In this interview with Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis, Pharm. (Asiwaju) Joe Taiwo Oyewole Olarogun, former PSN national secretary (1974 – 1977), expresses displeasure at the get-rich-quick syndrome prevalent in today’s pharmacy practice and the reason he delved into politics. Excerpts:
Tell us a little about your work experience
I worked as a lecturer at the Pharmacy School in Zaria and later as a pharmacist with Glaxo Nigeria Limited (Apapa), J. L. Morrison, Son and Jones as Lagos Sales Manager, before subsequently opting out to set up my own practice.
While in Lagos, I was the state secretary of the PSN, before becoming the national secretary. By 1980, I became the secretary general of the West African Pharmaceutical Federation for three years. After my tenure, I returned home to Kwara where I was appointed chairman of the Kwara Chapter of PSN (1982 – 1988). Since that time, I have remained a frontline member of the chapter till date.
Is that all?
No, I was into politics for a while and occupied positions like chairman or vice chairman of some government parastatals such as Health Management Board, Kwara Hotels and Kwara State Sports Council. I was also made chairman of a company called Industrial Trust Fund Limited. This is a finance company, jointly owned by Kwara and Kogi governments. At that time, it was based Ilorin, Kwara State capital.
With all you’ve enumerated, can you confidently say studying Pharmacy was a good decision for you?
Oh yes! Studying Pharmacy as a profession is a delight without any regrets whatsoever. One cannot exhaust all the opportunities available in the profession.
What was the profession like in your day?
In my day, the opportunities available in Pharmacy were in legion. I was eminently qualified to do further studies in Pharmacy but the attractive and mouth-watering opportunities available in the general practice, lured me into it. The opportunities are still very much available today but the competition is keen.
How will you assess pharmacy practice today compared to your time?
“Long-throat” tendencies and “get-rich-quick” syndromes have caused a lot of the scandals, intrigues and controversies prevalent in today’s practice. Most of the pharmacy graduates we have today are quite young and ambitious. In yesteryears, pharmacy practitioners in whichever sphere of practice they found themselves were quite mature and contented with their lots. I have also observed that there are more attractive opportunities that come with better pay today.
What are the challenges facing pharmacy practice?
In general practice, one hears of pharmacists practising dual registration. One hears of register-and-go pharmacists, that is, those who will register a premises but will never show up except to collect their pay. One also hears of pharmacists going beyond their areas of practice and so on. Times have indeed changed!
Why do you always encourage pharmacists to venture into politics?
Certainly, pharmacists are disciplined and knowledgeable enough to go into politics. By going into politics, pharmacists will help to place Pharmacy at a high pedestal. Take the issue of NAFDAC for instance. Our presence in government will ensure that the office of the NAFDAC director is reserved for pharmacists only. There are other numerous advantages. For instance, our view on health improvement for the nation will be better respected.
How best do you think the issue of drug counterfeiting can be curbed?
The country is big and the borders are porous and many. First, we have to ensure that pharmacists are posted adequately to all our borders. These must be pharmacists who cannot be bought or sold. Also, pharmacists of similar attributes should be employed to the Inspectorate Division of the Ministry of Health. Also, recognised analytical laboratories must be put in place to confirm the standard of all drugs coming into the country.
If you were not to be a pharmacist, what other profession would you have opted for?
Aside pharmacy, I cannot think of any other; maybe medicine though.
As an elder in the pharmacy profession, what is your advice to young pharmacists?
Young pharmacists should shun all acts that can tarnish the image of Pharmacy. They should not allow corruption and greed to get the better of them.