If I die, I die

THE SUN Newspaper- Pade Olapuju

When Information and Communications Minister, Prof Dora Akunyili, presented her memorandum asking her colleagues to wake up to their responsibility to the Nigerian nation, tempers flared and voices were raised. Some of the ministers rose from their seats so their voices would carry in the chambers of the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF). Some rained insults on her. A few asked her if she had weighed the risks of her presenting such a position paper.

There were also threats of sack from those who felt Akunyili should not continue to stay in council after submitting such a strong-worded memo.
Sunday Sun findings showed that the memorandum took the ministers by surprise and if the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Yayale Ahmed, had not had the presence of mind to ask for the copies already in the hands of the members, it would have been difficult to calm frayed nerves at the meeting.

There were 42 copies of the document with all of the members but when the ministers were told to return them, the SGF discovered that three copies were missing. It took another round of search and persuasion before the missing copies were retrieved.
According to one of the ministers sympathetic to Akunyili’s stand, “I salute Dora’s courage because it takes courage to look your boss in the eye and ask him to step down for his deputy. Many of us are also not comfortable with the way things have gone in the country these past two months, which is why we are supporting her.”

A source at the meeting also told Sunday Sun that the memo took the ministers by surprise.
“We all thought it was just another presentation from her ministry until she started reading. You should have seen the faces of some of the ministers. They shouted, hurled insults at her and some pointedly told her her days were numbered in the council. They asked her if she had weighed the risks of her action. It was really a hot session.

“The meeting ended formally around noon but when I sent one of my aides to the Villa around 4 o’clock later that day, he told me some of the rattled members were still cooped up in a meeting, trying to figure out their next line of action,” the source revealed.
After the meeting ended, ministers were seen standing in groups discussing the memo, most wearing frowns on their faces.
But another minister angrily told this reporter when asked if he thought Akunyili was sincere or grandstanding: “What does it matter now if she is grandstanding? She has boldly stood her ground. Let others also boldly step out and grandstand. All I know is that four Katsina boys cannot continue to hold this nation to ransom.”

Why I did not tell Jonathan - Akunyili
Getting Prof Akunyili to speak on why she seized the EXCOF by the jugular last Wednesday was like trying to squeeze water out of a stone. But after a lot of persuasion, the protagonist agreed to speak with Sunday Sun for a few minutes, with a promise to speak more elaborately on all the issues later.

What prompted the bombshell you dropped on the Executive Council of the Federation on Wednesday?
Let’s just say I got tired of the whole thing. It just got too much for my mind. I could no longer live with myself. I was not sleeping well. I was depressed. My husband thought it was malaria but I knew it was not. I went for tests and nothing was found. I simply knew I could not continue to live a lie. On Tuesday night, I could not sleep at all and I spent half the night praying. That was when I decided to do the memo. I wrote and typed it myself. I only told my Assistants and Special Adviser on Wednesday.

What was their reaction?
Naturally, they thought it was too loaded, too much. They wanted me to tone it down. They were worried about something happening to me but I was resolute. I told them ‘if I die, I die.’ I was not afraid. I know that God who protected me through all my battles in NAFDAC is still alive.

Did you tell the Vice President?
No, I did not tell the VP. I felt he would discourage me if I told him what I wanted to do. I did not tell anybody. It was just a burden I wanted to do something about. It was my burden, my decision. While I was praying on Tuesday night, I remembered one sermon given by one bishop. He said, all the time people were screaming ‘crucify him, crucify him’ at Jesus Christ, nobody spoke up for Jesus. If one person had had the courage to say ‘no, Jesus does not deserve to die,’ perhaps he would not have been crucified. Maybe if someone had mustered the courage to speak up for Jesus, the course of history would have changed. But no, everybody joined the multitude to do evil. Remembering that sermon was instructive. I had to stand even if I was standing alone.

Did you at any point in time try to reason with your colleagues in the cabinet, convince them to join your stand?
Oh yes, I did. About four weeks ago, I tried to talk to some ministers but I did not get any encouragement.

What was the reaction of the ministers when you presented that memo?
I’m sure you can imagine it. Everybody voiced his opinion. Tempers rose but I was not bothered. I am happy with myself. I feel good. I feel like a heavy load has been lifted off my chest. That night I slept well.

Now that you have submitted the memo at the council secretariat, what should we expect next?
I am hopeful that the letter transferring power to Dr Goodluck Jonathan would finally arrive so that the tension in the country can be doused. I also expect that when President Yar’Adua returns, he will take over. The VP cannot stop him from returning to his office. It is not possible. Let me also state clearly that nobody wants Mr President dead. No child of God will wish a fellow human being dead. I don’t want my boss to die. Only evil people want him to die. He will return. So all this tension in the country is unnecessary. We all know what is right and that is what we should do.


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