The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) is the oldest most organised and most stable professional association in Nigeria. This reputation was built over the years with the gift of exceptionally good leadership. These gifted men (and women) were able to rally all elements in the profession with a unique mantra: “As men (and women) of honour, we join hands” to pursue Pharmacy’s common interests. They succeeded to a large extent in giving Pharmacy a new name and identity in corporate Nigeria. Through their leadership, pharmacists moved from being mere government dispensers to being first class scientists with specialisation in different fields of Pharmacy. The roles of pharmacists in the health care delivery system also grew tremendously in stature.
These leaders ensured that the organisation of the PSN was firmly established with the specialty or technical groups coming on-stream: NAIP (1981), NAGPP (1981), NAAP (1981) and NAHP (1982) to take care of specific needs and interests of Industrial, Community, Academic and Hospital Pharmacists. All members of this unique generation of leaders deserve accolades and should be proud of their outstanding contributions.
The history of the PSN has been well documented by the late Dr Fred Adenika in his book, Pharmacy in Nigeria (pp. 19-27). It is expected that some of the living members of this generation of leaders will document their experience to fill the gap.
The generation of leaders from 1997 to date have put in their best to sustain the momentum generated by the earlier leaders in the mould of Chief Olu Akinkugbe, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi and Dr Philip Emafo. From Lady Eme Ekaette through Alhaji Yaro Budah, Dr UNO Uwaga, Sir Anthony Akhimien, Azubike Okwor to Olumide Akintayo – they have collectively and individually kept the flag flying and moved Pharmacy up the ladder of progress.
However, along the line, there seems to have been some form of disconnect between the old and new generation pharmacists. I have noticed, over the years, that the key personalities running the affairs of the society remain the same. Some have even started to talk about a cabal passing the baton of leadership from one member to the other.
A few years ago, a group on the PSN Facebook page took up a fight against the PSN leadership, threatening to lead a boycott of payment of annual due to the PSN. They accused the leadership of being autocratic, indolent and lacking in integrity. They even went to extent of giving the President an ultimatum to provide specific answers to their numerous complaints.
I was not amused by the vituperations and antics of this group and I joined the debate with the hope of providing insights to the issues raised. I made it clear that our leaders were making a lot of sacrifice to keep the hope of a better pharmacy practice in Nigeria alive and that it would be wrong to reward them with abuses and unsubstantiated allegations. I warned the group that they would fizzle out of reckoning if they didn’t change their rhetoric and tactics. This notwithstanding, I knew that something was wrong somewhere and we have a responsibility, as leaders, to dig deep and locate the real issues.
In the past 10 years, I have had the privilege of working very closely with all Presidents of the society within the period. Dr Uwaga was just about to finish his term of office when I returned to Pharmacy after five years sojourn in the hospitality industry. He is a good ambassador of Pharmacy and he has proved his worth by moving on to become President of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM). In that position, he has projected, positively, the image of pharmacists and the pharmacy profession. Sir Anthony Akhimien succeeded Uwaga in a keenly contested election where the top three candidates were separated by as few as two to three votes!
Sir Akhimien was a very passionate President. He dedicated his entire being to the service of the profession and I was part of his presidency, as Chairman of the Presidential Inauguration Committee (2007), Chairman, Conference Planning Committee (2008) and member of the National Executive Committee, NEC (2009). Together, we planned to have a model hospital practice setting which will allow our hospital colleagues to practice decently in the hospitals. The proposal that was submitted and debated did not see the light of the day due to the burden of PCN/Ahmed Mora issue that bugged the concluding part of Tony’s presidency. You can accuse Sir Akhimien of anything in the world but his commitment to the pharmacy profession is unquestionable.
Pharm Azubike Okwor was returned unopposed as PSN President at the 2009 conference in Benin. I was a member of NEC throughout his presidency by virtue of my position as the National Chairman of the Association of Industrial Pharmacists (NAIP). He achieved the feat as the first and the only Nigerian (if not African) to be given the Fellowship of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). I tried to bring up the idea of the model hospital practice setting which, unfortunately, did not fly with him. He has very strong convictions and can hold his own in adversity.
Olumide Akintayo took over, again unopposed, at the 2012 conference in Abeokuta. Right from the start, he left no one in doubt as to the direction his presidency would take. He was ready and prepared to defend Pharmacy with all the arsenals at his disposal and he has discharged this duty creditably well. I was a member of his NEC for less than one year but we had worked and are still working together. His presidency has so far witnessed improved visibility for the profession, the inauguration of the Nigerian Academy of Pharmacy; and we are on the verge of having a commercially viable organisation in Ultra Logistics Company Limited.
I have gone to this length in order to debunk the erroneous impression about the leaders of the profession in recent times. I have observed, at a close quarters, that it has all been sacrifice and selfless service and certainly not the tale of ‘honey’ that flows from all corners of the President’s office. It is possible that some of the stories emanated from their ubiquitous presence at the secretariat, domination of discussions at conferences and the few board appointments that seem to rotate round their numbers. Nothing compares to an individual’s records of service. I have asked President Olumide to follow Dr Uwaga’s footsteps and move on to something else after his presidency. Overall, the society should be grateful to these gentlemen for spending their time to serve.
Also at close quarters, I have observed that there has been too much emphasis on the position and person of the President. It is a dangerous development which can make the President to hear only his own voice. The position of the secretary (and all other executive offices) need to be strengthened and made more competitive.
As we move into a new era, which is fast approaching, it is important that we set the agenda for the new set of leadership that will soon be enthroned. I have always believed that leadership is about service and it is the responsibility of the leader to know what the constituents need and to meet this need using all the instruments of power at his or her disposal. We cannot and must not be satisfied with the status quo as represented by organisation of conferences and the likes. Each President and team must have a fundamental project which will be the hallmark of that regime. This time in the history of the PSN requires a different set of leadership with a new set of skills and competencies. The little problem of yesterday has become a festering sore of today. We need a leadership that will address the following key issues among others:
– The number of universities offering Pharmacy has ballooned in recent times. How are they managing with the observed dearth of teachers in all the universities? How is the staffing problem affecting the quality of their products? Is there anything we can do to encourage and make career in academia attractive to young pharmacists? What is the position of research in the universities? What can the society do to draw attention and funding in this direction? How do we ensure that we have adequate tools for teaching and the teachers remain motivated?
– There are many cases of new graduates roaming the streets looking for internship placement. I believed this should not be so. PSN should work with the PCN to actively encourage companies, pharmacies, universities and hospitals to open up new internship places. There must also be direct action to make the young graduates to stay in Pharmacy post NYSC.
– The industrial sector is still enmeshed in many issues from the high fragmentation to low quality and the disorganised distribution system. With a huge potential demand base due to high population, we are still very far from optimal level of performance.
– The hospital system needs a new approach to make it conducive for ideal Pharmacy practice. What can we do to bring a new impetus towards the direction of change?
It is my sincere wish that the election in November this year will throw up the right kind of leadership for the profession. The day is almost here with us.
Dr. Lolu Ojo BPharm, MBA, PharmD, FPCpharm, FPSN, FNApharm, DF-PEFON