The alleged invasion of Ukpabi Nimbo community in Enugu State and the subsequent bloodbath by suspected Fulani herdsmen few weeks to this year’s Annual National Conference of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) which held at Nike Lake Resort, Enugu, Enugu State from 29 May to 3 June 2016, could have led to poor attendance or even outright cancellation of the conference, but for the prompt intervention of the Enugu State government and the federal government.
This was the disclosure of the national chairman of the association, Pharm. (Dr) Albert Kelong Alkali, during an interview with Pharmanews i shortly after the one-week-long event. Dr Alkali, who was full of appreciation to God for making the conference, his first as the national chairman, a success and, arguably, one of the best in the history of the association, promises that next year’s edition will be even greater. Excerpts
What is your assessment of the conference at Enugu, being your first conference as national chairman?
Enugu Coal City 2016 was a huge success and our colleagues can testify to that. I promised our colleagues before the conference that they should be expecting a well-organised and memorable conference. We give God the glory that it happened exactly as we promised. Of course, I cannot solely take credit for the success of the event. The Conference Planning Committee (CPC), under the chairmanship of the hardworking and resilient Pharm. Bridget Okocha, and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) gave their best to ensure that we recorded a huge success to the delight of all delegates, visitors and dignitaries at the conference.
I also want to hinge the success on the fact that we were focused before the conference. We knew what we wanted and we were determined to use all the available channels to achieve it. And I must say that the presence of the state governor at the opening ceremony, and that of his wife during the rally, despite the security challenges in the country, made us happy as it added more glamour to the conference.
Note that when I talk about the conference being a success, I’m not just talking of some aspects – I’m talking of the entire event. It was an all-round success, in terms of money, the turn-out of participants, the presence of dignitaries and government officials, and so on. In fact, we were overwhelmed because the only time we usually have that kind of turn-out is during election periods; but to our surprise, the number of our colleagues that came for the conference was unbelievable.
I will also not forget to mention the contribution of the National Executive Council (NEC), especially the national publicity secretary, for the success because our members were properly informed and adequately mobilised for the conference.
In fact, I was overjoyed when I saw so many of the Fellows of the profession; the present, the immediate past and the former presidents of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN); the immediate past and former national chairmen of ACPN; the registrar of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN); the executive governor of Enugu State and members of his cabinet; and so many others dignitaries.
What informed the theme of the conference, “Manpower Development in Community Pharmacy Practice – Adopting Global Best Practices”?
ACPN is a technical arm of the PSN, just as the PSN is a member of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). The norm is that whatever we are going to come up with as a theme in our annual conferences must be derived from the last theme of the PSN conference, while the PSN on its own part takes its themes from the FIP. The aim is to ensure that whatever information that is disseminated at the top gets to the last cadre. This is why we had that theme for our conference this year.
That aside, the theme was apt, as it was timely. The current economic situation in the country proves that we cannot afford to remain on the same spot if we want progress and development.
Did you harbour any concerns before the conference?
Honestly, one of our fears was that we might not have the honour of having the state government in attendance – which was necessary to further enhance the development of our practice in the country, especially in Enugu State. But we thank God it turned out well.
Another major fear was that delegates might not be as many as we expected, since it is not an election year, but to our surprise the attendance was beyond our expectation.
However, our greatest fear before the conference was the security issue in the state, especially the alleged herdsmen attack on a community in the state. The incident generated fears in the minds of people and we too were concerned that it would affect the turn-out of participants and sponsors. Nevertheless, we were assured by the LOC that the state government was on top of the situation and that the community where the attack happened was far from the capital city.
And indeed by the time we came to the state ahead of the conference with members of NEC, security wasn’t an issue to be worried about any longer; so we quickly passed the information down to all our members and interested pharmaceutical companies that the state was safe. Kudos must be given to the publicity secretary for ensuring that the information was properly disseminated.
There were speculations that the number of participants at this year’s conference was more than that of last year, despite the fact that last year was an election year, how true is this?
I think the speculations were true because, going by the information coming from the registration desk, the participants that attended this year could be close to 1000, if not more. And if we add others who are not community pharmacists, the total number could be between 1,500 to 2000 people.
What should your members expect at next year’s conference holding in Jos, Plateau State?
From the testimonies of the participants of the just concluded conference, one would have no option than to agree that the conference was a great improvement to all the conferences we had had in the past, and when the foundation is solid, it means the building is bound to be good. So we will ensure we build on the success we have recorded at this conference, while also taking steps to correct a few lapses noticed at the conference. So, by the grace of God, next year’s edition will be far better than this year’s.