It is crystal clear that some good virtues like honesty is at the verge of extinction. It has lost it place in this generation. A young man once asked, “What is the point of being honest? Since dishonesty seems to attract more reward than honesty.” “This is a wrong impression that must not be passed to the next generation,” I thought.
“People still get reward for honesty,” I told the privileged audience. To support my argument, I narrated the story of how honesty took Prof. Dora Akunyili to higher grounds.
Prof. Dora was a professor of pharmacy. In 1994, she appointed the secretary, South East region in Petroleum Trust Fund. She served under the chairmanship of Gen. Muhammed Buhari.
In 1998, a Nigeria doctor diagnosed her of cancer and recommended a surgery. Dora, like most people, did not want to die, so she decided to go 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. The bill was fully footed by her employer, PTF. And she left for the United States.
In the United State, during the pre-surgery check-up, a US doctor told her that her medical condition does not require a surgery as proposed by the Nigeria doctor. “It is a minor issue that medication will solve,” said the doctor.
She thanked the doctor and ordered them to return the money meant for the surgery to her employer. That was strange, the foreigner thought, “Government officials of Nigeria had a 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. Muhammed Buhari about one honest Nigerian they have found. Buhari—a man of integrity who cherished honesty— was very impressed. He wrote a letter to her to commend her honest act.
Fast forward to 2001, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the then president felt sick and tired of the Director-General of NAFDAC so he wanted an active and honest person. It is thieves that know the path of thieves on the rock; it an honest person that know where to get honest people. Obasanjo put up a call to Buhari, his old friend. “General, I need an honest and active pharmacy that can take NAFDAC to a next level. Can you recommend one?” asked Obasanjo. Buhari replied after a long pause, “I think there is a woman in the PTF. She can fit in your description.” Buhari recommended Prof. Dora and Obasanjo requested her contact.
It was a bright Sunday Afternoon, Prof. Dora and her family just got back from Sunday service. Her phone rang. She picked up the call, “Hello, good afternoon, who is this?” Dora asked. “Am I on with Prof. Dora? A broad voice asked. “Oh yes! Good afternoon sir, who am I talking to?” answered Dora. “I am Chief Obasanjo, the president of the federal republic of Nigeria,” the voice answered. Prof. Dora near froze up at the other end of the phone. “Good, good afternoon sir,” she stammered.
“Someone recommends you to me and I deemed it fit to appoint as the boss of NAFDAC. So, report in my office tomorrow morning with your credentials. Have a wonderful day,” the president said. “Thank you sir,” replied Prof Dora. She screamed and danced in appreciation to God for the good news.
Prof. Dora was in the president’s office as scheduled. The president got fascinated by her Curriculum Vitae and charisma. He decided to give her the job.
Slight problem arose from the board meeting. Objections were raised against her that the minister of health, Prof. ABC Nwosu, is an Igbo from Anambra State and NAFDAC, being a very powerful agency under the ministry, should not be headed by another Igbo from Anambra. It was also argued that market of fake and substandard products were controlled by the Igbo, with Onitsha—also in Anambra State—a major centre for illicit business. She is going to protect ‘her people’, the antagonist said.
However, Obasanjo who was on a mission to wipe corruption from NAFDAC ignored all these observations and appointed her. She went on to do a credible job and ended up to be one of the most outstanding public officers in Nigeria’s history. Her honesty and outstanding performance earned her another higher job, Honourable Minister of information.
Be honest even when it is the unpopular thing to do. You will be rewarded.