The just-concluded 93rd national conference of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria is a fitting proof of the truism expressed by the French statesman, Charles de Gaulle that “Nothing great will ever be achieved without great men, and men are great only if they are determined to be so.” Indeed, to many pharmacists in Nigeria and beyond, the successful holding of the conference tagged “Omoluabi 2020” not only achieved the conventional purpose of helping to reposition them for better and more effective service delivery but also symbolises the proverbial “light” at the end of the tunnel of what has been a tumultuous year.
Against the odds of the COVID-19 pandemic and the EndSARS protests, the momentous gathering was held in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, from Monday 9 November to Friday, 13 November, 2020, after being postponed from the 2-7 November date previously planned. Incidentally, the annual conference of the PSN is adjudged to be the largest single gathering of pharmacists in the West African sub-region and this year’s event, despite doubts and apprehensions caused by the global pandemic and security concerns in the country, measured up to this rating as it witnessed a large turnout of pharmacists from all parts of the country.
This is a testament to not just the exceptional sagacity of the national leadership of the PSN, led by Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa; the Central Planning Committee (CPC), led by Pharm. Abass Sambo; as well as the Local Organising Committee, but also the indefatigable commitment of Nigerian pharmacists towards advancing their profession in the interest of the country’s health sector and the entire populace.
The theme of this year’s event, “Technological Revolution: Adaption to Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, Pharmacy Practice and Regulation”, was particularly apt and commendably justified. Participants at the conference were enlightened on how to leverage the dynamics of technology to overcome the challenges of the global pandemic and ensure greater productivity and profitability in their practice in the face of the emerging era, rightly dubbed “the new normal”. The choice of an erudite innovator, professor of pharmacy and vice-chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Prof. Charles Esimone, as the keynote speaker could not have been better as he expertly dissected the subject, eliciting thunderous applause from delegates at the conference.
It is also important to note that this year’s conference was particularly unique as it was the first hybrid conference of the PSN, allowing for both physical and virtual participation. This singular innovation made it possible for Nigerian pharmacists across the globe to follow live proceedings at the conference. We applaud the PSN leadership and the conference planning committees for making this novel initiative a success, and accordingly leading the way in inculcating and applying the theme of the conference.
Also noteworthy is that the annual gathering was held for the first time in Osun State, and the state no doubt, gave a good account of itself as the Governor, Mr Gboyega Oyetola not only graced the event but had nearly all members of his cabinet – consisting of the deputy Governor, Secretary to the State Government and several commissioners – present. Kudos must be given to the LOC and others who made this possible.
We equally commend the peaceful conduct of the elections into some executive positions of the PSN, namely, the national secretary, the treasurer, and the editor–in- chief. The Young Pharmacists Group also had elections to constitute new members of the executive and must be commended for the seamless conduct of their exercise.
Generally, from all indications and sampled opinions of the participants, the conference is adjudged a resounding success, despite the limitations placed on it by the pandemic, which reduced physical attendance and thus diminished the carnival-like fanfare commonly associated with PSN national conferences.
Despite the success of the event, however, we observed that a few aspects of the organisation could have been done better. One of this was the pre-conference publicity. This was inadequately handled. The posters announcing the conference, which in previous conferences, were printed and pasted conspicuously at strategic places were nowhere to be found this year. This created a picture of uncertainty, especially in the minds of exhibitors, as many thought the conference would not hold. We believe that if this had been properly handled, coupled with proper event marketing, the number of exhibitors at this year’s conference would perhaps have been more.
Another noticeable lapse was also the late arrival or paucity of conference materials for participants and delegates. Many delegates spent time at the registration stands waiting to get conference materials. This can be improved on. While some delegates had tags which were hand written, there was also the absence of tags to identify pressmen and press coverage was noticeably poor. For an event such as the PSN conference, notable media houses should be invited and adequate provisions made to identify them. This way, good publicity will be given to the event.
Also to be noted for future conferences is the issue of time management. Many participants were not pleased that most of the scheduled activities at this year’s conference either started or ended late. This gives the impression of inadequate organisation, especially to people who are connecting to the event from outside the venue.
Moreover, although the COVID-19 challenge limited physical attendance at the conference, we believe that the non-proximity of an airport to Osogbo affected attendance as many who would have loved to attend the conference could not do so by road especially given the security situation in the country. This, we note, was clearly beyond the control of the organisers. The PSN may consider the proximity of an airport when deciding on the venue of future conferences.