It was Donald Trump, president of the United States, who recently said, “Without passion you don’t have energy, without energy you have nothing”. Thus, for Isah Dahiru, president of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State, what drives his passion for Pharmacy is, according to him, the desire to care for the disadvantaged in society. In this interview with Pharmanews, the 500-level scholar revealed the peculiarities of studying Pharmacy in the northern part of the country, as well as the achievements and plans of his administration. Excerpts:
What motivated you to study Pharmacy?
So many factors motivated me to study Pharmacy, but the most notable among them was my encounter with a pharmacist who used to visit my grandfather, some years back, to collect some herbal leaves that were mostly common in the north. There was a day I asked him, “What are you doing with these northern herbal leaves?” His response was that they were more effective than conventional medicines. Thereafter, he inspired and triggered in me the passion for Pharmacy. He made me to understand that, after my studies, I could standardise the herbal drugs.
Another reason I chose to study Pharmacy is that I want to establish my own pharmaceutical premises and take care of orphans, especially the almajiris (local name for urchins in the north), the homeless and those people with mental health challenges that are roaming about in dirty clothes, without shelter and without a good life.
I sometimes imagine the kind of hardship being faced by those who fall sick and have no means of taking care of themselves. I want to have my private establishment to celebrate the beauty of life with the less privileged.
How did you become PANS-ABU president?
My best moment in life is when I am doing something that will help somebody. When I was in 200 level, I had the opportunity to represent my class in the pharmacy parliament, a legislative arm of PANS. Also, in my 300 level, I was elected as the financial secretary of PANS-ABU. I also served as the editor-in-chief of Pharmaceutical Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (PMSSN) ABU chapter.
In my fourth year, I was elected as the contact person and Nigeria’s official representative to the International Pharmaceutical Students Federation (IPSF-Netherlands), concurrently serving as secretary general of PMSSN. The journey was not an easy one, but we made it all the way.
At the end of my 400 level, I contested for the presidential seat against two other contestants and emerged as the winner. My main reason for participating in my local chapter PANS politics is to deliver an administration that will maximise the potentials of my fellow students, both academically and morally, and to also make a history in the sands of time with regards to students’ welfare and accord them necessary opportunities that will make them better in their societies.
What achievements have you recorded and what challenges have you encountered so far?
We were inaugurated in January 2018. Despite that we have achieved so many things, notable among which was the free registration exercise carried out for newly admitted pharmacy students. We have recorded massive success in this regard.
We have our year planner which contains an array of our activities from January 2018 to August 2018 when we shall be handing over to the next administration. Our year planner contains projects which we have divided into recurrent and capital. Our recurrent projects are the activities that we hope to carry out on day-to-day basis. These include sensitisation programmes on drug abuse and irrational use of medicines, which will include drug tests, health outreaches, media reach-outs and many more. Provisions of notebooks, faculty cleaning exercise, academic symposia, recreational activities and talent hunts are all part of our recurrent activities.
Our capital projects are mainly structural establishments, such as establishment of students’ recreational garden, construction of faculty sign board, fluorescent inscription in all classes, door tags for staff offices, modification of our walkways and renovation of our PANS secretariat to mention a few. The journey has just started but we are much more than determined to fulfil on our promises.
The present Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, ABU, Zaria, started as a Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology under the Faculty of Sciences in 1968. Over the years, what would you say have been the challenges facing pharmacy education in the school and how best can they be tackled?
Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences ABU, Zaria, is no doubt one of the best schools of pharmacy, not only in Nigeria but around the world. The faculty started under the Faculty of Sciences, awarding BSc. Pharmacy; but over the years it has developed into B. Pharm. awarding faculty. We are hoping that the recent approval of the PharmD. Programme will take effect soon.
Challenges are inevitable; they are everywhere. As the students’ union leader, I interact with so many students, and the most common problem I often hear students complain about is the archaic method of teaching through dictation of notes, without adequate explanation by some lecturers. The world is more of a global village due to the influence of information technology; so, audio-visual teaching and other modern techniques are now the order of the day. Despite the availability of modern teaching aids, well-equipped laboratories and the digitalisation policy by the university, the archaic method of teaching continues to cause much hardship for students.
Accommodation problem is another major challenge being faced by pharmacy students, especially those in 300 level, in ABU. All 300 level students are not entitled to accommodation on campus, perhaps because they go on Industrial Training and Teaching Practice at this level. But 300 level pharmacy students do not participate in any out-of-school programmes as such. So it is unfair and unjust to deny them accommodation on campus. Through this policy, pharmacy students are made to suffer unnecessary hardship. We have been complaining over the years, but nothing has been done to solve this problem. I think a major solution to this problem would be provision of a hostel, specifically for pharmacy students. In this regard, pharmaceutical industries and well-meaning pharmacists may have to come to our aid.
The Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) recently accredited the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences in your school, alongside those of other 17 universities. How do you feel about this development?
I feel more than excited that our school has met the accreditation standard required by the PCN. Since inception of my pharmacy education in ABU, I have trusted the capacity of the school because the faculty staff are up to date, the students are ready to learn, and above all, the faculty management is ever ready to support any development that will move the faculty forward. So we thank almighty God for this achievement.
Are there challenges associated with studying Pharmacy in the north compared to the south?
Here in the north, the schools of pharmacy are very few, compared to the south; so this makes it very difficult to secure admission easily. Secondly, when I was at the PANS national convention which held at Nnamdi Azikwe University, Anambra in 2016, I noticed that the interaction and moral upbringing of pharmacy students in the southern part of Nigeria compared to ours is not the same with ours. I think the reason is because we have Moral Philosophy being taken as a course here; so those of us here hardly discriminate on the basis of gender or regional differences. I hope this is also applicable in other parts of the country.
When you finish from pharmacy school, which area of pharmacy practice would you consider and why?
I would consider community practice. As I said earlier, I want to see myself very close to orphans, almajiris, people with disabilities and those with mental health challenges. Community pharmacy, I think, can bring me closer to these categories of people. I also hope to help in fighting drug abuse and misuse.
Where do you see PANS-ABU by the time you will be leaving office as the president?
By the time I would be leaving office, I would love to see a PANS that has become far better than I met it. I am concerned about leaving behind a long-lasting legacy that would continue to have positive impacts on pharmacy students even when I am no longer here.