– Charges pharmacists to be more diligent and seek positions of influence
Eminent pharmacist and former Minister of Health, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, has charged Nigerian pharmacists to imbibe “diligent professionalism” while creatively seeking positions of influence and authority in the society.
This way, he says, pharmacists will be better placed to positively influence the formulation and implementation of policies that “will liberate our people from the shackles of ill-health and poverty. Policies that will benefit our people.” Going into politics, he exhorted, is one great and practical way to achieve this.
Adelusi-Adeluyi made this call while speaking with Pharmanews in a special interview, as part of activities to mark his 80th birthday anniversary coming up in August.
He noted that the vast and multi-faceted training which pharmacists receive in school, ideally puts them in a position of managerial advantage, which unfortunately, Nigeria is yet to fully optimise.
The former health minister, who is the founder and promoter of Juli Plc, the first indigenous company to be quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, particularly decried the poor attention given to pharmaceutical research in the country.
He emphasised that pharmaceutical research needs to be urgently prioritised by government and society, if we are to make real progress, especially in the battle against poverty and disease.
Adelusi-Adeluyi, who, during his tenure as minister of health, was instrumental to the establishment of the Nigerian Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), canvassed better funding for research institutes and encouragement for scientific research in general.
He added that the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy (NAPharm), which he currently presides over, is working towards a re-orientation of attitudes towards pharmaceutical research, starting from schools of pharmacy, with a view to improving pharmaceutical output in Nigeria.
Adelusi-Adeluyi also spoke extensively about his life experiences, including his life as a pilot, lawyer, his appointment as health minister, among many others. He expressed high hopes for the future of pharmacy, exhorting young and aspiring pharmacists, to keep their dreams alive and refuse to be discouraged by every day challenges.
Below is the full interview:
Congratulations on your 80th birthday. It is a landmark achievement by any standard. Looking back on your sojourn on earth so far, what would you say are the biggest lessons you have learnt?
I have learnt to be grateful to God in all circumstances. I have learnt to have a sense of contentment. I have learnt to be humble and prayerful in all circumstances. Gratitude to God, contentment, simplicity, prayerfulness and humility summarise the lessons I have learnt in life.
The name, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, is renowned in the healthcare industry and beyond. Kindly tell us briefly about your early childhood and education.
I was born in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State on August 2nd 1940. I am the last of the children of my parents. In fact, I was not expected because my parents thought they had put an end to childbearing, but I came anyway.
I wasn’t as strong as my other siblings. I came rather light-skinned and was called “oyibo”. In fact, some people still call me “abayibo”, any time I travel home. My mum had tough time giving birth to me. She started labour on the 31st of July but I wasn’t born until August. After delivery, my mum passed out and could not see me for several months after.
I was never allowed to go to farm like my other siblings because I was rather delicate. As life would have it, while I was playing with other children, one man of God, Reverend Monsignor Anthony Oguntuyi, came visiting the house. One thing led to another and by the time I was five years, I was taken to the Catholic mission in Ado Ekiti to live with the missionaries along with a few other young people who had been brought into the mission.
It also happened that I was the only one that lasted long in the mission house. I lived in the mission house from age 5 till about the age of 25, when I finished university. In the mission, you had African priests and European priests. The Nigerian priest who brought me to the mission was the first person to become a Catholic priest in the then Ondo State. I was greatly influenced by him. By the time I was six years old, I was already typing well and I helped him to type his weekly sermons and the many books on Ekiti history which he authored. I recall that my school mates and some visitors to the mission house were wondering how I was able to type at the age of six but you know what will be will be.
Looking back, what are some of the factors or personalities that have influenced your life?
The person that influenced me most was Reverend Monsignor Anthony Oguntuyi. He taught me orderliness, simplicity, cleanliness and discipline. He taught me not to be unduly influenced by the rush for material accumulation. He stressed that simplicity is also very important. I was taught to pay attention to details and to realise that whatsoever that is worth doing is worth doing well. He also taught me that it is better to be a person of character and service than to be a person of wealth.
What moments would you consider as your most memorable, looking back at the last 80 years?
When I was in standard five, in primary school, St. George’s Catholic School, in Ado-Ekiti. Some of us were selected to write entrance examination into some colleges or secondary schools. By some accident, I was the only one that passed and I was offered a scholarship to Government College, Ibadan.
In those days, inter-religious interface was not as it is now. The priests could not imagine their son going to a non-Catholic school. It caused a lot of brouhaha and my headmaster was upset with me and visited me with transferred aggression. But, in any case, I couldn’t go to Government College Ibadan. The priests had their way. They packaged me to Acquinas College in Akure on Scholarship.
At the university, I was vice president, International Affairs of the then National University of Nigeria Students (NUNS). It was significant to me because I was really able to travel around the world on behalf of all the students of Nigeria. I was elected at the international student conference at Christchurch in 1964 in New Zealand to represent Africa at the world conference in Holland. I was elected secretary of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) at the age of 29. That gave me the opportunity to be able to contribute and shape the direction of Pharmacy in Nigeria.
I became the first district Governor of Rotary International District 911 in 1982. I had the responsibility of developing Rotary throughout Nigeria which is why I travelled around Nigeria six times seeking quality membership for the organisation.
Another memorable moment was when Juli Pharmacy was quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange as the first indigenous company to be quoted on the NSE. This is memorable because I had always wanted pharmacy business to be respected beyond Pharmacy. So, when Juli pharmacy became the first indigenous company to be quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, it was a memorable moment for me. I try to organise my business in such a way that it will be acceptable in the larger society.
Another memorable moment was when I went to the law school to study law because I wanted to make sure, inter alia, that if the company was eventually quoted, I would be familiar with the rules and the regulations governing the stock exchange and others. At the law school, I was one of the oldest.
Then of course was this issue of becoming the minister of health.
Growing older can mean different things to different people. How do you feel on turning 80? Does it in anyway affect your perspective or attitude to life? Are there things you would like to start doing, continue or perhaps discontinue at 80?
There is a Nigerian adage that says, “The horse behind looks at the horse in front to know how to run.” I know one or two people who are 80 and they have not shown any sign of slowing down. They still do their daily routines and analyses. They still dance in church as if they are 20. Everybody enjoys the dance in the church, but only the dancer bears the consequences. I have no doubt that my friend here, Ifeanyi Atueyi, can bear me out (laughs).
When you are 80 and God still gives you breath, you must celebrate and thank Him in your own way. People around me know that I don’t get too excited about birthdays because, for me, every day is a birthday. Being 80 is good. But it is not whether you are 80 that matters; it is what you do. The value you bring on.
Once you are 65 and above, you are a senior citizen. So when you are 80, you must become more heavily spiritual. You must do self-audit. Life is like an examination room. You must revise your answers, at least, ten minutes to the end of time before submitting your scripts. You must consolidate and make sure the message of your life is clear so that when the owner of your life says “pens up”, you can say, “Okay, I think I have done well in my answer sheet.”
Why did you study Pharmacy? Did you have any expectations of the profession? If so, what were these expectations and to what degree have they been met?
When I finished at the secondary school, I was a bit too young, at 17, and I had wanted to go straight to the University of Ibadan; but they didn’t allow people who were 17 to go into the university because of age restrictions.
So, I took the time off to teach at St. Michael’s Catholic Secondary School in Ibadan where at least 80 per cent of the students were older than I was. Then I went to work at Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service (WNBS). I was a television newscaster and carried out many programmes including “Vox Pop” interviews. I was going out to interview individuals at events. I came across a gentleman who mentioned to me that if one chose to study science-based professions like Pharmacy instead of the arts subjects I was pursuing, he had better chances of having scholarships. So I went back to brush up my knowledge of the sciences. I was lucky to get double scholarship to study at the University of Ife.
However, I didn’t feel I had the most tasking agenda and that was what led me to student politics. I became a student union leader. I was in the House of Representatives and I was writing songs, plays and teaching dances at my spare time. So, Pharmacy was challenging but not sufficiently so. It was a difficult course – almost over-preparing you for the future and in the process, keeping you along narrow channels of self-expression.
I think going to the University of Ife was good and that was where I got the challenge that Pharmacy must be better. It was a good experience at the university. It was challenging; so challenging that one was determined to make a difference.
Let me also add that I was an editor on campus. I had my own newspaper called Spitfire where I and my crew were actually spiting fire. It was a much feared newspaper. So, I was very fully occupied; but the expectations of what a pharmacist should be were not met and I said to God that if I qualified, I was going to make sure that the environment of practice for pharmacists was better.