Pharm (Chief) Paul Osogbe Enebeli is an eminent pharmacist, who has contributed immensely to the development of virtually every facet of Pharmacy in Nigeria. Enebeli, who turned 70, on 2 April this year, is a Fellow of many professional bodies, including the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), where he was the chairman of the Society’s Board of Fellows (PSN-BOF). Among many prominent roles and interventions in Nigerian pharmacy, Enebeli is noted to have moved the historic motion for the adoption of Clinical Pharmacy by universities offering Pharmacy in Nigeria. In this interview with MOSES DIKE, the septuagenarian recounts his early life and career path, his services to Pharmacy, as well as his experience in Nigerian politics. He also offers valuable advice to the younger generation of pharmacists on how to maximise their talents and trainings to affect humanity positively. Excerpts
Kindly tell us about yourself, sir, especially your early life, education and the events that have helped to shape your adult personality.
My name is Paul Osogbe Enebeli. I am the last child of the late (HRM) John Enebeli Aka, the Okpala Uku of Afor in Ndokwa East LGA of Delta State. I was born in Kaduna, capital of the old Northern Region on 2 April, 1953. I attended St Joseph’s Primary School, Kaduna and, later, St Gregory’s Primary School, where I completed my primary education in 1965.
I was admitted into the prestigious Government College, Ughelli, in the old Midwest Region, for my secondary education, in 1966. As a result of the civil war, I had to move to Agbor to further my education at St. Columbus Secondary School, Agbor, from 1968 to 1970.
I subsequently got admitted into the Midwest Institute of Technology (now University of Benin), Benin City, in 1971, to pursue my tertiary education. I graduated in 1976 with a B.Pharm (Honours) degree in Pharmacy. My entire life has been influenced by my late father, my Catholic faith and by the strict discipline instilled in me during my early days at Government College, Ughelli
I did my internship at the General Hospital, in Warri, and the Specialist Hospital, Benin City, from 1976 to 1977. My National Youth Service was at the General Hospital, Okene, in the old Kwara State. I started my professional career as a medical representative for Schering Africa Nig. Ltd., in 1978, rising to the position of product manager in 1980 and resigning to establish Elpha Pharma Ltd., in 1982.
Congratulations on your recent 70th birthday anniversary. How do you feel attaining this new age and how has it affected your perception of life and engagements?
My perception of life has really not changed. Attaining 70 has only reinforced the values that have brought me this far – contentment, humility, tolerance, honesty and love/service of God and humanity.
As for engagements, I have become more discreet with regard to where I go and what I do. I give preference to godly issues and issues that will give me peace of mind as well as add value to society.
How did you come about Pharmacy as your course of study? Did you have any role models who guided you to make the choice? If you were not a pharmacist, what else would you have loved to become?
I chose Pharmacy by accident. I was very good in the sciences and mathematics. My elder brother, who was then in the UK, wanted me to study Medicine, while my other siblings wanted me to study Accountancy. However, after my Foundation year at the University of Benin, I was offered Pharmacy or Engineering. Accountancy was not offered at UNIBEN at that time.
If I was not a pharmacist, I would have loved to be an engineer, because of my proficiency in Mathematics.
Aside from the many other positions you have held in the service of Pharmacy, we know you rose to become the chairman of PSN Board of Fellows at some point. Generally speaking, tell us more about your participations in PSN activities and the roles you have played. Which of the roles did you find particularly interesting and why is this so?
I have played several pivotal roles in the PSN, in addition to my transformational role as chairman, Board of Fellows. I was vice chairman of the PSN, Lagos State Branch, under the able leadership of Fellow E.A Adeleke. Although I was vice chairman, Fellow Adeleke was accommodative of my very radical views on issues inimical to the progress of Pharmacy. I wish to use this medium to thank him for tolerating me and giving me so much room to express and execute these views.
We fought several battles on behalf of the PSN during our tenure. I remember vividly the famous rantings of the Commissioner for Health in the old Kwara State, who described the appointment of a pharmacist as Minister of Health as “a square peg in a round hole”. As a branch we took the commissioner to task and laid the issue to rest.
As chairman of an ad hoc committee of the PSN on the crisis in the National Association of General Practice Pharmacists (NAGPP) now known as ACPN (Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria) in 1999, my committee helped to resolve the leadership challenge faced by the association after its national conference in Ibadan.
Also, as sole administrator, Nigerian Association of Hospital Pharmacists (now Association of Hospital and Administrative Pharmacists of Nigeria, AHAPN), from 1988 to 1989, I singlehandedly revamped, reorganised and supervised the election of a new executive committee, which laid the foundation for the now buoyant and forward-looking AHAPN.
It is noteworthy that it was during my tour of duty as sole administrator that I came in contact with Lady Eme Ekaette. She was then manager, Medicals, NNPC, Lagos. I found her trustworthy and diligent. I subsequently nominated her to be national treasurer. The rest is history, as she went on to become the first female president of the PSN at a hotly contested election which took place at Airport Hotel, Lagos. The tenure of Fellow Eme Ekaette was without doubt a huge success.
It is noteworthy that it was during her tenure that I moved the motion in Council for the adoption of Clinical Pharmacy by universities offering Pharmacy in Nigeria. Today, Clinical Pharmacy has revolutionised the practice of Pharmacy in Nigeria, expanding its roles and enhancing its dignity and relevance.
Over time, we have had calls for pharmacists to go into politics and aspire for important positions, so as to be able to influence policies to the benefit of the profession and healthcare generally. You are one of the few that have heeded this call. Tell us about your roles and experience in politics and how your training as a pharmacist has helped you to cope with the challenges.
The call for Pharmacists to go into politics is gratifying. Same should be said for other professionals. After all, the great Osagyefo, Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of independent Ghana, was quoted as saying, “Seek ye first the political Kingsland and everything will be added on to you.”
The tragedy of Nigerian politics, however, is that a large number of our politicians have had little or no leadership experience; they have no other business or profession and so see politics as a “do-or-die affair” or as a zero-sum game. For most of them too, it is the Machiavellian principle of “end justifies the means”.
Many have attributed this development to the hangover of the military intervention in Nigeria politics over the years, while others have posited that the juicy nature of politics in Nigeria is the cause. Whatever the reasons it must be emphasised that the political evolution of every country is unique and that no two polity are the same. It keeps evolving with twists and turns; sometimes salutary, others progressive, and in few cases, tragic. As it’s commonly said, the beat goes on and on.
For pharmacists to perform well in politics, we must purge ourselves of what I call the “titre mentality “- that is the desire of wanting to always say things the way they are. We are trained to be exact always, courtesy of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Pharmaceutics, Pharmacology and all the “pharmas”. We are consequently wired to always say the truth, not compromising, and may be lacking in diplomacy. Our situation is further compounded by our society’s motto “As men of honour we join hands.” Over the years, I have come to realise that it appears to be that there’s little or no honour in politicians the world over. Similarly, I am yet to see a living saint.
From the foregoing, you can see why most pharmacists are unable to survive the murky waters of politics in Nigeria. Yes, once in a while, you see a “nerve action potential” but it is usually too feeble to produce subliminal response for a sustainable pharmacological (political) impact.
What are your thoughts about pharmacy practice in Nigeria and what areas of pharmacy education and practice do you think require urgent review or intervention?
Pharmacy practice has evolved over the years. It has gained sufficient traction and recognition with its practitioners visible in virtually every sector of the socio-political and economic spheres of the country. Our roles have expanded geometrically, especially with the introduction of Clinical Pharmacy, which I had the singular honour to move the motion for its introduction in Council.
I will however caution that we should not lose sight of our major strength within the healthcare team, which is medicines production from raw materials to finished products. This will, apart from enhancing the status of pharmacists, help to improve the economic power of pharmacists, with all the advantages therein.
Furthermore, medicines security is becoming a major concern all over the world, especially after the advent of COVID-19. I will suggest that each university offering Pharmacy should be made to specialise in one or more dosage forms – almost like centres of excellence for the production of creams and ointments, liquid and syrups, injectables and vaccines etc. Government can be approached to fund this initiative and save our country from importing almost all its drug needs.
There’s is also an urgent need for certification in special areas of Pharmacy by the PCN, so as to enhance professionalism and proficiency.
How do you relax? Tell us about some of the pastime activities and lifestyle modifications you have adopted to stay fit and active.
I enjoy travelling by road or by rail. Travelling by road from Asaba to Lagos used to be a sort of excursion for my wife and me. However, since I was kidnapped on my way to Benin City about four years ago, I have developed a phobia for road travels. When I am out of the country I enjoy travelling by rail.
I eat twice a day, starting with a cup or two of tea after an early morning exercise. I endeavour to take a minimum of an hour walk equivalent to about 6,000 steps a day.
I take my next and last meal of the day at about 5pm. I also enjoy listening to good music – soul, rhythm and blues, reggae, afro music. I take time within the day to watch television with politics, football, athletics and tennis from my favourite channels. I also host a number of meetings and receive visitors from far and near in my residence at Asaba.
I participate in church activities as a Council member and patron of some organisations. I sleep well and do my health checks regularly.
What advice would you give to the younger generation of pharmacists on how to make the best use of their calling as healthcare professionals to impact humanity positively?
I will advise the younger generation to strive to excel in any field of Pharmacy they find themselves. They should be willing to serve God and humanity in any place where they domicile, either by joining any of the many non-governmental organisations (NGOS) or establish one themselves.
Finally, young pharmacists must seize any opportunity for self-enhancement in the field of Pharmacy so that they can remain contemporary and relevant.