Announcer: …and now your Tonight Show host, Dr. Njakiri Damages.
Dr. Damages: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Travelling on Lagos-Benin expressway the other day, a female driver cruising at 100 km/hr on a 55 km/hr road looked in the rearview mirror and spotted two cops on a pick-up truck pulling into the road from their hideout. She noticed that the cops were speeding up to her. She stepped on the accelerator, cruising at 120 km/hr. The cops followed in hot pursuit. Along the road, she saw a petrol station. She pulled in, slammed the brakes, jumped out of her car and ran into the ladies room. When she came out, the cops were standing round her car, waiting. With a smile on her face she said to the cops, “I sure say una no think say I go make am, no be so?”
Talking about women who know how to charm cops, our guest tonight knows a thing or two about that topic and many others. She was the former director of NAFDAC and former Minister for Information. She just came off a brutal senatorial race against the former governor of her state. Please give a warm welcome to Professor (Mrs.) Dora Nkem Akunyili.
(Dora Akunyili walks onto the stage, shakes Dr. Damages’ hand and takes her seat.)
Dr. Damages: Welcome to the show. This is one of those rare occasions when a newsmaker seeks us out. Why did you want to appear on our show?
Dora Akunyili: I admire the work you do. I want to say something very important and what better place to say it than on your show. Nigerians know you’re a serious interviewer who is not afraid to ask any question. So I want to subject myself to your line of questioning and prove to Nigerians that I am still the Dora they fell in love with. I have not changed in spite of my involvement in elective politics.
Dr. Damages: Yes. That’s a good place to start. Your fans feel that your adventure into elective politics has damaged the Dora brand.
Dora Akunyili: Tufiakwa! Not at all. The Dora brand is still the gold standard. It is as solid as coke. No shaking. My enemies can concoct stories about me but none of their evil stories will stick on me. God forbid! (She signs herself and mutters the Hail Mary).
Dr. Damages: Do you have any regrets running for office?
Dora Akunyili: Not at all.
Dr. Damages: Not even one?
Dora Akunyili: Well, my only regret was going to Anambra State to partner with Gov. Peter Obi. You see, when you’re away from home and you depend on the newspapers for your stories, you’re setting yourself up to be fooled. I thought Gov. Obi was a good Catholic because I heard that the Pope endorsed him in last year’s gubernatorial election – and that God then ratified. In fact, I believed he was almost a holy man. Then I got to Anambra State and saw that he was a hypocrite. He carries around the rosary but he is just another crooked politician. The man is a creation of the media. He has a group of media men cleaning his image. The one that really shocked me was my discovery that he is not even popular in Anambra state. I could not believe it. If I had known, I would have remained in PDP and run for the senate seat under PDP. I would have won the election hands down. I was fooled by Peter Obi. He is surrounded by sycophants who won’t tell him a single truth. They deceive him by calling him “Okwute,” Rock of Ages. Meanwhile, he is just a mound of dust. Uche Ekwunife did the right thing – she did not allow Obi anywhere near her campaign. She kept her distance. She knew Obi was toxic. I did not know that. The man lives a fictional life. He is just a fraud sold to the public as a man with a great narrative.
Dr. Damages: How could you say that about a man who brought out bags of rice and bales of textiles to support your senate run?
Dora Akunyili: Who told you that Gov. Obi brought the money used to buy them? They were all bought by my brother, Anayo. Gov. Obi knows only his pocket. He won’t even give anything to Catholic priests who received and transmitted the message that he was the pope’s candidate last year. The man is just a miser.
Dr. Damages: Isn’t judicious use of government resources what we want?
Dora Akunyili: Yes. But being a miser does not mean he is using government funds well. He is not a miser when it comes to stuffing the funds in his pocket. The first time you meet Gov. Obi he swears to you in that innocent voice of his: “If I steal a kobo of government fund, may God punish me and my children.” Like most people, I believed him. Then, right there in your face, he goes on to stuff his pocket. He is such a fake.
Dr. Damages: A little while ago, you mentioned Anayo. I believe he’s your brother who that was kidnapped in 2008?
Dora Akunyili: Yes. That’s my very dear brother in whom I’m very pleased. He was suffering as a teacher at a community college in Virginia when I advised him to come back home. I told him that the miserable life of a teacher was not his divine portion. He listened to me and came back home. He started Solid Base Contractors LTD. When you have a big sister like me, your problem will never be cash but how to spend your money. I hooked him up and the rest is history.
Dr. Damages: How is he doing?
Dora Akunyili: (Smiles). I just told you. He is managing.
Dr. Damages: Just managing?
Dora Akunyili: We all are managing. Or what do you want me to say?
Dr. Damages: When someone who owns the grand Fidelma Hotel, you don’t say he is managing.
Dora Akunyili: That’s if he really owns it. He may be holding it in trust.
Dr. Damages: In trust? For who? (Dr. Damages detects a glint in her eyes, then a sly smile). Don’t tell me the rumor is true.
Dora Akunyili: Rumor again? What rumor?
Dr. Damages: Some people – I won’t be surprised if they’re Satan-induced enemies of your progress – say you’re the owner of Fidelma Hotel. They allege that you own it, but use your brother as a front. And they say the hotel’s name combines “Fidel” from Fidelia, the name of your late younger sister, and “ma,” from Ijeoma, your first daughter’s name.
Dora Akunyili: (For a brief moment, she looks anxious and worried. Perspiration forms on her forehead. But she recovers quickly and composes her face). My brother, leave that thing alone!
Dr. Damages: Is that your final answer?
Dora Akunyili: (With exasperation). I said leave that thing alone. Envy will kill all my enemies!
Dr. Damages: Okay, let’s return to the subject of trust. Your family set up and runs Paul and Grace Foundation to assist the poor. Why are the trustees of that Foundation all members of your family – mainly you, your brother and his wife?
Dora Akunyili: We set up the Foundation in memory of our parents. For something like that, you just have to pick people you trust. You don’t want the wrong people to come in and mess things up.
Dr. Damages: I hear you! Still on trust, how were you picked to be the Zonal Secretary of the Petroleum Special Trust Fund (PTF)?
Dora Akunyili: Gen. Sani Abacha heard all these great stories about the good work I was doing at UNN and in Anambra State and he picked me. That’s the honest truth, before God and man. It was purely on merit. Don’t listen to what my enemies are saying.
Dr. Damages: I didn’t hear anything. I just wanted to know. I know the Devil has raised so many enemies against you.
Dora Akunyili: Yes oh, my brother. But the Devil is a liar.
Dr. Damages: From the very beginning of time.
Dora Akunyili: I wish to place it on record that the PTF job was purely on merit.
Dr. Damages: You worked with Gen. Muhammadu Buhari at PTF. What kind of leader was he?
Dora Akunyili: I didn’t report directly to him. But my encounters with him were decent. He seemed like a decent man.
Dr. Damages: What do you mean by decent? Is decent a code word for something else?
Dora Akunyili: Unlike other generals in his position, he did not make a pass at me. With him, beautiful women like me were safe. And that matters a lot.
Dr. Damages: Really? Are you saying sexual advances are rampant in the corridors of power?
Dora Akunyili: Oh, yes. Where in Nigeria have you been? If you like, ask Kema Chikwe and Pauline Tallen what we were subjected to as ministers under Obasanjo. It is terrible. It’s a plague.
Dr. Damages: Subjected to what?
Dora Akunyili: Subjected to everything.
Dr. Damages: Under Obasanjo?
Dora Akunyili: (She flashes a smile).
Dr. Damages: But who subjected accomplished women like you, Kema and Pauline to anything?
Dora Akunyili: You can never get me to mention his name.
Dr. Damages: (Bends towards her). You can whisper the person’s name to me.
Dora Akunyili: Never!
Dr. Damages: How do you expect such a scourge to end if powerful women like you cannot come out and expose such illicit actions?
Dora Akunyili: I pick my fights and pleasures.
Dr. Damages: Why don’t you want to put up a fight on behalf of the young girls of Nigeria?
Dora Akunyili: My brother, there’s no palm wine tapper who will reveal everything he sees from the top of the palm tree.
Dr. Damages: Not even for the sake of poor and the helpless girls?
Dora Akunyili: No. That Baba is too much oh!
Dr. Damages: Are you talking about…?
Dora Akunyili: I didn’t mention any name. I didn’t say anything! Please, let us start afresh.
Dr. Damages: If you insist, Honorable Minister.
Dora Akunyili: No, senator-elect.
Dr. Damages: But you were not…
Dora Akunyili: I was! The good people of Anambra elected me. That man stole it. In fact, why don’t we begin with my senatorial contest against Chris Ngige?
Dr. Damages: I want us to end with that.
Dora Akunyili: Ok.
Dr. Damages: Why don’t we start with Ifeoma Ethel Okpala?
Dora Akunyili: Who?
Dr. Damages: Ifeoma Ethel Okpala.
Dora Akunyili: Who’s that?
Dr. Damages: Your niece.
Dora Akunyili: Oh. You pronounced the name one kind way.
Dr. Damages: How is she?
Dora Akunyili: She should be fine, I guess.
Dr. Damages: Where is she?
Dora Akunyili: I don’t know.
Dr. Damages: You don’t?
Dora Akunyili: I swear to God, I don’t know. I can kiss my rosary if you don’t believe me. (She brings out her rosary from her handbag)
Dr. Damages: No need for that. I believe you.
Dora Akunyili: I for say.
Dr. Damages: But you know that she was arrested at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos for trying to board a flight to London with cocaine hidden on her body. She had 20 wraps ingested and another 54 wraps packed and worn as a diaper.
Dora Akunyili: I heard about that.
Dr. Damages: But you have not followed up on it.
Dora Akunyili: Not really. Am I the police? And you know the campaign just consumed all my time.
Dr. Damages: I understand she isn’t just your niece. She also worked for you at NAFDAC.
Dora Akunyili: She did? It has been a while. A lot of my people worked at NAFDAC. How could I know each and everyone of them?
Dr. Damages: Well, but this woman is your niece. Anyway, there’s a news flash… she is back in London.
Dora Akunyili: Really? When? How? Why? You don’t mean it.
Dr. Damages: Do you know how she made it out of Nigeria?
Dora Akunyili: No.
Dr. Damages: How did she go from NDLEA detention back to London without a trial? Forgive the expression, but some mongerers of rumor say you used your connections in government to get her freed while other suspects, from less influential families, are still languishing in detention?
Dora Akunyili: I have no idea how she got out. I have no hand in any of that. I think you should ask the NDLEA.
Dr. Damages: As a former image maker for Nigeria, the woman who championed rebranding of Nigeria, what kind of image does that give Nigeria – as a country serious about fighting narcotics?
Dora Akunyili: Like I said, I am no longer a Minister.
Dr. Damages: So?
Dora Akunyili: In fact, I came here to remake my own image. I’m not here to talk about people who are willing tools in the hands of the devil.
Dr. Damages: You mean that your niece was a tool of the devil?
Dora Akunyili: I did not say that. In fact, I want to go back to the Green room and come back to the stage. This whole interview started on a very wrong footing. Let us start from the very beginning.
Dr. Damages: (Looking into the camera). We’ll be right back.
… to be continued.