Mr Ifeanyi Atueyi is the Vice President, Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy and a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists. He shares his experiences with SUCCESS NWOGU.
How do you feel at 80?
I give gratitude to God that I am of those whose lives have been spared to attain the age of 80. When I was much younger, we used to look at people of 80 as very old. But at 80, I feel I am not old as such because what I was doing when I was 60, I still try to do most of them today.
Like what and what?
The way I work. There is only a little reduction in my capacity and enthusiasm for work and even in my productivity. I have cut down on my movement but I think I am more productive. I still write. My brain is still okay. I test my brain to see if I suffer from dementia but it has not come. I still remember things and I am still versed. I write a book every year. When I fail to do that, I will know I’m getting old but I have not skipped any year.
So how many books have you written already?
I have written 20 books. The latest is my autobiography. The autobiography is my 20th book. I co-authored a few of my books. I had my son and a few others to assist me but after a few books, I started writing alone.
How has it been so far?
At 80, God has blessed my family. We have five children and 12 grandchildren. We do not see much of our grandchildren except those who are here in Nigeria. They are doing well in different areas of life.
I married my wife, Joan, who is from Mbaise, Imo State in May 30, 1970. The marriage has been very lovely.
In terms of my association, I have been an active member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria from the 70s till today. I have kept on attending the annual national conferences. In fact, I had started attending in 1973 when it was held in Kano and since then I have never missed any. Each outgoing president gives me a plague for consistency. This year’s event will be held in Kaduna in November. By God’s grace, I will be there and it will be the 46th consecutive time at the conference.
I also attend Full Gospel Businessmen Fellowship. I attend national directors’ meeting on Thursdays. We also have chapter meetings. It is a fellowship that I’ve been part of since 1989. I was a chapter president, after that I became a field representative and later got promotion to national director, which is the highest level of promotion. Because of my age, we are made Emeritus National Director.
I am an Okija man. There is Okija -in- home Club of which I am one of the founders. The club was founded in 1972. Today I am the only living pioneer; we have lost others. Though we are all in Lagos, our focus is on how to improve Okija. At the end of every year, we go to our hometown for a symposium or any other activity.
In August 2004, a shrine in Okija was invaded by the police who found human skulls there. What has become of that shrine today?
There was Okija shrine. It had been there and people knew about it in 2004 when it was learnt that politicians and businessmen were going there, especially when they had misunderstandings. The shrine was used to settle cases and heavy fines were imposed on people. It was alleged that the shrine was capable of killing the offender and for anybody killed; their property would be brought to the shrine. But some of us know that it was a trick. Some people made money at that time.
In my town, people built very fine houses and were living well. It was a business. They hired commercial motorcyclists to assist them bring clients. They also had agents in some villages who brought them clients. Politicians were also going there to settle issues. It was idol worshipping and immoral. But since the government stepped in, the issue has gone down but it is not totally dead. It is no longer a lucrative business.
The incidence of use of fake drugs has not yet abated, what is the way out?
In the mid 90s up till early 20s, it was very terrible in the country. The negative impact was felt because many manufacturing plants closed down as they could not survive anymore. But there was a dramatic improvement when Prof Dora Akunyili was appointed as the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control. Things started to improve although there are still fake drugs in the country today, and not only in Nigeria.
The US was respected for being strict with food and drug administration but there are still fake drugs there and all over the world. It is also a problem that has been worsened because of porous borders, so products are able to come in. Also importers of fake drugs can still use the airports in such a way that the Customs won’t detect. The current NAFDAC DG, Prof Moji Adeyeye, is doing very well.
You are the publisher of Pharmanews. What inspired you to move from practising pharmacy to writing and publishing?
I dabbled into what I am doing. I did not know about publishing or journalism but God has a way of working. I did not know the reason why I studied Pharmacy. When I was going to the university, my only interest was to get a Bachelor of Pharmacy and not to practise Pharmacy. In fact an uncle who brought me up continued asking me what I wanted to do. I did not have any idea of publishing.
But in 1974, we attended National Pharmaceutical Conference in Kano. It was peculiar because at the conference, my good friend, Dr. Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, persuaded me to serve as the Editor-in-chief of the Pharmaceutical Society journal. The editor at that time was very ill. He later died. Reluctantly, I accepted. I found it very interesting and I put all my zeal into it. I took interest in the journal even more than my job which I was being paid for at that time. I was the Production Manager for a company in Abuja and I was editing that journal. I really improved the news collection and revenue for the journal. However, after serving for four years, I gave it up.
In 1978, I had a problem in my work place. I had worked in many places, I had worked in Pfizer, West African Drug Company, a Lebanse Company, and also for the Federal Government. But I did not have job satisfaction. The last quarter of 1978 was full of confusion for me but it was in that confusion of how to manage my life that God told me what He wanted me to do. That was how the idea of Pharmanews came. So in January 1979, I resigned. I have been doing that from January 1979 till date and I have never looked back. I have focused on it for the 40 years. I have used it to pay my bills.
What kind of experience did you have as a child?
I was born in October 1, 1939. My father, Job Atueyi, died in 1947 when I was eight years old. But my mother lived long, she died at 92 and she lived with me for her last nine years until she died. I learnt a lot of things from my mother. She was religious. She was not well educated but at her time, she was one of the ladies that had a bit of education. She could read the Bible and was a very committed Christian.
She hated stealing, telling lies and borrowing and I learnt these principles from her. So I hate borrowing. I have never borrowed any money from anybody or any bank. To start Pharmanews, I never borrowed any money from anybody or organisation. I needed N2,000 as capital to start the business. For the first edition of Pharmanews, God provided the money. I was looking for colleagues who would support me, they all agreed.
Then I asked: ‘Please can you support me with funds to help me get out the first publication?’ Surprisingly, nobody did! But God took me to a company in Lagos. I shared my idea with an English man who was running the company and had never met before. He told me he would pay for adverts in advance from May till December. I never thought of it. And that each January, he would renew the contract. That was how Pharmanews started publication. Up till today, that money has been keeping us.
What about your education?
I had primary education up to Standard Six at Okija. Since I lost my father in 1947, my mother took care of me and my younger sister. She paid the fees. But in 1954, I was about to get into secondary school and it became another thing. So God sent a helper, Mr Daniel Erinne. He saw the potential in me and told my mother not to worry about paying my school fees and that he would take care of that. I later attended Merchant of Light Secondary School, Oba, Anambra in 1954. Then I moved to Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha. I sat the Higher School Certificate examination in 1959 and was admitted into the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1961.
What food do you enjoy the most?
When I was younger, I used to eat whatever was food and any drink that was sugary. I liked fried food like plantain. I even thought soft drinks were better than water. I nearly damaged my health completely with wrong foods – junk food – until I realised what was happening. I might have died young if not that God saved me.
How do you keep fit at your age?
I walk, that is the exercise I now do. I do not sit for a long time. It has been helping me.
Source: This interview was first published on The Punch Newspapers