Issues & Perspectives Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi: Celebrating a Colossus at 80

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I have known Sir Atueyi since 1983 or 1984 – I cannot easily recall the exact date of our first physical contact. This first meeting was preceded by what we know about him through his beloved journal, Pharmanews. He had been invited to be the keynote address speaker at the 1984 edition of Pharmacy Week organised by the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS). I was the PANS president. The theme of the week was: “Current Trends in the Pharmaceutical Training and Practice in Nigeria”.

Our expectation was that Sir Atueyi would help to unravel the missing link between the training and practice of Pharmacy in Nigeria and provide the pathway to close the identified gaps. I am sure that Sir Atueyi may still have a copy of his address and I will be glad to have a copy from him. He did a very good job as evidenced by the applause that followed his presentation. Yet, almost four decades after, we are yet to decipher the missing links and the gaps are getting wider.

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However, Sir Atueyi impacted our young minds with his humility, composure and candour. He mixed freely with us and moved round the faculty with his camera hung around his neck. He must have taken more photographs that we did. Prior to his arrival in Ife, I had sought advice from (then Dr) Prof. Wilson Erhun on the cost of hosting Sir Atueyi in the campus. The amiable teacher waved off my worry with a deep conviction and assurance that “Atueyi will not expect anything from you”. True to this prediction, the lanky and handsome senior colleague walked his true height and told us not to worry about him. From this 1984 event and to date, my spirit got attached to this man of substance as a beacon of hope for success in my life pursuit and I continue to reference him as such.

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Somehow, we continue to have interactions as I grow my own brand of pharmacy practice which has taken me through all areas, including pharmaceutical journalism as a writer and not a publisher like my mentor. When I oversaw marketing at the then Roche Nigeria Limited, I inherited the culture of placing monthly adverts in Pharmanews and I had the opportunity of further contacts with Sir Atueyi.

As a mark of his utmost humility, he called me into his office and commissioned me to look into the operation of Pharmanews and give advice on the next level moves. I interviewed all members of staff and we tinkered with the idea of putting a price tag on the journal and let the readers pay for a copy.   However, a second look at the philosophy of Pharmanews convinced us of the need to continue the free distribution policy and, instead, opted for expansion of the customer advert base and a faster turnaround time.

During the discussion, it was impossible to miss the deep attachment between Sir Atueyi and Pharmanews as described in his autobiography: “My Life and Pharmanews”. They are inseparable.  This experience, without any money involvement, got me closer to Sir Atueyi and invariably, I became a member of the Pharmanews family. I got involved in the Pharmanews training programme as a resource person and recommended other resource persons to join the team. It was such a great delight working for and with Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi.

 

Model of Integrity

As the national chairman of the Association of Industrial Pharmacists (NAIP), I worked with my team in the executive committee to set up a housing estate as part of our welfare package for members and their friends. At the beginning of the project, we needed to build trust in the minds of potential subscribers, and we decided to set up a project board of trustees to be composed of men (and women) of true integrity and honour.

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I approached Sir Atueyi to be the chairman of the proposed board. But he politely turned down the request on the grounds that he would not want to be involved with “omo-oniles” (land speculators) trouble, which I also admit to be legion. However, Sir Atueyi continued to monitor our progress with a visionary intensity and he was there to commission the three prototype buildings in the estate. He also bought plots of land for himself and his family. It was an encouragement gesture which I will continue to cherish.

With the establishment of the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy (NAPharm), I now have the opportunity to work even more closely with Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi. Even at his age, he will be the first to arrive at all meetings. His commitment to the ideals of the Academy is absolute.  During the last outing on drug and substance abuse, he was there for me and the committee through the planning and execution of events which came out to be the most successful. I enjoyed the banters between him and Prince Juli particularly on the significance or otherwise of 10 months difference in their dates of birth. He is a jolly good fellow, whose demeanour betrays his octogenarian status. He has lost nothing in speech, gait and agility.

 

Worthy Legacy

I have read the autobiography of Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi and I will recommend it to everyone who wishes to learn from his rich experience to shape their own lives or update their knowledge about the unseen hands of God in the affairs of men. I am delighted that my life trajectory has almost followed the same pattern with that of Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi and I pray to live long enough to celebrate 80th birthday in good health.

We must live for a definite purpose for our life to have a good meaning. Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi found his purpose, not by power or might or brilliance or juju or by any other means other than allowing himself to float in the ocean of the love of God. He maintained his integrity despite the pressure to do otherwise. He stood firm by the teachings of his parents and got deeply involved with God to live a life of purpose.

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Sir Atueyi gave us Pharmanews which, for many years, has remained the main source of news on pharmaceutical affairs in Nigeria. He has opened a floodgate of opportunity for others to follow in his footsteps. Today, there are young pharmacists and other professionals who are into health publishing as a result of Sir Atueyi’s influence and untiring efforts. He has impacted his environment well. He has conquered the world through the optimal exploitation of potentials deposited in him. He has run a good race and fought a good fight and certainly, a good reward will continue to trail his path in this world and the world to come.

Sir Atueyi is a recognisable brand at any event and occasion with his characteristic mien and beard. He has a story that is worth telling and sharing. His life is calling on us to do good always because a time is coming when we shall be called upon to tell our own story.

Will you stand out like SIR IFEANYI ATUEYI

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