There is no way the story of pharmacy practice in Nigeria will be told without mentioning the name of Prof. (Mrs) Mbang Femi-Oyewo, MFR. She stands tall among other women in the profession, with a distinguished profile and historic first positions. Widely known for her professional excellence, she has held several strategic leadership positions within and outside Pharmacy. In many of such instances, she was the first woman pharmacist to ever function in such capacities, with proven evidences of impactful leadership.
Femi-Oyewo was the first female Nigerian-trained pharmacist to bag a PhD (1982). Even more exceptional was that she completed the doctoral programme in record-breaking time – within the space of 18 months. She also became the first female dean in a Nigerian University, when she was made the pioneer dean of the Pharmacy Faculty¸ Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU).
The woman of many firsts was also the first female deputy vice-chancellor in OOU and the pharmacy profession. Her other leading positions were, the first female director of academic planning (DAP) in OOU and acting provost, PG School, OOU; first female pharmacist professor to give an inaugural lecture (13th) in OOU and the pharmacy profession (1999) and first woman to emerge chairman, Board of Fellows of the Pharmaceutical Society Of Nigeria (PSN-BOF).
An academic enigma in the annals of OOU, previous and new generations of pharmacy students and staff of the institution will never forget the giant strides of Femi-Oyewo, as she went against all odds to ensure full accreditation of the pharmacy faculty by both the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) in 2000. This made OOU the only state university with accredited pharmacy programme (B. Pharm) for over a decade.
The achievement was all the more outstanding, as there were just nine institutions with full NUC and PCN accreditation then – eight federal universities and OOU. The feat marked her out as a distinguished professor in the establishment of pharmacy schools in Nigeria. Consequently, the NUC and the PCN began to request her presence in the accreditation exercise of other pharmacy schools.
Femi-Oyewo also impressively justified her role as the first female deputy vice-chancellor OOU. For instance, on assumption of office, she effectively cleared all backlogs of results at the Senate to facilitate the convocation of five sessions. She was also instrumental in the construction of the faculty buildings – the first, through the Sagamu Community provision; while the second main building, a large two–storey building with quadrangle, was constructed by the faculty to the lintel level before the university council completed it.
A staunch advocate of public-private partnership in education, Femi-oyewo rallied support for the procurement of some essential equipment and items for the pharmacy faculty in OOU, worth over 15 million naira as at then.
Determination to study Pharmacy
The unparalleled lady pharmacist had gained admission into the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) with her A-Levels through the Direct Entry provision. She was offered Biological Sciences but was determined to change to Pharmacy. She would later attribute this decision to study Pharmacy to her father’s prodding, as well as the admiration she had for her father’s friend who was a pharmacist and often dressed in his sparkly white lab coat.
She narrated: “My father had a friend who was a pharmacist in Lagos, always in immaculate white overalls in his community pharmacy. I just fell in love with his job, the setup, his service to the community, paying attention to each patient; he was like a friend to all. My dad also wanted me to study Pharmacy. I was his favourite. To the glory of God, I was among the very few with good results allowed to transfer to Pharmacy.”
The professor of Pharmaceutics & Pharmaceutical Technology also recalled her journey outside Nigeria for her doctorate. She said: “I got my Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from The Victoria University of Manchester in 1982 and in 18 months to the glory of God. It was by dint of hard work. I had no choice but to work hard. I had just about one year for my research before the arrival of my family in Manchester, England, and made the best of the time. So, I was able to complete my PhD in record time. It was a two-year programme.”
Disciplinarian par excellence
To most of her students, Femi-Oyewo was a no-nonsense professor, who never neglected the training of students and staff during her days in active service. Her motherly nature got her engrossed in different aspects of her students’ training, such as etiquette, attitude, grooming, building self-confidence and self-esteem/self-worthiness, in addition to excellent academics.
Little wonder, when asked her most memorable days at OOU, she enthused: “The first induction ceremony for our first graduating set in Year 2000. And personally, the day l took over as the deputy vice – chancellor of the university on 1 August, 2010.”
The erudite scholar’s grooming and grilling of the youngsters in her faculty later paid off as they not only excelled, but most of them usually returned to appreciate her for the all-round training she instilled in them.
According to her, “Our young pharmacists came out intelligent, hardworking, industrious, disciplined, bold, confident, respectful, corporate, and well-groomed with the right attitude and ethics, and therefore ‘well sought after’. This was branding – producing a brand for OOU that l was proud of. I put everything l had to produce the brand.
“Staff were also developed to take charge and enforce discipline and continue with the branding.”
Decisive leadership as PSN-BOF chairman
A woman of many parts, Femi-Oyewo’s tenure as the PSN-BOF chairman saw tremendous changes, which accelerated the progress of the Board in no mean measure. She was resolute, from assumption of office to end her tenure not only with a success story but one with splendour. Her desires were ultimately fulfilled, as her feats clearly proved.
Tagged “A Tenure of PEARLS”, which stands for P-Prestige, E-Excellence, A-Achievements/Activities, R- Relevance/Respect, L- Leadership and S- Services, the BOF leader worked assiduously to ensure that not even the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic then could stop the actualisation of her vision.
The list of her remarkable accomplishments in this position include: obtaining of N10M debenture in PSN Pharmacy Tower project; purchase of Innoson- 15-seater new bus for the BOF campaign against drug abuse; Fellows insurance scheme was initiated; acquisition of A three-bedroom apartment (Block A, Flat A2, in Queens Court Estate, 1/2 Alara Street, Yaba, Lagos) for the Board; introduction of BOF Public Lectures, 2019 -2021 instead of during Dinner; developed communiques of the Mid-Year Meetings (MYM)- 2019 – 2021 (3 Years); Publications – (2019 Fellows Directory, Magazine Volumes 2 & 3 on Dinner & Public Lectures respectively , 2021); constructed a functional website to increase BOF visibility; BOF Research Grant Award – Award increased to N1million; Donation of drugs, consumables and food items worth N1M. to Rehabilitation Centre in Lagos State, among others.
Discipling women on extraordinary leadership
Passing the leadership baton to younger women, the beautiful and brainy septuagenarian urges them to go the extra mile in attaining their goals. Her orientation differs from those who excuse women from responsibilities on gender grounds, as she calls for more diligence on the part of women to meet the demands of leadership.
In her words: “It does not matter if you are a man or a woman, a leadership position is a leadership position, with the same expectation of excellent outcomes and deliverables. In fact, as a woman l will advise you go the extra mile, put your best foot forward, and give your best. Be your best at all times and try to be the best they ever had in that position.
“Yes, you can. For getting to that position in the first place, you have what it takes to be there. Maintain your poise by balancing your work and your home front; none should suffer. A supportive husband will be of great help here. There will be some challenges; resistance from one or two males; resentment from one or two females. Never mind. They make you perform better and they will be finally won over or leave.
“Therefore be prayerful, strive for excellence , be focused, principled, considerate, wise, hardworking, constantly developing yourself and current in your field, leading by example and transformational leadership that will transform your team and bring out the best in them to achieve excellence and your deliverables. God will prosper the work of your hands.”