Chairman, Board of Fellows (BOF) of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Pharm. Israel Adesanmi Popoola is a man virtually every pharmacist in the country wants to identify with, and rightly so. Aside being managing director of Reals Pharmaceuticals, his charismatic nature and professional handling of affairs among Fellows has been quite remarkable. In this interview with Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis, the pharmacist reveals the intricacies of running a board of senior citizens of the profession, and the attributes he hopes to see in the new PSN leadership. Excerpts:
Three years after your election as BOF chairman, how would you describe the journey so far?
Well, the journey has been smooth. Over the years I have interacted with the board at the executive level. I used to be secretary of the Board, so I was familiar with the relationship and interface of issues between BOF and the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN). Sometimes it is often challenging. But thank God that in the past two to three years, I have had a wonderful relationship with the president of the PSN.
I am happy that the National Executive Committee (NEC) and the council have had a smooth relationship, too. I have been able to resolve issues surrounding the pharmacy profession as a whole which was one of the primary assignments given to the Board – to ensure a smoother relationship within the profession. We have been able to achieve that in our tenure. In the last three years, I have become more mature in the way I handle issues. Prior to becoming chairman, I would have handled some issues differently. Now I know every statement I make or every move I make might be misinterpreted; so I am always careful. So I will say it has been a good time for me.
Have you been able to meet the objectives you set out to achieve at the beginning of your tenure?
Basically in the last three years, I have been able to engage all stakeholders. When I came in, there were several areas of conflict. The issues on ground were so many that we had to bring in other elders to resolve them. It was at the time that the pharmacy advisory board was set up. In fact, the advisory board had to wade in to assist me. After one year, things became normal again. That was how we were able to now move the profession forward which was in line with my set objectives. I had resolved within myself that during my tenure, I would not be having conflict at the top. The other is to resolve the conflict within the board that might affect leadership. That objective, I believe, has been achieved.
What about the objective of repositioning the pharmacy profession you mentioned during our last interview?
Yes, I remember saying that. You know, when you have conflicts, it is two steps forward and one step backward. But when there is no conflict, everybody will pull in the same direction. Honestly in the last two years, Pharmacy has been pulling in the same direction which has helped us to get the current council in place. I thank God that all the issues that came up, we were able to resolve amicably. Pharmacy as a profession is very strong now. You cannot take away those who will still remain disgruntled. People will always have issues, but as they come up, we will always resolve them. That is what makes the world to move forward.
Has the issue of funding improved?
Funny enough, I found out that we actually had money. But the money was with our members. So what I did was to say “No! Any member who has not paid for some time will be delisted.” And it worked wonders!
In terms of attendance and support of Fellows, you once said that it was not more than 40 per cent. Has it improved?
Well, what we have done is to bring up activities to stimulate the interest of Fellows. We also engaged them through communication. We also made the chapters to be vibrant. Once the charpter is vibrant, it throws people in the centre for attendance and meetings. I can confidently say that, at the last conference, we had the best attendance so far. The attendance at the midyear was superb and the one at the general meeting was fantastic. It was one of the best we had ever had as a board. We have moved above 40 per cent.
That notwithstanding, what I have found out in the last few years is that the Fellows are ageing. And when people age, there is this challenge of mobility. What we discovered is that age has slowed down several Fellows and they are not able to attend meetings. What we do is that we use the chapter to reach out to them. We have given out money and other forms of support to others.
The late (Chief) Timothy Adebutu, managing director of Gem Pharmacy, once lamented about being deprived of fellowship despite his age and contribution to Pharmacy. Is there no consideration for this set of people?
The board does not confer fellowship on pharmacists. It is the responsiblity of the PSN through the recommendation of its branches and committees. The person we are talking about, I will confess, I was just hearing about him for the first time in my life through his obituary where they wrote MPSN and aged 80-something years. I kept wondering: How could someone be that advanced in age and I had been actively around for close to 30-something years in Pharmacy and never heard of that name?
He had not been actively participating in the activities of the profession. With due respect, the fellowship recognises your contribution to the profession, the society at large and your impact to Pharmacy. I don’t know what transpired in the last years before I became active in the pharmacy profession. But the truth is that I had not heard of his name.