President Goodluck Jonathan, on Tuesday, observed that what endears public servants to the people is not the big offices they hold but the quality of service rendered.
He said that was demonstrated by former Minister of Information, late Professor Dora Akunyili, who he observed used her position as the Director-General of the National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to save the lives of many Nigerians who would otherwise been harmed by fake drugs.
Speaking at the end of the Requiem Mass in honour of the former minister at Queen of Apostles Pro-Cathedral, Garki, Abuja, he noted that when Professor Akunyili assumed office as the agency’s boss, people expressed reservation over her ability to deliver because it was believed that those in the illicit business of fake drugs were her people.
Jonathan said Akunyili, however, proved the doubters wrong with her passion and commitment to rid the nation of fake drugs for the sake of the health of citizens.
The president noted that the former information minister had worked in several capacities including as a university teacher but made the most impression as NAFDAC Director-General even more than as minister.
He said: “Dora was more known when she served as the DG NAFDAC than when she served as a minister. Most Nigerians knew Dora because of her service.
“So, some of the big offices we look for, if God gives us the privilege to serve at the highest level that I’m privileged by God’s grace and your will, we should all serve.
“But what endear you to the people is not necessarily the big offices but the service that we render. Sometimes, even at our lower offices.
“One thing that was very clear was, though she was a lady, she was extremely brave. She could say anything based on her conviction, right or wrong not caring whose ox was gored. That was Dora for you. So, that made her to stand out.
“But her service to Nigerians was mainly when she was able to protect their lives as DG of NAFDAC. She never compromised in terms of combating those who traffic in fake drugs,” the President said.
Bishop of the Catholic Arch diocese of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, also prayed for the Akunyili family, peace in the country and assured that the present security challenges including Boko Haram would be overcome.
In his homily at the Mass, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Bishop Hassan Kukah, counselled that death and resurrection of Christ is an assurance that death is just the beginning of life.
He admonished that rather than worry about the passing on of individuals, people should appreciate God for what he has done for humanity “as weak as we are.”
He observed that Prof. Akunyili was “not the kind of person you come in contact with and will not remember. An encounter with her left an indelible mark.”
The late former minister’s husband, Dr Chike Akunyili, who spoke on behalf of the family, thanked President Jonathan, Cardinal Onaiyekan and Bishop Kukah and particularly noted the valedictory session earlier held by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in honour of his wife.
He pointed out that he was also touched by the personal invitation Jonathan extended to him for a meeting at the Presidential Villa and described the president as “a wonderfully compassionate president.”
Also describing his late wife as “an elephant “, Dr Akunyili praised her for her attitude towards all Nigerians especially the poor.
He revealed that when she was told that she had seven months to live, she said “doctors have spoken but God had not spoken. She went on to live two years and three months,” he said.
Among prominent personalities present at the Mass were First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan; General Yakubu Gowon, ex-governor Peter Obi, members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), politicians and people from all walks of life.