Regal, resplendent, rich and riveting sum up his personae. Gracious in goodness, generous in giving, he signposts the essence of philanthropy. As he comes out of his automobile, unannounced, unheralded, he takes a few graceful steps in a characteristic gait of many decades. Age hasn’t removed the spring in his step. In flowing white attire, a flash of a smile and an aura of permanence, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi comes into the picture. A champion of the good life and a campaigner for the downtrodden, the world-famous pharmacist and philanthropist occupies a space few mortals can dream just some months short of clocking 80, writes Funke Olaode
With a pristine face and glistening skin belying the years gone by, he takes a seat in the classy hotel’s VIP lounge. Resplendent in his white attire, he gently takes off the glasses that shield his enchanting gaze. He gives a knowing nod and in a few minutes, some episodes of his life are revisited.
Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, former Minister of Health and Social Services, founder and Chairman of Juli Plc is an accomplished pharmacist, legal practitioner, and was an outstanding students’ unionist. Having been around for close to five decades making a mark in his endeavours, he has become a role model and exemplary professional with a track record of untainted integrity. Adelusi-Adeluyi’s story lies between self-determination and self-actualization.
The current chairman of the board of MTN Foundation will soon turn 80. But before his present, there was a past.
The melodious songs were filtering from the loudspeakers positioned at strategic positions of the well-decorated banquet hall inside the expansive Radisson Hotel in Ikeja, Lagos that Sunday evening.
It wasn’t an ‘Owanbe’ setting but a gathering of legal luminaries who had emerged from the University of Lagos where they graduated in 1986. Tagged, ‘Unilag Class Law ‘86’, this group of successful lawyers gathered to celebrates themselves and how to move their alma mater forward. Surprisingly, among these young professionals was an accomplished pharmacist and founder of Juli Plc, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi.
Regal in his signature white apparel, the Ado-Ekiti-born prince’s personality looms large; handsome and tall as he walked majestically into the waiting arms of his classmates who were delighted to see him. For over five decades, Adelusi-Adeluyi has dominated Nigeria and international environments with his untainted personality. His image looms large as one of the most successful professionals of his time. It may not be in terms of heavy cash, but his consistency in his field of profession, pharmacy and legal profession where his services have touched many lives have constantly thrown his image up. Adelusi-Adelusi is adored by many playing many roles as a professional and philanthropist.
Born August 2, 1940, Adelusi-Adeluyi has always had a knack for professional excellence which has constantly been his propelling force. His road to professional attainment began at the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) where he was a pioneer student at the department of pharmacy of the foremost tertiary institution. With dedication, commitment to a professional calling, he graduated in 1965. While pursuing pharmacy, he was also an outstanding student and youth leader at the local, national and international levels. He served as Vice-president for International Affairs of the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) in 1964.
Immediately after graduation, one would have expected him to go straight into practice. Rather, he soaked himself further into students’ unionism taking him up to the international stage. At the international level, he was elected in 1965 by student organizations worldwide during their Annual Conference at Christ Church, New Zealand. Adelusi-Adeluyi became the secretary-general of the world student body the International Students Conference (ISC) with headquarters in Leiden, Holland.
He demonstrated his exceptional grasp of leadership and administration because, in his capacity, he built student union organizations in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. In the process, he visited 143 countries and became multilingual. He led a seventeen-nation delegation to Nigeria during the civil war for advocacy and peaceful resolution of the conflict. The delegation visited the war front and the then Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, who in a special letter commended him for youth service to the nation.
After his mission in Holland, Adelusi-Adeluyi came back to Nigeria in 1968 and began a business in pharmacy aged about 28. He founded JULI PLC (formerly Juli Pharmacy Ltd) in 1970, which happened to be the first indigenously promoted company to be quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. That was in 1986.
Adelusi-Adeluyi is acknowledged as a champion of high ethical standards in business and professions. His service to the nation and his professional calling haven’t gone unnoticed which had earned him various national positions at the highest level. He was Nigeria’s Minister of Health and Social Services, ex-group chairman of Oodua Investment Conglomerate, an organization that coordinates the economic and cultural legacy of the South-Western states. He is a founding and distinguished fellow of the Institute of Directors (DFIoD), Nigeria, after many years of a fellowship of IoD in the UK.
He is a fellow and pioneer President of the Nigerian Academy of Pharmacy. He is also a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of management, Past President and Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and the West African Pharmaceutical Postgraduate College (FWAPPC). He received the national awards MFR in 1986 and OFR in 2002. He is currently the chairman of the board of the MTN Foundation which has expended billions of naira in the last 12 years in the fields of education, health and economic empowerment of disadvantaged persons and communities positively affecting the lives of millions of Nigerians.
A philanthropist par excellence, Prince Adelusi-Adeluyi joined the Rotary Club of Ikeja, Nigeria in 1969. He served as the president of the club in 1977/78. He was elected as district governor-elect for District 210 covering West Africa in 1980. By 1982, Nigeria was carved out of District 210 and named District 911. Thus he became the first district governor of Rotary District 911 covering the whole of Nigeria for the 1982/83 year. In this capacity, he laid a solid foundation for the growth of Rotary in Nigeria. He has represented different RI presidents at district conferences in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Always looking calm and collected, you could mistake him for a man in his 60s. Is this a reflection of his personality?
“Yes. It is my background and the way I was brought up by my parents and guardians. I grew up with the missionaries such as reverend fathers, bishops in the Catholic Church. The standard is very simple but details and that get into you. My parents, my guardians and the environment shaped me. And of course, the various degrees that I have acquired.
“Well, when God gives you contentment the rest is easy. I mean in every situation count your blessings and believe there is no cause for alarm,” he simply says with a flash of a smile.
Adelusi-Adeluyi as an accomplished pharmacist is also a legal practitioner. He graduated from the University of Lagos where he studied law in 1986. At Unilag, he was taught by the current Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN). He was at the Nigerian Law school in 1987 and emerged as the best graduating student in the class of 1987.
Though committed to the pharmacy, he went ahead to practise law. He was a member of the Black Table of the Chambers of Chief F.R.A Williams. He has been in pro bono legal practice promoting free legal aid to prisoners and underprivileged for many years.
“I went back to the pharmacy later but still kept my pro bono legal service particularly where people are suffering such as prison. Some inmates have been there for more than 10 years without being charged to court. So we visit the prison, take up their cases to see if we can free them. I have been doing it for over 30 years and I am still doing it. I have tremendous fulfilment from the exercise,” says Adelusi-Adeluyi.
The Ekiti prince sheds more light on why he has had to mix pharmacy with law -even studying law at a relatively old age.
“Yes, I did pharmacy as a young man or at a younger age at the then University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University. We were the pioneer set and I finished in 1965. I got involved in student unionism for three years and after my mission in Holland, I came back to Nigeria in 1968 and began my pharmacy business. I was about 28 years. I established my company in 1970 when I was 30 years old and the company was the first indigenous company to be on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE),” he recollects.
From 1970 when he started the business of pharmacy, it occurred to him as the then chairman of the indigenous business group of the chamber of commerce that indigenous company should be on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, which was dominated by expatriates at the time.
He adds, “Apart from this, there were no specific rules for indigenous companies to be integrated into the NSE. I had always wanted to study law but the interest was further boosted by my interest and preparation for going into NSE. That was how I enrolled at the University of Lagos to study law as a full-time student. I took a room at the university and the students were excited.”
Adelusi-Adeluyi was already an established man when he chose to study law, living among the students. How did he adapt to the environment?
“It is a matter of organization and being humble because if you are mixing with some of these young people, you have to humble yourself to be able to cope. The present Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) was one of my teachers. He was a young man in his 20s when he taught me. When you find yourself in such an environment it takes determination for you to continue. It was a good experience.”
For a prince, who started a business as a greenhorn in his late 20s, there was always a cloud of uncertainty hovering but for Adelusi-Adeluyi, the prospects of the venture, his determination, and tenacity far outweighed any doubt.
“I had acquired some experiences working with an international organization outside the country before I decided to be my own boss so that I can design my own time for my own use. And by the time I was getting quoted on the stock exchange, I had already established 22 branches of my business in the 80s. No other person had more than two or three branches then but I had 22. So it is a question of determination and the grace of God,” he explains.
For almost five decades and still counting, he has been able to keep the name of Juli Pharmacy.
“God has been my strength,” says Adelusi-Adeluyi for the company’s 49 years of doing business.
“Juli Pharmacy is an organization that is simple but offers quality service,” he adds.
“Service is our number one priority. Profit can come from it though may not come in volume but what is paramount in our business is quality service delivery and people realize that if you want quality you can go to any length to get it. People come from as far as Ghana to pick up their medicine(s). We are happy with what we have.”
Adelusi-Adeluyi is a fantastic family man. An encounter with him and his better half will leave a lasting impression. He’s been married to his wife, Juliana, for about 50 years. But the passage of time and ageing have not affected the adorable couple, who live almost inseparably. They are always together.
“Her birthday was on December 14,” he says fondly of his wife.
“We have been married for 49 years having got married on January 31 and the grace of God has kept us going because nobody is perfect,” a delighted Adelusi-Adeluyi adds.
He provides the key to their happy marriage. “The ability to accommodate and forgive each other is important. Anybody giving tips on successful marriage is just a mere academic exercise because some people work hard on marriage but it would not work but the grace of God is sufficient.”
In a few months, Mr. Ethics as he is fondly called will be 80. As he looks forward to that magnificent age, he couldn’t hide his excitement.
“Gratitude to God,” he mouths when asked how he feels about clocking 80. “I have an attitude of gratitude to God.”
With a sense of fulfilment in life, the prince says further, “I am wired to provide service in various ways which I am doing through various organizations that I belong to. It has given me the opportunity to touch lives and I am grateful to God for that even with the enterprise called Juli. Though it is not a roaring enterprise in terms of generating big-time money it has given me a platform to provide service for generations. I thank God and I feel fulfilled.”
It’s perhaps going to be the biggest bash he’s ever had. But he feels it’s still too early to discuss the details of his 80th birthday celebration.
“It is still in August and I don’t want to talk about it in detail now,” explains the Ekiti prince.
A man of phenomenal success, brilliance, and bravura, he exudes an air of enigma with his white attire. He wears no other colour.
“My preference or taste for white was developed when I became the first district governor of the Rotary Club in Nigeria and had to impress on the international community with Nigerian attire. I first started with aso-oke. My wife and I would dress up in aso-oke to attend various conferences around the world. Then we got through all that and after some time I settled for white apparel. White is simple. White gives you discipline because you have to be clean and white fits every occasion,” says Adelusi-Adeluyi.
It’s not likely he’s going to wear another colour. Yet, he has found a way to spice up the monotony of always wearing white attire.
“If you open my wardrobe you can’t find any other colour as all of them (attire) are white. I try to match my white apparel with indigenous aso-oke with hand-made caps and shoes. That’s classy. This gives colour to the monotony of white,” the fashionable pharmacist says.