.

She had the highest number of awards ever received by any Nigerian—living or dead.

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