Lady Joan Atueyi, wife of the founder and Managing Director of Pharmanews Limited, Sir Ifeanyi Atueyi, has revealed that she actively supported and contributed to the starting of the Pharmanews journal because she was fully convinced that the publication would succeed and achieve its purpose.
Lady Atueyi, who spoke recently in an exclusive interview as part of activities to mark the 41st anniversary of the uninterrupted publishing of the journal, said her confidence in the prospects of Pharmanews was based on the fact that the vision had divine backing, as well as the understanding that her husband had always been hardworking, determined and purpose-driven.
Regarding the decision of Sir Atueyi to quit paid employment to start Pharmanews, Lady Atueyi, a retired nurse who had obtained her training and qualification at the prestigious School of Nursing, Iyi-Enu Mission Hospital, Ogidi, in present-day Anambra State, stated: “I took it in good faith knowing that he was no longer enjoying his job in a pharmaceutical company. The attitude of his boss made him uncomfortable and he lost interest in working with him. And when he shared with me at the end of 1978 the idea of starting Pharmanews, I saw his passion and encouraged him.”
Asked how she and the Pharmanews publisher met and got married, Lady Atueyi beamed with smiles of beautiful nostalgia, as she recalled: “In 1967 we met at the International Red Cross Hospital, Achi (in the present Enugu State), where I was posted to work as a nurse and he was there as a pharmacist. I was so occupied with my work that I was not thinking of a relationship. But something happened one day. I sent the attendant to get the drugs I placed order from the pharmacy and the pharmacist (Mr Atueyi) asked him to tell me to come personally. I was upset and sent the attendant back to get the drugs. He came back and reported that he said that I must come myself to collect the drugs.
“I became infuriated the more because I needed to serve the patients their medications. But I had no choice but to go myself and I was prepared for a quarrel. When I got there, I saw the bearded pharmacist laughing. I ignored him and went straight to the Chief Pharmacist, Mike Odumodu, to complain of the treatment. Even Pharm. Odumodu appeared to be enjoying the whole incident. Anyway, he handed over the drugs to me. From that day, I tagged the bearded pharmacist a mischievous person.”
Unknown to Lady Joan, who was 24 years old then, having been born to the family of Mr Amos and Mrs Justina Jewe from Mbaise on 27 September, 1943, that seemingly unpleasant first encounter with Sir Atueyi was a strategy he had adopted to get her to notice him, after having admired her qualities for a while. According to her, it wasn’t long after that the two of them started to get close.
“Shortly after that, I was recalled to Iyi-Enu Hospital which had been relocated to Okija Grammar School in Okija. I did not know that Okija was the home town of Pharm. Atueyi. One day, I was very surprised to see him looking for me in the hospital. That was the beginning of a serious relationship between us. He paid me continuous visits and introduced me to his family.
“After a while, I was sent to Gabon to take care of Biafran kwashiorkor children there. I spent one year in pain for missing the love being developed. However, we had solace with regular mails which we were not sure were getting to their destinations.
I was very delighted when I was told that I had completed my tenure in Gabon and would be returning to Nigeria.”
The septuagenarian nurse added that, following her return to Nigeria, the relationship got much more serious as they began to make preparations for their wedding, which eventually happened on 30 May 1970, after the traditional aspect had been done earlier.
“Incidentally, on 30 May, this year, we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary,” she cooed.
Speaking on the success of Pharmanews over the years, Lady Atueyi, expressed gratitude to God, stating that it has taken the consistent commitment of the publisher, as well as the support of all around him, including herself, to achieve the feat. “He always asks for my ideas in any decision he wants to take. I am his confidant and encourager. We have always worked together,” she said.
When asked about her best moment as a co-manager of Pharmanews, she revealed that it was in 2019, when the company celebrated 40 years of uninterrupted publication, adding that the recognitions and goodwill from various well-wishers made the ceremony an unforgettable experience for her.
“It was a very grand occasion and I was embarrassed by the goodwill and love of people from all walks of life – pharmaceutical, Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship, our St. Jude’s Church, DMGS Old Boys Association, OAU Alumni, Okija people and so on. It was an unforgettable event,” she said.
Lady Atueyi also recalled her worst moment: “My worst period was when pharmaceutical industry was seriously affected by fake and counterfeit medicines in the nineties. Some foreign companies mainly American and British ones relocated from the country. Some local ones closed down while the surviving ones were just managing. The effect on Pharmanews was disastrous. Adverts in Pharmanews vanished and our income was drastically affected. It was difficult for us to meet our obligations.”
She, however, expressed joy that the company was able to surmount the difficult time, as well as other challenges over the years, and has become better, stronger and making greater impacts in Nigeria and beyond.