A graduate of Pharmacy from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Pharmacist Kabir Raji has traversed the different fields of the pharmacy profession and now rapidly establishing himself as a media mogul. Although he went ahead to bag a master’s degree in Clinical Pharmacy from the University of Lagos, his uncommon passion for media practice is one thing that has distinguished him among his peers. In this exclusive interview with Pharmanews, Raji recounts his exploits across the pharmacy firmament, his foray into the ever-evolving terrain of media practice, as well as the birth and vision of PharmaStream TV. Excerpts:
As a pharmacist, what inspired your foray into media practice?
A lot of people don’t know that I have been doing the media thing right from school. When I was in the university, there was a time lecturers went on strike for one year. During that time, my dad travelled out of the country and, on his return, he brought this camera that appealed to me. Instead of sitting at home idle, I would use the camera to record stuff at home.
It was the question a friend asked me then that changed my perception and perhaps birthed my journey into the media. He had asked me why I wouldn’t use the camera to record events in school. Fortunately, when school resumed, I explored the idea and things fell into place. That was how I began to cover different events on campus to the extent that I became very popular.
My first job was a church programme, and from there, I started covering pharmacy events. The passion continued to grow. During my NYSC year, I took the camera to camp and filmed my orientation week and my passing out parade. I have kept the passion because I have always wanted to be better.
I have also been very receptive to new technology. This has helped me grow with the times. Today, the whole thing has become a big venture for me.
How have you been able to impact the pharmaceutical landscape with your media skills?
One thing I have always said is that we pharmacists are over-trained but under-utilised. This means that our grey matter is so expanded. We can do almost anything in any field because we have that capacity. But when we come out of pharmacy school, we find ourselves using only very little of that capacity that has been built into us.
For the pharmacy landscape, the impact has been much because one of the things that drove me into covering the profession is that we always talk to ourselves; we don’t talk to the outside world. We pass information amongst ourselves about drugs but the people outside who need information about the drugs don’t know much about us.
During one of the surveys I carried out as an intern, I was shocked to discover that many people see pharmacists as mere medicine-sellers. That means people have very little knowledge about our profession. Those scenarios gave me more inspiration to bridge the information gap between the pharmacy world and the outside world. I have been planning to do a documentary called “Who is a Pharmacist?”
In the pharmacy profession, the impact has been much because using the media has made information flow very easy between people across different climes of the world. Information flows in split seconds, just as developments go viral through small phones, cameras and other smaller gadgets. That is the power of the media.
For the pharmacy profession, I have been able to establish myself to the extent that people are asking questions. I must give credit to Pharm. Yakasai who encouraged me and gave me the platform during one of the PSN conferences in Abia, in 2017. During the opening ceremony of that conference, over 2000 people watched the event live via Facebook. That was unprecedented and further showed how impactful the digital media could be to events in the pharmacy space in Nigeria. Since then, I have always strived to improve, in terms of quality of video and audio coverage.
How involved are you with the PSN and other pharmaceutical associations?
For the pharmacists’ body, it has got to a level that I find it difficult to run away now. It is either they want my expertise as a consultant or they want me to personally cover an event for them. During planning, people usually call me to seek my opinion and advice on media-related issues.
I have worked with the PSN at the national level from planning to execution. I have also worked with the ACPN, as well as West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists. I have worked with PSN Lagos and I am currently working out something with AHAPN. I have been able to work with almost every branch of the pharmacy profession.
How have you been able to combine pharmacy practice with your media activities?
Fortunately, I am in the marketing department, where information dissemination is key. You want to share information about drugs to the outside world, especially doctors, patients, nurses and the general public. Essentially, it is about the use of different media for communication.
Being in media practice is like an enhancer to my job as a pharmacist in the marketing department. Media is beyond video; it encompasses several other aspects like graphic design, psychographics and your ability to communicate effectively with your target audience. Combining the two fields flows naturally for me.
In your candid opinion, what are the challenges facing media practice in Nigeria?
I must say that there is a serious lack of knowledge, coupled with technological deficiency. This is because many things have changed in the media space, especially in terms of technology. In those days when I was in school, we used to record with the VHS tapes, which later evolved into the VCD and then the DVD technology. Now, we are talking of the MP4 technology which you can use on your phone.
In Nigeria, not everyone is conversant with the evolution of these aforementioned technologies. I am happy to be among those who have evolved with them. I have continued to burn midnight candles to study about some of these things because we don’t have schools that teach them. For instance, new technologies like the IP video are now in use. With such technologies, you can talk to someone in the other end of the world in real time.
Media has gone far beyond video. A lot of things have come into it, including the Internet. There are many things you need to integrate into contemporary media to make it robust. You need to also understand how the Internet works and how to use it for networking. The application of these variables poses a lot of challenges and at a huge cost.
We have to create avenues for people to learn. There is a new technology now called the SRT, through which you can transfer video over your Ethernet cable. A lot of people don’t know how to do this, and so, it will take a lot of knowledge for people to understand it. A lot needs to be invested, in terms of knowledge and technology, to enable people understand some of these complex and sophisticated trends.
How relevant have your services been during the COVID era, especially during the lockdown?
When the lockdown came, it was just how to adapt what we had been doing before that was the issue. Before the lockdown, we were already doing the hybrid, and so, all we needed to do during the lockdown was to marry both scenarios together.
Because people had to stay back home during the lockdown, software like Hopin and Zoom came to the rescue. We were able to transmit our videos through these real time technologies for people right in their living rooms. In fact, during the lockdown, my expertise was in high demand. People consulted me a lot, as they sought answers to knotty issues bordering on the application of these conferencing technologies.
We have created PharmaStream TV to help the pharmaceutical industry with state-of-the-art digital media coverage and the impact has been wonderful.
What do we expect from PharmaStream TV in future?
PharmaStream TV is working to become one of the best in Nigeria. People should watch out for PharmaStream TV. It will soon become an online TV and a hub with different segments where pharmacists can meet for pharmacy-related activities. We are already on Google Play Store. I encourage pharmacists to subscribe and download the App.
I also want to encourage those who would like to go into journalism to follow us because there is a lot to be learnt. Just like Pharmanews, which has consistently evolved over the past 42 years, PharmaStream TV is working to remain ever-relevant with the times, in terms of technology and content.