The zonal coordinator, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), Eti-Osa Zone, Pharm. George Okon, has vehemently condemned the recent transition exercise that saw the emergence of new executives for ACPN-Lagos, saying the process was fraught with irregularities.
Speaking with Pharmanews in an exclusive interview recently, Pharm. Okon, who is the managing director and chief executive officer of Dlightsom Mount Pharmacy Limited, Ajah, Lagos, equally tasked the newly elected executives to come up with a by-laws for the association so as to prevent a recurrence of the controversies that trailed the last elections. Excerpts:
What are your thoughts on the recent transition exercise and emergence of new executives in ACPN-Lagos?
I believe the just concluded election was flawed because ACPN-Lagos has been operating without by-laws. Before now, it had always been a selection process, where people were selected into the executive body. I was an aspirant for the state chairmanship position but was disqualified based on reasons that were unclear to me and those in my camp.
What exact reasons were given for the disqualification?
The executive body at that time said that, based on their own guidelines, I could not contest for the state chairmanship position because I was not a member of the existing executive body. They also said that I should have served in an executive capacity for at least two years before I could be eligible to run for the state chairmanship position.
But what has been happening over time is like a successive government where at the end of any tenure, the vice chairman takes over as chairman and the general secretary takes over as the vice chairman and on and on. So, I think that they were displeased with the fact that I was coming out of “nowhere” to contest and I feel that that is not professional.
Despite this unwritten arrangement, you still decided to contest. Why?
Many community pharmacists in Lagos are unhappy with the leadership of ACPN-Lagos. This is the reason why you do not see them in meetings and other functions. The only thing that makes community pharmacists feel that they are part of the ACPN is the annual dues that they pay, and that is because it is compulsory; without it, you can’t get your license and practice.
The ACPN state secretariat is a shadow of itself. And everything boils down to leadership. The executive body in times past has claimed to have a constitution. However, since we are a state chapter, we cannot have a constitution as we are under a national body. The national body has a constitution and there should be by-laws at the state level, but we do not have by-laws in ACPN Lagos State. And this is a shame.
Now that the election has been held and new executives have come, what is the way forward?
Being the state chairman of ACPN is not a “do or die” affair. I just wanted to go there and render service. I feel that we should stop complaining as a body and look to proffering solutions instead.
If you had contested, would you have won?
Yes, most definitely. Community pharmacists are tired of the way things are and they want someone fresh with fresh ideas. They know that I would have won and that’s why they disqualified me from contesting.
ective leadership that you alleged is going on in the ACPN?
I have decided to take up this struggle. I wrote a petition to the National Chairman of ACPN. We’ve also moved a motion at the last Annual General Meeting for the executive body to inaugurate a constitutional review committee that would come up with by-laws for ACPN Lagos and everybody will be involved in this process. We’ve been able to get this done. We are also showing keen interest in the selection of people that make up this committee.
What would you say are necessary areas that the leadership needs to improve on?
There is a lot that needs to be done. ACPN-Lagos does not even have a database of all the pharmacists in Lagos State. Without data, we can achieve nothing. Last year, the executives did pharma-mapping and this was a good step in the right direction. However, without the database that mapping will not be useful.
Data has been a major challenge, when you don’t know the number of pharmacists you have under you, you won’t be able to do much. The previous executives have done their best, but you cannot give what you don’t have. ACPN Lagos State should have been the pacesetters amongst other states but we are not fulfilling that role. We need to do more, we need to get organised.
What are your thoughts on the plan of the federal government to commence the implementation of National Drug Distribution Guidelines by the end of January, 2019?
It’s a good one; at least we’ve got a date for now. However, I doubt that date because that is quite close to the elections and the ruling government will not want anything that will jeopardise their chances at the elections. But, I would give the government the benefit of the doubt, hoping that they have the political will to pull this through, and if the government does then kudos to them.
The guidelines will be helpful in building an organised channel for drug distribution in the country. One of the core reasons for rampant drug abuse is the porous drug distribution system that we have.
On the issue of drug abuse, what do you think the community pharmacist should do?
Community pharmacists ought to create awareness, using different platforms, including the social media, print and television. And the government needs to step up in tackling this problem. With the large quantity of codeine in circulation, who is approving these drugs? It’s definitely not the community pharmacists.
If the government puts in their political will, then they can actually control this menace. This year, community pharmacists plan to celebrate the World Drug Abuse Day in June by going to schools to create awareness on drug abuse and its many dangers to health, and the society at large.