Yusuf Hassan Wada, a 21-year- old pharmacy student of Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, is the winner of the recent Pharmanews PANSite of the year award. In this interview with Pharmanews, he explains how he achieved the feat, while encouraging other youths to follow their passion, regardless of difficulties, stating that it will pay off in the end. Excerpts:
Tell us a little about your early life.
I was born on 12 July 1997, and I started my education in Lagos, precisely in Festac. My father had been working here, but he was later transferred out of Lagos. I concluded my primary school education in 2006, and was enrolled into a boarding school in Jigawa, same year. I graduated from secondary school in 2013.
I went to Usmanu Danfodiyo University for a remedial programme because I couldn’t make it for UTME that year. I got admission into Usmanu Danfodiyo University School of Matriculation Studies, for a year programme, which qualified me for admission to study Pharmacy in 2014.
Presently I am a 500-level student of Pharmaceutical Science, looking forward to my graduation by November 2019.
Why did you decide to study Pharmacy?
Actually, as at when I went to the School of Matriculation Studies, I didn’t know much about Pharmacy, but I’ve always had a passion to serve humanity. I look forward to solving many problems facing my society, one of which I discovered was drug abuse. I was also on the lookout for the profession which would enhance my campaign against drug abuse in my community. And then I realised Pharmacy would be of great help to my vision, so I went for it.
When I was in secondary school, I didn’t have a passion for any medical course because I had the notion that most medical practitioners don’t usually have time to rest. However, as soon as I got into the School of Matriculation Studies, I met a lot of people who encouraged me to go for Pharmacy.
As a student, I have started so many things. I have presented so many articles on drug abuse, and currently I am undergoing a state survey in Sokoto. I am carrying out a survey on the menace of drug abuse amongst students. We got approval from the state government early this year, and we are looking at the possibility of publishing it this year.
So how has the journey been, combining your studies with social and community activities?
It has been a long journey for me; a long journey in the sense that it is not an easy task combining writing, doing researches, engaging in pharmaceutical work and also being active on social media and community campaigns. But, then, everything has been purposeful and we are here now.
What prompted your advocacy activities?
Actually, my passion to rid my community of drug abuse and misuse triggered my campaign against the menace. The journey began when I started writing articles on drug abuse, and I have more than 25 articles published already. I started writing for national dailies just last year, and my awareness campaign on drug abuse in secondary schools was along that line too.
The vision for advocacy against drug abuse has taken me to several places I wouldn’t have gone by myself. I was at the health minister’s office at one time to seek approval for my advocacy. I became a member of the Arewa Foundation, and I was given several portfolios, such as the marketing manager and the programme coordinator. We took our advocacy and television programme to almost 35 schools in the first phase last year, and we have many programmes still running. We are trying to see how we can incorporate more schools into the programme.
How were you able to reach out to so many secondary schools within a short period of time?
I don’t live in Sokoto, but I was able to maximize my time during the strike from October 2018 to February 2019. I used that opportunity to impact the students as we did the campaign for four weeks, and went to two schools a day and sometimes three in a day. It depended on the location. We reached out to almost 1000 students in a day and collaborated with NDLEA and also some clerics.
What were some of the responses you got from the students?
The truth is that most students do not know that drugs or substances should not be abused. In fact, they don’t have enough information on the dangers of drug abuse. Thus, most times when we ask them what they have gained from our presentations, they come out to say we have really impacted their lives through our lectures.
Also at the 53rd Annual Convention of Science Association of Nigeria, I presented a paper on drugs and substance abuse among youths in Nigeria, and I was given a certificate of participation. I was also one of the facilitators at the Annual National Conference of Hospital and Administrative Pharmacists of Nigeria in Sokoto, where I presented a paper on drug abuse.
Have you had any collaboration with NAFDAC, or their representatives?
We haven’t done that yet, but I have met some NAFDAC officials and we have talked at length to see how we could collaborate with them in the future.
How did you feel when you were nominated for the Pharmanews PANSite of the Year award?
I was not aware of the nomination initially. I just received a call from a friend who told me that a lot of people had been nominating me for Pharmanews award. So I checked the website and saw it. To be very sure of the whole thing, I asked some of my friends if they had heard of something like this before, but they said not at all.
Still bewildered about the initiative, I tried to call up a few of those that called that they had nominated me, asking why they did so. And to my greatest surprise, they said they had been appreciating the work I am doing and they felt winning this award would just be a token reward for my efforts in drug abuse advocacy.
Then coming to the voting stage, I also received a call that my name had been shortlisted for those that they would vote for, and I was overwhelmed. I first thanked God that I was even one of those that were nominated for the award, and then pleaded with my friends to vote for me. They assured me of their votes and added that they would even mobilize others to vote for me. And lo and behold, at the end of the poll, I emerged the winner.
I wish to use this medium to thank all friends and colleagues who voted me for this award. I am most grateful, very excited and delighted to be the first winner of the Pharmanews PANSite of the year award.
Now that you have won, what’s next?
Like I said earlier, I believe in service to humanity and contributing my quota to the advancement of my society. Prior to winning this award, I had the vision of bringing more people into public health and drug abuse advocacy. I also have great passion for pharmaceutical journalism; that was why I started writing from my secondary school days, although there was a lot of discouragement then.
My vision is to encourage more youngsters to follow their passion and keep at it, even in the face of several challenges; definitely, they will overcome them all. For pharmacy students, I want to admonish those who have a flair for writing to develop the skill as there are few pharmacists practising pharmaceutical journalism.