“A woman is more than her gender.” Those were the words of Colette Ahamefula, president, Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Students (PANS), Delta State University (DELSU), Abraka, Delta State. With such positive energy and assertive drive, it becomes easy to understand how she has emerged the first ever female president of PANS in the institution.
In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, Ahamefula reveals the reason for her uncommon decision to vie for PANS presidency, as well as the challenges and successes of her administration. Excerpts:
Why did you choose Pharmacy?
My interest in organic chemistry was what set me on the path of studying Pharmacy. There’s something fascinating about knowing that you can manipulate a structure to yield something new and exciting; and, luckily for me, there’s a lot of that in pharmacy school. Secondly, I have always being interested in the health sector. I have always wanted to help people, touch as many lives as possible in terms of providing satisfactory healthcare services, as well as making a name for myself in the health sector in terms of my future research.
What was your motivation for contesting for PANS-DELSU presidency, despite being an uncommon decision for a lady?
I actually wanted to do something outside of the norm because I felt Pharmacy was a male-dominated course. So, I decided to get involved so that I could pass a message that women too can excel politically like their male counterparts.
I was in 300 level when I disclosed my interest in being the president. Then, I was serving as a member of the house of congress and one thing that really motivated me was the fact that I wanted to make changes in how PANS was being run in my school. I wanted to make a difference, to make sure the students were involved in the matters of PANS and to also ensure they were happy and feel the impact of governance. I wanted to create a legacy and do something that would always be in the students’ minds and those of the generations to come that there was a female president at one time.
Having set that standard, I hope I have paved the way for other females who are interested in politics, as we are more than our gender.
You must have set some goals for yourself at the inception of this administration, how much have you been able to achieve them?
There are two semesters in a year and, so far, in the first semester, I’d say I have been able to realise about 50 per cent of my goals. As for the remainder of my administration, I definitely need to work extra hard to make sure we execute our projects as well as provide an exciting, educational and fun-filled PANS Week and ensure that students welfare is top notch before the end of my tenure.
Majority of the first 45 pharmacy students admitted to this institution left without concluding their programme when the fate of the Faculty suddenly became uncertain. Compared to other schools of pharmacy, how would you assess pharmacy education in DELSU?
Sincerely, it was quite challenging, as we learnt, at that period. And when I say “challenging”, I mean very challenging for Pharmacy, even till now. But I would proudly say we are trying. We aren’t there yet and there’s so much room for improvement but I know that, with the way things are going, in a couple of years, we will get there. I am also hopeful that, very soon, DELSU pharmacy will be a force to reckon with in the country.
Can you recount some of your challenges and successes so far?
Well one of my major challenges has been funding. My administration started with an empty coffer and building it from that position has been daunting and difficult because we are in a country where the economic situation is not favourable.
Another challenge is navigating the intricacies of being the president, that is, leadership. It has not been easy knowing how to reconcile the person I am and how a president should be and also becoming comfortable in my role as president, knowing the best ways to execute plans with a minimum amount of friction. I have really learnt a lot from this which has made me grow, not only in my presidential capacity but also as a person, so I’d count that as a success.
Another success I’m really proud of is the fact that we came third at the 2019 Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi Essay and Debate Competition at University of Ibadan. That was the first of its kind for DELSU and based on that success, we are trying to get our colleagues to be more involved in PANS and pharmacy-related activities outside of our school, especially the Pharmacomposium and the Convention.
DELSU faculty of pharmacy is relatively one the youngest faculties in this institution. Aside from pharmacy education, what is your general view of the current state of academic standards in DELSU today?
I would say it is high because the management, as well as the lecturers, are working really hard to provide round-the-clock quality education for us. The institution might be relatively young, but every year we produce students who are doing extremely well in their chosen fields in Nigeria and around the world. This is not a reason for us to relax our guard, but an appeal to do even better and I know that, in the no distant future, DELSU will be known for quality par excellence in academics.
UNIBEN, which happens to be your closest neighbour, is the only pharmacy school in Nigeria accredited to award the Pharm.D degree. What, in your own view, gave the school an edge over others in the country?
It is an old institution and in terms of academics they are ahead; but I would also say the dedication of both the lecturers and the students played a major role in their effort to achieve that feat. If there’s one thing I know and have heard about UNIBEN, it is their zeal to always fight for what they believe in, which I think should be standard in all pharmacy schools across the country.
What has been the level of support PANS-DELSU is receiving from technical bodies like PSN, ACPN, and others in Delta state?
Over the years, we have received some level of support from technical bodies such as PSN, ACPN, NAHAP, especially when it comes down to support towards our programmes. So I’d like to say a big thank you to them for all the support they have rendered us and for the support they will still render us.
What is your advice to female pharmacy students seeking to follow your footsteps by vying for PANS presidency amidst several males?
No matter the prejudices, they shouldn’t give up. Challenges will arise but they will surely overcome. Know what you want and fight for what you believe in. Also, your merit will always speak for you. Don’t ever limit yourself just because you’re female; what a man can do, a woman can do better. It’s time we women rally together and show the world what we are really capable of.