Pharmanews has stood out as a unique, useful and relevant publication in its 40 years of existence, while positively influencing the way practitioners of Pharmacy receive, analyse and use information on pharmaceutical subjects because of its commitment to excellence, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, former minister of health and president, Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy, has said.
Speaking with Pharmanews recently in his office in Lagos, Adelusi-Adeluyi, a friend and associate of Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi, publisher of Pharmanews, for over 50 years, recalled how the journal started, noting that the grace of God and the efforts of men had helped the paper to be published consistently every month without interruption for 40 years. It had been 40 years of hard work, he said.
Adelusi-Adeluyi who recalled sharing ideas with Atueyi on how the journal would look when he was to start the it in 1979 said he was quite happy that the paper had not only survived for 40 years and still going strong but was now conveying pharmaceutical news at the local, regional, national and international levels.
Pharmanews, he said, had also helped shape the destiny of many young pharmacists over the years and had become the medium of choice to spread pharmaceutical and health information.
Adelusi-Adeluyi also spoke about what influenced his friendship with the Pharmanews publisher and why they had continued to remain close for over 50 years.
Below is the abridged interview:
You have been a friend and professional associate of Pharm. (Sir) Ifeanyi Atueyi for more than 50 years. Can you recall how the two of you met and became friends?
We thank God who brought us together more than 50 years ago. We met at the pharmacy school. The institution was formerly known as the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology Ibadan, but later metamorphosed into University of Ife, before eventually moving to its permanent site, where it became Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
I was involved in student union affairs and that of the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS); therefore, I got to know most of the students who were members and that was how I got to know the gentleman, Ifeanyi Atueyi.
Whenever you see him in a crowd, it is impossible for you to ignore him or not notice him. He is tall, handsome and bearded. That was how we met and became friends with a few other colleagues. Some of them are gone, but we thank God we are still alive and have continued to relate as friends.
Having known Sir Atueyi for so long, how would you describe him?
Ifeanyi is a quiet person. I should start with the fact that now that he is nearing 80 years, the first thing you will notice about him is that he has become more spiritual. So you can describe him as a spiritual person. However, anybody nearing 80 years will become more spiritual.
Ifeanyi is also a highly dependable person. A very responsible person and that is why when I was a minister and I had some responsibilities and I needed some people to work with, he was naturally one of the people I reached out to. That was because I know he is dependable and I also believe we share a few other things in common.
He is a person of character, someone that takes responsibility for his actions. Whenever he is a part of a group activity, he does his homework. He listens to the views of other people and expresses his views clearly. Whatever he says he will do, he does it to the best of his ability.
He also has a sense of contentment. Sometimes, people usually wonder why everything is so fast for some people and theirs seem so slow. Most people have forgotten that all unhappiness is from comparison with other people. He is laid-back but he is a contented man. He is also a dedicated man. If you give him something to do, he faces it squarely.
He is also very loyal. That was why when I became the president of the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy and we needed a vice president for the Academy, he was the one I picked and he has not let me down. In fact, I am proud of him.
I am a year younger than he is, but he is still simple and humble and you know if you are humble, you can never fumble. Among other things, he is also a gentleman and a family man. I saw his son doing very well in Boston, USA.
Sir Atueyi said you influenced his decision to accept the responsibility of serving as the editor-in-chief of Pharmacy Journal in 1974 during the PSN conference in Kano, an experience that proved invaluable when he started Pharmanews, can you recall that incident? Also, what prompted your decision to ask him to take that assignment, considering he had no previous experience in managing or editing a journal?
You know, as you grow older, there are some certain things you can’t explain. I was the national secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and I needed some things to change then. There was a certain guy I remember back then, Peter Ekwunife. He was the editor of the journal. Then I said there are several things that needed to be done. I wanted to make sure we had a good journal and I needed someone who could help get it done.
Although a few people were interested, something just told me to ask him to do it for us. I said “Atus, come, all this noise they are making about editor-in-chief, why don’t you be the editor-in-chief?” He said: “No o, I no dey for wahala”. And I said, “Look, I am in the centre of all this, I want this Society to be strong. I want people who can work together. I will do the work for you, if necessary, but please be there.”
“On that note, he agreed to file his name in the nomination form.” I knew I was involved, and as soon as he assumed office, we started doing a lot of work on the journal and he took the work seriously.
As I said earlier, he is also a very dedicated person. We were producing the journal and he quickly got used to the work. That was how it started and I am happy that today he is a pharmaceutical journalist.
There were some other people involved in the journal then. There was someone called John Ogundibo, who was on the editorial bench before him.
It was good we worked together on the Pharmacy Journal then because it helped.
Sir Atueyi said you were one of the few colleagues he discussed with early in 1979 when the idea to start Pharmanews came to him. He also credited you with some ideas which eventually shaped the identity of Pharmanews as it is known today. Can you recall that discussion and what influenced some of the advice you gave?
I had planned to start a journal myself, but God orders everyone’s life differently. When I was in the university, I was the editor of a newspaper called Spitfire. It was a newspaper everybody was afraid of. It came out every Monday and had satirical cartoons of people. But I couldn’t further that cause, as I had a lot of things going on for me.
That was why when Ifeanyi came to inform me about Pharmanews I was happy and willing to share ideas with him. We had a series of discussions. We had that discussion on this table which has been my work desk for decades.
Firstly, when he told me the name of the paper would be “Pharma News”, I told him to combine Pharma and News to be one word – Pharmanews. Another thing we discussed was the font for the masthead and we chose that font. And then, we discussed the colour. I encouraged him to choose blue. There is something about blue, even in this modern world.
I am so happy that Pharmanews has been a game-changer. I have been happy watching and seeing the paper grow up for these past 40 years. Many of our friends were surprised that Ifeanyi could be involved in the publication of a pharmaceutical newspaper, but I was not. As you know, que sera sera [what will be will be]. I am glad he has done well and is doing well. He knows how I cherish his success.
What are your thoughts on Pharmanews, having seen it published consistently every month for 40 years (May, 1979 to May, 2019)? Did you imagine the paper was going to survive this long when it started?
I am happy that, 40 years ago, when the journal started, I said all I said in the goodwill message I sent and I am happy we are still both alive. Both the problems we envisaged and the ones we did not envisage came our way, but then we overcame. Not because of being perfect, but by His grace.
In my goodwill message, I talked about mortalities of businesses, not just periodicals or journals, so I am happy Pharmanews has survived all these years. There were one or two journals in the pharma industry before Pharmanews and there have been others after. However, Pharmanews has remained unique, useful and relevant.
The truth is that I know it has not been easy to produce the journal every month for 40 years without a break. That was why I said, firstly, it is the grace of God. Also, it has been due to the efforts of men. There have been problems I know about. The thing is that that these challenges have to come and it is good the paper has surmounted the challenges.
It has been 40 years of hard work, of good returns on investment of money, time and emotions. Lucky is he because he has got a good business going.
What are your thoughts on the contributions of Pharmanews to pharmacy practice in Nigeria, in particular, and the health sector, in general? Has the paper fared well and could it have done better?
I think you have done what you can do. You have done the best you can in the circumstances. You have had enough impact but you can do better. Pharmanews has impacted on the way the practitioners of pharmacy receive and analyse information on pharmaceutical subjects and this is because Pharmanews has become a conventional media and popular.
It conveys pharmaceutical news to us at the local, regional, national, and now at the international level. It has changed the ways other pharmacists view, analyse and utilise pharma information. Not everybody can do that.
Pharmacists and other readers of Pharmanews have profited from the way you present the news, the way you interpret the news and the way you provide ideas from your presentation. Pharmanews has done well in that.
The second one is the way Pharmanews has influenced the thinking and decision of readers, especially pharmacists. People read the news of Pharmacy in Pharmanews. You have carved a niche for yourself. Even leaders of Pharmacy, when they want to express their thoughts or advise the nation, they use the Pharmanews platform. That is a great impact.
Pharmanews has also been good in the area of advocacy. If you want something in the pharmaceutical sector to be loud and clear, it is usually through Pharmanews. I am not talking only about the advertisement published in the paper but also in the editorial content. Pharmanews has done all these.
You may not know, but you have affected and shaped the destinies of young people who are in Pharmacy. There are cases of many people that have seen Pharmanews and say they want to be a pharmacist because of the journal. So, the paper has been affecting the destinies of people and encouraging many others.
You are a role model to many people and young pharmacists. That’s why some people who don’t know Ifeanyi by his name know the name Pharmanews.
Having seen the idea of Pharmanews grown and sustained for four decades, what are the things the journal should be doing to make it outlive the founder?
Let me say that I believe Pharmanews is going to last longer than the life of the publisher. It is a prayer and at the same time a word of affirmation. It will definitely last long. You cannot stop Pharmanews. It is the responsibility of the younger generation to take it up and it is the responsibility of the publisher to encourage it, to strategically position the younger people for that.
Really, the challenges are there and for Pharmanews to continue to remain relevant, it has to make titanic efforts to reach out for excellence and maintain it. That is, by doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways.
Another one is to be aware of the time. What I mean is that the electronic world is taking over and it has affected the way newspapers circulate. Even if newspapers are given for free, some people won’t read. So, the Pharmanews’ online department has to be very strong. You must hire the best.
Let me also quickly add that there is always the temptation to lose focus in any business. Someone selling bags today can decide to start selling food tomorrow just because he wants to diversify or make more money but the truth is that you have to be known for something.
Pharmanews should be focused. Come rain, come sunshine, it should remain focused. It is only when you focus on your focus that you yourself will become the focus. Pharmanews should continue to work and have eye for details, work hard and work smart. Pharmanews should also continue to encourage teamwork, which is a fundamental key to success. Networking too is important and should be intelligently pursued for Pharmanews.